Alsace

Alsace

[al-sas, -seys, al-sas, -seys; Fr. al-zas]
Alsace, Ger. Elsass, region and former province, E France. It is separated from Germany by a part of the Rhine River. It comprises the departments of Bas-Rhin, Haut-Rhin, and the Territory of Belfort (a department created after the Franco-Prussian War when the rest of Alsace was annexed by Germany).

Alsace is rich agriculturally (especially in the plain between the Rhine River and the Vosges Mts.), geologically (potassium exploitation in the Mulhouse area ranks France among the top worldwide producers), and industrially. Strasbourg is the ancient capital and the leading industrial center. Textile industries are located in the Mulhouse-Colmar area, and wines (notably Riesling) are produced there. Hydroelectric plants are at Kembs and Ottmarscheim. Virtually the whole population speaks French, but a very large majority have also retained their German dialect. About 75% of the population is Roman Catholic. Alsace retains many old customs such as the wine and harvest festivals.

History

Of Celtic origin, Alsace became part of the Roman province of Upper Germany (see Gaul). It fell to the Alemanni (5th cent.) and to the Franks (496). The Treaty of Verdun (843; see Verdun, Treaty of) included it in Lotharingia; the Treaty of Mersen (870) put it in the kingdom of the East Franks (later Germany). The 10 chief cities of Alsace gained (13th cent.) virtual independence as free imperial cities. The remainder of the region was divided into fiefs with the exception of Upper Alsace, where the Hapsburg family consolidated its original holdings.

Alsace became a center of the Reformation (although the rural areas remained generally Catholic). The Treaty of Westphalia (1648) transferred all Hapsburg lands in Alsace to France. Lower Alsace was conquered (1680-97) by Louis XIV of France; the Treaty of Ryswick (1697) confirmed French possession. The Edict of Nantes (1685), promulgated before the annexation of Alsace, could not be revoked; therefore religious worship remained free. In 1798 the city of Mulhouse voted to join France.

In 1871, as a result of the Franco-Prussian War, all Alsace (except Belfort) was annexed by Germany. With part of Lorraine, it formed the "imperial land" of Alsace-Lorraine, held in common by all the German states. Many Alsatians emigrated to France rather than submit to a policy of Germanization. Clamor for the return of Alsace-Lorraine became the chief rallying force for French nationalism and was a major cause of the armaments race that led to World War I. France's recovery (1918) of this territory was confirmed by the Treaty of Versailles (1919).

After the decline of early enthusiasm over the reunion with France, a strong particularist movement gained ground, demanding cultural and even political autonomy. The movement received impetus from recurrent efforts by the French government to end the Concordat of 1801, which had remained valid in Alsace-Lorraine although it had been ended in the rest of France in 1905. In 1940, German troops occupied Alsace; a large part of the population had already been evacuated to central France. Alsace was treated as a part of Germany. French and American troops recovered (Jan., 1945) Alsace for France and were generally hailed as liberators.

Area, eastern France. It is now usually considered to include the present-day French departments of Haut-Rhin, Bas-Rhin, and Moselle. The area was ceded by France to Germany in 1871 after the Franco-Prussian War. It was returned to France after World War I, occupied by the Germans in World War II, then again restored to France. French prewar governmental policies that had clashed with the region's particularism have since been modified. The German dialect known as Alsatian remains the lingua franca, and both French and German are taught in the schools.

Learn more about Alsace-Lorraine with a free trial on Britannica.com.

Alsace (Alsace, ; Alsatian and Elsass, pre-1996 German: Elsaß; Alsatia) is one of the 26 regions of France, located on the eastern border of France, on the west bank of the upper Rhine, adjacent to Germany and Switzerland. The name "Alsace" derives from the Germanic Ell-sass, meaning "Seated on the Ill; the Ill is a river in Alsace. The capital and largest city of Alsace is Strasbourg.

Previously a part of the Holy Roman Empire, Alsace changed hands between France and Germany several times between the 17th and 20th century. In the 17th century, Alsace was gradually annexed under kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV of France and made one of the provinces of France. It is frequently mentioned in conjunction with Lorraine, because possession of these two régions (as Alsace-Lorraine) was contested in the 19th and 20th century.

Although Alsace has been a German dialect speaking region, today Alsatians speak French, the official language of the country they have been a part of since 1945. About 25% of the local population is still fluent in the Alsatian language (as a mother tongue) or in German (as a second language). The place names used in this article are in French. See this list for the original German place names.

