From Metapedia
Jump to: navigation, search
Brandenburg within the FRG today.

Brandenburg is today a state in the northeast of the Federal Republic of Germany. Brandenburg-an-der-Havel served as the capital of the Margraviate of Brandenburg until replaced by Berlin in 1417. The Margraviate of Brandenburg was a major principality of the Holy Roman Empire from 1150 to 1806, which played a pivotal role in the history of Prussia, Germany and Central Europe. Brandenburg developed out of the Northern Marches of the scattered lands where Slavic tribes had settled, including the Wends.


Roman Germania (Germania Magna)
Brandenburg, Jerichow Premonstratensian church founded 1144.
March of Brandenburg in 1320; The Mark retained its stability even in the Brandenburg Interregnum from 1319/1320 to 1323 after their extinction (at that time there was no recognized elector), so that the Mark was made part of the central area of ​​the Electorate of Brandenburg (since 25 December 1356) by the Hohenzollerns who followed in the 15th century and Brandenburg-Prussia (personal union between the Margraviate of Brandenburg and Duchy of Prussia) from 27 August 1618 onwards. Since 1701, it belonged to the Kingdom of Prussia and finally to the German Empire from 1871 to 1918.
Growth during the Holy Roman Empire
Province Brandenburg (red), within the Kingdom of Prussia (blue), within the German Empire

The Romans gave the eastern borders of Germania as the river Vistula, and the eastern marches had scattered settlements of Goths, Celts, and others around that time. For reasons unknown they vanished, and were slowly replaced by Slav tribes who had taken part in the Slavic migrations from their natural homeland in the Pripet region of what is today Belarus and eastern Ukraine. This eventually led to clashes, and between 928 and 982 the rulers of East Francia and the Roman-German Emperors attempted to secure their eastern frontiers in conflicts with the Slavs.

Marcher territories were organised, the construction of castles and foundations of Bishoprics being used to bolster their territorial claims. To counter a simultaneous threat from the Slavs and Magyars, in 928-9 King Henry I (Henry the Fowler) undertook a campaign against the Slav Havellers (a tribe in Havelland) and conquered their main fort of Brennaburg (Brandenburg). By the time of his death all the tribes between the Elbe and Oder were paying tribute to the German King.

At the Magdeburg Assembly of Princes (Fürstentag) in 948, the Bishoprics of Brandenburg and Havelberg were established, and in 968, Emperor Otto the Great founded the Bishoprics of Oldenburg (in Holstein), Meissen, Merseburg, and Zeitz. Magdeburg was elevated to an Archdiocese which not only controlled these new sees, but also Brandenburg and Havelburg. In 983 there was a major Slav uprising by numerous tribes in concert, and the Redars (from the Usedom area) attacked the settlement at Havelburg, killing the small German garrison. In 993, King Otto III issued a charter in Merseburg granting the localities of Potsdam and Geltow to the abbey of Quedlinburg.[1]

In 1028, King Mieszko II of Poland raided eastern Saxony and laid it waste, inflicting heavy damage on the tribal areas of the Slav Lusatians between the Elbe and the Oder and ravaged the Haveller area even more gravely. A century later, on his second mission to Pomerania, Bishop Otto of Bamberg traveled by boat down the Elbe and reached Havelberg, where he found a reversion to paganism. From 1130 to 1320 with support from the Margraves, Holy Roman Emperor Lothar III instituted a political and ecclesiastical policy of moving eastwards to occupy lands held by non-Christians. From 1134 the Ascanian dynasty came to prominence: Albert 'The Bear' was the only son of Otto, Count of Ballenstedt, and Eilika, daughter of Magnus Billung, Duke of Saxony. He inherited his father's valuable estates in northern Saxony in 1123, and on his mother's death, in 1142, succeeded to one-half of the lands of the house of Billung.

