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40th anniversary The turbulent birth of the youngest Swiss canton

Exactly 40 years ago, on September 24, 1978, Swiss voters gave the go-ahead for the creation of the new canton of Jura, which seceded from canton Bern after several years of strife.

An emphatic majority of Swiss voters, some 82.3%, came out in favour of the new canton, leaving the path clear for the districts of Délemont, Porrentruy, and Franches-Montagnes to break from Bern and form their own canton – Switzerland's 26th.

The Jura region had been given to canton Bern following the 1815 Congress of Vienna, after passing through the hands of the bishop of Basel and – during the Revolution and Napoleonic Empire – France. 

The integration of the region's french-speaking and Catholic minority into mainly German-speaking and Protestant Bern proved problematic, however, and tensions escalated notably in the 1960s, before being peacefully settled at the ballot box.

That's not to say the story is over: just last year, Moutier, a French-speaking town in western canton Bern, voted by a tiny majority to secede to the young canton Jura. The results have since been challenged, however, and the question yet to be sealed. 

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