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North Rhine-Westphalia ( , usually shortened to NRW, official short form NW) is the westernmost, most populous, and most economically powerful state of Germanymarker. North Rhine-Westphalia has over 18 million inhabitants, contributes about 22% of Germany's gross domestic product and comprises a land area of 34,083 km² (13,158 square miles). North Rhine-Westphalia is situated in the western part of Germany and shares borders with Belgiummarker in the southwest and the Netherlandsmarker in the west and northwest. It has borders with the German states of Lower Saxonymarker to the north and northeast, Rhineland-Palatinatemarker to the south and Hessemarker to the southeast.

The capital city is Düsseldorfmarker, and the largest city is Cologne (Köln). Other major cities are Dortmundmarker, Essenmarker, Duisburgmarker, Oberhausenmarker, Aachenmarker, Bielefeldmarker, Bonnmarker, Bochummarker, Bottropmarker, Bergisch Gladbachmarker, Mönchengladbachmarker, Mülheimmarker, Münstermarker, Gelsenkirchenmarker, Krefeldmarker, Hagenmarker, Hammmarker, Hernemarker, Iserlohnmarker, Leverkusenmarker, Neussmarker, Paderbornmarker, Recklinghausenmarker, Remscheidmarker, Siegenmarker, Solingenmarker, Wittenmarker and Wuppertalmarker.

Once, the Ruhrgebiet was affected by coal mining and coal and steel industry, but from the 1960s on, a structural change took place. Even after the fall of these industries, the Rhine-Ruhr metropolitan region is affected by important basic industries and is one of the German economic centres. In absolute figures, North Rhine-Westphalia remains the most powerful state, economically.


The state is centred on the sprawling Rhine-Ruhr urbanised region, which contains the cities of Düsseldorfmarker, Bonnmarker and Cologne as well as the Ruhr Area industrial complex. The Ruhr area consists of, among others, the cities of Dortmundmarker, Essenmarker, Duisburgmarker, Bochummarker, Gelsenkirchenmarker and Oberhausenmarker.

The state's area covers a maximum distance of 291 km from north to south, and 266 km from east to west.

The total length of the state's borders is 1,645 km. The following countries and states have a border with North Rhine-Westphalia:

For many people North Rhine-Westphalia is synonymous with industrial areas and agglomerating cities. But the largest part of the state is used for agriculture (almost 52%), and forests cover 25%. The southern parts of the Teutoburg Forestmarker are located in the northeast. In the southwest, Nordrhein-Westfalen shares in a small part of the Eifel, located on the borders with Belgium and Rheinland-Pfalz. The southeast is occupied by the sparsely populated regions of Sauerland and Siegerlandmarker. The northwestern areas of the state are part of the Northern European Lowlands.

The most important rivers that run at least partially through North Rhine-Westphalia include: Rhinemarker, Ruhrmarker, Ems, Lippemarker and Weser. The Padermarker, which runs only through the city of Paderbornmarker, is considered the shortest river in Germany.

Location and topography

North Rhine-Westphalia is located in the west of the Federal Republic of Germanymarker. The north widely extends into the North German Plain. The northernmost point is the NRW-Nordpunkt near Rahdenmarker in the northeast of the state. The Nordpunkt is located only 100 km to the south of the North Sea coast. The deepest natural dip is arranged in the district Zyfflich in the city of Kranenburg with 9,2m above sea level in the northwest of the state. Though, the deepest point overground results from mining. The open-pit Hambach reaches at Niederziermarker a deep of 293m below sea level. At the same time, this is the deepest man-made dip in Germany. Approximately half of the state is located in the relative shallow regions of the Westphalian Lowland or rather the Rhineland. In the lowlands are a few isolated mountain ranges located, thereunder the Hohe Mark, the Beckumer Berge, the Baumberge and the Stemmer Berge. Towards the south as well as in the east of the state, the terrain rises. There, the state has a stake in the Mittelgebirgsregionen. To this are counted the Weser Hillsmarker with the Eggegebirgemarker, the Wiehengebirgemarker, the Wesergebirge and the Teutoburg Forestmarker in the east, the Sauerland, the Bergisches Land, the Siegerlandmarker and the Siebengebirgemarker in the south, as well as the Eifel left-bank in the southwest of the state. The Rothaargebirgemarker in the border region to Hessemarker exhibits elevations about 800m above sea level. The highest among these mountains is the Langenbergmarker with 843,2m above sea level, then follow the Kahler Astenmarker (840,7m above sea level) and the Clemensberg (839,2m above sea level).

The planimetrical ascertained centre of North Rhine-Westphalia is located in the south of Dortmund-Aplerbeck in the Aplerbecker Mark (51° 28' 42" N, 7° 33' 18" O). The westernmost point is situated near Selfkantmarker close to the Dutch border, the easternmost near Höxtermarker on the Weser and the southernmost near Hellenthalmarker in the Eifel region in the southwest of the state.


See also List of places in North Rhine-Westphalia.

