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Surrounding but excluding the national capital Berlin, Brandenburg is one of Germany's sixteen Bundesländer (federal states).
Lying in the east of the country, in its current form it is one of the new states created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germany and East Germany. The capital is Potsdam.
Historically Brandenburg was an independent state which grew to become the core of modern Germany (see below).
Brandenburg is bordered by Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the north, Poland in the east, Saxony in the south, Saxony-Anhalt in the west and Lower Saxony 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 Spree and the Havel. In the southeast there is a wetlands region called the Spreewald; it is the northernmost part of the Lausitz, where the Slavic people of the Sorbs still live. These areas are bilingual, i.e. German and Sorbian are both used.
See also: List of places in Brandenburg.
Brandenburg is divided into fourteen (rural) counties (Landkreise),
and four independent cities (Stadtkreise),
- Brandenburg an der Havel
- Frankfurt (Oder)
Historically, Brandenburg was a quasi-independent country and the core of the unified German state. It contained the future German capital Berlin and since 1618 both Brandenburg and Prussia, then Brandenburg-Prussia, were ruled by Hohenzollern dukes and later kings of Prussia. The Frankish Nuremberg, Ansbach and southern German Hohenzollern and the eastern European connections of Berlin and the prince-elector together were instrumental in the rise of that state.
Brandenburg is situated entirely in territory of Germania recorded by Tacitus in 98 AD. By 600 first groups of Slavic people arrived. In 948 Emperor Otto I the Great established German control over the now largely Slavic inhabitants of the area and founded the dioceses of Havelberg and Brandenburg; he died in 983. In the great uprising in 983 the Slavs wiped out German control from the territory of present day Brandenburg. The monasteries were buried, priests and Germans officials killed or expelled. The Slavic tribes living east of Elbe remained independent and pagan for the next 150 years.
In the beginning of the 12th century the Saxon German kings and emperors conquered the Slavic-inhabited lands of present-day Brandenburg. Many Slavic inhabitants survived the conquests and live there still today - Sorbs, Lusatians. The church brought bishoprics, which with their walled towns, afforded protection for the townspeople from attack. With the monks and bishops, the history of the town of Brandenburg, which in time became 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 Holy Roman Emperor Lothar II. For some time up until the 15th century, some part of the area that would become Brandenburg was inhabited by the Slavic Wends, who still make up a part of the area's modern population.
Albert's control of the region was nominal for several decades, but he engaged in a variety of campaigns against the Wends, as well as more diplomatic efforts which saw his control become more real by the middle of the century. In 1150, he formally inherited Brandenburg from its last Wendish ruler, Pribislav. Albert, and his descendants the Ascanians, then made considerable progress in Christianizing and cultivating the lands. There was never any distinction made by any of the German rulers and the Slavic and German tribes intermarried.
In 1320 the Brandenburg Ascanian line came to an end, and from 1323 until 1373 Brandenburg was under the control of the Wittelsbach family, better known as rulers of Bavaria. After a period of rule by the Imperial Luxembourg dynasty, however, the margravate was granted 1415 by the Emperor Sigismund to the house of Hohenzollern, which would rule until the end of World War I. From 1356 until the Empire's end in 1806, the Margrave of Brandenburg was also one of the electors of the Holy Roman Empire.
Brandenburg was one of the German states to switch 1539 to Protestantism in the wake of the Reformation, and generally did quite well in the century following, as the dynasty expanded its lands to include the Duchy of Prussia in 1618 and along the lower Rhine Cleves (1614) and elsewhere. The result was a sprawling, disconnected country that was in poor shape to defend itself during the Thirty Years' War.
Towards the end of that devastating conflict and after, however, Brandenburg (and its successor states) enjoyed a string of talented rulers who gradually maneuvered their country towards the heights of power in Europe. The first of these was Frederick William I, the so-called "Great Elector", who worked tirelessly to rebuild and consolidate the nation. He moved the capital from the town of Brandenburg to Potsdam.
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 formal boundaries of the Holy Roman Empire, Frederick assumed (as Frederick I) the title of "King in Prussia" (1701), basing this promotion from margrave on his title to what were, in actuality, vast but less agriculturally valuable stretches of sandy ground. Brandenburg was still the most important portion of the kingdom (and the state was often referred to informally as Brandenburg-Prussia) but for the purposes of accuracy, the continuation of this history can be found at Prussia.
The present state of Brandenburg was established after German reunification in 1990. In 1995 the governments of Berlin and Brandenburg proposed to merge the states in order to form a new state with the name Berlin-Brandenburg. The merger was rejected in a plebiscite in 1996: While West Berliners and Brandeburgers living close to Berlin voted for a merger, East Berliners and Brandenburgers living farther away from Berlin voted against. Tallied by states, Berliners voted for the merger by a small margin and Brandenburgers voted against (also by a small margin.)
List of Minister-presidents of Brandenburg
- 1945 - 1949: Karl Steinhoff
- 1949 - 1952: Rudi Jahn
- 1990 - 2002: Manfred Stolpe (SPD)
- since 2002: Matthias Platzeck (SPD)
Brandenburg is served by the same three airports that serve Berlin. They are Tegel International Airport, Tempelhof International Airport, and Schönefeld International Airport. Schönefeld Airport will eventually become Berlin Brandenburg International Airport, while Tegel and Tempelhof will close after BBI is established.