History

Roman Alsace

In prehistoric times, Alsace was inhabited by nomadic hunters, but by 1500 BC, Celts began to settle in Alsace, clearing and cultivating the land. By 58 BC, the Romans had invaded and established Alsace as a center of viticulture. To protect this highly valued industry, the Romans built fortifications and military camps that evolved into various communities which have been inhabited continuously to the present day. While part of theRoman Empire,
Alsace was part of Germania Superior.

Frankish Alsace

With the decline of the Roman Empire, Alsace became the territory of the Alemanni. The Alemanni were agricultural people, and their language formed the basis of the modern-day Alsatian dialect. Clovis and the Franks drove the Alemanni out of Alsace during the 5th century, culminating with the Battle of Tolbiac, and Alsace became part of the Kingdom of Austrasia. Under Clovis' Merovingian successors the inhabitants were Christianized. Alsace remained under Frankish control until the Frankish realm, following the Oaths of Strasbourg of 842, was formally dissolved in 843 at the Treaty of Verdun; the grandsons of Charlemagne, formally known as the founder of the Frankish realm, divided the realm into three parts. Alsace formed part of the Middle Francia, which was ruled by the youngest grandson Lothar I. Lothar died early in 855 and his realm was divided into three parts. The part known as Lotharingia, or Lorraine, was given to Lothar's son. The rest was shared between Lothar's brothers Charles the Bald (ruler of the West Frankish realm) and Ludwig the German (ruler of the East Frankish realm). The Kingdom of Lotharingia was short-lived, however; the region that was to become Alsace fell to the Holy Roman Empire as part of the Duchy of Swabia in the Treaty of Meersen in 870.

Alsace within the Holy Roman Empire

At about this time the entire region began to fragment into a number of feudal secular and ecclesiastical lordships, a situation which lasted into the 17th century and was a common process in Europe. Alsace experienced great prosperity during the 12th and 13th centuries under Hohenstaufen emperors. Frederick I set up Alsace as a province (a procuratio, not a provincia) to be ruled by ministeriales, a non-noble class of civil servants. The idea was that such men would be more tractable and less likely to alienate the fief from the crown out of their own greed. The province had a single provincial court (Landgericht) and a central administration with its seat at Hagenau. Frederick II designated the Bishop of Strasbourg to administer Alsace, but the authority of the bishop was challenged by Count Rudolph of Habsburg, who received his rights from Frederick II's son Conrad IV. Strasbourg began to grow to become the most populous and commercially-important town in the region. In 1262, after a long struggle with the ruling bishops, its citizens gained the status of free imperial city. A stop on the Paris-Vienna-Orient trade route, as well as a port on the Rhine route linking southern Germany and Switzerland to the Netherlands, England and Scandinavia, it became the political and economic center of the region. Cities such as Colmar and Hagenau also began to grow in economic importance and gained a kind of autonomy within the "Decapole" or "Dekapolis", a federation of ten free towns.

The prosperity of Alsace was terminated in the 14th century by a series of harsh winters, bad harvests, and the Black Death. These hardships were blamed on Jews, leading to the pogroms of 1336 and 1339 . An additional natural disaster was the Rhine rift earthquake of 1356 , one of Europe's worst. Prosperity returned to Alsace under Habsburg administration during the Renaissance.

German central power had begun to decline following years of imperial adventures in Italian lands, ceding hegemony in Europe to France, which had long since centralized power. France began an aggressive policy of expanding eastward, first to the Rhône and Meuse Rivers, and when those borders were reached, aiming for the Rhine. In 1299, the French proposed a marriage alliance between Philip IV of France's sister and Albert I of Germany's son, with Alsace to be the dowry; however, the deal never came off. In 1307, the town of Belfort was first chartered by the Counts of Montbéliard. During the next century, France was to be militarily shattered by the Hundred Years' War, which prevented for a time any further tendencies in this direction. After the conclusion of the war, France was again free to pursue its desire to reach the Rhine and in 1444 a French army appeared in Lorraine and Alsace. It took up winter quarters, demanded the submission of Metz and Strasbourg and launched an attack on Basel.

In 1469, following the Treaty of St. Omer, Upper Alsace was sold for money by Archduke Sigismund of Austria to Charles of Burgundy. Although Charles was the nominal landlord, taxes were paid to Frederick III, Holy Roman Emperor. The latter was able to use this tax and a dynastic marriage to his advantage to gain back full control of Upper Alsace (apart from the free towns, but including Belfort) in 1477 when it became part of the demesne of the Habsburg family, who were also rulers of the empire. The town of Mulhouse joined the Swiss Confederation in 1515, where it was to remain until 1798.

