Brandenburg is a state in the northeast of Germany. With an area of and a population of 2.5 million residents, it is the fifth-largest German state by area and the tenth-most populous. Potsdam is the state capital and largest city, while other major towns include Cottbus, Brandenburg an der Havel and Frankfurt.
Brandenburg surrounds the national capital and city-state of Berlin, and together they form the Berlin/Brandenburg Metropolitan Region, the third-largest metropolitan area in Germany.
Brandenburg borders the states of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Saxony, as well as the country of Poland.
Brandenburg originated in the Northern March in the 900s AD, from areas conquered from the Wends. It later became the Margraviate of Brandenburg, a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire. In the 15th century, it came under the rule of the House of Hohenzollern, which later also became the ruling house of the Duchy of Prussia and established Brandenburg-Prussia, the core of the later Kingdom of Prussia. From 1815 to 1947, Brandenburg was a province of Prussia.
Following the abolition of Prussia after World War II, Brandenburg was established as a state by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany, and became part of the German Democratic Republic in 1949. In 1952, the state was dissolved during administrative reforms. Following German unification, Brandenburg was re-established in 1990 and became one of the six new states of the Federal Republic of Germany.
HistoryIn late medieval and early modern times, Brandenburg was one of seven electoral states of the Holy Roman Empire, and, along with Prussia, formed the original core of the German Empire, the first unified German state. Governed by the Hohenzollern dynasty from 1415, it contained the future German capital Berlin. After 1618 the Margraviate of Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia were combined to form Brandenburg-Prussia, which was ruled by the same branch of the House of Hohenzollern. In 1701 the state was elevated as the Kingdom of Prussia. Franconian Nuremberg and Ansbach, Swabian Hohenzollern, the eastern European connections of Berlin, and the status of Brandenburg's ruler as prince-elector together were instrumental in the rise of that state.
Early Middle AgesBrandenburg is situated in territory known in antiquity as Magna Germania, which reached to the Vistula river. By the 7th century, Slavic peoples are believed to have settled in the Brandenburg area. The Slavs expanded from the east, possibly driven from their homelands in present-day Ukraine and perhaps Belarus by the invasions of the Huns and Avars. They relied heavily on river transport. The two principal Slavic groups in the present-day area of Brandenburg were the Hevelli in the west and the Sprevane in the east.
Beginning in the early 10th century, Henry the Fowler and his successors conquered territory up to the Oder River. Slavic settlements such as Brenna, Budusin, and Chośebuz came under imperial control through the installation of margraves. Their main function was to defend and protect the eastern marches. In 948 Emperor Otto I established margraves to exert imperial control over the pagan Slavs west of the Oder River. Otto founded the Bishoprics of Brandenburg and Havelberg. The Northern March was founded as a northeastern border territory of the Holy Roman Empire. However, a great uprising of Wends drove imperial forces from the territory of present-day Brandenburg in 983. The region returned to the control of Slavic leaders.
Late Middle AgesDuring the 12th century, the German kings and emperors re-established control over the mixed Slav-inhabited lands of present-day Brandenburg, although some Slavs like the Sorbs in Lusatia adapted to Germanization while retaining their distinctiveness. The Roman Catholic Church brought bishoprics which, with their walled towns, afforded protection from attacks for the townspeople. With the monks and bishops, the history of the town of Brandenburg an der Havel, which was the first center of the state of Brandenburg, began.
In 1134, in the wake of a German crusade against the Wends, the German magnate, Albert the Bear, was granted the Northern March by the Emperor Lothar III. He formally inherited the town of Brandenburg and the lands of the Hevelli from their last Wendish ruler, Pribislav, in 1150. After crushing a force of Sprevane who occupied the town of Brandenburg in the 1150s, Albert proclaimed himself ruler of the new Margraviate of Brandenburg. Albert, and his descendants the Ascanians, then made considerable progress in conquering, colonizing, Christianizing, and cultivating lands as far east as the Oder. Within this region, Slavic and German residents intermarried. During the 13th century, the Ascanians began acquiring territory east of the Oder, later known as the Neumark.
In 1320, the Brandenburg Ascanian line came to an end, and from 1323 up until 1415 Brandenburg was under the control of the Wittelsbachs of Bavaria, followed by the Luxembourg Dynasties. Under the Luxembourgs, the Margrave of Brandenburg gained the status of a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire. In the period 1373–1415, Brandenburg was a part of the Bohemian Crown. In 1415, the Electorate of Brandenburg was granted by Emperor Sigismund to the House of Hohenzollern, which would rule until the end of World War I. The Hohenzollerns established their capital in Berlin, by then the economic center of Brandenburg.
