[thoo-rin-jee-uh, -juh]
Thuringia, Ger. Thüringen, state (1994 pop. 2,533,000), 6,273 sq mi (16,251 sq km), central Germany. It is bordered on the south by Bavaria, on the east by Saxony, on the north by Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony, and on the west by Hesse. The region of Thuringia extends to the foot of the Harz Mts. in the north and is crossed by the Thuringian Forest, Ger. Thüringer Wald, which stretches from the Werra River in the west to the Thüringer Saale River in the southeast and rises to an altitude of 3,222 ft (982 m) in the Grosser Beerberg. Erfurt (the capital), Weimar, Jena, Gotha, Eisenach, Gera, Altenburg, Mühlhausen, and Suhl are the chief cities.


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 Free State of Thuringia (Freistaat Thüringen) is located in central Germany. It has an area of and 2.29 million inhabitants, making it the sixth smallest by area and the fifth smallest by population of Germany's sixteen Bundesländer (federal states). The capital is Erfurt.


Thuringia borders on (from the northwest and clockwise) the German states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, Saxony, Bavaria and Hesse. The ridges of the western Harz Mountains divide the region from Lower Saxony on the north-west, while the eastern Harz similarly separates Thuringia from the state of Saxony-Anhalt to the north-east. To the south and southwest, the Thuringian Forest effectively separates the ancient region of Franconia, now the northern part of Bavaria, from the rolling plains of most of Thuringia. The central Harz range extends southwards along the western side into the northwest corner of the Thuringian Forest region, making Thuringia a lowland basin of rolling plains nearly surrounded by ancient somewhat-difficult mountains. To the west across the mountains and south is the drainage basin of the Rhine River.

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.

The geographic center of the Federal Republic is located in Thuringia, near the municipality of Niederdorla.

See also List of places in Thuringia.

Thuringia is divided into 17 districts (Landkreise):

  1. Altenburger Land
  2. Eichsfeld
  3. Gotha
  4. Greiz
  5. Hildburghausen
  6. Ilm-Kreis

  1. Kyffhäuserkreis
  2. Nordhausen
  3. Saale-Holzland
  4. Saale-Orla
  5. Saalfeld-Rudolstadt
  6. Schmalkalden-Meiningen
  1. Sömmerda
  2. Sonneberg
  3. Unstrut-Hainich
  4. Wartburgkreis
  5. Weimarer Land

Furthermore there are six urban districts:

  1. Erfurt
  2. Eisenach
  3. Gera
  4. Jena
  5. Suhl
  6. Weimar


Towns in Thuringia
position town inhabitants district
31 December 1970 31 December 2000 30 June 2005
1. Erfurt 192.679 200.564 202.590 independent city
2. Gera 106.841 112.835 104.737 independent city
3. Jena 85.169 99.893 102.201 independent city
4. Weimar 63.985 62.425 64.361 independent city
5. Gotha 57.256 48.376 47.045 Gotha
6. Eisenach 50.059 44.442 43.858 independent city
7. Nordhausen 42.018 45.633 43.781 Nordhausen
8. Suhl 28.177 48.025 43.202 independent city
9. Altenburg 47.497 41.290 38.203 Altenburger Land
10. Mühlhausen 46.135 38.695 37.480 Unstrut-Hainich-Kreis
11. Saalfeld 31.048 29.511 28.148 Saalfeld-Rudolstadt
12. Ilmenau 19.634 27.176 26.713 Ilm-Kreis
13. Arnstadt 27.368 27.220 25.828 Ilm-Kreis
14. Rudolstadt 30.087 27.528 25.584 Saalfeld-Rudolstadt
15. Apolda 29.754 25.899 24.684 Weimarer Land
16. Greiz 39.424 26.177 24.007 Greiz
17. Sonneberg 29.811 24.837 23.928 Sonneberg
18. Sondershausen 22.195 23.088 21.718 Kyffhäuserkreis
19. Meiningen 24.876 22.240 21.642 Schmalkalden-Meiningen
20. Sömmerda 15.959 21.977 20.885 Sömmerda
21. Leinefelde-Worbis
(formed on 16 March 2004)
4.315 (LF)
3.401 (WO)
15.056 (LF)
5.497 (WO)
20.816 Eichsfeld
22. Bad Langensalza 16.813 19.917 18.760 Unstrut-Hainich-Kreis
23. Schmalkalden 14.527 18.551 17.893 Schmalkalden-Meiningen
24. Zeulenroda-Triebes
(formed on 1 March 2006)
13.549 (ZR)
4.790 (TR)
14.600 (ZR)
4.230 (TR)
17.702 Greiz
25. Heiligenstadt 12.464 17.291 17.175 Eichsfeld
26. Bad Salzungen 11.466 17.086 16.551 Wartburgkreis
27. Pößneck 19.547 14.341 13.592 Saale-Orla-Kreis
28. Schmölln 13.968 13.193 12.693 Altenburger
29. Zella-Mehlis
(formed on 1 April 1919)
17.136 13.036 12.355 Schmalkalden-Meiningen
30. Hildburghausen 10.652 12.466 12.351 Hildburghausen
31. Eisenberg 13.859 11.764 11.489 Saale-Holzland-Kreis
32. Waltershausen 14.219 11.725 11.307 Gotha


Named after the Thuringii tribe who occupied it ca. AD 300, Thuringia came under Frankish domination in the 6th century, forming a part of the subsequent Holy Roman Empire.

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.

In 1952, the German Democratic Republic dissolved its states, and created districts (Bezirke) instead. The three districts that shared the territory of Thuringia were based in Erfurt, Gera and Suhl.

The State of Thuringia was restored with slightly altered borders during Germany's reunification in 1990.


List of Minister-presidents of Thüringen

  1. 1920 - 1921: Arnold Paulssen (DDP)
  2. 1921 - 1923: August Frölich (SPD)
  3. 1924 - 1928: Richard Leutheußer (DVP)
  4. 1928 - 1929: Karl Riedel (DVP)
  5. 1929 : Arnold Paulssen (DDP)
  6. 1930 - 1932: Erwin Baum (Landbund)
  7. 1932 - 1933: Fritz Sauckel (NSDAP)
  8. 1933 - 1945: Willy Marschler (NSDAP)
  9. 1945: Hermann Brill (SPD)
  10. 1945 - 1947: Rudolf Paul (no party, then LDPD)
  11. 1947 - 1952: Werner Eggerath (SED)
  12. 1990 - 1992: Josef Duchac (CDU)
  13. 1992 - 2003: Bernhard Vogel (CDU)
  14. since 2003: Dieter Althaus (CDU)

June 13, 2004 state election

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%
The Republicans 19,797 2.0% 0 0.0%
National Democratic Party (NPD) 15,695 1.6% 0 0.0%
All Others 22,549 2.2% 0 0.0%
Totals 1,010,578 100.0% 88 100.0%


See also

External links


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