By the time of the Protestant Reformation in the 16th century, Strasbourg was a prosperous community, and its inhabitants accepted Protestantism in 1523. Martin Bucer was a prominent Protestant reformer in the region. His efforts were countered by the Roman Catholic Habsburgs who tried to eradicate heresy in Upper Alsace. As a result, Alsace was transformed into a mosaic of Catholic and Protestant territories. On the other hand, Mömpelgard (Montbéliard) to the southwest of Alsace, belonging to the Counts of Württemberg since 1397, remained a Protestant enclave in France until 1793.

Incorporation into France

This situation prevailed until 1639 when most of Alsace was conquered by France to prevent it falling into the hands of the Spanish Habsburgs, who wanted a clear road to their valuable and rebellious possessions in the Spanish Netherlands. This occurred in the greater context of the Thirty Years' War (1618-1648). Beset by enemies and to gain a free hand in Hungary, the Habsburgs sold their Sundgau territory (mostly in Upper Alsace) to France in 1646, which had occupied it, for the sum of 1.2 million Thalers. Thus, when the hostilities finally ceased in 1648 with the Treaty of Westphalia, most of Alsace went to France with some towns remaining independent. The treaty stipulations regarding Alsace were Byzantine and confusing; it is thought that this was purposely so that neither the French king or the German emperor could gain tight control, but that one would play off the other, thereby assuring Alsace some measure of autonomy. Supporters of this theory point out that the treaty stipulations were authored by Imperial plenipotentiary Isaac Volmar, the former Chancellor of Alsace. The transfer of most of Alsace to France at the Peace of Westphalia in 1648 marked its start, along with Lorraine, as a contested territory between France and Germany (French-German enmity).

Because warfare had caused large numbers of the population (mainly in the countryside) to die or to flee, numerous immigrants arrived from Switzerland, Germany, Austria, Lorraine, Savoy and other areas after 1648 and until the mid-18th century. Between 1671-1711 Anabaptist refugees came from Switzerland, notably from Bern. Strasbourg became a main centre of the early Anabaptist movement.

France consolidated her hold with the 1679 Treaties of Nijmegen, which brought the towns under her control. France occupied Strasbourg in 1681 in an unprovoked action, and from 1688 onwards devastated large parts of southern Germany according to the Brûlez le Palatinat! policy. These territorial changes were reinforced at the 1697 Treaty of Ryswick which ended the War of the Grand Alliance. However, Alsace had a somewhat exceptional position in the Kingdom of France. The German language was still used in local government, school, and education and the German (Lutheran) University of Strasbourg was continued and attended by students from Germany. The Edict of Fontainebleau, which legalized the suppression of French Protestantism, was not applied in Alsace. In contrast to the rest of France, there was a relative religious tolerance, although the French authorities tried to promote Catholicism and the Lutheran Strasbourg Cathedral had to be handed over to the Catholics in 1681. There was a customs boundary along the Vosges mountains against the rest of France while there was no such boundary against Germany. For these reasons Alsace remained marked by German culture and economically oriented towards Germany until the French Revolution.

French Revolution

The year 1789 brought the French Revolution and with it the first division of Alsace into the départements of Haut- and Bas-Rhin. Alsatians played an active role in the French Revolution. On July 21, 1789, after receiving news of the Storming of the Bastille in Paris, a crowd of people stormed the Strasbourg city hall, forcing the city administrators to flee and putting symbolically an end to the feudal system in Alsace. In 1792, Rouget de Lisle composed in Strasbourg the Revolutionary marching song La Marseillaise, which later became the anthem of France. La Marseillaise was played for the first time in April of that year in front of the mayor of Strasbourg Philippe-Frédéric de Dietrich. Some of the most famous generals of the French Revolution also came from Alsace, notably Kellermann, the victor of Valmy, and Kléber, who led the armies of the French Republic in Vendée.

At the same time, some Alsatians were in opposition to the Jacobins and sympathetic to the invading forces of Austria and Prussia who sought to crush the nascent revolutionary republic. Many of the residents of the Sundgau made "pilgrimages" to places like Mariastein Abbey, near Basel, in Switzerland, for baptisms and weddings. When the French Revolutionary Army of the Rhine was victorious, tens of thousands fled east before it. When they were later permitted to return (in some cases not until 1799), it was often to find that their lands and homes had been confiscated. These conditions led to emigration by hundreds of families to newly-vacant lands in the Russian Empire in 1803-4 and again in 1808. A poignant retelling of this tale based on what he had himself witnessed can be found in Goethe's Hermann und Dorothea.

In response to the restoration of Napoleon I of France, in 1814 and 1815, Alsace was occupied by foreign forces, including over 280,000 soldiers and 90,000 horses in Bas-Rhin alone. This had grave effects on trade and the economy of the region since former overland trade routes were switched to newly-opened Mediterranean and Atlantic seaports.

