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Cantons of Switzerland

The twenty-six cantons of Switzerland are the states of the federal state of Switzerland. Historically and until the mid-19th century, each canton in the then-confederation was a sovereign state, with its own borders, army, and currency; the current federal structure was established in 1848.

During the sixteenth century, the Swiss Confederation was composed of thirteen self-governed states. These states were called cantons, and there were two different kinds of cantons: the six forest cantons and seven urban cantons. Though they were technically part of the Holy Roman Empire, they had become almost completely liberated when the Swiss defeated Emperor Maximillian in 1499.

The six forest cantons were democratic republics, while the seven urban cantons were governed by city councils. However, these city councils were controlled by small oligarchies of wealthy citizens. The urban cantons included Zurich, Bern, and Basel.

Each canton has its own constitution, legislature, government and courts. Most of the cantons' legislatures are unicameral parliaments, their size varying between fifty-eight and two hundred seats. A few legislatures are general assemblies (Landsgemeinden). The cantonal governments consist of either five or seven members, depending on the canton. All tasks that do not explicitly fall within the Confederation according to the Swiss Constitution are matters of the cantons. The cantons determine the degree of autonomy of the municipalities, thus this varies greatly. The sizes of the cantons are extremely different: from just 37 to 7,105 square km; the populations vary from 14,900 to 1,244,400.

In cantonal matters, direct democracy in the form of general assemblies (Landsgemeinde) is now confined to the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus. In all other cantons democratic rights are expressed using the ballot box.

Since the creation of the Canton of Jura in 1978 there have been no new cantons. Sometimes the number of cantons is given as twenty-three. In this case the cantons of Unterwalden, Appenzell, and Basel are counted as two half-cantons each. Unterwalden is divided into Obwalden and Nidwalden, Appenzell into Innerrhoden and Ausserrhoden, while Basel is divided into Basel-Stadt and Basel-Landschaft. These divisions exist for historical reasons and still only affect the number of seats in the Council of States and voting in federal initiatives. The new constitution of 1999 now enumerates each of the twenty-six cantons separately.

List and map

The table below lists the cantons in the order of the constitution.

Flag Abbr Canton Since Capital Population1 Area2 Density3 Nr. of mun.s1 Official languages
Flag of canton ZH Zurich (Zürich) 1351 Zurich 1,228,600 1,729 701 171 German
Flag of canton BE Bern (Berne) 1353 Bern 947,100 5,959 158 399 German, French
Flag of canton LU Lucerne 1332 Lucerne 350,600 1,493 233 107 German
Flag of canton UR Uri 1291 Altdorf 35,000 1,077 33 20 German
Flag of canton SZ Schwyz 1291 Schwyz 131,400 908 143 30 German
Flag of canton OW Obwalden (Obwald) 1291 Sarnen 32,700 491 66 7 German
Flag of canton NW Nidwalden (Nidwald) 1291 Stans 38,600 276 138 11 German
Flag of canton GL Glarus 1352 Glarus 38,300 685 51 28 German
Flag of canton ZG Zug 1352 Zug 100,900 239 416 11 German
Flag of canton FR Fribourg 1481 Fribourg 239,100 1,671 141 242 French, German
Flag of canton SO Solothurn 1481 Solothurn 245,500 791 308 126 German
Flag of canton BS Basel-Stadt (Basle-City) 1501 Basel 186,700 37 5,072 3 German
Flag of canton BL Basel-Landschaft (Basle-Country) 1501 Liestal 261,400 518 502 86 German
Flag of canton SH Schaffhausen 1501 Schaffhausen 73,400 298 246 34 German
Flag of canton AR Appenzell Ausserrhoden (Outer Rhodes) 1513 Herisau4 53,200 243 220 20 German
Flag of canton AI Appenzell Innerrhoden (Inner Rhodes) 1513 Appenzell 15,000 173 87 6 German
Flag of canton SG St. Gallen (St. Gall) 1803 St. Gallen 452,600 2,026 222 90 German
Flag of canton GR Graubünden (Grisons) 1803 Chur 185,700 7,105 26 211 German, Romansh, Italian
AG Aargau (Argovia) 1803 Aarau 550,900 1,404 388 232 German
Flag of canton TG Thurgau (Thurgovia) 1803 Frauenfeld 228,200 991 229 80 German
Flag of canton TI Ticino 1803 Bellinzona 311,900 2,812 110 244 Italian
Flag of canton VD Vaud 1803 Lausanne 626,200 3,212 188 382 French
Flag of canton VS Valais 1815 Sion 278,200 5,224 53 160 French, German
Flag of canton NE Neuchâtel 1815 Neuchâtel 166,500 803 206 62 French
Flag of canton GE Geneva 1815 Geneva 414,300 282 1,442 45 French
Flag of canton JU Jura 1979 Delémont 69,100 838 82 83 French
Flag of Switzerland CH Switzerland &nbsp Bern 7,261,200 41,285 174 2,890 German, French, Italian, Romansh

