Thursday, August 7, 2014

Luxarazzi 101: Oben am jungen Rhein, Liechtenstein's National Anthem

While 98 percent of the world's population probably couldn't find Liechtenstein on a map, roughly about the same amount of people would probably recognise the melody of the Principality's national anthem even though they likely wouldn't identify it as such. Set to the same tune as the British anthem "God Save the Queen", the melody probably found its way into the Principality with the help of students and soldiers coming back home to Liechtenstein after spending time abroad; after all the Russian Imperial anthem "The Prayer of Russians", the former Swiss national anthem "Rufst du, mein Vaterland", the Norwegian royal anthem "Kongesangen" as well as the German Imperial anthem "Heil dir im Siegerkranz" were all set to the same melody.

If you, however, dare to listen a bit more closely, you will notice that there are a few slight differences between Liechtenstein's anthem "Oben am jungen Rhein", which literally translates to 'Up above the young Rhine', and the British "God Save the Queen". After it had been played in various musical keys for decades, a universal setting by Josef Frommelt was introduced upon request by the government in 1983.

Just how old the melody originally is and who its creator is, nobody knows. The first published version of what is almost the present tune of the British national anthem appeared in 1744. The origins of Liechtenstein's "Oben am jungen Rhein" are similarly shady. The first mention of a national anthem dates back to the year 1895 when the Liechtensteiner Volksblatt wrote that thousands of people sang the Landeshymne at the opening of the second national exhibition.

Originally a poem, the text of the anthem is believed to have been written by Jakob Josef Jauch, a Swiss chaplain who worked in the municipality of Balzers for a while during the 1850's. However, much like the melody, the lyrics have undergone slight adaptations since then to make it both more singable and to remove unwanted bits.

The text used to include various references to Germany such as "Up above the German Rhine", "Within the German fatherland" and more. After all the Principality of Liechtenstein is the last relict of the 343 states which once made up the Holy Roman Empire, as it is known in English, or "Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation" as it is known in German. Already since 1918 there had been various attempts to change the lyrics though an official new version without any references to Germany was only introduced in 1963. At the same time three of the five stanzas were dropped.

The text of "Oben am jungen Rhein" since 1963:

Oben am jungen Rhein
Lehnet sich Liechtenstein
An Alpenhöh'n.
Dies liebe Heimatland,
Das teure Vaterland
Hat Gottes weise Hand
Für uns erseh'n

Hoch lebe Liechtenstein,
Blühend am jungen Rhein,
Glücklich und treu.
Hoch leb' der Fürst vom Land,
Hoch unser Vaterland,
Durch Bruderliebe Band
Vereint und frei.
Up above the young Rhine
Lies Liechtenstein, resting
On Alpine heights.
This beloved homeland,
This dear fatherland
Was chosen for us
By God's wise hand.

Long live Liechtenstein,
Blossoming on the young Rhine,
Fortunate and faithful!
Long live the Prince of the Land,
Long live our fatherland,
Through bonds of brotherly love
United and free!
And there's one other thing that you can't miss mentioning whenever talking about Liechtenstein's national anthem... Twice (at "Long live the Prince of the Land" and at "Long live our fatherland") Liechtensteiners raise their right arm to give cheers to the Fürst as well as the country. Some form a Schwurhand, a hand gesture that is used in central Europe when swearing an oath in court, in office or in swearing-in, while other leave the hand as it is, which occasionally can look a bit like that other salute.

The origins of the gesture in Liechtenstein, however, go back much further than Germany's Nazi history. Even further than Liechtenstein's history itself as it was firstly used in 1699 during the oath of allegiance during the homage to the new owner of the demesne of Schellenberg, Prince Hans-Adam I of Liechtenstein, who had bought the lands from the Counts of Hohenems. In 1719, Emperor Karl VI united Schellenberg as well as the County of Vaduz and elevated them to the rank of a Principality with the name "Liechtenstein" in honour of "[his] true servant, Anton Florian of Liechtenstein."

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