Liechtenstein: The Rodney Dangerfield of Countries


Dec 10, 2019

The tiny principality seems to be a type of Rodney Dangerfield: I don’t get no respect. And yet it goes on, confident of who it is.

Thanks to jjstiano at Looperman for the music.


Being appreciated, and maybe even admired, is what everyone wants. When we don’t get it, we sometimes become sad, or melancholy. We want to be someone who gets respected.

Pity the poor country of Liechtenstein.

I’m James Dykstra and this is

Liechtenstein is a small country of less than 40,000 people wedged between Austria and Switzerland. It’s one of the smallest countries in the world If you asked someone to find it on a map, most people couldn’t. 

The country was created by the merger of the County of Vaduz and the Lordship of Schellenberg in 1719. The ruler of the new territory, the Prince of Lichtenstein, did not actually bother to visit his new territory, and none of his successors did either until 1842. The prince, living in far off Vienna, didn’t actually want to rule the territory, but having it gave him more power and prestige within the Holy Roman Empire.

The Liechtensteiners seemed to have easily shrugged off this ignoble beginning and become a likable, easy going people. After all, in the 1700s states were routinely made and unmade based on political considerations rather than any sense of unity among the people. That’s just how it was done.

But the Lichtensteiners took their new nationality and ran with it. They became possibly the most likable people in Europe. During the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, the Liechtensteiners did not want to fight any of their fellow Germans, and asked that their small army be posted by a pass in the Italian region of Tyrol. The entire Liechtenstein army of 80 soldiers saw no fighting, and when they returned home 81 men came to the tiny principality.Sources disagree whether this extra man was an Italian resident living near where the troops had been stationed, an Italian soldier, or a  liaison with the Austrian military. Whatever the case,  there seems to have been something likable about the Liechtensteiners.

Two years later, due to financial constraints, the army was disbanded and Liechtenstein adopted a policy of strict neutrality. . It would be tempting to say that the country has seen no further military action, but, despite its neutrality, it has.

The neutrality of the country was respected by all parties in the First and Second World Wars, but there have been some problems with the Swiss since then.

Liechtenstein is only a tiny country, and to some extent it’s looked after by its bigger neighbor, Switzerland. If a Liechtensteiner were to lose his passport in Australia, he’d go to the Swiss embassy since Liechtenstein is too small to have embassies in more than a few countries.The country uses the Swiss franc as its official currency, and Swiss border guards handle immigration matters since Liechtenstein has no border patrol of its own.

It’s ironic that the country causing the greatest military problems, indeed, the only military problems for tiny Liechtenstein is Switzerland itself. In 1968, a Swiss army unit on training maneuvers got lost and crossed the unmarked border between the two countries. Practicing a live fire exercise, grenades were lobbed at the ski resort at Malbun.Nobody was hurt, and the government of Liechtenstein was curiously calm. They seemed to have figured it was just a really bad mistake.

Though on other occasions they did not cross the border, the Swiss military has practiced their flame thrower skills and repeatedly managed to set the forest of their neighbor alight.

But these weren’t the only mistakes the Swiss made, for in 1992 Swiss soldiers went to set up a guard post near Triesenberg. Somehow they failed to realize that this community was not actually in Switzerland. When faced with a contingent of foreign soldiers on his street, a resident phoned the police. Who else? By the time the police arrived, the soldiers had realized their error and skedaddled.

Finally, on March 1, 2007, a group of 170 Swiss army recruits on a training exercise hit bad weather. The soldiers lost their way and crossed the unmarked border. When they realized where they were, they high tailed if home. The Liechtensteiners were none the wiser until their government was contacted by the Swiss to let them know of the incident. 

And perhaps this is where we could learn from this tiny principality. While they may not be universally known and admired, they are confident of who they are, and because they know  what they stand for, the Liechtensteiners responded in a way that could prevent so many international problems.

Mark Amman, an interior ministry spokesman for Liechtenstein said simply, “These things happen.”

Early history

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