of Liechtenstein is a tiny, doubly landlocked alpine country in Western
Europe, bordered by Switzerland
to its west and by Austria
to its east. Mountainous, it is a winter sports destination, although it is
perhaps best known as a tax haven. Despite this, it is not heavily urbanized.
Many cultivated fields and small farms characterize its landscape both in the
north and in the south. It is the smallest German-speaking country in the world.
At one time, the territory
of Liechtenstein formed a part of the
ancient Roman province
of Raetia. For centuries
this territory, geographically removed from European strategic interests, had
little impact on the tide of European history.
Until the end of World War I,
Liechtenstein first was closely tied to the Austrian Empire and later to Austria-Hungary;
however, the economic devastation caused by WWI forced the country to conclude
a customs and monetary union with its another neighbor Switzerland. Liechtenstein's
Army was disbanded in 1868 for financial reasons. At the time of the
dissolution of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, it was argued that Liechtenstein as
a fief of the Holy Roman Empire was no longer bound to the emerging independent
state Austria, since the latter did not consider itself as the legal successor
to the Empire. This is partly contradicted by the coeval Liechtenstein
perception that the dethroned Austro-Hungarian Emperor still maintained an
abstract heritage of the Holy Roman Empire.
During World War II, Liechtenstein
remained neutral. In dire financial straits following the war, the
Liechtenstein dynasty often resorted to selling family artistic treasures,
including for instance the priceless portrait "Ginevra de' Benci" by
Leonardo da Vinci, which was purchased by the National Gallery of Art of the United
States in 1967. Liechtenstein
prospered, however, during the decades following, as it used its low corporate
tax rates to draw many companies to the country.
The Prince of Liechtenstein is
the world's sixth wealthiest leader with an estimated wealth of USD $4 billion.
The country's population enjoys one of the world's highest standards of living.