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Germanymarker is a Federal Republic consisting of sixteen states, known in German as (singular ). Since is also the German word for "country", the term (federal states; singular ) is commonly used colloquially, as it is more specific, though technically incorrect within the corpus of German law.

The citizens of the states form the nation of Germany, and have the right of abode within the states. The area covered by the 16 states is completely and solely the territory of Germany. The governments of the states form part of the government of Germany.

The cities of Berlinmarker and Hamburgmarker are states in their own right, while the State of Bremenmarker consists of two cities, Bremenmarker and Bremerhavenmarker. These three are termed (city-states). The remaining 13 states are termed (area states).


After the end of the Second World War, the states in the western part of the former German Reich were constituted as administrative areas first and subsequently in 1949, federated into the Bund or Federal Republic of Germany. This is in contrast to post-war development in Austriamarker, where the Bund was constituted first, and then the individual states were created as units of a federal system. In Austriamarker, the states are also referred to as Länder in the Austrian constitution.

The use of the term Länder (countries) comes from the Weimar constitution of 1919, before they were called Staaten (states). The addition of Bundes- (federal) is very common but not the correct term in the constitution of 1919 or the Basic Law of 1949. Three Länder actually call themselves Freistaat (free state, republic), Bavaria (since 1919), Saxony (since 1990) and Thuringia (1994).

Many of the current states have the same names with territory substantially the same as their namesakes, the former sovereign countries (for example Bavaria and Saxony which have along with Bremen nearly the same territory as in 1871).


|- style="background-color:#bbbbbb;"
! class="unsortable" | Coat of arms
! State
! Joined
the federation ! Head of government ! Government
coalition ! Votes in

! Area (km²) ! Inhabitants
! Inhabitants
per km² ! Capital ! German
(ISO 3166-2:DE) |- style="background-color:#eeeeee;" | | Baden-Württembergmarker | 1949 | Günther Oettinger (CDU) | align="center"| CDU/FDP | align="center"| 6 | align="right"| 35,752 | align="right"| 10,739 | align="right"| 300 | Stuttgartmarker | align="center"| BW |- style="background-color:#dddddd;" | | Bavariamarker

(German: Bayern)
| 1949 | Horst Seehofer (CSU) | align="center"| CSU/FDP | align="center"| 6 | align="right"| 70,552 | style="text-align:right" | 12,488 | style="text-align:right" | 177 | Munichmarker | align="center"| BY |- style="background-color:#eeeeee;" | | Berlinmarker | 1990 | Klaus Wowereit (SPD) | align="center"| SPD/The Left | align="center"| 4 | align="right"| 892 | style="text-align:right" | 3,395 | style="text-align:right" | 3,807 | – | align="center"| BE |- style="background-color:#dddddd;" | | Brandenburgmarker | 1990 | Matthias Platzeck (SPD) | align="center"| SPD/The Left | align="center"| 4 | align="right"| 29,479 | style="text-align:right" | 2,559 | style="text-align:right" | 87 | Potsdammarker | align="center"| BB |- style="background-color:#eeeeee;" | | Bremenmarker | 1949 | Jens Böhrnsen (SPD) | align="center"| SPD/The Greens | align="center"| 3 | align="right"| 404 | style="text-align:right" | 663 | style="text-align:right" | 1,641 | – | align="center"| HB |- style="background-color:#dddddd;" | | Hamburgmarker | 1949 | Ole von Beust (CDU) | align="center"| CDU/The Greens | align="center"| 3 | align="right"| 755 | style="text-align:right" | 1,774 | style="text-align:right" | 2,309 | – | align="center"| HH |- style="background-color:#eeeeee;" | | Hessemarker

(German: Hessen)
| 1949 | Roland Koch (CDU) | align="center"| CDU/FDP | align="center"| 5 | align="right"| 21,115 | style="text-align:right" | 6,075 | style="text-align:right" | 289 | Wiesbadenmarker | align="center"| HE |- style="background-color:#dddddd;" | | Mecklenburg-Western Pomeraniamarker

(German: Mecklenburg-Vorpommern)
| 1990 | Erwin Sellering (SPD) | align="center"| SPD/CDU | align="center"| 3 | align="right"| 23,180 | style="text-align:right" | 1,707 | style="text-align:right" | 74 | Schwerinmarker | align="center"| MV |- style="background-color:#eeeeee;" | | Lower Saxonymarker

(German: Niedersachsen)
| 1949 | Christian Wulff (CDU) | align="center"| CDU/FDP | align="center"| 6 | align="right"| 47,624 | style="text-align:right" | 7,997 | style="text-align:right" | 168 | Hannovermarker | align="center"| NI |- style="background-color:#dddddd;" | | North Rhine-


