Cantons of Switzerland

Cantons of Switzerland

The 26 cantons of Switzerland are the states of the federal state of Switzerland. Each canton was a fully sovereign state with its own borders, army and currency until the establishment of the Swiss federal state in 1848. The most recently created canton is the Canton of Jura, which separated from the Canton of Berne in 1979.

In the 16th century, the Old Swiss Confederation was composed of thirteen sovereign cantons, and there were two different kinds: six land (or forest) cantons and seven city (or urban) cantons. Though they were technically part of the Holy Roman Empire, they had become "de facto" independent when the Swiss defeated Emperor Maximillian in 1499. The six forest cantons were democratic republics, whereas the seven urban cantons were oligarchic republics controlled by noble families.

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 known as "Landsgemeinden". The cantonal governments consist of either five or seven members, depending on the canton. For the names of the institutions, see List of legislative and executive councils of the Cantons of Switzerland.

The Swiss Federal Constitution declares the cantons to be sovereign to the extent their sovereignty is not limited by federal law. The cantons also retain all powers and competencies not delegated to the Confederation by the Constitution. Most significantly, the cantons are responsible for healthcare, welfare, law enforcement and public education; they also retain the power of taxation. The cantonal constitutions determine the degree of autonomy accorded to the municipalities, which varies but almost always includes the power to levy taxes and pass municipal laws. The sizes of the cantons vary from 37 km² to 7,105 km²; the populations vary from 14,900 to 1,244,400.

As on the federal level, all cantons provide for direct democracy. Citizens may demand a popular vote to amend the cantonal constitution or laws, or to veto laws or spending bills passed by the parliament. General popular assemblies ("Landsgemeinde") are now limited to the cantons of Appenzell Innerrhoden and Glarus. In all other cantons democratic rights are exercised by secret ballot.

List and map

The cantons are listed in the order given in the federal constitution. [This is the order generally used in Swiss official documents. At the head of the list are the three city cantons that were considered preeminent in the Old Swiss Confederacy; the other cantons are listed in order of accession to the Confederation. This traditional order of precedence among the cantons has no practical relevance in the modern federal state, in which the cantons are equal to one another, although it still determines formal precedence among the cantons' officials (see Swiss order of precedence).]

# As of 31 December 2001, [ National Statistics]
# km²
# Per km², based on 2000 population
# Seat of government and parliament is Herisau, the seat of the judicial authorities is Trogen
# Seat of parliament half-yearly alternates between Frauenfeld and Weinfelden

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).

The traditional half-cantons

Six cantons – Obwalden, Nidwalden, Appenzell Innerrhoden, Appenzell Ausserrhoden, Basel-City and Basel-Country – have traditionally been called "half-cantons" or "demicantons". This term is now deprecated by constitutional scholars, as the 1999 constitution lists 26 equal cantons. The appellation "cantons with half a cantonal vote" has recently come in use in official and legal texts.

The region of Unterwalden has, in the historical record, always been divided into the half-cantons of Obwalden and Nidwalden. The other four half-cantons have resulted from the division of a preexisting canton: The canton of Appenzell split into the half-cantons of Innerrhoden and Ausserrhoden in 1597 as a result of the Reformation. The canton of Basel was divided into the half-cantons of Basel-City and Basel-Country after a revolt of the Basel countryside in 1833.

The six half-cantons have the same institutional structure as well as the same rights and obligations as all the other cantons, with two exceptions. For one thing, they elect only one member of the Council of States instead of two. Also, in popular referendums that require not only a national popular majority but also the assent of a majority of the cantons ("Ständemehr / majorité des cantons"), such as constitutional amendments, the result of their cantonal vote counts half as much as that of other cantons. This means that a majority of the cantons is actually the majority of twenty-three cantonal votes.

Names in other languages


AG Aargau (rare: "Argovia") Argovie Argovia Audio|De-Aargau.ogg|Aargau Argovia
AI Appenzell Innerrhoden (Appenzell Inner-Rhodes)Appenzell Rhodes-Intérieures Appenzello Interno Audio|De-Appenzell-Innerrhoden.ogg|Appenzell Innerrhoden Appenzell dadens
AR Appenzell Ausserrhoden (Appenzell Outer-Rhodes)Appenzell Rhodes-Extérieures Appenzello Esterno Audio|De-Appenzell-Ausserrhoden.ogg|Appenzell Ausserrhoden Appenzell dador
BS Basel-City or Basle-CityBâle-Ville Basilea-Città Audio|De-Basel-Stadt.ogg|Basel-Stadt Basilea-Citad
BL Basel-Country, Basle-Country, or Basel-LandBâle-Campagne Basilea-Campagna Audio|De-Basel-Landschaft.ogg|Basel-Landschaft Basilea-Champagna
BE Berne (Bern)Berne Berna Audio|De-Bern.ogg|Bern Berna
FR Fribourg Fribourg Friburgo Audio|De-Freiburg.ogg|Freiburg Friburg
GE Geneva Genève Ginevra Audio|De-Genf.ogg|Genf Genevra
GL Glarus Glaris Glarona Audio|De-Glarus.ogg|Glarus Glaruna
GR Graubünden (Grisons)Grisons Grigioni Audio|De-Graubuenden.ogg|Graubünden Grischun
JU Jura Jura Giura Audio|De-Jura.ogg|Jura Giura
LU Lucerne Lucerne Lucerna Audio|De-Luzern.ogg|Luzern Lucerna
NE Neuchâtel Neuchâtel Neuchâtel Audio|De-Neuenburg.ogg|Neuenburg Neuchâtel
NW Nidwalden Nidwald Nidvaldo Audio|De-Nidwalden.ogg|Nidwalden Sutsilvania
OW Obwalden Obwald Obvaldo Audio|De-Obwalden.ogg|Obwalden Sursilvania
SH Schaffhausen (Schaffhouse)Schaffhouse Sciaffusa Audio|De-Schaffhausen.ogg|Schaffhausen Schaffusa
SZ Schwyz Schwyz (or Schwytz) Svitto Audio|De-Schwyz.ogg|Schwyz Sviz
SO Solothurn Soleure Soletta Audio|De-Solothurn.ogg|Solothurn Soloturn
SG St. Gallen (St. Gall) Saint-Gall San Gallo Audio|De-StGallen.ogg|St. Gallen Son Gagl
TG Thurgau (Thurgovia)Thurgovie Turgovia Audio|De-Thurgau.ogg|Thurgau Turgovia
TI Ticino Tessin Ticino Audio|De-Tessin.ogg|Tessin Tessin
UR Uri Uri Uri Audio|De-Uri.ogg|Uri Uri
VS Valais Valais Vallese Audio|De-Wallis.ogg|Wallis Vallais
VD Vaud Vaud Vaud Audio|De-Waadt.ogg|Waadt Vad
ZG Zug Zoug Zugo Audio|De-Zug.ogg|Zug Zug
ZH ZurichZurich Zurigo Audio|De-Zürich.ogg|Zürich Turitg


ee also

*List of legislative and executive councils of the Cantons of Switzerland
*List of 2005 cantonal office-holders on January 1, 2005.
*Data codes for Switzerland#Cantons
*List of Cantons of Switzerland by area
*List of Cantons of Switzerland by highest point
*Flags of Swiss cantons
*Cantonal bank, a commercial bank where the canton is the guaranteer

External links

* [ GeoPuzzle] ndash Assemble cantons on a Swiss map
* [ Badac] ndash Database on Swiss cantons and cities (French/German)

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