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Modern Switzerland is a federation of autonomous cantons, some of which confederated more than 700 years ago, making them among the oldest surviving republics.

In 1291, so the legend goes, the cantons of Uri, Schwyz and Unterwalden signed a charter uniting them against Hapsburg rule by the Holy Roman Emperor. In 1315 a Swiss army defeated the Hapsburg forces at the Battle of Morgarten, and the Swiss Confederation secured its independence.

Whether the original charter ever existed or not (a point which has been disputed by later historians), by 1353 the cantons of Glarus and Zug and the city states of Luicerne, Zurich and Berne had joined the Confederation and these eight "Old Cantons" continue to be acknowledged as the founding heart. After 1481 other cantons joined, and in the Swabian War of 1499 independence was confirmed when the emperor Maximilian I was roundly defeated.

In period Switzerland was chiefly known as a source of mercenary soldiers (often armed with immensely long pikes, and two-handed swords), who were traded across the whole of Europe, and became the personal guard to the Popes.

Switzerland is at the cross-roads of European cultures and German, Italian and French are spoken there, as well as a small local language, Romansh (although the German spoken is, by now, a local dialect) . Similarly the country has no national religion. Accordingly a Swiss persona can be expected to be open-minded, literate, and tolerant, but may also be a well-balanced psychopathic killing machine (especially "where two or three are gathered together")