Anhalt än´hält [key], former state, c.900 sq mi (2,330 sq km), central Germany, surrounded by the former Prussian provinces of Saxony and Brandenburg. Dessau, the capital, and Köthen were the chief cities. Nonmountainous except for the outliers of the lower Harz Mts. in the west, it was drained by the Elbe, Mulde, and Saale rivers. Until 1918, Anhalt was ruled by one of the most ancient houses of Germany, issued from a son of Albert the Bear (12th cent.); it was divided, at most times, into several principalities held by various branches of the family. Reunited into a single duchy in 1863, it joined the German Empire in 1871, became a republic in 1918, and joined the Weimar Republic. Celebrated members of the house of Anhalt were Leopold I, prince of Anhalt-Dessau, and Sophie of Anhalt-Zerbst, who was empress of Russia as Catherine II.
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