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The Free State of Saxony ( ; ) is a state of Germanymarker, located in the southeastern part of present-day Germany. It is the tenth-largest German state in area (18,413 km²) and the sixth largest in population (4.3 million), of Germany's sixteen states.

Located in the historical heart of German-speaking Europe, the history of the state of Saxony spans more than a millennium. It has been a mediaeval duchy, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, a kingdommarker and, since 1918, a republic.

During the early Middle Ages the term Saxony referred to the region occupied by today's states of Lower Saxonymarker and northern North Rhine-Westphaliamarker. The term Saxon does not always correlate with Saxony: a Saxon is not necessarily an inhabitant of Saxony (e.g. Saxon people, Anglo-Saxons or Transylvanian Saxons).



Sachsen is divided into three Direktionsbezirke — Chemnitzmarker, Dresdenmarker, Leipzigmarker — which are subdivided into 10 districts:

  1. Bautzenmarker (BZ)
  2. Erzgebirgskreismarker (ERZ)
  3. Görlitzmarker (GR)
  4. Leipzigmarker (L)
  5. Meißenmarker (MEI)
  6. Mittelsachsenmarker (FG)
  7. Nordsachsenmarker (TDO)
  8. Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirgemarker (PIR)
  9. Vogtlandkreismarker (V)
  10. Zwickaumarker (Z)

Furthermore there are three urban districts ( ), which have district-level themselves:

  1. Chemnitzmarker (C)
  2. Dresdenmarker (DD)
  3. Leipzigmarker (L)


Saxony has the most vibrant economy among the former GDRmarker states. Its economy grew by 4.0% in 2006, making it the fastest growing region in Germany. Nonetheless, unemployment remains high, and investment is scarce. The eastern part of Germany, excluding Berlinmarker, qualifies as an "Objective 1" development region within the European Union, and is eligible to receive investment subsidies of up to 30% until 2013.

Microchip makers near Dresden gave the region a nickname of "Silicon Saxony". The publishing and porcelain industry are well known, although their contribution to the regional economy is not significant. The state government attempts to develop tourism, notably in the lake district of Lausitz.

In 2002, Saxony reported unemployment of 19.2%.


Saxony has a long history as a duchy, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire (the Electorate of Saxony), and eventually as a kingdom (the Kingdom of Saxonymarker). In 1918, subsequent to Germany's defeat in World War I, its monarchy was overthrown and a republican form of government was established under its current name. The state was broken up into smaller units during communist rule (1949-1989), but was re-established on 3 October 1990 during the re-unification of Eastmarker and West Germanymarker.


In prehistoric times, the territory of Saxony was the site of some of the largest of the ancient Central European monumental temples, dating from the 5th millennium BC. Notable archaeological sites have been discovered in Dresdenmarker and the villages of Eythra and Zwenkaumarker near Leipzigmarker. The first Germanic presence in the territory of today's Saxony is thought to be in the first millennium BC.Parts of Saxony were possibly under the control of Germanic King Marobod during the Roman era.By the late Roman period, several tribes known as the Saxons emerged, from which the subsequent state(s) draw their name. For the origins of the Saxon tribes, see Saxons.

Duchy of Saxony

The first mediæval Duchy of Saxony was a late Early Middle Ages "Carolingian stem duchy", which emerged about AD 700, and grew to cover the greater part of Northern Germanymarker. It covered the area of the modern German states of Lower Saxonymarker, North Rhine-Westphaliamarker, Schleswig-Holsteinmarker, Saxony-Anhaltmarker. The Saxons were converted to Christianity during this period by Charlemagne, despite fierce resistance by the Saxon chieftains.

While the Saxons were facing pressure from Charlemagne's post-Roman, Latin Christian world, they were also facing a westward push by Slavs to the east. The territory of the Free State of Saxony was briefly occupied by Slavs before being reconquered by the Germans. A legacy of this period is the small Sorb population in Saxony.

Holy Roman Empire

The territory of the Free State of Saxony became part of the Holy Roman Empire by the 900s AD. In the 10th century, the dukes of Saxony were simultaneously kings (or emperors) of the Holy Roman Empire, comprising the Ottonian, or Saxon, Dynasty. Around this time, the Billungs, a Saxon noble family, received extensive fiefs in Saxony. The Emperor eventually gave them the title of Duke of Saxony. After Duke Magnus died in 1106, causing the extinction of the male line of Billungs, oversight of the duchy was given to Lothar of Supplinburg, who also became Emperor for a short time.

In 1137, control of Saxony passed to the Welfen dynasty, descendants of Wulfhild Billung, eldest daughter of the last Billung duke, and the daughter of Lothar of Supplinburg. In 1180 large portions west of the Weser were ceded to the Bishops of Cologne, while some central parts between the Weser and the Elbe remained to the Welfs, later forming the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg). The remaining eastern lands, together with the title of Duke of Saxony, passed to an Ascanian dynasty (descended from Eilika Billung, Wulfhild's younger sister) and divided in 1260: into the two small states of Saxe-Lauenburg and Saxe-Wittenberg. Saxony-Lauenburg was later renamed Lauenburgmarker, and split from Saxony altogether. Saxe-Wittenberg inherited the "main" ducal title of the Saxons, and the duke was recognized as an Elector of the Empire in the 14th century.

