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A Landtag (Diet) is a representative assembly or parliament in German-speaking countries with some legislative authority.

The German word "Landtag" is composed of the words Land (meaning state, country, territory) which names a political entity comparable to a federal state (in German Bundesland) and the word Tag. Tag literally means "day" and comes from the fact that in ancient times the assembly was held for a single day (the Latin name "dietas" has the same root, see also diet) with the derived verbal form tagen meaning to sit and to hold a meeting in modern German.

Ancient Landtag

Holy Roman Empire

In feudal society, the formal class system was reflected in the composition of the state's 'representative' assembly (The States ("Landstände")), regardless of its name well described as estates: it was not intended as an elected reflection of public opinion, but a fixed expression of established power as recognized in formal privileges, including the right to be seated in person (granted to many aristocrats and prelates, as well as certain cities) or to be represented as elector in a college that is entitled to one or more seats.In some of the German states that were known as Land, the name of such estates assembly was Landtag, analogous to the Reichstag (Imperial Diet, mainly comprising most of the princes of the Church and hereditary states plus the Imperial Cities). The precise composition obviously varied greatly, and could change over time, as the result of privileges granted or lost, entities split or merged, border changes et cetera.

Royal Prussia

Since 1466, Prussian Landtag were held in Royal Prussia. Prior to that, Prussian Landtagmeetings were held in the Monastic state of the Teutonic Ordermarker. See also Prussian estates.

Ducal Prussia

Since 1525, Prussian Landtag were held in Ducal Prussiamarker. See also Preußischer Landtagmarker.

German Confederation

As Austriamarker and Prussia escaped the French 'exporting the revolution', and Napoleon was happy to maintain satellite monarchies in most German territories under his control (members of the Confederation of the Rhinemarker), the more democratic principles of the Enlightenment would have less effect in the German-speaking lands, or only much later.

1806 the German Confederationmarker ("Deutscher Bund") was founded as successor of the Holy Roman Empire. § 13 of the "Bundesakte" (the constitution of the German Confederation) forced the German states to pass constitutions and implement parliaments called Landstände or Landtag.

The first constitution was passed in Nassau. Until 1841 (Luxembourgmarker) all but 2 states got their constitution and parliaments.

German Empire

1871 the German Empire was founded. All 25 states of the German Empire and the "Reichsland Elsaß-Lothringenmarker" (since 1911) had Landtage as legislative authorities. The most important one was the Prussian Landtag.

Weimar Republic

In the Weimar Republicmarker 1918 till 1933 all German states had Landtage. In difference to the former Landstände and Landtage the Weimar Republik Landtage have been elected in free an equal elections.

1933 the Nazis abandoned the federal structure of the Weimar Republic and established a unitary state. The Landtage were abolished as a result.


The parliament of Finland, which was created when the country was ceded from Sweden to Russia in 1809, was called lantdag (Swedish for Landtag) until 1919, when Finland adopted its first constitution as an independent country (independence was declared in 1917). Since then, the official term in Swedish is riksdag, equivalent of the German Reichstag. The Finnish name is eduskunta.

Baltic countries

The first Landtag of Livonian Confederation was called by archbishop of Rīga Johannes Ambundii in 1419 and continued on regular basis till the incorporation of Livonian lands in Grand Duchy of Lithuania, Swedenmarker and Denmarkmarker in 1561. Separate landtags of Livonia, Courland and Estoniamarker continued to exist as legislative authorities of Duchies of Livoniamarker, Estonia, Courland and Semigalliamarker, later Russian Empire Governorates of Livonia, Estonia and Courland.

Modern legislatures

In the contemporary Federal Republic of Germanymarker, the Republic of Austriamarker and the Italian Republicmarker's province of Bolzano-Bozen (with a German-speaking majority), a Landtag is a unicameral legislature for a constitutive federal state (Bundesland).In the Principality of Liechtensteinmarker, the Landtag is the sole national parliament, because Liechtenstein has no federal structure due to its size.

German Legislatures

In most of the German constitutive federal states (Bundesländer), the unicameral legislature is called "Landtag". In the city states the parliamentary city council serves the function of the state parliament within the federal system - in Bremenmarker and Hamburgmarker it's called the Bürgerschaft (short of Stadtbürgerschaft, municipal assembly), and in Berlinmarker it's called "Abgeordnetenhaus" (House of Representatives).

The national bicameral Parliament comprises the directly elected Bundestagmarker and Bundesratmarker which represents the constitutive states but which has limited competence.

Austrian Legislatures

In seven cases the modern Landtage are the democratic successors of the Landtage of the corresponding imperial Kronlands. Exceptions are the city of Vienna (which belonged to the Lower Austria Kronland) and Burgenland (which belonged to the kingdom of Hungary, in personal union).

Austria's national bicameral parliament, the Bundesversammlung , consists of a directly elected Nationalrat and a Bundesrat .


In Italy's predominantly German-speaking province of Bolzano-Bozen the provincial council is called Landtag in German.


In the Sovereign principality of Liechtenstein the national parliament is called the Landtag of Liechtenstein.

Sources and references

See also

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