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Geneva (Switzerland) (French Genève; German Genf), city in western Switzerland, the capital of Geneva Canton. The city is located at the western extremity of Lake Geneva, where the Rhône River issues from the lake. The Rhône divides Geneva into two almost equal parts. On the south, or left, bank stands the older part of the city, containing the financial and business districts and two old residential districts: Eaux Vives and Carouge, the latter a working-class neighborhood. Narrow, crooked streets penetrate the old quarter everywhere except along the river bank, which contains broad avenues and modern quays. The Rhône is spanned by several bridges, one of which traverses a small island, Rousseau's Island. The northern, or right, bank is principally residential, containing the Quartier Saint-Gervais, in which large hotels are located; and the Les Délices district, containing the house in which the French writer and philosopher Voltaire lived from 1755 to 1758. The entire city is encompassed by boulevards laid out on the site of the ancient city walls.
Geneva contains many parks and squares, notably the Jardin Anglais and the Place Neuve on the left bank, and the Place des Alpes on the right bank. The principal buildings in the old section include the Cathedral of Saint Peter, built in the 12th and 13th centuries; the Florentine-style city hall, erected in the 16th century; the Temple de l'Auditoire, where the Scottish religious reformer John Knox preached and the French theologian John Calvin taught; the 18th-century house where the French philosopher Jean Jacques Rousseau was born; the Rath Museum, containing an immense art collection; and the Museum of Natural History.
Educational institutions in the city include the University of Geneva (founded as the Collège de Genève by Calvin in 1559) and various industrial and technical schools, including the École d'Horlogerie (School of Watchmaking). Watchmaking and the manufacture of jewelry have contributed to making Geneva an important manufacturing center. Other industries include enameling, the production of music boxes and scientific instruments, and diamond cutting. Geneva is also a world banking and financial center. Guest workers are an important part of the labor force.
Geneva became a world center in 1920 with the founding of the League of Nations, which established its headquarters in the city. Several important conferences took place in Geneva between the two world wars, notably the Naval Disarmament Conference in 1927 and the World Disarmament Conference of 1932. The departure of the League of Nations in 1939 dealt a serious economic blow to Geneva, from which it slowly recovered during World War II (1939-1945).
In 1947 Geneva was designated the European center for the United Nations, and the International Labor Organization set up its headquarters here the following year. Other international agencies based in the city include the Red Cross, the European Organization for Nuclear Research (CERN), and the World Council of Churches. Geneva has remained an important site for international diplomatic meetings, notably the Geneva Accord of 1954, concerning the disposition of Indochina, and the Geneva Summit Conference of 1955, at which the reunification of Germany was discussed. Beginning in 1962, several nations conducted disarmament negotiations in Geneva. In 1993 the city was the site of the negotiations over the future of war-torn Bosnia and Herzegovina. The newly launched World Trade Organization established headquarters in Geneva in 1995.
Geneva was the northernmost city of the Allobroges before the Roman conquest of Gaul. The city became part of the Roman Empire in 121 bc. It became an episcopal seat in the 4th century, was conquered by the Burgundians in the 5th century, and eventually came under Frankish rule. In the first half of the 11th century Geneva was incorporated into the Holy Roman Empire. The ruling power of the city was conferred upon a prince-bishop, and the counts of Geneva were made feudal vassals. The Genevans, however, were unwilling to accept the bishop's authority and, desiring municipal independence, appealed for help in the early 14th century to Amadeus VI, count of Savoy. From that time on, Geneva became an object of struggle between its citizens, the counts of Savoy, the counts of Geneva, and the bishops of Geneva. The Reformation finally brought the city its independence; in 1536, the Genevans declared themselves Protestant and proclaimed their city a republic. John Calvin was invited to take up residence in Geneva. The city gained a great deal of influence over Protestant Europe and became the center of education for Protestant youth from many countries. During the French Revolution (1789-1799), aristocratic and democratic factions contended for control of Geneva. In 1798, however, France, then under the Directory, annexed Geneva and its surrounding territory. After the overthrow of Napoleon, Geneva recovered its independence, and in 1815 was admitted to the Swiss Confederation. The Congress of Vienna in 1815 increased the city's territory and guaranteed its neutrality. From 1841 to 1878 the history of the city was one of political strife, but democratic elements eventually triumphed. The referendum was introduced in 1879, and in 1891 the initiative and recall were introduced. In 1907, by a referendum, the state and church were separated, and the theocracy, which had generally controlled Geneva, became a minor political factor. Population (2005 estimate) 178,722.
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