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LOCATION: San Marino
POPULATION: 29,973 (2008 est.)
LANGUAGE: Italian; Romagna
RELIGION: Roman Catholic


The tiny nation of San Marino, located completely within the borders of Italy, is Europe's third-smallest country and its oldest independent republic. The people of San Marino are called Sammarinese. For hundreds of years, their country's mountaintop fortifications helped it maintain some distance from the recurrent power struggles that engulfed their region until the unification of Italy in the 19th century. Since then, a mutual defense treaty has guaranteed San Marino's continuing political independence from Italy, and the two nations have also formed a customs union. Today San Marino's primary sources of income are tourism, light manufacturing, and the sale of postage stamps to collectors throughout the world.

The only one of Italy's historic city-states to survive as an independent nation, San Marino had its beginnings in ad 301 when a Christian stonecutter named Marinus, fleeing persecution by the Roman Emperor Diocletian, founded a monastery atop Mount Titano. He was later canonized as Saint Marinus (San Marino in Italian). In the succeeding centuries, the population of the region grew, and its people remained independent of any outside civil or religious authority, eventually erecting fortifications consisting of walls and towers. A document from ad 885 called the Placito Feretrano establishes the existence of San Marino as an independent political entity prior to ad 1000. By the 11th century, it had developed a system of government that still survives today in a modified form, and by the 13th century, it had formed a militia to keep its territory free of foreign domination.

For hundreds of years, the tiny state fended off attempts by a succession of popes and ruling families to seize control of its territory. As part of a power struggle involving one of its popes, the Catholic Church excommunicated all the Sammarinese between 1247 and 1249, and tensions in the region erupted into open warfare in the 14th and 15th centuries. For a time San Marino allied itself with the Duke of Urbino, but eventually faced new threats when the surrounding states formed a papal union. In 1739, Cardinal Giulio Alberoni from the neighboring province of Romagna seized control of San Marino using troops under the church's command, but he was eventually forced out by the religious authorities. San Marino, as a political entity, remained separate from the 19th-century struggle for unification of the Italian states, although it provided a haven for many of the combatants, including the national hero, Giuseppe Garibaldi. In 1862, the new Kingdom of Italy signed an agreement recognizing the sovereignty of its tiny neighbor, finally ensuring San Marino's independence.

At the beginning of the 20th century, San Marino underwent a governmental reform that resulted in the establishment of an elected parliament, the Grand and General Council. The country's first democratic election took place in 1906. Although San Marino remained neutral in both world wars, it couldn't avoid being affected by the turmoil of the era. Between the wars, the Fascism that was sweeping Italy also gained a number of converts within the borders of its smaller neighbor. However, the government of San Marino remained neutral, and the country harbored thousands of refugees during the war, putting an enormous strain on its resources. However, the greatest suffering inflicted by the war occurred on 26 June 1944, when 63 people were killed and hundreds of others injured by the "friendly fire" of an ally: The British Royal Air Force inexplicably dropped 243 bombs on San Marino, although there were no enemy troops present at the time. The country later received financial compensation for the incident from the British government. During the postwar period, political control of San Marino has alternated between right- and left-wing parties. The nation established diplomatic ties with the European Community in 1983 and became a member of the United Nations in 1992. Before then, it had maintained permanent observer missions in various U.N. organizations. San Marino's foreign policy and social and political trends track closely with those of Italy. In 2006 more than 2.1 million tourists visited San Marino.


San Marino lies completely within the country of Italy, in the central Apennines about 22 km (13 mi) southwest of the city of Rimini on the Adriatic coast. Located on the summit and lower slopes of Mt. Titano, San Marino has an area of 60 sq km (23 sq mi) and a total boundary length of 39 km (24 mi). About one-third the size of Washington, D.C., the tiny republic is only 13 km (8 mi) long, and 9 km (5.5 mi) wide at its widest point. Mt. Titano, whose three main peaks-with fortresses atop each one —are pictured in the San Marino coat of arms, has an elevation of 750 m (2,460 ft). Two rivers, the Marano and the Ausa, flow through San Marino.

In 2008 San Marino had a population of nearly 30,000, making it one of the world's most densely populated countries. The capital city, also called San Marino, had a population of 4,500. Other population centers include the town of Dogana and the following locales, each with its own castle: Serravalle, Borgo Maggiore, Faetano, Domagnano, Chiesanuova, Acquaviva, Fiorentino, and Montegiardino. The Sammarinese are mostly of Italian ancestry, and most new immigration to the country is from Italy. The main destinations for those emigrating from San Marino are Italy, the United States, France, and Belgium.


