Alsace

       
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Alsace is the fifth-smallest of the 27 regions of France in land area (8,280 km²), and the smallest in metropolitan France. It is also the seventh-most densely populated region in France and third most densely populated region in metropolitan France, with ca. 220 inhabitants per km² (total population in 2006: 1,815,488; 1 January 2008 estimate: 1,836,000). Alsace is located on France's eastern border and on the west bank of the upper Rhine adjacent to Germany and Switzerland. The political, economic and cultural capital as well as largest city of Alsace is Strasbourg. Because that city is the seat of dozens of international organizations and bodies, Alsace is politically one of the most important regions in the European Union. The name "Alsace" can be traced back to the Old High German Ali-saz or Elisaz, meaning "foreign domain". An alternative explanation derives it from a Germanic Ell-sass, meaning "seated on the Ill", a river in Alsace. The region was historically part of the Holy Roman Empire. It was gradually annexed by France in the 17th century under kings Louis XIII and Louis XIV and made one of the provinces of France. Alsace is frequently mentioned in conjunction with Lorraine, because German possession of parts of these two régions (as the imperial province Alsace-Lorraine, 1871–1918) was contested in the 19th and 20th centuries, during which Alsace changed hands four times between France and Germany in 75 years. Although the historical language of Alsace is Alsatian, which is similar to dialects of German spoken on the opposite bank of the Rhine, today all Alsatians speak French, the official language of France. 39% of the adult population, and 25% of children, state that they speak Alsatian (1999). There is therefore a substantial bilingual population in contemporary Alsace. The place names used in this article are in French. See this list for the German place names.

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