Principality of Liechtenstein, with its area just over 160 square kilometres (62 sq mi) and an estimated population of 35,000, can be safely qualified as a small state. To the right, Austria, and to the left, Switzerland. The story of how it gotten in the map is not flavoured with bloody battles, heroic desperado, ambitiously cunning scheme done by foxy royal family, or inspiring war of independence. When the Napoleonic Empire (Napoleon’s Holy Roman Empire if I’m not mistaken) was dissolved, Liechtenstein ceased to owe obligations to any feudal lord beyond its borders. Ta da! That’s how Liechtenstein seized its place in the map. No major political power in Europe ever considered Liechtenstein as a territory of interest, and indeed, it had little impact on European history anyway. Empires rise and fall, and Europe reshaped many times, but Liechtenstein has very small, if any, role in the drama. Admit it, it is a state you rarely heard or remember of.
Wikipedia, with its respected source said that Liechtenstein has the second highest gross domestic product per person in the world when adjusted by purchasing power parity, and has the world’s lowest external debt. Liechtenstein also has the second lowest unemployment rate in the world at 1.5% (Monaco is first). Small but rich! A Leprechaun! Just kidding.
Many aspects of its life relied on its neighbours, like diplomatic relations, defence, currency, energy, railway, etc.. It doesn’t even maintain any kind of military force. In March 2007, a 170-person Swiss infantry unit became lost during a training exercise and inadvertently crossed 1.5 km into Liechtenstein, and guess what, Liechtenstein government didn’t even realize it!
This small state seems so powerless. But Liechtensteiners decision, which the history marked, will proven they are not cowards. In 1945, about 501 soldiers of First Russian National Army, Russian-born German army, was given asylum. At that time, these soldiers were considered traitors for their anti-Bolshevism and their stance against Russian Communist in World War 2, and therefore, after the war ended, Soviet government demanded repatriation of this soldiers against their wish. British and Americans together with another allied country, the victors, complied with Soviet demand. But, Liechtenstein refused to comply to Red Giant’s demand. On 16 August 1945, a Soviet delegation came to Liechtenstein in an attempt to repatriate the Russians, and Liechtenstein informed the Soviet government that only those Russians who wanted to go home would be permitted to go. 200 soldiers went back to Their Red Mother, and “nothing was ever heard of them again”, that phrase could mean they’re dead in execution , worked to death in some gulag, or if you choose to be an optimist, they’re probably just live happily ever after with new identity somewhere in Russia unexposed by the media. The remainder of this army stayed in Liechtenstein for another year until the government of Argentina offered asylum. In their stay there, the small population of the country (12,141 in 1945) supported them (4% of the population) at a rate of SF 30,000 per month for 2 years and paid their costs to move to Argentina. Liechtenstein was not rich at that time.
You can always speculate that it was Nazism among Liechtenstein population at that time that bring such act, or that Liechtenstein was very far from the hand of Soviet threat, or it was just a stupid action, a political blunder clouded by short minded emotion, perceived as a noble act. You can always do that. But, the fact that Liechtenstein refused to force refugees back to their land, where their fate were dark, is something that history will not erase. And I see it as an act bold enough, considering their size and power. Kinda remind me of David. Small and seems powerless, but with courage bigger than giants. I wonder if I can have their bravery.
Standing ovation for Liechtenstein!
“Here in Hinterschellenberg, on the night of 2 May 1945, the asylum-seeking remainder of the “1st Russian National Army of the German Wehrmacht” under Major General A. Holmston-Smyslowsky, with about 500 fully equipped men, crossed the border of the Greater German Reich into Liechtenstein. The first negotiations took place in the “Wirtschaft zum Löwen” tavern, which led to the granting of asylum by the Principality of Liechtenstein. It was the only country which resisted the Soviet Union’s extradition demands. After two and a half years, the Russians were free to leave for a country of their choice.”— Russian Monument Liechtenstein, Hinterschellenberg, near Liechtenstein‘s border with Austria.