The population grew rapidly, from 800,000 in 1814 to 914,000 in 1830 and 1,067,000 in 1846. The combination of factors meant hunger, housing shortages and a lack of work for young people. Thus, it is not surprising that people left Alsace, not only to Paris, where the Alsatian community grew in numbers, with famous members such as Baron Haussmann, but also to far away places like Russia and the Austrian Empire to take advantage of new opportunities offered there. Austria had conquered lands in Eastern Europe from the Ottoman Empire and offered generous terms for colonists in order to consolidate their hold on the lands. Many Alsatians also began to sail for the United States, where after 1807 slave importation had been banned and new workers were needed for the cotton fields.

Between France and Germany

France had declared the Franco-Prussian War (1870-71), and was defeated by the Kingdom of Prussia and other German states. The end of the war led to the unification of Germany. Otto von Bismarck reannexed Alsace and northern Lorraine to the new German Empire in 1871; unlike other members states of the German federation, which had governments of their own, the new Imperial territory of Alsace-Lorraine was under the sole authority of the Kaiser, administered directly by the imperial government in Berlin. Between 100,000 to 130,000 Alsatians (of a total population of about a million and a half) chose to remain French citizens and leave Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringen, many of them resettling in French Algeria. Only in 1911 was Alsace granted some measure of autonomy, which was manifested also in a flag and an anthem (Elsässisches Fahnenlied). In 1913, however, the Saverne Affair showed the limits of this new tolerance of the Alsatian identity.

During World War I, many Alsatians served as sailors in the Kaiserliche Marine, and took part in the Naval mutinies that led to the abdication of the Kaiser in November 1918, which left Alsace-Lorraine without a nominal head of state. The sailors returned home and founded a republic. A self-proclaimed government of Alsace-Lorraine declared independence as the "Republic of Alsace-Lorraine," but French troops entered Alsace less than a week later. At the sight of cheering Alsatian crowds welcoming back the French Army and mostly under the pressure of the French military, the United States and the other allies dropped their suggestions of organizing a plebiscite. Although U.S. President Woodrow Wilson had insisted that the région was self-ruling by legal status, as its constitution had stated it was bound to the sole authority of the Kaiser and not to the German state, France tolerated no plebiscite, as granted by the League of Nations to some eastern German territories at this time, because Alsatians were considered by the French public as fellow Frenchmen liberated from German rule. Germany ceded the region to France under the Treaty of Versailles.

After World War I, the establishment of German identity in Alsace was reversed, as all Germans who had settled in Alsace since 1871 were expelled. Policies forbidding the use of German and requiring that of French were introduced. However, in order not to antagonize the Alsatians, the region was not subjected to some legal changes that had been made from 1871 to 1919, such as the 1905 French Law of Separation of Church and State.

The région was effectively annexed by Germany in 1940 during World War II, and reincorporated into the Greater German Reich, which had been restructured into Reichsgaue. Alsace was merged with Baden, and Lorraine with the Saarland, to become part of a planned Westmark. The annexation, while putting a halt to the anti-German discrimination in the région, subjected it to the cruel Nazi dictatorship, which was loathed by most of the people. The German government never negotiated or declared a formal annexation, however, in order to preserve the possibility of an agreement with the West.

France regained control of the war-torn area in late 1944 and resumed its policy of promoting the French language with uncompromising vigor. For instance, from 1945 to 1984, the use of German in newspapers was restricted to a maximum of 25%.

In more recent years, as nationalistic emotions have receded, Alsatian is again being promoted by local authorities as an element of the region's identity. Alsatian is taught in schools (but not mandatory) as one of the regional languages of France. German is also taught as a foreign language in local kindergartens and schools.

