French-speaking Switzerland

from Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia
Language areas of Switzerland - majority ratio according to the FSO survey 2010; Map showing a parish as of January 1, 2020
  • German
    (65.6% of the population; 73.3% of the Swiss)
  • French
    (22.8% of the population; 23.4% of the Swiss)
  • Italian
    (8.4% of the population; 6.1% of the Swiss)
  • Romansh
    (0.6% of the population; 0.7% of the Swiss)
  • As a French-speaking or French-speaking Switzerland (also French-speaking Switzerland and French Switzerland , Welsh Switzerland , French-speaking Switzerland and French-speaking Switzerland ), the French-speaking areas of Switzerland referred with a population of around 2 million.

    French-speaking Switzerland consists of the cantons of Geneva , Jura , Neuchâtel and Vaud, with French as the official language, as well as the francophone parts of the bilingual cantons of Bern ( Biel / Bienne , Bernese Jura ), Friborg and Valais ( Lower Valais ). While the 2 million inhabitants of French-speaking Switzerland make up around a quarter of the total Swiss population, Geneva is the second largest city ​​in the country after Zurich and before Basel and Lausanne is the fourth largest city ​​in the country before the federal city ​​of Bern .

    Different inside and outside views

    Since the language regions are of no importance in Switzerland's political system , it is a relatively diffuse cultural "unit", which is mainly defined by the common language.

    The inhabitants of French-speaking Switzerland call themselves Suisses romands or (for short) Romands . As a result, they are explicitly differentiated from the rest of the Swiss population on the one hand, and from the French on the other .


    Standard French is generally spoken in French-speaking Switzerland. Various regional dialects ( patois ) of the Franco-Provencal language are threatened with extinction (in 1990 only 2% of the francophone population in Switzerland spoke patois). In terms of pronunciation and vocabulary, there are still some differences to the standard French language . This is particularly noticeable in everyday life with the numerals: Here it is “septante” (70), “huitante” (80, this only in the cantons of Friborg, Vaud and Valais) and “nonante” (90) instead of “soixante-dix” , “Quatre-vingts” and “quatre-vingt-dix”. In addition to archaisms , many Germanisms are also known, which are increasingly used, especially along language borders .

    Sign language

    In French- speaking Switzerland , the French- speaking Swiss sign language is used, the Langue des signes Suisse romande (LSF-SR). It is a dialect of the Langue des signes française (LSF). Like the German-speaking Swiss sign language and the Ticino sign language, LSF-SR belongs to the family of French sign languages .


    The Geneva Symphony Orchestra in Victoria Hall

    On the one hand, French-speaking Switzerland is closely linguistically linked to the cultural life of the neighboring state of France , but is also strongly influenced by the exchange with the other linguistic regions, primarily German-speaking Switzerland. Although the part of the country is culturally very diverse and shaped by a multitude of different influences, the cities of Geneva and Lausanne can be named as general cultural centers in French-speaking Switzerland. The Orchester de la Suisse Romande , which performs regularly in the Victoria Hall or the city's Conservatoire, is located in the city of the Rhone. In the canton of Vaud, on the other hand, the Montreux Jazz Festival takes place annually, which enjoys a high international reputation. In Prangins , between the two cities, there is also the French-speaking seat of the Swiss National Museum , Prangins Castle .


    In Geneva you will find the Musée d'art et d'histoire , the Musée Ariana (porcelain museum ), the Bibliotheca Bodmeriana (in Cologny ), which has been a UNESCO World Heritage Site since 2015 , the Maison Tavel , the Voltaire Museum , the International Museum of the Reformation , the Musée d'art moderne et contemporain (MAMCO) and the Museum of Ethnography , which was awarded the European Museum Prize in 2017.

    The Fondation de l'Hermitage in Lausanne

    In Lausanne, on the other hand, you will find the Museum of Photography, the Musée de l'Elysée , the Fondation de l'Hermitage , the municipal art collection and the Olympic Museum . The canton is also home to Prangins Castle , which is run by the federal government as a national museum and, since 2016, Chaplin's World at the former residence of the actor of the same name in Corsier-sur-Vevey . Prangins Castle has also been the seat of the Swiss National Museum in French-speaking Switzerland since 1998.

