Since 1848, the Swiss Confederation (Switzerland) has been a federal state of
26 relatively autonomous cantons, some
of which have a history of confederacy that goes back more than 700 years, putting them among the world's oldest surviving republics.
The country is situated in Western Europe, where it is bordered by Germany to the north, France to the west, Italy to the south, and Austria and Liechtenstein to the east. Switzerland is a landlocked country whose territory is geographically divided between the Alps, the Central Plateau and the Jura that yields a total area of 41,285 km2
(15,940 sq mi).
The Swiss population of approximately
8.4 million people concentrates mostly in cities such as Zurich and Geneva on the Plateau. The city of Bern is the seat of the federal authorities. The history of Switzerland has been largely one of success and prosperity. Industrialisation trans-formed the traditionally agricultural economy.The Swiss neutrality during the World Wars and the success of the financial industry furthered the ascent of Switzerland to its status as one of the world's most stable economies and richest countries in the world.
The Swiss Confederation is home to many international organisations. Switzerland comprises three main linguistic and cultural regions: German, French, and Italian, to which the Romansh-speaking valleys are added.
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