16th and 17th centuriesBrandenburg converted to Protestantism in 1539 in the wake of the Protestant Reformation, and generally did quite well in the 16th century, with the expansion of trade along the Elbe, Havel, and Spree rivers. The Hohenzollerns expanded their territory by co-rulership since 1577 and acquiring the Duchy of Prussia in 1618, the Duchy of Cleves in the Rhineland, and territories in Westphalia. The result was a sprawling, disconnected country known as Brandenburg-Prussia that was in poor shape to defend itself during the Thirty Years' War.
Beginning near the end of that devastating conflict, however, Brandenburg enjoyed a string of talented rulers who expanded their territory and power in Europe. The first of these was Frederick William, the so-called "Great Elector", who worked tirelessly to rebuild and consolidate the nation. He moved the royal residence to Potsdam. At the Treaty of Westphalia, his envoy Joachim Friedrich von Blumenthal negotiated the acquisition of several important territories such as Halberstadt. Under the Treaty of Oliva Christoph Caspar von Blumenthal negotiated the incorporation of the Duchy of Prussia into the Hohenzollern inheritance.
Kingdom of Prussia and German EmpireWhen Frederick William died in 1688, he was followed by his son Frederick, third of that name in Brandenburg. As the lands that had been acquired in Prussia were outside the boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire, Frederick assumed the title of "King in Prussia". Although his self-promotion from margrave to king relied on his title to the Duchy of Prussia, Brandenburg was still the most important portion of the kingdom. However, this combined state is known as the Kingdom of Prussia.
Brandenburg remained the core of the Kingdom of Prussia, and it was the site of the kingdom's capitals, Berlin and Potsdam. When Prussia was subdivided into provinces in 1815, the territory of the Margraviate of Brandenburg became the Province of Brandenburg, again subdivided into the government region of Frankfurt and Potsdam. In 1881, the City of Berlin was separated from the Province of Brandenburg. However, industrial towns ringing Berlin lay within Brandenburg, and the growth of the region's industrial economy brought an increase in the population of the province. The Province of Brandenburg had an area of and a population of 2.6 million. After Germany's defeat in World War II, the Neumark, the part of Brandenburg east of the Oder–Neisse line, even absent any Polish-speaking population in this area, became part of Poland. The entire population of former East Brandenburg was expelled en masse. The remainder of the province became a state in the Soviet Zone of occupation in Germany when Prussia was dissolved in 1947.Socialist government of East Germany, doing away with all component states. The East German government then divided Brandenburg among several Bezirke or districts.. Most of Brandenburg lay within the Bezirke of Cottbus, Frankfurt, or Potsdam, but parts of the former province passed to the Schwerin, Neubrandenburg and Magdeburg districts. East Germany relied heavily on lignite as an energy source, and lignite strip mines marred areas of south-eastern Brandenburg. The industrial towns surrounding Berlin were important to the East German economy, while rural Brandenburg remained mainly agricultural.
Federal Republic of GermanyThe present State of Brandenburg was re-established on 3 October 1990 upon German reunification. The newly elected Landtag of Brandenburg first met on 26 October 1990. As in other former parts of East Germany, the lack of modern infrastructure and exposure to West Germany's competitive market economy brought widespread unemployment and economic difficulty. In the recent years, however, Brandenburg's infrastructure has been modernized and unemployment has slowly declined.
In 1995, the governments of Berlin and Brandenburg proposed to merge the states in order to form a new state with the name of "Berlin-Brandenburg", though some suggested calling the proposed new state "Prussia". The merger was rejected in a plebiscite in 1996 – while West Berliners voted for a merger, East Berliners and Brandenburgers voted against it.
GeographyBrandenburg is bordered by Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in the north, Poland in the east, the Freistaat Sachsen in the south, Saxony-Anhalt in the west, and Lower Saxony in the northwest.
The Oder river forms a part of the eastern border, the Elbe river a portion of the western border. The main rivers in the state itself are the Spree and the Havel. In the southeast, there is a wetlands region called the Spreewald; it is the northernmost part of Lusatia, where the Sorbs, a Slavic people, still live. These areas are bilingual, i.e., German and Sorbian are both used.
