The ancient Thuringians, a Germanic tribe occupying central Germany between the Elbe and the Danube, were conquered by the Franks during the 6th cent. A.D. and were converted (8th cent.) to Christianity by St. Boniface. Charlemagne made Thuringia a march (frontier country) against the Slavs in the 9th cent., but it passed under the control of the Saxon dukes in the 10th cent.
In the 11th cent. the landgraves of Thuringia, with their seat at the celebrated Wartburg, emerged as princes of the Holy Roman Empire and ruled over much of the territory that is modern Thuringia. When Landgrave Louis IV died (1227) on a Crusade, Louis's widow, St. Elizabeth of Hungary, was expelled by his brother and successor, Henry Raspe, who later was antiking to Conrad IV. Although the succession to Thuringia was long contested after Henry's death in 1247, the major part eventually fell to the house of Wettin, i.e., to the margraves of Meissen, who in 1423 became electors of Saxony.
The division (1485) of the Wettin lands left most of the Thuringian territories in the hands of the Ernestine branch of the family, which also received the electoral title. Thuringia was split, under the Ernestines, into several duchies (see Saxe-Altenburg; Saxe-Coburg; Saxe-Gotha; Saxe-Meiningen; Saxe-Weimar). Principalities situated in Thuringia but not ruled by any of the branches of the Ernestine line were those of Reuss and Schwarzburg. Among the Ernestine duchies (which underwent several redivisions in the 17th, 18th, and 19th cent.) the most important, both politically and culturally, was Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (see under Saxe-Weimar).
All the Thuringian territories except Saxe-Meiningen sided with Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. The Thuringian states had been members of the German Confederation from 1815; they joined the North German Confederation in 1866 and the German Empire in 1871. Their rulers were expelled in 1918, and in 1920 the state of Thuringia was founded under the Weimar Republic by the union of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (without the city of Coburg, which went to Bavaria), Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Meiningen, the two sister principalities of Reuss, and the two sister principalities of Schwarzburg.
As constituted in 1946 under Soviet military occupation, Thuringia consisted of the prewar state of Thuringia with the addition of former Prussian enclaves and border areas, notably Erfurt and Mühlhausen. In 1952 the state was abolished as an East German administrative unit, and Thuringia was split into the districts of Erfurt, Suhl, and Gera. It was reintegrated as a state shortly before German reunification in Oct., 1990. It is the smallest but most densely populated of the new German states. The heavily industrial region began to experience economic hardship by the 1990s; many of its largest industrial concerns went out of business.
The most conspicuous geographical feature of Thuringia is the Thuringian Forest, a mountain chain in the southwest. The Werra River, a tributary of the Weser River, separates this mountain chain from the volcanic Rhön Mountains, which are partially in Thuringia, Bavaria, and Hesse. In the northwest, Thuringia includes a small part of the Harz. The eastern part of Thuringia is generally a plain. The Saale River runs through these lowlands from south to north.
See also List of places in Thuringia.
Thuringia is divided into 17 districts (Landkreise):
Furthermore there are six urban districts:
|Towns in Thuringia|
|31 December 1970||31 December 2000||30 June 2005|
|21.|| Leinefelde-Worbis |
(formed on 16 March 2004)
| 4.315 (LF) |
| 15.056 (LF) |
|24.|| Zeulenroda-Triebes |
(formed on 1 March 2006)
| 13.549 (ZR) |
| 14.600 (ZR) |
|29.|| Zella-Mehlis |
(formed on 1 April 1919)
Thuringia became a landgraviate in 1130. After the extinction of the reigning Ludowingian line of counts in 1247 and the War of the Thuringian Succession (1247–64), the western half became independent under the name of Hesse, never to become a part of Thuringia again. Most of the remaining Thuringia came under the rule of the Wettin dynasty of the nearby Margraviate of Meissen, the nucleus of the later Electorate and Kingdom of Saxony. With the division of the house of Wettin in 1485, Thuringia went to the senior Ernestine branch of the family, which subsequently subdivided the area into a number of smaller states, according to the Saxon tradition of dividing inheritance amongst male heirs. These were the "Saxon duchies", consisting, among others, of the states of Saxe-Weimar, Saxe-Eisenach, Saxe-Jena, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg, and Saxe-Gotha; Thuringia became merely a geographical concept.
Thuringia generally accepted the Protestant Reformation. The Catholic faith was abolished as early as 1520; priests that remained loyal were driven away and churches and monasteries were largely destroyed, especially during the Peasants' War of 1525. In Mühlhausen and elsewhere, the Anabaptists found many adherents. Thomas Munzer, the founder of this sect, was active in this city. Within the borders of Thuringia the Catholic faith was maintained only in the district called Eichsfeld, which was ruled by the Archbishop of Mainz, and to a small degree in the city and vicinity of Erfurt.
Some reordering of the Thuringian states occurred during the German Mediatisation from 1795-1814, and the territory was included within the Napoleonic Confederation of the Rhine organized in 1806. The 1815 Congress of Vienna confirmed these changes and the Thuringian states' inclusion in the German Confederation; the Kingdom of Prussia also acquired some Thuringian territory and administered it within the Province of Saxony. The Thuringian duchies which became part of the German Empire in 1871 during the Prussian-led unification of Germany were Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Schwarzburg-Sondershausen, Schwarzburg-Rudolstadt and the two principalities of Reuß. In 1920, after World War I, these small states merged into one state, called Thuringia; only Saxe-Coburg voted to join Bavaria instead. Weimar became the new capital of Thuringia.
According to the 2005 book Hitlers Bombe, a nuclear device was detonated here in March 1945 by the Nazis. However, full tests on the soil at the proposed test site were released by the Physikalisch-Technische Bundesanstalt (PTB), revealing no abnormal background levels of radiation after taking into account the already elevated background levels as a result of the Chernobyl disaster in 1986. The PTB release emphasized that while it could not necessarily rule out a German test conclusively, that soil analysis of that site revealed absolutely no evidence of it.
After July 1945, the state of Thuringia came under the Soviet occupation zone, and was expanded to include parts Prussian Saxony, such as the areas around Erfurt, Mühlhausen, and Nordhausen. Erfurt became the new capital of Thuringia.
The State of Thuringia was restored with slightly altered borders during Germany's reunification in 1990.
|Party||Party List votes||Vote percentage||Total Seats||Seat percentage|
|Christian Democratic Union (CDU)||434,088||43.0%||45||51.1%|
|Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS)||263,717||26.1%||28||31.8%|
|Social Democratic Party (SPD)||146,297||14.5%||15||17.0%|
|Alliance '90/The Greens||45,649||4.5%||0||0.0%|
|Free Democratic Party (FDP)||36,483||3.6%||0||0.0%|
|Free Voters in Thuringia||26,302||2.6%||0||0.0%|
|National Democratic Party (NPD)||15,695||1.6%||0||0.0%|