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Brandenburg ( ; Lower Sorbian: Bramborska; Upper Sorbian: Braniborska) is one of the sixteen states of Germanymarker. It lies in the east of the country and is one of the new federal states that were re-created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germanymarker and East Germanymarker. The capital is Potsdammarker. Brandenburg surrounds but does not include the national capital Berlinmarker.

Historically, Brandenburg was an independent state, the Margraviate of Brandenburg, which grew to become the core of independent Prussia and later the German state of Prussia. About a third of historic Brandenburg (land east of the Oder River) was annexed by Poland following the establishment of the new Oder-Neisse border in 1945 by the Allies. This region was historically known as East Brandenburg. The federal state of Brandenburg is named after the town of Brandenburg an der Havelmarker.


In 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 Empiremarker, the first unified German state. Governed by the Hohenzollern dynasty from in 1415, it contained the future German capital Berlinmarker. After 1618 the Margraviate of Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussiamarker 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 Prussiamarker. Franconian Nurembergmarker and Ansbachmarker, Swabian Hohenzollernmarker, 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 Ages

Brandenburg is situated in territory known in antiquity as Magna Germania, which reached to the Vistula river. By the seventh 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 900s, Henry the Fowler and his successors conquered territory up to the Oder River. Slavic settlements such as Brenna (Brandenburg an der Havelmarker), Budusin (Bautzenmarker), and Chośebuz (Cottbusmarker) 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.

12th century

During the 12th century the Ottonian 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 Havelmarker, 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 (see also Altmarkmarker).

Late Middle Ages

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 Bavariamarker, followed by the Luxembourg dynasty. Under the Luxembourgs, the Margrave of Brandenburg gained the status of a prince-elector of the Holy Roman Empire. 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 centuries

Brandenburg 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 acquiring the Duchy of Prussiamarker in 1618, the Duchy of Clevesmarker (1614) 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 Potsdammarker.

Kingdom of Prussia and united Germany

When 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 (as Frederick I) the title of "King in Prussia" (1701). 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 kingdom is known as the Kingdom of Prussiamarker.

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. In 1881, the City of Berlinmarker 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 (1925). After World War II, the Neumark, the part of Brandenburg east of the Oder-Neisse Line, was transferred to Polandmarker; and its native German population expelled. The remainder of the province became a state in East Germany when Prussia was dissolved in 1947. The State of Brandenburg was completely dissolved in 1952 by the Socialist government of East Germanymarker.

East Germany and reunified Germany

In 1952, the East German government divided Brandenburg among several Bezirke or districts. (See Administrative division of the German Democratic Republic). Most of Brandenburg lay within the Potsdam, Frankfurt (Oder), or Cottbus districts, but parts of the former province passed to the Schwerin, Neubrandenburg and Magdeburg districts (town Havelbergmarker). East Germany relied heavily on lignite (the lowest grade of coal) as an energy source, and lignite strip mines marred areas of southeastern Brandenburg. The industrial towns surrounding Berlin were important to the East German economy, while rural Brandenburg remained mainly agricultural.

The present State of Brandenburg was re-established on October 3, 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 joblessness and economic difficulty. In the recent years, however, Brandenburg's infrastructure has been modernized and joblessness 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". The merger was rejected in a plebiscite in 1996 - while West Berliners voted for a merger, East Berliners and Brandenburgers voted against it.


Brandenburg is bordered by Mecklenburg-Vorpommernmarker in the north, Polandmarker in the east, the Freistaat Sachsenmarker in the south, Saxony-Anhaltmarker in the west, and Lower Saxonymarker 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 Spreemarker and the Havelmarker. 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.

Protected areas

Brandenburg 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.

National parks

Biosphere reserves

Nature parks

Political subdivisions

Brandenburg is divided into 14 rural districts (Landkreise):

  1. Barnimmarker
  2. Dahme-Spreewaldmarker
  3. Elbe-Elstermarker
  4. Havellandmarker
  5. Märkisch-Oderlandmarker
  6. Oberhavelmarker
  7. Oberspreewald-Lausitzmarker
  1. Oder-Spreemarker
  2. Ostprignitz-Ruppinmarker
  3. Potsdam-Mittelmarkmarker
  4. Prignitzmarker
  5. Spree-Neißemarker
  6. Teltow-Flämingmarker
  7. Uckermarkmarker

and 4 urban districts (kreisfreie Städte):

  1. Brandenburg an der Havelmarker
  2. Cottbusmarker
  3. Frankfurt marker
  4. Potsdammarker


Matthias Platzeck
For earlier rulers, see List of rulers of Brandenburg

  1. 1947 - 1949: Karl Steinhoff (SED, formerly SPD)
  2. 1949 - 1952: Rudolf Jahn (SED)
  3. 1990 - 2002: Manfred Stolpe (SPD)
  4. since 2002: Matthias Platzeck (SPD)

September 2009 state election


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