(German: Nordrhein-Westfalen)
| 1949 | Jürgen Rüttgers (CDU) | align="center"| CDU/FDP | align="center"| 6 | align="right"| 34,085 | style="text-align:right" | 18,029 | style="text-align:right" | 530 | Düsseldorfmarker | align="center"| NRW |- style="background-color:#eeeeee;" | | Rhineland-Palatinatemarker

(German: Rheinland-Pfalz)
| 1949 | Kurt Beck (SPD) | align="center"| SPD | align="center"| 4 | align="right"| 19,853 | style="text-align:right" | 4,053 | style="text-align:right" | 204 | Mainzmarker | align="center"| RP |- style="background-color:#dddddd;" | | Saarlandmarker | 1957 | Peter Müller (CDU) | align="center"| CDU/FDP/The Greens | align="center"| 3 | align="right"| 2,569 | style="text-align:right" | 1,050 | style="text-align:right" | 409 | Saarbrückenmarker | align="center"| SL |- style="background-color:#eeeeee;" | | Saxonymarker

(German: Sachsen)
| 1990 | Stanislaw Tillich (CDU) | align="center"| CDU/FDP | align="center"| 4 | align="right"| 18,416 | style="text-align:right" | 4,250 | style="text-align:right" | 232 | Dresdenmarker | align="center"| SN |- style="background-color:#dddddd;" | | Saxony-Anhaltmarker

(German: Sachsen-Anhalt)
| 1990 | Wolfgang Böhmer (CDU) | align="center"| CDU/SPD | align="center"| 4 | align="right"| 20,446 | style="text-align:right" | 2,470 | style="text-align:right" | 121 | Magdeburgmarker | align="center"| ST |- style="background-color:#eeeeee;" | | Schleswig-Holsteinmarker | 1949 | Peter Harry Carstensen (CDU) | align="center"| CDU/FDP | align="center"| 4 | align="right"| 15,799 | style="text-align:right" | 2,833 | style="text-align:right" | 179 | Kielmarker | align="center"| SH |- style="background-color:#dddddd;" | | Thuringiamarker

(German: Thüringen)
| 1990 | Christine Lieberknecht (CDU) | align="center"| CDU/SPD | align="center"| 4 | align="right"| 16,172 | style="text-align:right" | 2,335 | style="text-align:right" | 144 | Erfurtmarker | align="center"| TH |}


The Holy Roman Empire, a predecessor of Germany that existed before 1806, comprised numerous petty states. After its breakdown during the Napoleonic Wars, they were restructured to larger units. In 1871, 22 smaller monarchies, three city-states and the Imperial territory of Alsace-Lorraine unified to form the German Empire. Following World War I, the remaining states constituted Weimar Germany, whose federative division was left in place after the Nazis came to power, but was surpressed by the Nazi Gau system.

During the Allied occupation of Germany after World War II, the territory in each Occupation Zone was re-organized on behalf of the Allied Council into new states to prevent any one state from ever dominating Germany (as Prussia had done). Initially, only 7 of the pre-War states remained: Bavaria, Bremen, Hamburg, Baden, Saarland, Saxony, and Thuringia. The rest were amalgamations of Prussian provinces and smaller states. For example, the Prussian Province of Saxony and the state of Anhalt were merged to create Saxony-Anhalt.

Upon founding in 1949, West Germanymarker had eleven states, which were reduced to nine in 1952 as three south-western states (Baden, Württemberg-Hohenzollernmarker and Württemberg-Baden) merged to form Baden-Württembergmarker.Since 1957, when the French-occupied Saarlandmarker was returned (the "small reunification"), the Federal Republic consisted of ten states (today called the Old States).West Berlin was in many ways integrated with West Germany, but due to its special status de jureunder the sovereignty of the Western Allies, did not officially constitute a state or part of one.

In East Germanymarker, originally five states (Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Brandenburg, Saxony-Anhalt, Thuringia and Saxony) existed, until 1952, when the GDR divided them into 14 administrative districts (Bezirke).Soviet-controlled East Berlin, despite officially having the same status as West Berlin, was declared capital of the GDR, as a (15th) district.

Just prior to the German reunificationon 3 October 1990, 14 of the East German districts (not including East Berlin) reconstituted themselves, mainly along the old borders, into the five New States. The former district of East Berlinjoined West Berlin to form the new state of Berlin. Thus the 10 "old states" plus 5 "new states" plus Berlin add up to 16.

