Haut-Rhin (French pronunciation: [oʁɛ̃]; Alsatian: Owerelsàss) is a department in the Grand Est region of France, named after the river Rhine. Its name means Upper Rhine. Haut-Rhin is the smaller and less populated of the two departments of the former administrative Alsace region, especially after the 1871 cession of the southern territory known since 1922 as Territoire de Belfort, although it is still densely populated compared to the rest of metropolitan France.
The department consists of the following arrondissements:
Haut-Rhin is one of the original 83 departments, created during the French Revolution, on 4 March 1790 through the application of the law of 22 December 1789 in respect of the southern half of the province of Alsace (Haute-Alsace).
Its boundaries have been modified many times:
Haut-Rhin is bordered by the Territoire de Belfort and Vosges départements and the Vosges Mountains to the west, the Bas-Rhin département to the North, Switzerland to the south and its eastern border with Germany is also the Rhine. In the centre of the département lies a fertile plain. The climate is semi-continental.
Haut-Rhin is one of the richest French départements. Mulhouse is the home of a Peugeot automobile factory, manufacturing the 106 and 206 models. The lowest unemployment rate in France can be found in the Southern Sundgau region (approximately 2%). The countryside is marked by hills. Many Haut-Rhinois work in Switzerland, especially in the chemical industries of Basel, but commute from France where living costs are lower.
Alsace and the adjacent Moselle department have a legal system slightly different from the rest of France. The statutes in question date from the period 1871 - 1919 when the area was part of the German Empire. With the return of Alsace-Lorraine to France in 1919, Paris accepted that Alsace and Moselle should retain some local laws in respect of certain matters, especially with regard to hunting, economic life, local government relationships, health insurance and social rights. It includes notably the absence of any formal separation between church and state: several mainstream denominations of the Christian church benefit from state funding, in contrast to principles applied in the rest of France.
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