Five reasons why Switzerland is a neutral country

In the Middle Ages, mercenaries were Switzerland's most valuable export product. That was the reason why the Swiss decided not to stand in wars, but instead to profit from the…

In the Middle Ages, mercenaries were Switzerland’s most valuable export product. That was the reason why the Swiss decided not to stand in wars, but instead to profit from the conflicts of the neighboring nations.

1. Business sense – 2. Population – 3. Location – 4. Image sophistication – 5. Economy

In rugged mountainous terrain in the middle of Europe and far from the sea, there were few advantages to living in Switzerland, but the inhabitants found a solution that guaranteed them both peace and prosperity.

By declaring neutrality, the Swiss were able to escape invasions and at the same time benefit from conflicts in many places around them. The results paid off.

The Swiss have not been at war since 1499. And although the country is small and the population is only 8.9 million, Switzerland is now the 5th richest country in the world in terms of national income per capita.


Military service sold to the highest bidder


After military service in Italy, Swiss mercenaries march up to the Alps and return home in 1509.

The fifteenth century was a time of conflict in Europe, but the Swiss were able to offer an export product that the rulers of neighboring countries were willing to pay a high price for, namely soldiers. Swiss mercenaries were particularly known for their attacks with lances and thrusting spears. Enthusiasts could even hire entire military units directly from the authorities, with the cantons – provinces – each commanding their own armies. In order not to make enemies, the Swiss decided to adopt a policy of neutrality.


The ethnic divisions created weakness

Red: French Green: Italians Orange: Germans Yellow: Romanians

During the Roman Empire, the area that later became Switzerland was inhabited by different ethnic groups that spoke different languages.

In the third and fourth centuries, the Germanic Allemans settled in the north-eastern part of the country, while the French-speaking Burgundians settled in the western part.

More ethnic groups lived in the area and they formed alliances among themselves in the 14th century. Switzerland’s neutrality ensured in the following centuries that the neighboring countries did not divide the country by pitting these different ethnic groups against each other.

3. Location

Great powers pressed from all sides

At the Vienna Conference of 1815, Switzerland’s neutrality was guaranteed and three cantons were added to the state.

The location on strategically important routes through mountain passes and near the center of the continent meant that the Swiss were in constant danger from expansionist heads of state.

This was proven well in 1798 when a French army invaded the country, dissolved the provincial federation and established a republic where the French-speaking population was to rule the most.

When the European countries had to come together at the Vienna Conference in 1815 after the Napoleonic Wars, the Swiss ensured that the country would be recognized as a neutral country in the treaty that was the result of the meeting.

4. Image refinement

Humanism made Switzerland a great power


The Red Cross now stretches its wings around the world and has a turnover of 2.3 billion Swiss francs per year (about 320 billion ISK).

The Swiss business magnate Henry Dunant was traveling in Northern Italy in 1859 and witnessed the Battle of Solferino. After the battle, wounded and dying soldiers lay helpless on the battlefield.

Dunant was so moved by this sight that he gathered volunteers to relieve the wounded regardless of nationality.

This immediate response was the beginning of the Red Cross. That both the Red Cross and other humanitarian organizations should be based in Switzerland gave the state both influence and prestige that could replace military power.

5. Economy

Industry should be protected from the ravages of war

300,000 tons of goods were transported through St. The Gotthard tunnel between Switzerland and Italy for the first year.

Easy access to hydropower and a developed banking system ensured industrialization in Switzerland as early as the early years of the 19th century.

A railway system that stretched across the country greatly accelerated this development, including St. The Gotthard Tunnel, which opened a path through the Alps in 1882.

When the great powers of Europe clashed during World War I in 1914, the Swiss feared for their valuable factories. They therefore stood firmer on their neutrality than ever before, even though the world around them was in bright flames.

Read more about Switzerland’s neutrality

  • Clive H. Church and Randolph C. Head: A Concise History of Switzerland , Cambridge, 2013

  • Georges André Chevallaz: The Challenge of Neutrality , Lexington, 2001

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