chapter  1
20 Pages

The Swiss citizen- soldier: a contested tradition


The Swiss concept of defence aims at the lowest possible degree of institutionalizing military structures and a maximum of immediate democratic control. Universal conscription and direct democracy are intertwined in this understanding, which crystallizes as the ideal of the citizen-soldier. Switzerland has continued to enforce compulsory military service for all male citizens and clearly represents an unusual case in Europe. The military is organized as a decentralized militia that is mobilized for training only, and the maintenance of standing troops is prohibited in the Constitution of the Swiss Federation. Consequently, the militia forms a mass reserve corps of a ‘nation in arms’ and is only supplemented to a small extent by career soldiers, who serve in the Central Staff, in training and in international peacekeeping missions.1