June 23 – Independence Day for Jura (Switzerland)

Posted on June 23, 2015

Instead of having states, like the U.S. and Mexico, or provinces like Canada or Spain, Switzerland has cantons. It has 26, in fact!

Jura Mountains
The most recent canton is Jura. It became a canton on this date in 1979. And it's not as if Switzerland suddenly gained more land; Jura used to be a part of the canton of Bern.

Switzerland is a fairly small nation – smaller than the rather small state of West Virginia, in the U.S. – but it is quite diverse. It has four official languages – French, German, Italian, and Romansh. And when, in the early 1800s, the Jura region became a part of the canton of Bern, some people were unhappy about it. The Jura was French-speaking and by and large practiced Catholicism, and the majority of people in Bern spoke German and practiced Protestant Christianity.

After World War II, a separatist movement began. Many young people in Jura agitated to be allowed to secede from Bern. There was even (regrettably) some violence over the issue. Finally, in 1978, there was a vote of the Swiss people, and the people chose to split.

Some of the people in the southern part of what has been traditionally considered Jura – although French-speakers – chose to stay in the canton Bern. This area is called Bernese Jura.

So now there are two meanings of the name “Jura”: the canton Jura, and the traditional region of Jura, which includes the canton Jura plus Bernese Jura.

The Jura Arc is the heart of Switzerland's watchmaking industry.

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