    In Neuchâtel, the Musée d'ethnographie de Neuchâtel , which focuses primarily on the African continent, is one of the largest ethnographic museums in the country. Mention should also be made of the Laténium , the cantonal archaeological museum and the Center Dürrenmatt , which exhibits the paintings and drawings of the writer Friedrich Dürrenmatt, who formerly lived in Neuchâtel .

    In Freiburg i. Üe. on the other hand, the Gutenberg Museum , which was based in Bern until 2000, the Museum of Art and History in the Ratzéhof , the Natural History Museum and the Espace Jean Tinguely-Niki-de-Saint-Phalle are located .

    In the cantons of Jura and Valais on the one hand, the La Traction , a depot for old railways in Montfaucon (JU) , and secondly in Martigny , the Fondation Gianadda , including sculpture garden operated.

    Cultural workers

    Portrait of Germaine de Staël after François Gérard around 1810, who created a refuge for intellectuals of the European Enlightenment in Coppet

    Renowned cultural workers in the region include the Geneva-born writer and Enlightenment philosopher Jean-Jacques Rousseau , and at the same time Voltaire , who settled in the Geneva region and later in Lausanne and played a major role in the cultural and political life of French-speaking Switzerland knew to influence. During the Helvetic Republic and Mediation term coined then mainly to Germaine de Stael gathered Groupe de Coppet in Coppet Castle on Lake Geneva the intellectual life of today part of the country. Germaine de Staël gained particular fame as a writer through her work Über Deutschland from 1813, in which she tried to bring the merits and works of the German-speaking cultural area closer to a non-German-speaking audience. It also worked as a salonnière , where numerous greats of the European intellectual cosmos found themselves. The names of Lord Byron , Chateaubriand , Benjamin Constant (with whom she also had a love affair), Wilhelm von Humboldt , Jean-Jacques Rousseau, August Wilhelm Schlegel and Jean de Sismondi should be mentioned . To a lesser extent, Isabelle de Charrière in Neuchâtel, as Salonnière , also influenced intellectual life in western Switzerland in the spirit of the Enlightenment .

    In the 19th century, the Geneva area in particular, with its lake, was a magnet for English-speaking writers. For example, the noble Geneva suburb of Cologny Mary Shelley , who wrote her novel Frankenstein in the Villa Diodati there , is connected to the writer John Polidori and the poet Lord Byron, after whom a prominent viewing platform in the community is still named.

    Félix Vallotton's "Le Ballon" (1899) is one of the most famous works of the Vaud artist and is now in the Musée d'Orsay in Paris on display

    Also to be mentioned is the writer and poet Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz from Vaud , who is sometimes referred to as the Swiss national poet. Jean-Jacques Rousseau and Charles-Ferdinand Ramuz are among the five Swiss francophone writers who have been included in the prestigious Bibliothèque de la Pléiade of the Gallimard publishing house : Blaise Cendrars , who is primarily an adventure writer (including numerous Travel to Brazil , the Republic of China, and California in the first half of the 20th century) made a name for adults. As well as Albert Cohen , who won the Prix ​​Goncourt with his novel Die Schöne des Herren in 1968 , as well as the poet and translator Philippe Jaccottet , who also belongs to the small group of authors who were accepted into the publisher's series during their lifetime. The founder of the series was the Russian-Jewish publisher and journalist Jacques Schiffrin , who graduated from the University of Geneva in the 1920s with a law degree.

    Also to be mentioned are the Geneva philosopher and author Jeanne Hersch , the Vaudois poet and writer Jacques Chessex , who received the Prix ​​Goncourt for poetry in 2004 , and the Russian-American writer Vladimir Nabokov, who lives in Montreux .

    In the field of fine arts, however, in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, it was primarily Félix Vallotton , born in Lausanne , who received high international recognition for his work. After his childhood and youth spent in the capital of Vaud, he decided to move to Paris, where he settled in the Saint-Germain-des-Prés quarter and quickly entered the capital's artistic scene thanks to his matriculation at the Académie Julian . His numerous exhibitions during the Paris universal exhibitions at the turn of the century enabled him to successfully make his works internationally visible. His oeuvre, which consists of both pictures and numerous wood engravings, is now exhibited in the relevant art museums across all continents.

    Cultural identity

    Although the “ Welschen ” are often seen by the German-speaking Swiss as culturally uniform and endowed with their own mentality , the Romands often see themselves as belonging more to their canton of origin than to Romandy. A common identity only emerged in the wake of the tensions between German and French Switzerland at the beginning of the 20th century, before that it was divided into a liberal-Protestant (Geneva, Vaud, Neuchâtel, southern Jura) and a Catholic-conservative (Freiburg, Wallis) , Northern Jura). Today, however, the existence of a political-cultural Röstigraben as a border to German-speaking Switzerland is hardly ever called into question.