Foundation of the second Saxon state

Saxony-Wittenberg, in modern Saxony-Anhaltmarker, became subject to the margravate of Meißenmarker, ruled by the Wettin dynasty in 1423. This established a new and powerful state, occupying large portions of the present Free State of Saxony, Thuringia, and Saxony-Anhalt. Although the center of this state was far to the southeast of the former Saxony, it came to be referred to as Upper Saxony and then simply Saxony, while the former Saxon territories were now known as Lower Saxony.

In 1485, Saxony was split. A collateral line of the Wettin princes received what later became Thuringiamarker and founded several small states there (see Ernestine duchies). The remaining Saxon state became still more powerful, becoming known in the 18th century for its cultural achievements, although it was politically inferior to Prussia and Austriamarker, which pressed Saxony from either side.

Saxony in the 19th and 20th centuries

In 1806, Frenchmarker Emperor Napoleon abolished the Holy Roman Empire and decreed the Electorate of Saxony a kingdom in itself. Elector Frederick Augustus III became King Frederick Augustus I. Frederick Augustus remained loyal to Napoleon during the wars that swept Europe in the following years; he was taken prisoner and his territories declared forfeit by the allies in 1813, who intended the annexation of Saxony by Prussia. Ultimately, the opposition of Austria, France, and the United Kingdommarker to this plan resulted in the restoration of Frederick Augustus to his throne at the Congress of Vienna. At this time, Saxony was forced to cede the northern part of the kingdom to Prussia. These lands became the Prussian province of Saxonymarker, incorporated today in Saxony-Anhalt. The remnant of the Kingdom of Saxonymarker was roughly identical with the present federal state.

During the 1848–49 constitutionalist revolutions in Germany, Saxony became a hotbed for revolutionaries, with anarchists such as Mikhail Bakunin and democrats including Richard Wagner and Gottfried Semper taking part in the May Uprising in Dresden in 1849.

After the Austro-Prussian Warmarker, Saxony joined the North German Confederationmarker in 1867. In 1871 it became part of the German Empiremarker.

After 1918, Saxony was a state in the Weimar Republicmarker and was the scene of Gustav Stresemann's overthrow of the SPD-led government in 1923. The state maintained its name and borders during the National Socialist era as a Gau, but lost any quasi-autonomous status. In April 1945, American troops under General Patton conquered the western part of the Free State while Soviet troops conquered the eastern part. That summer, the entire state was handed over to the Soviet Union as part of the Potsdam Conference agreement on post-war occupation zones.

The Soviet Union set up the communist government of the German Democratic Republicmarker in 1949, giving the USSR a satellite in the heart of Europe. The communist government officially dissolved the Free State in 1952, and divided it into three smaller Bezirke based on Leipzigmarker, Dresdenmarker, and Karl-Marx-Stadtmarker. The state reconstituted with slightly altered borders in 1990 upon German reunification. The border alterations revolve around the Oder-Neisse line. Present-day Saxony includes a small part of Prussianmarker province of Lower Silesia that was located to the west of the 1945 borders of the town of Görlitzmarker, but excludes all the former territory of Saxony east of the same line. This territory, like the majority of Silesia, was incorporated into post-war Poland.



The most common patoises spoken in Saxony are combined in the group of "Thuringian and Upper Saxon dialects". Due to the incorrect usage of "Saxon dialects" in colloquial language, the Upper Saxon attribute has been added to distinguish it from Old Saxon and Low Saxon. Other German dialects spoken in Saxony are the dialects of the Erzgebirge Mountainsmarker, which have been affected by Upper Saxon dialects, and the dialects of the Vogtland, which are more affected by the East Franconian languages.

Upper Sorbian (a Slavic language) is still actively spoken in the parts of Upper Lusatia that are occupied by the Sorbian minority. The Germans in Upper Lusatia speak distinct dialects of their own (Lusatian dialects).


Except for Dresdenmarker and perhaps Leipzigmarker, Saxony is not known as a primary destination for foreign tourists. Areas along the border of Czech Republicmarker, such as the Lusatian Mountains, Ore Mountainsmarker, Saxon Switzerland, and Vogtland, attract significant visitors, largely other Germans. Saxony offers well preserved historic towns such as Meißenmarker, Freibergmarker, Pirnamarker, Bautzenmarker, and Görlitzmarker.


A minister-president heads the government of Saxony. Since May 28, 2008 the minister-president of Saxony is Stanislaw Tillich. see the List of Ministers-President of Saxony for a full listing.

Stanislaw Tillich

2009 state election

The center-right CDU has made a coalition with the liberal democratic FDP.

See also


  1. "Still Troubled", The Economist, 27 August 2005 retrieved 2 September 2005
  2. Saxony State Ministry of Labor and Economy

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