|pop. density:||87 people/km²|
|Minister-President:||Matthias Platzeck[?] (SPD)|
|Ruling party:||SPD/CDU coalition|
Surrounding but excluding the national capital Berlin, Brandenburg is one of Germany's sixteen Bundesländer (federal states). Lying in the east of the country, it is one of the new states created in 1990 upon the reunification of the former West Germany and East Germany. It has an area of 29,475 km² and 2.6 million inhabitants. The capital is Potsdam.
Brandenburg is surrounding the city of Berlin. It is bounded 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.
Administration Brandenburg is divided into fourteen Kreise (districts):
Furthermore there are four independent towns, which don't belong to any district:
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. Berlin and the Holy Roman Empire Elector was the engine that drove the rise of that state.
In the beginning of the 10th century the Germanic peoples advanced east to conquer the land inhabited for centuries by Slavic lands lying between the Elbe (Laba) and Odra rivers . Large numbers of original slavic inhabitants survived the conquests and live there until today - Sorbs, Lusatians, Pomeranians. The church brought bishoprics, which with their walled towns, afforded protection for the townspeople from attack. With the monks and bishops started recorded history in the town of Brandenburg, that should grow to the realm of Brandenburg.
For some time up until the 11th 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. 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.
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 (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 the German reunification in 1990. In 1995 the governments of Berlin and Brandenburg decided to merge the states in order to form a new state with the name Berlin-Brandenburg. This resolution was surprisingly rejected in a plebiscite in 1996: While the Berliners agreed, the Brandenburgers opposed to it by the majority. So the two states will remain separate.
For the state's official website, see http://www.brandenburg.de/