Later, the constitutionwas changed to state that the citizens of the 16 states had successfully achieved unity in freedom, and that the constitution now covers all German people. Article 23, which had allowed "other parts of Germany" to join, was abolished as its continued inclusion might have been regarded as an invitation for other German-speaking states and areas to join (e.g. Austria, South Tyrol, Liechtenstein, the Swiss cantons, Alsace, Luxembourg, South Jutland, Upper Silesia, and Eastern Belgium).

Unlike other federations, the German states retain the right to act on their own behalf at an international level. They retain the status of subjects of international law, independently from their status as members of a federation. This unique status is enshrined in Articles 23, 24, and 32 of the Basic Law.

The description free state(Freistaat) is merely a historic synonym for republic—a description used by most German states after the abolishment of monarchy. Today, Freistaatis associated emotionally with a more independent status, especially in Bavaria. However, it has no legal meaning. All sixteen states are represented at the federal level in the Bundesratmarker (Federal Council), where their voting power merely depends on the size of their population.

Structure of government

The Basic Law of the Federal Republic of Germany, the federalconstitution, stipulates that the structure of each Federal State's government must "conform to the principles of republican, democratic, and social government, based on the rule of law" (Article 28[1]).

Most of the states are governed by a cabinetled by a Ministerpräsident(Minister-President), together with a unicamerallegislative bodyknown as the Landtag(State Diet). The states are parliamentary republicsand the relationship between their legislative and executive branches mirrors that of the federal system: the legislatures are popularly elected for four or five years (depending on the state), and the Minister-President is then chosen by a majority voteamong the Landtag's members. The Minister-President appoints a cabinet to run the state's agencies and to carry out the executive duties of the state's government.

The governments in Berlinmarker, Bremenmarker and Hamburgmarker are designated by the term Senate.In the three free state of Bavariamarker, Saxonymarker and Thuringiamarker the government is referred to as the State Government (Staatsregierung), and in the other ten states the term Land Government (Landesregierung) is used.

Before January 1, 2000, Bavaria had a bicameral parliament, with a popularly elected Landtagmarker, and a Senate made up of representatives of the state's major social and economic groups.The Senate was abolished following a referendumin 1998.

The states of Berlin, Bremen, and Hamburg are governed slightly differently from the other states. In each of these cities, the executive branch consists of a Senate of approximately eight selected by the state's parliament; the senators carry out duties equivalent to those of the ministers in the larger states. The equivalent of the Minister-President is the Senatspräsident(President of the Senate) in Bremen, the Erster Bürgermeister(First Mayor) in Hamburg, and the Regierender Bürgermeister(Governing Mayor) in Berlin. The parliament for Berlin is called the Abgeordnetenhaus(House of Representatives), while Bremen and Hamburg both have a Bürgerschaft. The parliaments in the remaining 13 states are referred to as Landtag(State Parliament).


Politicsat the state level often carries implications for federal politics. Opposition victories in elections for State Parliaments, which take place throughout the federal government's four-year term, can weaken the federal government, because state governments have assigned seats in the Bundesratmarker, which must also approve many laws after passage by the Bundestagmarker (the federal parliament).

State elections are viewed as a barometer of support for the policies of the federal government. If the parties of the governing coalition lose support in successive state elections, those results may foreshadow political difficulties for the federal government. In the early 1990s, the opposition SPDcommanded a two-thirds majority in the Bundesrat, making it particularly difficult for the governing CDU/CSU-FDPcoalition to achieve the constitutional changes it sought; by 2003 the situation was the reverse, with an SPD-led government being severely hindered by a large CDU majority in the Bundesrat. This led to Konrad Adenauerand Gerhard Schröderlosing the federal chancellorshipin 1963 and 2005 respectively because their governments became unable to decisively act, thus losing popular support, all because of the efforts of the various state leaders in the Bundesrat in blocking legislation.

The powers of the state governments and legislatures in their own territories have been much diminished in recent decades due to ever-increasing federal legislation. A commission has been formed to examine the possibility of instituting a clearer separation of federal and state powers. The states, in particular, are responsible for cultural development, law enforcement and the educational system in its entirety (both primary and secondary schools, and the universities as well). In Germany, the military is a federal affair. Hence, the states have no armies.

Further subdivisions

The city-statesof Berlin and Hamburg are subdivided into boroughs. The state of Bremen consists of two urban districts, Bremenmarker and Bremerhavenmarker, which are not contiguous.In the other states there are the following subdivisions:


Landschaftsverbände ("area associations"): The most populous state of North Rhine-Westphalia is uniquely divided into two Landschaftsverbände, one for the Rhineland, one for Westphalia-Lippemarker.This was meant to ease the friction caused by uniting the two culturally quite different regions into a single state after World War II. The Landschaftsverbänderetain very little power today.

