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Prussia

Introduction

Prussia (prŭshˈə) [key], Ger. Preussen, former state, the largest and most important of the German states. Berlin was the capital. The chief member of the German Empire (1871–1918) and a state of the Weimar Republic (1919–33), Prussia occupied more than half of all Germany and the major part of N Germany. Before 1919 it consisted of 13 provinces: Berlin, Brandenburg, East Prussia (separated after 1919 from the rest of Prussia by the Polish Corridor), Hanover, Hesse-Nassau (see Hesse), Hohenzollern (a Prussian enclave between Württemberg and Baden in SW Germany), Pomerania, Rhine Province, Saxony, Schleswig-Holstein, Upper Silesia and Lower Silesia, and Westphalia. (Grenzmark Posen–West Prussia was sometimes considered a 14th province.) Prussia surrounded several smaller German states and stretched from the borders of the Netherlands, Belgium, and Luxembourg in the west to those of Lithuania and Poland in the east, and from the Baltic Sea, Denmark, and the North Sea in the north to the Main River, the Thuringian Forest, and the Sudetes Mts. in the south.

The region that was Prussia is made up mainly of low-lying land, drained by several rivers, notably the Rhine; the Weser; the Oder; and the Elbe, which divided the state into roughly equal eastern and western parts. After Berlin, the largest cities of the area were Cologne, Breslau (Wrocław), Essen, Frankfurt, Düsseldorf, Hanover, Dortmund, Magdeburg, and Königsberg (Kaliningrad). The region also included the gigantic industrial Ruhr district.

Industrially and politically the most prominent state of Germany prior to World War II, Prussia was partitioned among the four Allied occupation zones after 1945. In 1947 the Allied Control Council for Germany formally abolished the state of Prussia. This action not only confirmed an accomplished fact; it was also intended as a blow against the spirit of German militarism and aggression, long held to be connected with Prussia. Most of the former Prussian provinces became part of the new states of the Federal Republic of Germany and of the German Democratic Republic (now reunified). The USSR annexed the northern part of East Prussia; Poland acquired the rest of East Prussia, as well as all Prussian territory E of the Oder and Neisse rivers.

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The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.

See more Encyclopedia articles on: German Political Geography

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