Timeline

Year(s) Event Ruled by Official language
5400–4500 BC Bandkermikor/Linear Pottery cultures None
2300–750 BC Bell Beaker cultures None; Proto-Celtic spoken
750–450 BC Halstatt early Iron Age culture (early Celts) None; Old Celtic spoken
450–58 BC Celts/Gauls firmly secured in entire Gaul, Alsace; trade with Greece is evident (Vix) Celts/Gauls None; Gaulish variety of Celtic widely spoken
58 / 44 BC–AD 260 Alsace and Gaul conquered by Caesar, provincated to Germania Superior Roman Empire Latin; Gallic widely spoken
260–274 Postumus founds breakaway Gallic Empire Gallic Empire Latin, Gallic
274–286 Rome reconquers the Gallic Empire, Alsace Roman Empire Latin, Germanic (only in Argentoratum)
286–378 Diocletian divides the Roman Empire into Western and Eastern sectors Roman Empire
around 300 Beginning of Germanic migrations to the Roman Empire Roman Empire
378–395 The Visigoths rebel, precursor to waves of German, and Hun invasions Roman Empire
395–436 Death of Theodosius I, causing a permanent division between Western and Eastern Rome Western Roman Empire
436–486 Germanic invasions of the Western Roman Empire Roman Tributary of Gaul
486–511 Lower Alsace conquered by the Franks Frankish Realm Old Frankish, Latin
531–614 Upper Alsace conquered by the Franks Frankish Realm
614–795 Totality of Alsace to the Frankish Kingdom Frankish Realm
795–814 Charlemagne begins reign, Charlemagne crowned Emperor of the Romans on December 25, 800 Frankish Empire Old Frankish
814 Death of Charlemagne Carolingian Empire Old Frankish, Old High German
847–870 Treaty of Verdun gives Alsace and Lotharingia to Lothar I Middle Francia (Carolingian Empire) Frankish, Old High German
870–889 Treaty of Mersen gives Alsace to East Francia East Francia (German Kingdom of the Carolingian Empire) Frankish, Old High German
889–962 Carolingian Empire breaks up into five Kingdoms, Magyars and Vikings periodically raid Alsace Kingdom of Germany Old High German, Frankish
962–1618 Otto I crowned Holy Roman Emperor Holy Roman Empire Old High German, Modern High German. (Alemannic spoken widely)
1618–1674 Louis XIV annexes portions of Alsace during the Thirty Years' War Holy Roman Empire German
1674–1871 Louis XIV annexes the rest of Alsace during the Franco-Dutch War, leading to many years of French rule Kingdom of France Official :French
Alsatian and German tolerated, but strongly suppressed in official circles.
1871–1918 Franco-Prussian war causes French cession of Alsace to German Empire German Empire German
1919–1940 Treaty of Versailles reverts Alsace to France France French
1940–1944 Nazi Germany conquers Alsace Nazi Germany German
1945–present French control France Official: French.

Tourism

Having been early and always densely populated, Alsace is famous for its high number of picturesque villages, churches and castles and for the various beauties of its three main towns, in spite of severe destructions suffered throughout five centuries of wars between France and Germany.

Alsace is furthermore famous for its vineyards (especially along the Route du vin from Marlenheim to Colmar) and the Vosges mountains with their thick and green forests and picturesque lakes.

Climate

Alsace has a semi-continental climate with cold and dry winters and hot summers. There is little precipitation because the Vosges protect it from the west. The city of Colmar has a sunny microclimate; it is the second driest city in France, with an annual precipitation of just 550 mm, making it ideal for vin d'Alsace (Alsatian wine).

Topography

Alsace has an area of 8,283 km², making it the smallest région of metropolitan France. It is almost four times longer than it is wide, corresponding to a plain between the Rhine in the east and the Vosges mountains in the west.

It includes the départements of Haut-Rhin and Bas-Rhin (known previously as Sundgau and Nordgau). It borders Germany on the north and the east, Switzerland and Franche-Comté on the south, and Lorraine on the west.

Several valleys are also found in the région. Its highest point is the Ballon de Guebwiller in Haut-Rhin, which reaches a height of 1426m.

Geology

Alsace is the part of the plain of the Rhine located at the west of the Rhine, on its left bank. It is a rift or graben, from the Oligocene epoch , associated with its horsts : the Vosges and the Black Forest. The Jura Mountains, formed by slip (induced by the alpine uplift) of the mesozoic cover on the triassic formations goes through the area of Belfort.

Flora

It contains many forests, primarily in the Vosges and in Bas-Rhin (Haguenau Forest).

Politics

Alsace is one of the most conservative régions of France. It is one of just two régions in metropolitan France where the conservative right won the 2004 région elections and thus controls the Alsace Regional Council. Conservative leader Nicolas Sarkozy got his best score in Alsace (over 65%) in the second round of the French presidential elections of 2007. The president of the Regional Council is Adrien Zeller, a member of the Union for a Popular Movement. The frequently changing status of the région throughout history has left its mark on modern day politics in terms of a particular interest in national identity issues. Alsace is also one of the most pro-EU regions of France. It was one of the few French regions that voted 'yes' to the European Constitution in 2005.

