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Alsace

Alsace is a region of France, located on the German border between Switzerland and Belgium. The primary city in the region is Strasbourg (German Strassburg), and the Rhine runs along its border with Germany.

Alsace is noted for some of its wines, which have a very strong Germanic influence. Alsace produces some of the world's most noted dry Rieslings and is the only region in France to produce mostly varietal[?] wines, typically from grapes also used in Germany. Historically, the region has passed between French and German control numerous times, resulting in a local Germanic dialect called Alsatian (Elsässerdeutsch in German and Alsacien in French). It is heavily influenced by French, and not easily understood by speakers of either German or French.

Alsace, along with Lorraine has long been contested territory between France and Germany. After the fall of Charlemagne's empire the two provinces became part of Germany. During the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries the area was slowly annexed by France. The area was then predominantly populated by Germans and they fought efforts to have French language and customs imposed upon them. Both Alsace and Lorraine were, however, annexed by Germany after the Franco-Prussian War of 1870 causing an estimated 50,000 people (of a total population of about a million) to emigrate into France. It remained a part of Germany until the end of World War I, when Germany ceded it back to France. While Germany returned the region, some believe the region should have been legally self-ruling, as they believed it had been bound to the authority of the Kaiser and not to the German State.

During the time of German rule, citizens were forbidden to speak French and all books, signs and other references to France were destroyed. This was reversed following the German surrender in 1918. Simple policies of forbidding the use of German and requiring that of French were then begun. Curiously, the region wasn't considered to be subject to some changes in French law from 1871 to 1919, such as the Law of Separation of the Church and the State.

The region was again occupied in 1940 during World War II. The occupation, while liberating in a sense, subjected the region to the Nazi dictatorship, which was loathed by most of the people. The war-torn area was given again in 1944 to France, which had then free hands to restore its policies. For instance, from 1945 to 1984 the use of the German language in newspapers was restricted to a maximum of 25%. In latter years, as the national conscience became diluted, cultural freedom has been gradully restored.

See also wine producing regions, Alemanni.



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