What do Céline Dion, Switzerland’s fourth national language Romansh and Swiss television all have in common?
10 years ago: Switzerland and Austria were the hosts of the 2008 European Football Championships. The same year saw Kosovo declare its independence from Serbia. Switzerland was the first country to recognize Pristina and to start diplomatic relations with Europe’s youngest country.
30 years ago: This was the last time Switzerland won the Eurovision Song Contest. Responsible for this was one Céline Marie Claudette Dion, then a little-known singer from French-speaking Canada. Her song “Ne partez pas sans moi” helped the Swiss win the coveted trophy.
50 years ago: Students went out on the streets to protest. And Swiss public television broadcast the very first colour television pictures into people’s homes, from its studio Bellerive in Zurich.
80 years ago: On February 20, 1938, Swiss men (women only received the right to vote in 1971) voted by 92% in favour to make Romansh the fourth national language.
100 years ago: The Social Democratic Party and the action group “Olten Committee” called for a big demonstration in Zurich to mark the first anniversary of the Russian Revolution. The federal government sent out troops at the request of General Wille and the Zurich government. The reaction: the General Strike, which lasted from November 12-14, 1918, was one of the most important social conflicts in Swiss history.
Switzerland did not undergo a revolution, but the strike still had an effect. Voters had approved the introduction of proportional representation on October 13, 1918, which in turn helped the Social Democrats, strengthened by the strike, to break into parliament. This would eventually lead to the end of the Radical Party’s political dominance, a position it had held since the federal state of Switzerland was founded in 1848.
150 years ago: The Genevan Marie Goegg-Pouchoulin (1826-1899) wrote a newspaper article calling for the founding of a women’s committee. In the same year she founded the “Association international des femmes”, the first international women’s organisation. Goegg and her colleagues campaigned for equal rights for men and women in all legal fields. But it still took almost one hundred years until women received the right to vote.
170 years ago: The Swiss Federal Constitution came into force on September 12, 1848. It was a result of a short civil war known as the Sonderbund War. The constitution saw the confederation association (of cantons) of 1815 replaced with a federal state based on a republican model, which is still in operation today.
200 years ago: Jacob Christoph Burckhardt, an important Swiss historian of art and culture, especially in European art history, was born. Friedrich Nietzsche described him as “our great greatest teacher”. Burckhardt is considered the founder of the scientific term “the European Renaissance”.
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