The constitution of Mecklenburg-Vorpommernmarker in §75 states the right of Mecklenburg and Vorpommern to form Landschaftsverbände, although these two constituting parts of the Land are not represented in the current administrative division.


Regierungsbezirke(governmental districts): The large states of Baden-Württemberg, Bavaria, Hesse, North Rhine-Westphalia and Saxony are divided into administrative regions, or Regierungsbezirke.In Rhineland-Palatinate, the Regierungsbezirkewere dissolved on January 1, 2000, in Saxony-Anhalt on January 1, 2004 and in Lower Saxony on January 1, 2005.


Kreise (administrative districts): Every state (except the city-states Berlinmarker, Hamburgmarker and Bremenmarker) consists of rural districts (Landkreise), and District-free Towns/Cities (Kreisfreie Städte, in Baden-Württemberg also called urban districts, Stadtkreise), cities which are districts in their own right.The state of Bremenmarker consists of two urban districts, while Berlin and Hamburg are states and urban districts at the same time.

There are 313 Landkreiseand 116 Kreisfreie Städte, making 429 districts altogether. Each consists of an elected council and an executive, who is chosen by either the council or the people, depending on the state, and whose duties are comparable to those of a county executive in the United Statesmarker, supervising local government administration.The Landkreisehave primary administrative functions in specific areas, such as highways, hospitals, and public utilities.


Ämter("offices" or "bureaus"): In some states there is an administrative unit between districts and municipalities. These units are called Ämter(singular Amt), Amtsgemeinden, Gemeindeverwaltungsverbände, Landgemeinden, Verbandsgemeinden, Verwaltungsgemeinschaftenor Kirchspiellandgemeinden.


Gemeinden("municipalities"): Every rural district and every Amt is subdivided into municipalities, while every urban district is a municipality in its own right. There are ( ) 12,141 municipalities, which are the smallest administrative units in Germany. Cities and towns are municipalities as well, which have city rights or town rights (Stadtrechte). Nowadays, this is mostly just the right to be called a city or town. However, in older times it included many privileges, such as the right to impose its own taxes or to allow industry only within city limits.

Gemeindenare ruled by elected councils and an executive, the mayor, who is chosen by either the council or the people, depending on the Bundesland. The "constitution" for the Gemeindenis created by the states and is uniform throughout a Bundesland(except for Bremen, which allows Bremerhaven to have its own constitution).

Gemeindenhave two major policy responsibilities. First, they administer programs authorized by the federal or state government. Such programs typically might relate to youth, schools, public health, and social assistance. Second, Article 28(2) of the Basic Law guarantees Gemeinden"the right to regulate on their own responsibility all the affairs of the local community within the limits set by law." Under this broad statement of competence, local governments can justify a wide range of activities. For instance, many municipalities develop and expand the economic infrastructure of their communities through the development of industrial parks.

Local authorities foster cultural activities by supporting local artists, building arts' centres, and by having fairs. Local government also provides public utilities, such as gas and electricity, as well as public transportation. The majority of the funding for municipalities is provided by higher levels of government rather than from taxes raised and collected directly by themselves.

In five of the German states, there are unincorporated areas, in many cases unpopulated forest and mountain areas, but also four Bavarian lakes that are not part of any municipality. As of January 1, 2005, there were 246 such areas, with a total area of 4167.66 km² or 1.2 percent of the total area of Germany. Only four unincorporated areas are populated, with an aggregate population of about 2000. The following table gives an overview.

Unincorporated areas in German states
State 01. Jan. 2004 01. Jan. 2000
Number Area in km² Number Area in km²
Bavariamarker 216 2725.06 262 2992.78
Lower Saxonymarker 23 949.16 25 1394.10
Hessemarker 4 327.05 4 327.05
Schleswig-Holsteinmarker 2 99.41 2 99.41
Baden-Württembergmarker 1 66.98 2 76.99
Total 246 4167.66 295 4890.33

The table shows that in 2000 the number of unincorporated areas was still 295, with a total area of 4890.33 km². Unincorporated areas are continually being incorporated into neighboring municipalities, wholly or partially, most frequently in Bavaria.

See also


  1. In 1949 the states of Baden, Württemberg-Baden and Württemberg-Hohenzollern joined the federation. These states were united in 1952 as the current state of Baden-Württemberg.
  2. Berlin has only officially been a full Bundesland since reunification, even though West Berlin was largely treated as a state of West Germany.

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