Switzerland, federal republic in west central Europe. Switzerland is a small, landlocked country set amid mountainous terrain in the heart of the European continent. It is bordered on the west by France, on the north by Germany, on the east by Austria, and on the south by Italy. The tiny principality of Liechtenstein lies between Switzerland and Austria. Each of the four major bordering countries has had an influence on Swiss culture. The Swiss people are an ethnic mix consisting mainly of native German, French, and Italian speakers, and most towns have two or even three correct names in those languages. The country has an area of 41,285 sq km (15,940 sq mi). Its largest city is Zurich, and the capital is Bern.
Switzerland's official name is Confoederatio Helvetica (Latin for “Helvetic Confederation”), which is frequently translated in English as Swiss Confederation. The Helvetii, an ancient Celtic people who occupied what is now western Switzerland, were defeated by the Roman army of Julius Caesar in the 1st century bc. As a province of Rome, the region became known as Helvetia. The name Confoederatio Helvetica, an ethnically and linguistically neutral term that recalls this ancient history, is testimony to an enduring desire to forge unity among a diverse population. The name Switzerland (French Suisse; German Schweiz; Italian Svizzera), the nation's widely recognized but unofficial designation, is a variation on Schwyz, a territory that in 1291 became the first member of the present-day confederation. The Swiss flag, a red square with a centered white cross, is a variation on the traditional flag of the Schwyz region.
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