Italian, the official of language of San Marino, is spoken by all its people, although many also speak the regional dialect of Romagna, the part of Italy where San Marino is located. Even the standard, or Florentine, Italian of the Sammarinese contains certain words and idioms unique to San Marino.


Mt. Titano, on which San Marino is located, is named for the Titans, characters from Roman mythology who tried to de-throne Jupiter by piling one mountain on top of another in order to reach the sky.


Roman Catholicism is both San Marino's official religion and the faith of almost all its residents. Ceremonies marking many state occasions are held in the country's churches. San Marino has nine parishes, all belonging to a single diocese. Some areas that are actually in Italy, such as the town of Rimini, belong to the diocese of San Marino.


In addition to the standard holidays of the Christian calendar (including Epiphany, Assumption, Easter Monday, Ascension, Immaculate Conception, and Christmas), legal holidays in San Marino include New Year's Day (January 1), Labor Day (May 1), August Bank Holiday (August 14-16), and All Saints' Day and Commemoration of the Dead (November 1 and 2).

San Marino also has five national holidays that commemorate important historical or political events. February 5 is celebrated both as the Anniversary of St. Agatha, the republic's second patron saint, and as the date on which San Marino was liberated from occupation by Cardinal Alberoni in 1740. The Anniversary of the Arengo, observed on March 25, marks the date in 1906 on which the first democratic elections to the Grand and General Council were held. April 1 and October 1, the two days of the year when San Marino's Captains Regent, its joint chief executives, are installed, are also celebrated as national holidays. Finally, on September 3, the feast day of its patron saint (Saint Marino), the republic celebrates the anniversary of its founding.


San Marino is a relatively modern Roman Catholic country. Hence, many of the rites of passage that young people undergo are religious rituals, such as baptism, first Communion, confirmation, and marriage. In addition, a student's progress through the education system is marked by many families with graduation parties.


The Sammarinese show the same basic openness and friendliness found among the neighboring Italians, a quality that has been important in the success of their nation's busy tourist industry. Respect toward the elderly is an important social tradition.


Nearly all dwellings in San Marino have electricity and indoor plumbing. All Sammarinese are covered by a comprehensive national health care plan, which pays for both private treatment and care at the public state hospital. In 2008 the average life expectancy was 81.9 years. Although it is near the Adriatic Sea, San Marino is a landlocked nation and accessible only by motor vehicle or helicopter. The railway that once connected it to Rimini has been inoperable since being badly damaged by bombing in World War II, but there is regular bus service between the two locations.


San Marino's government provides family supplement payments to families with children. Until 1982, Sammarinese women who married citizens of other countries lost their San Marino citizenship. In 1973 women won the right to be elected to any political office in the land, including the highest one- Captain Regent.


The Sammarinese wear modern Western-style clothing like that worn in the other countries of Western Europe. However, colorful ceremonial costumes are connected with some of their traditions. The corps of young flag-bearers, who continue a tradition that dates back to ancient times, wear brightly colored tights, black boots, and loosely fitting colored shirts with black belts. The honor guards for the Captains Regent-the nation's chief executives —wear black uniforms with gold trim, including a gold stripe down the trousers, and high plumed hats with blue and white feathers.


Homemade pasta is one of the most popular foods prepared by the Sammarinese. Fagioli con le cotiche—a hearty bacon soup with bacon rind —is a special holiday dish traditionally eaten at Christmastime. Nidi di rondine (literally, "swallow's nest") consists of hollow pasta filled with smoked ham, cheese, and a meat-and-tomato sauce and baked in a white sauce. Other favorites include pasta e cece, a chickpea soup seasoned with garlic and rosemary and served with noodles; snails cooked with tomatoes, red wine, and fennel; and roast rabbit. Popular cuisine from the Italian province of Romagna, which surrounds San Marino, includes tagliatelli (a type of pasta that consists ofthin strips), as well as ravioli and lasagna, two dishes popularized in the United States by Italian-Americans.

Favorite desserts include zuppa di ciliege (cherries soaked in red wine and sugar and served with a special bread); bustrengo (a traditional carnival dish made with milk, eggs, sugar, raisins, corn flour, and bread crumbs); and cacciatello (a milk-and-egg dessert served cold). San Marino is known for its local wines, especially a red wine called Sangiovese.


San Marino has a literacy rate of about 96%. Its educational system is based on that of Italy, and school is compulsory between the ages of 6 and 16. High school graduates, after taking a qualifying examination, may attend colleges and universities in Italy, or at the Università degli Studi della Repùbblica di San Marino which offers graduate and postgraduate studies.