Administrative divisions

The Alsace region is divided into 2 departments, 13 departmental arrondissements, 75 cantons (not shown here), and 904 communes:


Department of Bas-Rhin
(Number of communes in parentheses)

Department of Haut-Rhin
(Number of communes in parentheses)


Economy

According to the Institut National de la Statistique et des Études Économiques (INSEE), Alsace had a gross domestic product of 44.3 billion euros in 2002. With a GDP per capita of €24,804, it was the second-place région of France, losing only to Île-de-France. 68% of its jobs are in the services; 25% are in industry, making Alsace one of France's most industrialised régions.

Alsace is a région of varied economic activity, including:

Alsace has many international ties and 35% of firms are foreign companies (notably German, Swiss, American, Japanese, and Scandinavian).

Demographics

Alsace's population increased to 1,829,000 in 2007. It has regularly increased over time, except in wartime, by both natural growth and migration. This growth has even accelerated at the end of the 20th century. INSEE estimates that its population will grow 12.9% to 19.5% between 1999 and 2030.

With a density of 221/km², Alsace is the third most densely populated région in metropolitan France.

Transportation

Roads

Most major car journeys are made on the A35 autoroute (with intermittent areas of dual carriageways), which links Saint-Louis on the Swiss border to Lauterbourg on the German border.

The A4 toll-road (towards Paris) begins 20 km northwest of Strasbourg and the A36 toll-road towards Lyon, begins 10 km west from Mulhouse.

Spaghetti-junctions (built in the 1970s and 1980s) are prominent in the comprehensive system of motorways in Alsace, especially in the outlying ares of Strasbourg and Mulhouse. These cause a major buildup of traffic and are the main sources of pollution in the towns, notably in Strasbourg where the motorway traffic of the A35 was 170,000 per day in 2002.

At present, plans are being considered for building a new dual carriageway west of Strasbourg, which would reduce the buildup of traffic in that area by picking up north- and southbound vehicles and getting rid of the buildup outside of Strasbourg. The line plans to link up the interchange of Hœrdt to the north of Strasbourg, with Innenheim in the southwest. The opening is envisaged at the end of 2011, with an average usage of 41,000 vehicles a day. Estimates of the French Works Commissioner however, raised some doubts over the interest of such a project, since it would pick up only about 10% of the traffic of the A35 at Strasbourg.

To add to the buildup of traffic, the neighbouring German state of Baden-Württemberg plans to impose a tax on heavy-goods vehicles using their roads. Thus, HGVs travelling from north Germany to Switzerland or southern Alsace would most probably bypass the A5 on the Alsace-Baden-Württemberg border and use the untolled, French A35 instead.

Trains

TER Alsace is the rail network serving Alsace. Its network is articulated around the city of Strasbourg. It's one of the most developed rail network in France, financially sustained partly by the French railroad SNCF, and partly by the région Alsace.

Because the Vosges are surmountable only by the Col de Saverne, it has been suggested that Alsace needs to open up and get closer to France in terms of its rail links.

The TGV Est (Paris - Strasbourg) was brought into service in June 2007, and different plans are due to be implemented:

  • the TGV Rhin-Rhône or a Dijon-Mulhouse line (to start in construction in 2006, with anticipated completion in 2011);
  • an interconnection with the German InterCityExpress, as far as Kehl and/or Ottmarsheim;
  • a tram-train system in Mulhouse (May 2006), then Strasbourg (2011).

However, the abandoned Maurice-Lemaire tunnel towards Saint-Dié-des-Vosges was rebuilt as a toll-road.

Rivers

Port traffic of Alsace exceeds 15 million tonnes, of which about three quarters is centred on Strasbourg, which is the second busiest French fluvial harbour. The enlargement plan of the Rhine-Rhône channel, intended to link up the Mediterranean Sea and Central Europe (Rhine, Danube, North Sea and Baltic Sea) was abandoned in 1998 for reasons of expense and land erosion, notably in the Doubs valley.

Air traffic

There are two international airports in Alsace:

The city is also two hours away from one of the largest European airports, Frankfurt Main.

Religion

Most of the Alsatian population is Roman Catholic, but largely because of the région's German influence, a significant Protestant community also exists: today, the EPAL (local Lutheran-Reformed union-church) is France's second largest Protestant church. Unlike the rest of France, the Alsace-Moselle territory still adheres to the Napoleonic Concordat of 1801, which provides public subsidies to the Roman Catholic, Lutheran, and Calvinist churches, as well as to Jewish synagogues; public education in these faiths is offered. This divergence in policy from the French majority is due to the région having been administered by Imperial Germany when the 1905 law separating the French church and state was instituted (for a more comprehensive history, see: Alsace-Lorraine). Controversy erupts periodically on the appropriateness of this legal disposition, as well does the exclusion of other religions from this arrangement.