Albert was a loyal vassal of his relation, Lothar I, Duke of Saxony, from whom, about 1123, he received Lusatia, to the east; after Lothar became King of the Germans, he accompanied him on a disastrous expedition to Bohemia against the upstart, Soběslav I, Duke of Bohemia in 1126 at the Battle of Kulm (de). Albert was enfeoffed by Roman-German Emperor Lothar at the Imperial Assembly in Halberstadt with the Nordmark (the territory of today's Altmark), formerly Haveller territory. Albert and his successors extended their possessions and developed their economy. German peasants and burghers were settled in the new sparsely populated eastern Marches. Existing Slav settlements fell under German law. In 1140 Bishop Wigger of Brandenburg founded an abbey for Premonstratensian canons in Leitzkau in the Nordmark, and another at Jerichow four years later. In 1147, the founder of the Cistercian Order, Bernard of Clairvaux, and Pope Eugene III, called for a crusade against the Wends. Princes and knights from northeast Germany joined this as did some Danes and Poles.[2]

In 1150, Albert 'The Bear' (Albrecht I. von Brandenburg) took over Brandenburg fort and provided it with a garrison, styling himself Margrave of Brandenburg. Thus began the systematic further settlement of the Elbe-Havel-Spree rivers basin by nobility, burghers, and peasants from the Schwabengau (Harz) area, the Netherlands, the Rhineland, and Westphalia. In 1160, the foundation stone for a cathedral was laid on what has become known as the cathedral island of Brandenburg. Five years later Havelberg Cathedral was consecrated in the presence of Albert 'The Bear' and his sons. Up until at least 1200 new monasteries were built, including those at Zinna, Lehnin (the family monastery of the Ascanians) and Arendsee. About 1200, the Teutonic Order obtained lands in the Teltow district near Potsdam and established a fortified base (Tempelhof) and settlements at Mariendorf, Marienfelde, and Richardsdorf (now Rixdorf-Newkolln).[3]

March/Margraviate of Brandenburg (1157–1806)

Albert von Hohenzollern, Margrave of Brandenburg-Ansbach, Duke of Prussia.

The Mark Brandenburg, a territory in the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation, came into being as part of the high medieval development of the state, which was previously known as the German East Settlement, but which was also part of a pan-European process in which the periphery of Europe became part of the Christian-feudal organized center (between the Elbe and the Pyrenees, with the main axis between Milan and London) was acculturated. Albrecht the Bear became Duke of Saxony in 1138 and, with the control of the Mark Brandenburg in 1150, the first Margrave in the formerly Slavic settlement area. Taking the title "Margrave in Brandenburg", he pressed the crusade against the Wends, extended the area of his mark, encouraged Dutch and German settlement in the Elbe-Havel region (Ostsiedlung), established bishoprics under his protection, and so became the founder of the Margraviate of Brandenburg in 1157, which his heirs — the House of Ascania (Askanier) — held until the line died out in 1320.

The northward expansion of the Mark was prevented by an alliance between Pomerania and Lübeck, who were concerned about the rapid rise of the Ascanians to a great power. The acquisition of Pomerania including Danzig was only successful for a short time (1306-1308); Lower Lusatia, bought in 1303, could only be held until the end of the Ascanian rule in 1319, as well as the Marches of Landsberg and Meissen. Despite the costly campaigns (e.g. in the North German Margrave War), the breakthrough to the Baltic Sea coast did not succeed; the resistance of the coastal residents, especially the Hanseatic cities and the Teutonic Order (Pomeranian) was too great. Even the acquisitions south of the Mittelmark (the Landsberg, Lausitz and Meissen brands) could only be temporarily wrested from the Wettins.

The Wittelsbach family from Bavaria tried in vain to gain a foothold in the Mark. The House of Luxembourg also failed to make Brandenburg a central link in a Luxembourg empire. In the meantime, the area was pledged to Jobst von Moravia, before the Neumark, the eastern part of the Margraviate of Brandenburg, was sold to the Teutonic Order in 1402. Their own mismanagement forced the order to pledge the Neumark back to the Brandenburg Elector Frederick II of the House of Hohenzollern as early as 1454. In 1463, Frederick II finally acquired the Neumark for 40,000 guilders. After the death of Hans von Küstrin and his brother in 1571, there were no male descendants entitled to inherit and the Neumark was reunited with the Electorate of Brandenburg. The Neumark was subsequently administered by the bailiffs Detlof von Winterfeld, Commander of Schivelbein, and later by his son Georg von Winterfeld, Lord Master of the Order of St. John, also Commander of Schivelbein.

Therefore since 30 April 1415, with Frederick I becoming the first Elector of Brandenburg at the Council of Constance under the King of Germany Sigismund and the Antipope John XXIII, the Hohenzollerns had been able to firmly establish their rule in Brandenburg. By acquiring Kleve, Mark, Ravensberg and Ravenstein in the west and the Duchy of Prussia in the east, they extended their rule far beyond the original Mark of Brandenburg. Tangermünde, the city on the Elbe, became the first Hohenzollern residence in Brandenburg.

