"To each his own"
|Prussia (blue), at its peak, the leading state of the German Empire|
|Capital||Königsberg, later Berlin|
|Religion||Protestantism, Roman Catholicism|
|- 1525–1568||Albert I (first)|
|- 1688–1701||Frederick III (last)|
|- 1701–1713||Frederick I (first)|
|- 1888–1918||Wilhelm II (last)|
|Prime Minister1, 2|
|- 1918–1920||Paul Hirsch (first)|
|- 1933–1945||Hermann Göring (last)|
|Historical era||Early modern Europe to Contemporary|
|- 1939||297007 km2 (114675 sq mi)|
|- 1939 est.||41915040|
|Density||141.1 /km2 (365.5 /sq mi)|
|Today part of||Germany, Poland,|
Czech Republic, Netherlands, Switzerland
|1 The heads of state listed here are the first and last to hold each title over time. For more information, see individual Prussian state articles (links in above History section).|
2 The position of Ministerpräsident was introduced in 1792 when Prussia was a Kingdom; the prime ministers shown here are the heads of the Prussian republic.
Prussia (German: Preußen (help·info); Latin: Borussia, Prutenia; Latvian: Prūsija; Lithuanian: Prūsija; Polish: Prusy; Old Prussian: Prūsa) was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, this state had important influence on German and European history. The last capital of the Prussian state was Berlin.
The name Prussia derives from the Old Prussians, a Baltic people related to the Lithuanians and Latvians. In the 13th century, "Old Prussia" was conquered by German crusaders, the Teutonic Knights. In 1308 Teutonic Knights conquered the formerly Polish region of Pomerelia with Gdańsk (Danzig). Their monastic state was mostly Germanized through immigration from central and western Germany and in the south it was Polonized by settlers from Masovia. After the Second Peace of Thorn of 1466, Prussia was split into the western Royal Prussia, a province of Poland, and the eastern part, since 1525 called Duchy of Prussia, a fief of the Crown of Poland up to 1657. The union of Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia in 1618 led to the proclamation of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701.
Prussia achieved its greatest importance in the 18th and 19th centuries. During the 18th century, it became a great European power under the reign of Frederick the Great (1740–1786). During the 19th century, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck united the German principalities into a "Lesser Germany" which would exclude the Austrian Empire.
The Kingdom of Prussia governed northern Germany politically, economically, and in population, and was the core of the unified North German Confederation formed in 1867, which became part of the German Empire or Deutsches Reich in 1871.
With the end of the Hohenzollern monarchy in Germany following World War I, Prussia became part of the Weimar Republic as a free state in 1919. It lost this status in 1932 following the Preußenschlag decree of Reich Chancellor Franz von Papen; Prussia as a state was abolished de facto by the Nazis in 1934 and de jure by the Allies of World War II in 1947.
Since then, the term's relevance has been limited to historical, geographical, or cultural usages.
The black and white national colours were already used by the Teutonic Knights and by the Hohenzollern dynasty. The Teutonic Order wore a white coat embroidered with a black cross with gold insert and black imperial eagle. The combination of the black and white colours with the white and red Hanseatic colours of the free cities Bremen, Hamburg, and Lübeck as well as of Brandenburg resulted in the black-white-red commercial flag of the North German Confederation, which became the flag of the German Empire in 1871.
Suum cuique ("to each, his own"), the motto of the Order of the Black Eagle created by King Frederick I in 1701, was often associated with the whole of Prussia. The Iron Cross, a military decoration created by King Frederick William III in 1813, was also commonly associated with the country. The region, originally populated by Baltic Old Prussians who were Christianised, became a favoured location for immigration by (later mainly Protestant) Germans (see Ostsiedlung), as well as Poles and Lithuanians along the border regions.
Before its abolition, the territory of the Kingdom of Prussia included the provinces of West Prussia, East Prussia, Brandenburg, Saxony (including most of the present-day state of Saxony-Anhalt and parts of the state of Thuringia in Germany), Pomerania, Rhineland, Westphalia, Silesia (without Austrian Silesia), Lusatia, Schleswig-Holstein, Hanover, Hesse-Nassau, and a small detached area in the south Hohenzollern, the ancestral home of the Prussian ruling family. The land that Teutonic Prussia occupied was flat and covered with rich soil. The land was perfectly suited to the large-scale raising of wheat. The rise of early Prussia was based on the raising and selling wheat. Teutonic Prussia became known as the "bread basket of Western Europe" (in German, Kornkammer, or granary). The port cities of Stettin (Szczecin) in Pomerania, Danzig (Gdansk) in Prussia, Riga in Livonia, Koenigsberg (Kaliningrad) and Memel (Klaipėda) rose on the back of this wheat production. Wheat production and trade brought Prussia into close relationship with the Hanseatic League during the period of time from 1356 (official founding of the Hanseatic League) until the decline of the League in about 1500.
The expansion of Prussia based on its connection with the Hanseatic League cut both Poland and Lithuania off from the coast of the Baltic Sea and trade abroad. This meant that Poland and Lithuania would be traditional enemies of Prussia—which was still called the Teutonic Knights.
In 1871, Prussia's population numbered 24.69 million, accounting for 60% of the German Empire's population. In 1910, the population had increased to 40.17 million (62% of the Empire's population). In 1914, Prussia had an area of 354,490 km². In May 1939 Prussia had an area of 297,007 km² and a population of 41,915,040 inhabitants. The Principality of Neuenburg, now the Canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, was a part of the Prussian kingdom from 1707 to 1848.
Although Prussia was dominated by Protestant Germans (Lutherans along with some Reformed), it contained millions of Catholics in the west and in Poland. East Prussia's southern region of Masuria was mostly made up of Germanised Protestant Masurs. There were numerous Catholic populations in the Rhineland and parts of Westphalia. Also West Prussia, Warmia, Silesia, and the Province of Posen had predominantly Catholic populations.