Following the Protestant Reformation, promoted by local reformer Martin Bucer, the principle of cuius regio, eius religio led to a certain amount of religious diversity in the highlands of northern Alsace. Landowners, who as "local lords" had the right to decide which religion was allowed on their land, were eager to entice populations from the more attractive lowlands to settle and develop their property. Many accepted without discrimination Catholics, Lutherans, Calvinists, Jews and Anabaptists. multiconfessional villages appeared, particularly in the region of Alsace bossue. Alsace became one of the French regions boasting a thriving Jewish community, and the only region with a noticeable Anabaptist population. The schism of the Amish under the lead of Jacob Amman from the Mennonites occurred in 1693 in Sainte-Marie-aux-Mines. The strongly Catholic Louis XIV tried in vain to drive them from Alsace. When Napoleon imposed military conscription without religious exception, most emigrated to the American continent.

In 1707, the simultaneum was established, by which many Reformed and Lutheran church buildings were forced to allow Catholic services. About 50 such "simultaneous churches" still exist in modern Alsace, though they tend to hold Catholic services only occasionally.

Culture

Historically part of the Holy Roman Empire, the région has passed between French and German control numerous times, resulting in a rich cultural blend.

Language

Although Germanic languages were dominant in Alsace for most of its history, the main language spoken in Alsace today is French.

The traditional language of the région is Alsatian, an Alemannic dialect of Upper German and thus closely related to Swiss German. Some Frankish dialects of West Central German are also spoken in the extreme north of Alsace. Neither Alsatian nor the Frankish dialects have any form of official status, as is customary for regional languages in France, although both are now recognized as languages of France and can be chosen as subjects in lycées.

Following World War II, the French government pursued, in line with its traditional language policy, a campaign to suppress the use of German as part of a wider a Francization campaign. Both German and Alsatian were for a time banned from public life (including street and city names, official administration, and educational system). Though the ban has been lifted, Alsace-Lorraine is today very French in language and culture. Few young people speak Alsatian today, though the closely-related Alemannic German survives on the opposite bank of the Rhine, in Baden, and especially in Switzerland. However, while French is the major language of the region, the Alsatian dialect of French is heavily influenced by German, in phonology and vocabulary.

Often assumed to be a bilingual region, Alsace has in fact moved toward a situation of total French monolingualism. This is documented in Le declin du dialecte alsacien, a study funded by the General Council of Alsace and carried out in twenty secondary schools by Calvin Veltman and M.N. Denis. This situation has spurred a movement to preserve the Alsatian language, which is perceived as endangered, a situation paralleled in other régions of France, such as Brittany or Occitania. Alsatian is now taught in French high schools, but the overwhelming presence of French media make the survival of Alsatian uncertain among younger generations. Increasingly, French is the only language used at home and at work, whereas a growing number of people have a good knowledge of standard German as a foreign language learned in school.

The constitution of the Fifth Republic states that French alone is the official language of the Republic. However Alsatian, along with other regional languages, are recognized by the French government in the official list of languages of France. A 1999 INSEE survey counted 548,000 adult speakers of Alsatian in France, making it the second most-spoken regional language in the country (after Occitan). Like all regional languages in France, however, the transmission of Alsatian is on the decline. While 39% of the adult population of Alsace speaks Alsatian, only one in four children speaks it, and only one in ten children uses it regularly.

Cuisine

Alsatian cuisine, strongly influenced by the Germanic culinary traditions, is marked by the use of pork in various forms. Traditional dishes include baeckeoffe, tartes flambées (flammekueche), choucroute, and fleischnackas. Southern Alsace, also called the Sundgau, is characterized by carpe frite.

The festivities of the year's end involve the production of a great variety of biscuits and small cakes called bredalas as well as pain d'épices (gingerbread), especially from Gertwiller, which are given to children starting on Saint Nicholas Day.

Alsace is an important wine-producing région. Vins d'Alsace (Alsatian wines) are mostly white and display a strong Germanic influence. Alsace produces some of the world's most noted dry rieslings and is the only région in France to produce mostly varietal wines identified by the names of the grapes used (wine from Burgundy is also mainly varietal, but not normally identified as such), typically from grapes also used in Germany. The most notable example is gewurztraminer.

Alsace is also the main beer-producing région of France, thanks primarily to breweries in and near Strasbourg. These include those of Kronenbourg, Fischer, Heineken International, Météor, Kasteel Cru and Kanterbräu. Hops are grown in Kochersberg and in northern Alsace. Schnapps is also traditionally made in Alsace, but it is in decline because home distillers are becoming less common and the consumption of traditional, strong, alcoholic beverages is decreasing.

Alsatian food is synonymous with conviviality, the dishes are substantial and served in generous portions and it has one of the richest regional kitchens.