Electorate of Brandenburg

Its ruling margraves were established as prestigious prince-electors in the Golden Bull of 1356, allowing them to vote in the election of the Roman-German Emperor. The state thus became additionally known as Electoral Brandenburg or the Electorate of Brandenburg (Kurbrandenburg or Kurfürstentum Brandenburg).


Following the death of Pomerelia's Duke Swantopolk in 1266, his sons fought each other bitterly. One, Wartislaw, calling himself 'Duke of Danzig', enjoyed the support of the Teutonic Knights. His brother, Duke Mestwin, however, offered Danzig to the Margrave of Brandenburg, Otto IV, if he would support him. In 1269, Otto and his co-ruling brothers Conrad and John II accepted Duke Mestwin II of Pomerelia as their vassal (Treaty of Arnswalde). Brandenburg, welcoming the opportunity to extend its rule to the mouth of the Vistula, occupied Danzig in 1271. When Mestwin regretted his bargain, in 1278 he obtained the help of Duke Boleslav of Great Poland, reconquered Danzig, punishing severely the good burghers and noblemen who had done homage to the Margrave.

Upon Mestwin's death in 1294 the first personal union took place between Pomerelia (Pommerellen) and the Duke of Poland under Mestwin's successor Przemyslav. This was short-lived, and upon his death two years later, the several contestants for the rule of Pomerelia called upon their neighbours, Brandenburg and the Teutonic Order, for assistance.[4] The Order considered the capture of the adjoining territories to the west would allow them to join their Prussian territories with the Newmark (which they had purchased from Brandenburg), and Germany proper.

In 1308, the Margrave of Brandenburg, Otto IV,[5] a nephew of Bohemia's King Ottokar II, launched a new attack upon Pomerelia and its capital, Danzig. Realising the Brandenburgers were unable to win or at least consolidate it without them, the Order now drove out the Brandenburgers, captured Danzig and also Dirschau, and ultimately annexed Pomerelia.[6] From 1226-1525 the Order would conquer and govern Prussia as an independent theocratic state.[7]


Main article: House of Hohenzollern

In the 15th century, Brandenburg came under the rule of the House of Hohenzollern, which later also became the ruler of the Duchy of Prussia and established Brandenburg-Prussia. In 1618, the Prussian Hohenzollern were extinct in the male line, and so the Polish fief of Prussia was passed on to the senior Brandenburg Hohenzollern line, the ruling margraves and prince-electors of Brandenburg, who thereafter ruled Brandenburg (a fief of the Holy Roman Empire), and Ducal Prussia (a Polish fief), in personal union. This legal contradiction made a cross-border real union impossible; however, in practice, Brandenburg and Ducal Prussia were more and more ruled as one, and colloquially referred to as Brandenburg-Prussia, the core of the later Kingdom of Prussia.

Brandenburg-Prussia (1618–1701)

Brandenburg-Prussia (German: Brandenburg-Preußen) is the historiographic denomination for the early modern realm of the Brandenburgian Hohenzollerns between 1618 and 1701. Based in the Electorate of Brandenburg, the main branch of the Hohenzollern intermarried with the branch ruling the Duchy of Prussia, and secured succession upon the latter's extinction in the male line in 1618. Another consequence of intermarriage was the incorporation of the lower Rhenish principalities of Cleves, Mark and Ravensberg after the Treaty of Xanten in 1614.