    Politically, the connection between the Suisses romands and France is small, but culturally (in the narrower sense) naturally stronger, while German-speaking Switzerland is more oriented towards Germany and Italian-speaking Switzerland more towards Northern Italy .

    Higher education

    Together with the
    University of Lausanne, the ETH Lausanne campus forms one of the largest university centers in Switzerland.

    In contrast to German-speaking Switzerland, all French-speaking cantons with the exception of the cantons of Jura and Valais have their own university. In 1537 the Académie de Lausanne was founded in Lausanne , which was initially conceived as a training center for pastors and was significantly influenced by the French theologian and reformer Théodore de Bèze . In 1890, the college was finally given university status and became the Université de Lausanne . Together with the École polytechnique fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL or ETH Lausanne), the capital of Vaud now has one of the largest university centers in Switzerland.

    The Académie de Genève was also founded in Geneva in 1559 by the reformer Jean Calvin , although it did not yet have the status of an official university, compared to the University of Basel , which was the first and only official university in today's Switzerland until the 19th century was, but also soon enjoyed a great international charisma and was converted into the Université de Genève in 1873 . In 2018, around 40% of all students came from abroad.

    For its part, the Université de Neuchâtel goes back to the establishment of an academy in 1838 by Friedrich Wilhelm IV of Prussia , who was then Prince of Neuchâtel. It was closed by the Grand Council of the Canton in 1848, the year the Swiss federal state was founded, and reopened in 1909 in the form and status of a full university. Today the university is one of the 20 best universities in the world with a student population of under 5,000.

    In the city of Freiburg i. Üe. was initiated by the cantonal parliament in 1889 to open the first university in "Catholic Switzerland". Today the University of Freiburg is the only officially bilingual university (French and German) in the country. The main building of the university, the Miséricorde , which was inaugurated in 1941, was designed by Le Corbusier's student Denis Honegger . Today the university has around 10,000 students and is therefore one of the country's medium-sized universities.

    Media landscape

    The newspaper Le Temps (“Die Zeit”) is generally regarded as the reference newspaper for the French language in Switzerland . The newspaper was founded in 1998 from the merger of the Journal de Genève et Gazette de Lausanne (the former leading medium in French-speaking Switzerland) and Le Nouveau Quotidien . The newspaper is distributed in all parts of Switzerland as well as in France and the francophone parts of Europe. The newspaper got its name from the former leading paper of the Third French Republic (from 1944 Le Monde ). Today it is based in Lausanne.

    The newspapers Tribune de Genève , which was founded in 1879 by the American entrepreneur James T. Bates , are also of regional importance . It was designed as the successor to the English-language Geneva Times . The newspaper has been owned by the Tamedia media group since 2011 . And on the other hand the 24 heures (“24 hours”), which is the newspaper with the highest circulation in the part of the country, but remains regionally anchored in its orientation and radiance, since 2009 it has also been part of the Tamedia Group.

    Also of regional importance in the 20th and 21st centuries was the tabloid Le Matin (“The Morning”), which has been published as an internet newspaper since 2018 . It was originally founded in 1911 as the Tribune de Lausanne . The sister newspaper Le Matin Dimanche (“Sunday morning”) ensures that the paper will continue in print today. In the francophone area of ​​the canton of Friborg and the neighboring areas of Vaud, the newspaper La Liberté ("Freedom") is one of the leading newspapers; it dates back to 1871. In the francophone area of ​​the canton of Valais, however, Le Nouvelliste counts as the leading paper, the newspaper in turn goes back to 1903. Since 1993, Le Quotidien jurassien has also been distributed by Delsberg , the paper counts as the most important medium of the Canton of Jura and the Bernese Jura.

    The public service broadcaster Radio Télévision Suisse (RTS), which is based in Geneva and Lausanne and is in turn affiliated with the Swiss Radio and Television Corporation (SRG SSR) in Bern, enjoys national significance in the radio and television sector . RTS is a partner in TV5 Monde , which is why a certain number of television programs can also be received and broadcast through this channel.