The state consists of five administrative regions (Regierungsbezirke), divided into 31 districts (Kreise) and 23 urban districts (kreisfreie Städte). In total, North Rhine-Westphalia has 396 municipalities (1997), including the urban districts, which are municipalities by themselves.
The districts of North Rhine-Westphalia:

  1. Aachenmarker
  2. Borkenmarker
  3. Coesfeldmarker
  4. Dürenmarker
  5. Ennepe-Ruhr-Kreismarker
  6. Rhein-Erft-Kreismarker
  7. Euskirchenmarker
  8. Güterslohmarker
  9. Heinsbergmarker
  10. Herfordmarker
  11. Hochsauerlandkreismarker
  1. Höxtermarker
  2. Klevemarker
  3. Lippemarker
  4. Märkischer Kreismarker
  5. Mettmannmarker
  6. Minden-Lübbeckemarker
  7. Rhein-Kreis Neussmarker
  8. Oberbergischer Kreismarker
  9. Olpemarker
  10. Paderbornmarker
  1. Recklinghausenmarker
  2. Rheinisch-Bergischer Kreismarker
  3. Rhein-Sieg-Kreismarker
  4. Siegen-Wittgensteinmarker
  5. Soestmarker
  6. Steinfurtmarker
  7. Unnamarker
  8. Viersenmarker
  9. Warendorfmarker
  10. Weselmarker

The urban districts:

Duisburg Lake Masuren in the industrial region of the Ruhr
The five administrative regions—also called regional districts—belonging to one of two Landschaftsverbände:

According to the used concept, the state can be arranged different. Most common is the subdivision according to several sociocultural, historical, biogeographical and agricultural references. Thus, the state North Rhine-Westphalia firstly has to be divided into it's three parts Northrhine (northern Rhineland, mostly simply called Rhineland), Westfalen and Lippemarker, which were allied in 1946/1947 to the state North Rhine-Westphalia. Especially between Lippe and Westfalen on the one side and the Rhineland on the other side exist clear historical and cultural differences. The third part of the state, Lippe, which not until 1947/48 entered the already existing state North Rhine-Westphalia, is as a former German Federal State with an about 800 years existing independence, mostly seen as an indepent region and own part of the landscape. According to the chosen criteria, an approximate further subdivision could take place like this:


The state of North Rhine-Westphalia was established by the British military administration on 23 August 1946. Originally it consisted of Westphaliamarker and the northern parts of the Rhine Provincemarker, both formerly belonging to Prussia. In 1947 the former state of Lippemarker was merged with North Rhine-Westphalia, hence leading to the present borders of the state.

The North Rhine-Westphalia state election on May 22, 2005 granted the CDU an unexpected victory. Their top candidate Jürgen Rüttgers built a new coalition government consisting of CDU and FDP that replaced the former government headed by Peer Steinbrück. Rüttgers was elected new Prime Minister (German: Ministerpräsident) of the federal state on June 22, 2005.


The flag of North Rhine-Westphalia is green-white-red with the combined coats of arms of the Prussian Rhine province (white line before green background, symbolizing the river Rhine), Westfalen (the white horse) and Lippe (the red rose).

According to legend the horse in the Westphalian coat of arms is the horse that the Saxon leader Widukind rode after his baptism. Other theories attribute the horse to Henry the Lion.

A regional anthem is the Lied für NRW (Song for NRW).


These are the Prime Ministers (German: Ministerpräsident) of the Federal State (German: Bundesland) of North-Rhine Westphalia (NRW):

|| 1
|| Rudolf Amelunxen
|| 2
|| Karl Arnold
|| 3
|| Fritz Steinhoff
|| 4
|| Franz Meyers
|| 5
|| Heinz Kühn
|| 6
|| Johannes Rau
|| 7
|| Wolfgang Clement
|| 8
|| Peer Steinbrück
|| 8
|| Jürgen Rüttgers
Minister-presidents of North Rhine-Westphalia
No. Name Born-Died Party affiliation Begin of Tenure End of Tenure
1888-1969 Zentrum 1946 1947
1901-1958 CDU 1947 1956
1897-1969 SPD 1956 1958
1908-2002 CDU 1958 1966
1912-1992 SPD 1966 1978
1931-2006 SPD 1978 1998
*1940 SPD 1998 2002
*1947 SPD 2002 2005
*1951 CDU 2005 incumbent

The results of the North Rhine-Westphalia state election, 2005 were as follows. Note that overall seat totals have been reduced, lowering the seat counts for all parties.

Voter turnout was at 63%, an increase of 7% over the previous election in 2000. Prior to the election, some analysts had predicted that a CDU victory might result from disenchanted SPD voters staying home, but the turnout figures appear to reject this scenario.
Party Party List votes Vote percentage (change) Total Seats (change) Seat percentage
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) 3,695,806 44.8% +7.9% 89 +1 47.6%
Social Democratic Party (SPD) 3,059,074 37.1% -5.7% 74 -28 39.6%
Free Democratic Party (FDP) 508,354 6.2% -3.7% 12 -12 6.4%
Alliance '90/The Greens 509,219 6.2% -0.9% 12 -5 6.4%
Electoral Alternative for Labor and Social Justice (WASG) 181,886 2.2% +2.2% 0 +0 0.0%
National Democratic Party (NPD) 73,959 0.9% +0.9% 0 +0 0.0%
Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS) 72,982 0.9% -0.2% 0 +0 0.0%
The Republicans 67,282 0.8% -0.3% 0 +0 0.0%
All Others 74,810 0.9% +0.5% 0 +0 0.0%
Totals 8,243,372 100.0%   187 -44 100.0%

Notes and references

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