In 1871, approximately 2.4 million Poles lived in Prussia, constituting the largest minority. Other minorities were Jews, Danes, Frisians, Kashubians (72,500 in 1905), Masurians (248,000 in 1905), Lithuanians (101,500 in 1905), Walloones, Czechs and Sorbs.
The area of Greater Poland, where the Polish nation had originated, became the Province of Posen after the Partitions of Poland. Poles in this Polish-majority province (62% Polish, 38% German) resisted German rule. Also, the southeast portion of Silesia (Upper Silesia) had a majority percentage of Polish population. But Catholics, ethnic Poles and other Slavs, and Jews did not have equal status with Protestants
As a result of the Treaty of Versailles in 1919 the Second Polish Republic was granted not only these two areas, but also areas with a German majority in the Province of West Prussia. After World War II, East Prussia, Silesia, most of Pomerania, and the eastern part of Brandenburg were annexed by either the Soviet Union or Poland.
History of Brandenburg and Prussia
|Old Prussians |
|Margraviate of Brandenburg
|Duchy of Prussia
|Royal (Polish) Prussia |
|Kingdom in Prussia |
|Kingdom of Prussia |
|Free State of Prussia |
1947–1952 / 1990–present
In 1211 Andrew II of Hungary granted Burzenland in Transylvania as a fiefdom to the Teutonic Knights. In 1225, Andrew II expelled the Teutonic Knights from Transylvania, and they had to transfer to the Baltic Sea. In 1226 Duke Konrad I of Masovia invited the Teutonic Knights, a German military order of crusading knights, headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem at Acre, to conquer the Baltic Prussian tribes on his borders. During 60 years of struggles against the Old Prussians, the order created an independent state which came to control the Old Prussian region. After the Livonian Brothers of the Sword joined the Teutonic Order in 1237 they also controlled Livonia (now Latvia and Estonia) and western Lithuania. The Hanseatic League was officially formed in 1356 as a group of trading cities in northern Europe who came to have a monopoly on all trade leaving the interior of Europe and Scandinavia and on all sailing trade in the Baltic Sea for foreign countries. The businessmen of the interior Sweden, Denmark and Poland came to feel oppressed by the Hanseatic League.
In the course of the Ostsiedlung process, settlers were invited in, a majority of them Germans. This brought about changes in the ethnic composition as well as in language, culture and law. Low German became the dominant language.
The Knights were subordinate to the pope and the emperor. Their initially close relationship with the Polish Crown deteriorated after they conquered Polish-controlled Pomerelia and Danzig (Gdańsk). Eventually Poland and Lithuania, allied through the Union of Krewo (1385), defeated the Knights in the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg) in 1410.
The Thirteen Years' War (1454–1466) began when the Prussian Confederation, a coalition of Hanseatic cities of western Prussia, rebelled against the Order and requested help from the Polish king. The Teutonic Knights were forced to acknowledge the sovereignty of and to pay tribute to King Casimir IV Jagiellon of Poland in the Second Peace of Thorn (1466), losing western Prussia (Royal Prussia) to Poland in the process. Pursuant to the Second Peace of Thorn, two Prussian states were established
In 1525, Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach, a member of a cadet branch of the House of Hohenzollern, became a Lutheran Protestant and secularised the Order's remaining Prussian territories into the Duchy of Prussia. This was the area east of the mouth of the Vistula River, later sometimes called "Prussia proper". For the first time, these lands came into the hands of a branch of the Hohenzollern family. (The Hohenzollern dynasty had ruled the Margraviate of Brandenburg to the west, a German state centered on Berlin, since the 15th century.) Furthermore, with his renunciation of the Order, Albert could now marry and produce offspring.
Brandenburg and Prussia were unified two generations later. Anna, granddaughter of Albert I and daughter of Duke Albert Frederick (reigned 1568–1618), married her cousin Elector John Sigismund of Brandenburg. Upon the death of Albert Frederick in 1618, who died without male heirs, John Sigismund was granted the right of succession to the Duchy of Prussia, which was still a Polish fief. From this time the Duchy of Prussia was in personal union with the Margraviate of Brandenburg. The resulting state, known as Brandenburg-Prussia, consisted of geographically disconnected territories in Prussia, Brandenburg, and Rhenish lands of Cleves and Mark.
During the Thirty Years' War, the disconnected Hohenzollern lands were repeatedly marched across by various armies, especially the occupying Swedes. The ineffective and militarily weak Margrave George William (1619–1640) fled from Berlin to Königsberg, the historic capital of the Duchy of Prussia, in 1637. His successor, Frederick William I (1640–1688), reformed the army to defend the lands.
Frederick William I went to Warsaw in 1641 to render homage to King Władysław IV Vasa of Poland for the Duchy of Prussia, which was still held in fief from the Polish crown. In the first phase of the Second Northern War (1654–1660), he took the duchy as a fief from the Swedish king who later granted him full sovereignty in the Treaty of Labiau. In 1657, this grant was renewed by the Polish king in the treaties of Wehlau and Bromberg. With Prussia, the Brandenburg Hohenzollern dynasty now held a territory free of any feudal obligations, which constituted the basis for their later elevation to kings.
Frederick William I became known as the "Great Elector" for his achievements in organizing the electorate, which he accomplished by establishing an absolute monarchy (see absolutism) in Brandenburg-Prussia. Above all, he emphasized the importance of a powerful military to protect the state's disconnected territories, while the Edict of Potsdam opened Brandenburg-Prussia for immigration of Protestant refugees, and he established a bureaucracy to carry out state business efficiently.