    Religions and worldviews

    As in general in Switzerland, religious matters legally and socially fall under the jurisdiction of the cantons. Traditionally important here, as in German-speaking Switzerland, is the distinction between Protestant and Catholic areas. According to tradition, the cantons of Geneva, Neuchâtel, Vaud and the francophone area of ​​the canton of Bern belong to the Protestant bloc, while the cantons of Friborg ( Diocese of Friborg ), Jura and Valais ( Diocese of Sion ) are Catholic.

    Nevertheless, the cantons of Geneva and Neuchâtel as the only all over Switzerland on the French model are secular and therefore know no national churches respectively. other public law recognitions of religious institutions.

    Despite the constitutionally enshrined secularity, the city of Geneva is an important center of the Muslim and Jewish religious communities in Switzerland (together with the other two major cities in the country, Zurich and Basel). The Geneva mosque, inaugurated in 1978 by the Saudi Arabian King Khalid ibn Abd al-Aziz and the Swiss Federal President Willi Ritschard , is located here and is also the largest Muslim church in Switzerland. On the other hand, the city with the Hekhal-Haness Synagogue is also one of the largest European centers of the Sephardim . The proportion of Muslim residents in the city canton is around 21,000, while the Jewish religious communities have a total of almost 4,000 members.

    In the city, which after the reform around Jean Calvin was sometimes also called “Protestant Rome”, there is now also a Catholic and Russian Orthodox religious community that is important in terms of size and regional visibility. The Russian Orthodox Church of Geneva (French: Église russe ) was built in 1859 with the support of the Russian Grand Duchess Anna Fjodorovna as the first church of the religious group in Switzerland (the writer Fyodor Dostoyevsky , among others, also had his daughter Sophie baptized here, but this was not the case dies again three months and is now buried in the city).

    In the cities of Biel / Bienne, Delsberg , Freiburg and La-Chaux-de-Fonds there are also other historical small centers of the Jewish community in Switzerland . In the canton of Vaud, in addition to the two regional churches, the cantonal Jewish community based in Lausanne is also recognized under public law. The canton's Jewish religious community (mainly concentrated on the city of Lausanne and the Lake Geneva region) has a total of around 1,800 people, while the canton's Muslim population is 31,000.

    Similar to the general tendencies in Switzerland as a whole, there is also a greater movement towards non-denominational in the urban centers of French-speaking Switzerland . According to the Federal Statistical Office in Neuchâtel, the group of people with no religious affiliation in the French-speaking part of Switzerland counted around 500,000 people in 2016 . In the city canton of Geneva there are around 100,000 non-religious for a total of around 400,000 inhabitants. In the rural canton of Jura, on the other hand, there are only around 8,000 non-denominational for every 60,000 inhabitants recorded.

    Largest cities in French-speaking Switzerland

    rank Surname 1995 2000 2005 2010 2015 Canton
    1. Geneva 173'549 174,999 178,722 187,470 201'164 Canton of GenevaCanton of Geneva Geneva
    2. Lausanne 115,878 114,889 117,388 127,821 135,629 Canton of VaudCanton of Vaud Vaud
    3. Biel / Bienne 50,733 48,840 48,735 51,203 54,163 Canton BernCanton Bern Bern
    4th La Chaux-de-Fonds 37,375 36,747 36,809 37'504 38,957 Canton of NeuchâtelCanton of Neuchâtel Neuchâtel
    5. Freiburg i. Üe. 32,501 31,691 33,008 34,897 38,489 Canton of FriborgCanton of Friborg Freiburg

    Canton capitals are shown in bold .

    Seat of the city government of Geneva, the largest city in French-speaking Switzerland

    Geneva is traditionally the largest city in French-speaking Switzerland. From an economic perspective, it is the strongest urban area in the region, but as a former city-state , it traditionally does not unite most of the political power. In terms of economic history, the city developed strongly from the 16th century onwards through the watch industry , but then became important as an international diplomatic city through its humanitarian commitment (including the establishment of the ICRC ). In the 20th century, the city's status as an international platform for dialogue was first established through the establishment of the headquarters of the League of Nations , and later through the second seat of the United Nations in New York City .

    Lausanne traditionally ranks second behind Geneva in terms of population and economic strength, but together with the extensive canton of Vaud, it is of greater political importance at both regional and federal level. Today, the city is also characterized by its large university center, where the University of Lausanne and the French-speaking Swiss headquarters of the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology are located. It is therefore closely linked to the field of biotechnology and IT from an economic point of view, but it is also an administrative center of a federal dimension. The city is also called the “Olympic Capital” because of the headquarters of the International Olympic Committee located here .