The elector John Sigismund (reigned 1600–20) married Anna, daughter of Albert Frederick of Prussia, thereby further strengthening his claim to that duchy, which he inherited in 1618. John Sigismund also acquired Kleve, Mark, and Ravensberg, which became the nucleus of Hohenzollern power in western Germany. During the electorate of George William (1620–40), Brandenburg at first sought neutrality in the Thirty Years’ War (1618–48) but nevertheless suffered invasions and long occupation by the Swedes. His son Frederick William, the Great Elector (1640–88), freed the electorate from them and reestablished order. Frederick William acquired eastern Pomerania, the secularized bishoprics of Halberstadt, Minden, and Kammin, and the archbishopric of Magdeburg. Through these territorial additions and his political and military activities, Frederick William became the leading Protestant prince in Germany and established Brandenburg-Prussia as an important European state with a sound fiscal basis, effective army, and bureaucracy. At his death on May 9, 1688, the state of Brandenburg, with Prussia behind it, was inferior to Austria alone among the principalities of the empire. The elector was regarded as the head of German Protestantism, his lands now covered more than 40,000 square miles (100,000 square km), and his revenue had multiplied. His army, still small but unsurpassed for its effective training, gave him the place formerly held by Sweden in the political and military combinations of the period. The new elector, Frederick III (Frederick I of Prussia), reaped the results of his father’s policy under more favorable conditions. He assisted William of Orange to make his descent on England in 1688, allied himself with other German princes against Louis XIV of France, and afterward fought on the side of the Holy Roman Empire against both France and Turkey. Frederick’s chief adviser about this time was Eberhard Danckelmann (1643–1722), whose services in continuing the reforming work of the Great Elector were very valuable; but, having made many enemies, he fell from power in 1697 and was imprisoned for several years. The most important work of Frederick III was to crown the labors of his father by securing the title of king of Prussia for himself and his descendants. Broached in 1692, this matter was brought up again in 1698, when the Holy Roman emperor Leopold I and his ministers, faced with the prospect of a fight over the succession to the Spanish throne, were eager to conciliate Brandenburg. It was at length decided that the kingly title should be taken from Prussia rather than from Brandenburg because the former country lay outside the empire, and in return Frederick promised to assist Leopold with 8,000 men. The coronation ceremony when Frederick made himself “king in Prussia” took place at Königsberg on January 18, 1701. In his later years Frederick was largely preoccupied with participation in the War of the Spanish Succession and with watching his country’s interests in the vicissitudes of the Great Northern War. The territorial additions to Brandenburg during this reign were few and unimportant, but the state’s comparative wealth and prosperity enabled the elector to do a good deal for education and spend some money on buildings. In 1694 the University of Halle was founded; academies for arts and sciences were established; and Berlin was greatly improved.[8]

Province of Brandenburg

From 1815 to 1947, succeeding the March/Margraviate of Brandenburg, the post-HRE territory of Brandenburg became a province of Prussia. The margraviate remained a constituent part of Prussia, until after the Napoleonic Wars and the 1815 Congress of Vienna the kingdom's administration was divided into ten provinces. Most of the Margraviate's territory was incorporated into the new Province of Brandenburg, most notably the Mittelmark between the rivers Elbe and Oder and the Neumark region east of the Oder River. However, the Altmark on the western bank of the Elbe was incorporated into the Prussian Province of Saxony. The Province of Brandenburg (as of 21 March 1939 officially Mark Brandenburg) also encompassed the territory of Lower Lusatia (where Cottbus had been a Brandenburgian exclave since the 15th century) as well as the area around Belzig and Jüterbog, all annexed from the Kingdom of Saxony for her alliance with Napoleon. Following the abolition of Prussia after World War II, Brandenburg was established as a state by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany, and became a state of the German Democratic Republic in 1949. From 1947 to 1952, it became the "State of Brandenburg".

The state was originally formed as administrative division Province of March Brandenburg (Provinz Mark Brandenburg) by the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD) in July 1945, a re-establishment of the Prussian Province of Brandenburg, excluding the Eastern parts behind the Oder–Neisse line to Poland. With the abolition of Prussia in February 1947, it was named State of March Brandenburg (Land Mark Brandenburg) but in June 1947 the SMAD forced to change the name to State of Brandenburg.[9]

In 1880, the population was 3,389,155, in 1900 3,108,554 and in 1910 4,092,616. The province's population was significantly reduced both in 1881 by the de facto separation of the city of Berlin and in 1920 by the expansion and official separation of Berlin.


  • Potsdam (1815–1827)
  • Berlin (1827–1843)
  • Potsdam (1843–1918)
  • Berlin (1918–1946/47)
    • Greater Berlin had been independent from the province since 1 October 1920, but remained the seat of the provincial government.

See also

External links



  1. Streidt, Gert, and Feieraben, Peter, editors, Prussia: Art and Architecture, Könemann publishing, Köln, 1999, p.14, ISBN: 3-8290-2590-4.
  2. Streidt & Feieraben, 1999, p.15.
  3. Streidt & Feieraben, 1999, p.15.
  4. Mason, John Brown, The Danzig Dilemma, Stanford University Press, London, Oxford University Press, 1946, p.16-17.
  5. Otto IV, Margrave of Brandenburg-Stendal
  6. The Shorter Cambridge Mediaeval History by C. W. Previté-Orton, vol.ii, Cambridge University Press, 1952, p.746-7.
  7. Streidt & Feieraben, 1999, p.15.
  8. Encyclopedia Britannica: Brandenburg
  9. Land Brandenburg (1947–1952)