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Canton of Uri (French Canton d'Uri, German Kanton Uri, Italian Cantone Uri, Russian Кантон Ури) is one of the 26 cantons of Switzerland and also a founding member of the Swiss Confederation. It is located in Central Switzerland and covers the valley of the Reuss between the St. Gotthard Pass and Lake Lucerne.
The name of the valley is first mentioned in the 8th or 9th century, in the Latinized form of Uronia. In the medieval period, the name referred not to the entire Reuss valley but just to Altdorf and the surrounding settlements and estates. The extension of the name to a larger territory is the result of the territorial expansion of the canton in the 15th century. From the 13th century onward, the German form of the name is recorded as Ure(n). The modern form Uri dates to the 16th century.
There are two theories about the origin of the name of the canton. The first one maintains that the name has been derived from either Latin ora "brim, edge, margin" (reflected as Rumantsch ur). According to the second one, the name is derived from from a pre-Roman hydronym containing the PIE root u̯er "water". Both etymologies would refer to the Reuss and/or the shore of Lake Lucerne.
There are traces of settlement dating to the Bronze and Iron Age, with suggestions of trans-alpine trade with Quinto in Ticino and the alpine Rhine valley. During the Roman era, Uri remained mostly isolated from the Roman Empire. An analysis of the place names along the shores of Lake Lucerne show a Gallo-Roman influence, while in the mountain valleys Raetian names are more common. When the Roman Empire withdrew from the Alps, the lake side villages looked north to the towns along the lake for support, while the alpine villages in the valley called Urseren banded together.
Alemannic settlement begins in the 7th century. Uri is first mentioned in 732 as the place of banishment of Eto, the abbot of Reichenau, by the duke of Alamannia. In 853, Uri is granted to the Fraumünster abbey in Zürich by Louis the German. Parts of the Urseren were settled by Disentis Abbey and were part of the Diocese of Chur. By the 10th century, there were settlements of Romansh speakers from Disentis in the high valleys. Uri briefly passed under Habsburg rule in 1218, with the extinction of the Zähringer,. The Gotthard Pass was opened in 1230, and Uri was granted imperial immediacy by Henry VII in the following year. Trade across the Gotthard brought ever increasing wealth to Uri, and the towns and villages along the Gotthard route became increasing independent. As early as 1243 Uri had a district seal, and in 1274, Rudolph of Habsburg, who was now the Holy Roman Emperor, confirmed its privileges. Meanwhile, Urseren passed from Rapperswil to the Habsburgs in 1283.
Since at least the 10th century, the people of Uri signed treaties as a collective, as nos inhabitantes Uroniam (955) or homines universi vallis Uranie (1273). By 1243, they used a seal with a bull's head.
A treaty of mutual recognition and assistance with Schwyz, possibly concluded in 1291 and certainly by 1309, would come to be regarded as the foundational act of the Old Swiss Confederacy or Eidgenossenschaft. The Battle of Morgarten in 1315, while of limited strategic importance, was the first instance of the Confederates defeating the Habsburgs in the field. A few months after the victory at Morgarten, the three Forest Cantons met at Brunnen to reaffirm their alliance in the Pact of Brunnen. Over the following decades, the Confederacy expanded into the Acht Orte, now representing a regional power with the potential to challenge Habsburg hegemony. The Confederacy decisively defeated Habsburg in the Battle of Sempach 1386, opening the way to further territorial expansion.
Following the victory at Sempach, Uri began a program of territorial expansion to allow them to control the entire Gotthard route. As a first step, Uri annexed the Urseren valley in 1410, although the community of Urseren was allowed to retain its own assembly and courts. In 1403, Uri began to acquire its transmontane bailiwicks, with the help of Obwalden taking the Leventina valley from the duke of Milan. The conflict between the Swiss Confederacy and the Duchy of Milan for territories now forming canton of Ticino continued throughout the 15th century. The conflict was decided in 1500, when the Confederates captured Bellinzona, heavily fortifying it against future conquests. The Confederates also acquired Lugano in 1512, but the period of territorial expansion came to its end in 1515 with the Confederate defeat at Marignano.
Uri, along with Central Switzerland as a whole, resisted the Swiss Reformation and remained staunchly Roman Catholic. As the Reformation spread through the Swiss Confederation, the five central, catholic cantons felt increasingly isolated and they began to search for allies. After two months of negotiations, the Five Cantons formed die Christliche Vereinigung (the Christian Alliance) with Ferdinand of Austria on 22 April 1529. After the Battle at Kappel of 1531, in which Zwingli was killed, the Confederacy was on the point of fracturing along confessional lines. The peace treaty after the Kappel war established that each canton would choose which religion to follow, but peace between Catholic and Protestant cantons remained brittle throughout the early modern period.