The gastronomic symbol of the région is undoubtedly Sauerkraut. The word "Sauerkraut" in Alsatian has the form "Sûrkrût (Saurkraut)", which means "sour cabbage" as its German equivalent. This word was included into the French language as choucroute. To make it, the cabbage is finely shredded, layered with salt and juniper and left to ferment in wooden barrels. Sauerkraut can be served with poultry, pork, sausage or even fish. Traditionally it is served with pork, Strasbourg sausage or frankfurters, bacon, smoked pork or smoked Morteau or Montbéliard sausages or a selection of pork products. Served alongside are often roasted or steamed potatoes or dumplings.

Additionally, Alsace is known for its fruit juices and mineral waters.

A Jewish influence can also be noted in its goods, and in the names of them, through the Yiddish language.

Architecture

The traditional habitat of the Alsatian lowland consists of houses constructed with walls in half-timbering and cob and roofing in flat tiles. This type of construction can be seen in other areas of France, but their particular abundance in Alsace is owed to several reasons:

  1. The proximity to the Vosges where the wood can be found.
  2. Wood was used more than stone because it resisted earthquakes better, due to its greater flexibility.
  3. During periods of war and bubonic plague, villages were often burned down, so to prevent the collapse of the upper floors, ground floors were built of stone and upper floors built in half-timberings to prevent the spread of fire.
  4. During most of the part of its history, a great part of Alsace was flooded by the Rhine every year. Half-timbered houses were easy to knock down and to move around during those times (a day was necessary to move it and a day to rebuild it in another place).

However, half-timbering was found to increase the risk of fire, which is why from the 19th century, it began to be rendered. In recent times, villagers started to paint the rendering white in accordance with Beaux-Arts movements. To discourage this, the région's authorities gave financial grants to the inhabitants to paint the rendering in various colors, in order to return to the original style and many inhabitants accepted (more for financial reasons than by firm belief).

Symbolism

The stork is a main feature of Alsace and was the subject of many legends told to children. The bird practically disappeared around 1970, but re-population efforts are continuing. They are mostly found on roofs of houses, churches and other public buildings in Alsace.

Notable Alsatians ONLY PEOPLE BORN IN ALSACE

Major communities

German original names in brackets if French names are different


Sister provinces

There is an accord de coopération internationale between Alsace and the following regions :

See also

Footnotes

Bibliography

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  • Das Elsass: Ein literarischer Reisebegleiter. Frankfurt a. M.: Insel Verlag, 2001. ISBN 3-4583-4446-2
  • Erbe, Michael (Hrsg.) Das Elsass: Historische Landschaft im Wandel der Zeiten. Stuttgart: Kohlhammer, 2002. ISBN 3-17-015771-X
  • Faber, Gustav. Elsass. München: Artemis-Cicerone Kunst- und Reiseführer, 1989.
  • Gerson, Daniel. Die Kehrseite der Emanzipation in Frankreich: Judenfeindschaft im Elsass 1778 bis 1848. Essen: Klartext, 2006. ISBN 3-89861-408-5
  • Haeberlin, Marc. Elsass, meine große Liebe. Orselina, La Tavola 2004. ISBN 3-9099-0908-6
    − Rezension über das „Schlaraffenland“ Elsass
  • Herden, Ralf Bernd. Straßburg Belagerung 1870. Norderstedt: BoD, 2007, ISBN 978-3-8334-5147-8
  • Mehling, Marianne (Hrsg.) Knaurs Kulturführer in Farbe Elsaß. München: Droemer Knaur, 1984.
  • Putnam, Ruth. Alsace and Lorraine: From Cæsar to Kaiser, 58 B.C.-1871 A.D. New York: 1915.
  • Schreiber, Hermann. Das Elsaß und seine Geschichte, eine Kulturlandschaft im Spannungsfeld zweier Völker. Augsburg: Weltbild, 1996.
  • Schwengler, Bernard. Le Syndrome Alsacien. Strasbourg: Éditions Oberlin, 1989. ISBN 2-85369-096-2
  • Ungerer, Tomi. Elsass. Das offene Herz Europas. Straßburg: Édition La Nuée Bleue, 2004. ISBN 2-7165-0618-3
  • Ungerer, Tomi, Danièle Brison, and Tony Schneider. Die elsässische Küche. 60 Rezepte aus der Weinstube L'Arsenal. Straßburg: Édition DNA, 1994. ISBN 2-7165-0341-9
  • Vogler, Bernard and Hermann Lersch. Das Elsass. Morstadt: Éditions Ouest-France, 2000. ISBN 3-8857-1260-1

External links

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