    The Fontaine Monumentale in the city center of La Chaux-de-Fonds

    The bilingual city of Biel / Bienne is the second largest urban agglomeration in the canton of Bern. The city is of national importance due to its cultural diversity and the important presence of the watch industry.

    The bilingual city of Freiburg i. Üe. enjoys a certain importance due to its cultural hinge function between the French and German-speaking parts of the country. The city is particularly famous in the national context for its university, which is the only bilingual university in the country. The very well-preserved old town is also known.

    La Chaux-de-Fonds is the largest city in the canton of Neuchâtel. It is located directly on the French border and is best known for its industrial character (chessboard-like city layout). It also traditionally enjoys a certain importance as an important center of the Swiss watch industry. Besides Lengnau and Endingen (as well as Carouge , Canton Geneva), it was one of the few communities in today's Switzerland that allowed Jews to settle. Even today there is a synagogue in the city that is important in terms of size and visibility.

    Politics and administration

    The political landscape of the language region is very diverse due to its diversity and the different cultural and economic starting positions of the cantons. Nevertheless, in the context of federal elections since around the 1990s it has often happened that French -speaking Switzerland is more statist than German-speaking Switzerland on both social and economic issues .

    Results of the deportation initiative (2010), whereby apart from the German-speaking canton of Basel-Stadt , French-speaking
    Switzerland (apart from the bilingual canton of Valais ) voted unanimously against the initiative and German-speaking Switzerland unanimously voted in favor

    The result of the vote on the EEA question of 1992 is of greater importance . All of French-speaking Switzerland, together with the cantons of Basel-Landschaft and Basel-Stadt, voted in favor of joining the European Economic Area, but the rest of German-speaking Switzerland and the Canton of Ticino outvoted. According to this, the majority of the people was extremely tight, with a difference of only 23,000 votes, while the majority of the cantons was clear due to the small area of ​​French-speaking Switzerland (16 of 23 no). On closer inspection, however, it became apparent that the German-speaking Swiss cities of Basel, Bern and Zurich also voted for membership, and that the urban-rural divide was decisive in the German-speaking region. In the ensuing follow-up vote on the Bilateral Agreements I in 2000, the political gap between the different language parts of the country turned out to be closed.

    Politically relevant differences within French-speaking Switzerland can also be seen between the traditionally Protestant and Catholic cantons. In addition, the right-wing conservative Swiss People's Party , despite a French-speaking representative in the state government, Guy Parmelin , seems to be gaining a less pronounced foothold than in German-speaking Switzerland.

    The Swiss Federal Court in Lausanne

    Historically, at least since 1893/94, there has also been a political separation between the FDP and the Liberal Party of Switzerland , most of which followed the country's linguistic borders. While in German-speaking Switzerland (with the exception of Basel-Stadt) the liberal groups within the Liberal Party were dissolved, the Liberal Party in the reformed French-speaking cantons remained independent until the merger with the FDP in 2008. With Gustave Ador from Geneva , the party also provided its first and only Federal Councilor between 1917 and 1919. The party, which was sometimes classified as elitist and contrary to populism, lost support on a large scale between 1993 and 2001, and only in the canton of Basel-Stadt ( LDP ) is the party able to survive. In French-speaking Swiss political jargon, the distinction between the liberal and radical (or free-thinking) legacy of today's FDP remains important.

    As a minority region, French-speaking Switzerland has an increased interest in being represented in the national executive government, i.e. in the Federal Council . Since the second half of 2017, French-speaking Switzerland has had two out of seven Federal Councilors:

    The Swiss Federal Supreme Court is also located in the canton capital of Vaud, in Lausanne . The Swiss federal state of 1848 only received a federal court in 1874, which was based on a true separation of powers in the traditional sense. This in turn was based on the revision of the Federal Constitution of the same year. After a total of seven cities in the country had competed for the new seat of the court, the decision finally fell on Lausanne, as a concession to the French-speaking liberals who had spoken out against the constitutional revision. In 1927 the court then moved into the premises of the neo-classical new building in the "Mon-Repos" park.

    See also


    Web links

    Wiktionary: Romandie  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations
    Commons : Romandie  - Collection of images, videos and audio files

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