Cities and towns
Protected areasBrandenburg is known for its well-preserved natural environment and its ambitious natural protection policies which began in the 1990s. 15 large protected areas were designated following Germany's reunification. Each of them is provided with state-financed administration and a park ranger staff, who guide visitors and work to ensure nature conservation. Most protected areas have visitor centers.
- Lower Oder Valley National Park
, a biosphere reserve by UNESCO
- Spreewald Biosphere Reserve
- Schorfheide-Chorin Biosphere Reserve
- River Landscape Elbe-Brandenburg Biosphere Reserve
- Barnim Nature Park
- Dahme-Heideseen Nature Park
- High Fläming Nature Park
- Märkische Schweiz Nature Park
- Niederlausitzer Heidelandschaft Nature Park
- Niederlausitzer Landrücken Nature Park
- Nuthe-Nieplitz Nature Park
- Schlaube Valley Nature Parke
- Uckermark Lakes Nature Park
- Westhavelland Nature Park
- Stechlin-Ruppiner Land Nature Park
Religion17.1% of the Brandenburgers are registered members of the local Evangelical Church in Germany, while 3.1% are registered with the Roman Catholic Church. The majority of Brandenburgers, whether of Christian or other beliefs, choose not to register with the government as members of these churches, and therefore do not pay the church tax.
SubdivisionsBrandenburg is divided into 14 rural districts and four urban districts, shown with their population in 2011:
|Stadt Brandenburg an der Havel||71,534|
GovernmentThe most recent election took place on 14 September 2014. The coalition government formed by the Social Democrats and the Left Party led by Dietmar Woidke was re-elected. The next ordinary state election is scheduled for 2019.
EconomyThe Gross domestic product of the state was 72.9 billion euros in 2018, accounting for 2.2% of German economic output. GDP per capita adjusted for purchasing power was 26,700 euros or 88% of the EU27 average in the same year. The GDP per employee was 91% of the EU average. The GDP per capita was the third lowest of all states in Germany.
The unemployment rate stood at 5.8% in October 2018 and was higher than the German average but lower than the average of Eastern Germany.
|Unemployment rate in %||17.0||17.5||17.5||18.8||18.7||18.2||17.0||14.7||13.0||12.3||11.1||10.7||10.2||9.9||9.4||8.7||8.0||7.0||6.3|
Transportis the largest airport in Brandenburg. It is the second largest international airport of the Berlin-Brandenburg metropolitan region and is located southeast of central Berlin in Schönefeld. The airport is a base for Condor, easyJet and Ryanair. In 2016, Schönefeld handled 11,652,922 passengers.
It is planned to incorporate Schönefeld's existing infrastructure and terminals into the new Berlin Brandenburg Airport, which is not scheduled to open before the end of 2020. The new BER will have an initial capacity of 35-40 million passengers a year. Due to increasing air traffic in Berlin and Brandenburg, plans for airport expansions are in the making.
EducationIn 2016, around 49,000 students were enrolled in Brandenburg universities and higher education facilities. The largest institution is the University of Potsdam, located southwest of Berlin.
In 2019 the state of Brandenburg adopted an Open Access strategy calling on universities to develop transformation strategies to make knowledge from Brandenburg freely accessible to all.
MusicThe Brandenburg concerti by Johann Sebastian Bach are a collection of six instrumental works presented by Bach to Christian Ludwig, Margrave of Brandenburg-Schwedt, in 1721. They are widely regarded as among the finest musical compositions of the Baroque era and are among the composer's best known works.
CuisineA famous speciality food from Brandenburg are the Spreewald gherkins. The wet soil of the Spreewald makes the region ideal for growing cucumbers. Spreewald gherkins are protected by the EU as a Protected Geographical Indication. They are one of the biggest exports of Brandenburg.
- Wilhelm von Humboldt, philosopher, linguist, diplomat, and founder of the Humboldt University of Berlin
- Heinrich von Kleist, poet, dramatist, and novelist
- Karl Friedrich Schinkel, architect, city planner, and painter
- Peter Joseph Lenné, gardener and landscape architect
- Theodor Fontane, novelist and poet
- Wilhelm Pieck, politician, first President of the German Democratic Republic
- Wolfgang Joop, fashion designer, founder of JOOP!
- Matthias Platzeck, politician, Minister President of Brandenburg from 2002 to 2013
- Henry Maske, professional boxer
- Paul van Dyk, DJ, record producer, and musician
- Britta Steffen, competitive swimmer, former Olympic, World, and European champion
- Robert Harting, discus thrower, former Olympic, World, and European champion