San Marino's long history has produced an impressive heritage of visual art, showcased in the republic's museums and churches, as well as in its outdoor public sculptures. The Valloni Palace, rebuilt after falling victim to "friendly fire" from the British in World War II, houses many of the nation's cultural treasures (although many others were destroyed by the bombing). Famous paintings kept there include Saint Philip Neri and Saint Marino Lifting Up the Republic, both by Guercino, and Saint John by Strozzi. The 14th-century Church of St. Francis, itself an architectural treasure, houses more historic paintings.

San Marino's national anthem is probably the oldest of any country in the world. Derived from a medieval chorale, it is unusual in that it is a purely instrumental composition with no words. San Marino has a military band, which performs at ceremonial and other events.


While agriculture provides a smaller percentage of San Marino's income than it did in the past, many Sammarinese are still farmers, growing barley, corn, vegetables, grapes, and other fruits, and raising livestock. The main agricultural products are wine and cheeses. Most of the wage labor force is employed by the tourist sector or in manufacturing, which includes textiles, ceramics, leather goods, and metalworking. The per capita level of output and standard of living are comparable to those of the most prosperous regions of Italy, which supplies much of its food. San Marino has a very low level of unemployment. In 2004 the unemployment rate was 3.8%.


The traditional national sport of San Marino is archery, practiced as an art of warfare in the distant past and as a recreational pursuit today. The tiny republic is known for the strength and skill of its champion crossbowmen, demonstrated every September in a competition in the palace square. Marksman-ship also figures in two other favorite sports, pistol- and rifle-shooting. San Marino's location near Italy's Adriatic coast —at some points the distance is as short as 10 km (6 mi) —allows its residents to enjoy such water sports as swimming, sailing, and deep-sea diving. The Italian sport of bocce, lawn bowling with heavy metal balls, is a popular pastime that can be played on almost any moderately flat surface. The Sammarinese also enjoy soccer, baseball, tennis, and basketball. In addition, their country sponsors a Grand Prix Formula One auto racing event, although it must be held over the border in Italy due to the lack of a suitable racetrack within San Marino's own borders. San Marino's National Olympic Committee manages all the nation's sports facilities.


In addition to a variety of sports and other outdoor activities, the Sammarinese enjoy socializing at cafés (including outdoor cafés in summertime) and attending movies, concerts, and plays. In addition, those with a taste for the visual arts may view fine art and sculpture in their museums and churches.


San Marino's tourist industry has created a thriving market for its craftspeople, whose work is sold in a number of shops. A special association monitors the quality of all crafts sold in the country. The work of San Marino's potters encompasses both medieval designs and contemporary styles, and the region's white sandstone has been quarried and carved into statues, building stones, friezes, and other objects since ancient times. Other traditional crafts include painting, jewelry, wood carving, tilework, leather goods, and textiles.

Like Liechtenstein, another tiny European country, San Marino is famous for its stamps, internationally prized collectors' items that provide the republic with an important source of income. Designed by respected artists, they are known for their wide variety of themes, which has even included a Walt Disney series with such cartoon characters as Mickey Mouse, Donald Duck, and Goofy. San Marino's Philatelic and Numismatic Museum houses all stamps issued by San Marino since it began to produce them in 1877 under a postal agreement with Italy. San Marino's coins show the same artistic creativity as its stamps, and few circulate because, like the republic's stamps, they are usually snapped up by collectors. A series of coins minted in 1985 had as its theme the war on drugs, and the coins-ranging in value from 1 to 500 lira —depict nine stages of drug addiction. (Today most money circulating in San Marino is the euro).


With its small size, low rate of unemployment, and extensive social programs, San Marino has relatively few of the social problems that affect other modern nations.


Women enjoy the same rights as men, including rights under family law, property law, and in the judicial system. In 2007 there were eight women in the 60-seat Great and General Council and two women in the 10-member Congress of State.

Rape, including spousal rape, is a criminal offense. The penalty for rape is two to six years' imprisonment. In the case of aggravating circumstances, the penalty is 4 to 10 years' imprisonment. The law also prohibits violence against women. The penalty for spousal abuse is two to six years' imprisonment. In the case of aggravating circumstances, the penalty is 4 to 10 years' imprisonment. Prostitution is illegal and is not common. Sexual harassment is prohibited.

In 2001 San Marino's parliament voted for the repeal of part of its criminal code. Until this time homosexual contacts could be punished with imprisonment from three months up to one year, if they had been engaged in "habitually" and thereby caused "public scandal." A conviction under this law resulted in loss of political rights and removal from public office for a period from nine months to two years.


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—revised by J. Hobby