Notes: 1 on 31 December 2001, National Statistics , 2 km², 3 per km², based on 2000 population 4 seat of government and parliament, the seat of the judicial authorities is Trogen.

The two letter abbreviations for Swiss cantons are widely used, e.g. on car license plates and in the ISO 3166-2 codes (with the prefix "CH-", i.e. CH-SZ for the canton of Schwyz).

Map of the cantons of Switzerland

Names in other languages

Abbr English French Italian German Romansh Spanish Esperanto¹
AG Aargau Argovie Argovia Aargau Argovia Argovia &nbsp
AI Appenzell Innerrhoden Appenzell Rhodes-Intérieures Appenzello Interno Appenzell Innerhoden Appenzell dadens Appenzell Rodas Interiores &nbsp
AR Appenzell Ausserrhoden Appenzell Rhodes-Extérieures Appenzello Esterno Appenzell Ausserrhoden Appenzell dador Appenzell Rodas Exteriores &nbsp
BS Basel-Stadt Bâle-Ville Basilea Città Basel-Stadt Basilea-Citad Basilea-Ciudad Bazelo-Urbo
BL Basel-Landschaft Bâle-Campagne Basilea Campagna Basel-Landschaft Basilea-Champagna Basilea-Campaña Bazelo-Kamparo
BE Bern Berne Berna Bern Berna Berna Berno
FR Fribourg Fribourg Friburgo Freiburg or Fribourg Friburg Friburgo Friburgo
GE Geneva Genève Ginevra Genf Genevra Ginebra Ĝenevo
GL Glarus Glaris Glarona Glarus Glaruna Glaris &nbsp
GR Graubünden Grisons Grigioni Graubünden Grischun Grisones Grizono
JU Jura Jura Giura Jura Giura Jura &nbsp
LU Lucerne Lucerne Lucerna Luzern Lucerna Lucerna Lucerno
NE Neuchâtel Neuchâtel Neuchâtel Neuenburg Neuchâtel Neuchatel Neuchâtel
NW Nidwalden Nidwald Nidvaldo Nidwalden Sutsilvania Unterwalden Bajo &nbsp
OW Obwalden Obwald Obvaldo Obwalden Sursilvania Unterwalden Alto &nbsp
SH Schaffhausen Schaffhouse Sciaffusa Schaffhausen Schaffusa Schaffhausen Ŝafhaŭzo
SZ Schwyz Schwyz (or Schwytz) Svitto Schwyz Sviz Schwyz &nbsp
SO Solothurn Soleure Soletta Solothurn Soloturn Soleura &nbsp
SG St. Gallen Saint-Gall San Gallo St. Gallen Son Gagl Sankt Gallen &nbsp
TG Thurgau Thurgovie Turgovia Thurgau Turgovia Turgovia &nbsp
TI Ticino Tessin Ticino Tessin Tessin Tesino Tiĉino
UR Uri Uri Uri Uri Uri Uri &nbsp
VS Valais Valais Vallese Wallis Vallais Valais Valezo
VD Vaud Vaud Vaud Waadt Vad Vaud Vaud
ZG Zug Zoug Zugo Zug Zug Zug &nbsp
ZH Zurich Zurich Zurigo Zürich Turitg Zurich Zuriko

Notes: ¹where a version differing from German is available.

See also: List of cantonal flags of Switzerland

External links

  • Map
  • GeoPuzzle Assemble cantons on a Swiss map

Last updated: 02-11-2005 00:34:43
Last updated: 05-03-2005 02:30:17