Gregory Brown
513 Agnes Arnold Hall
Department of Philosophy
University of Houston
Houston, TX 77204-3004


German Thüringen,

historic region and Land (state) of Germany. Thuringia Land was re-created just prior to the unification of East with West Germany in 1990. It was constituted from the former East German Bezirke (districts) of Suhl, Erfurt, and Gera and from small parts of Leibzig and Halle Bezirke. The Land occupies the southwestern portion of what was formerly East Germany and covers an area of 6,275 square miles (16,251 square km). The capital is Erfurt.

Thuringia extends eastward from the Werra River (a headstream of the Weser) into the country beyond the Saale River as far as the Pleisse and northward from the mountains of the Thuringian Forest and the Franconian Forest to the foothills of the Harz mountains. Eisenach, Gotha, Erfurt, Weimar, Jena, Gera, and Altenburg are towns on the west-east axis; Meiningen and Suhl stand in the southwest, Sonderhausen and Nordhausen in the north.

The Germanic Thuringians appeared after about AD 350 and were conquered by the Huns in the second quarter of the 5th century; but by 500 they had established a large kingdom stretching from the Harz mountains to the Danube. As a result of the defeat of their king, Irminfrid, at Burgscheidungen on the Unstrut River by the Frankish kings Theodoric I and Chlotar I in 531, their territory was reduced to the Harz mountains and Thuringian Forest region and was governed by Frankish dukes. In the early 8th century the duchy was divided into countships to reassert royal authority, and St. Boniface converted the Thuringians to Christianity. In 908 the Thuringian March (frontier district), set up by Charlemagne (742-814) against the Slavs, was seized by Otto, duke of Saxony, whose son, Heinrich I. (c. 876-936), duke and German king, halted a Magyar invasion of Thuringia at Riade in 933 and strengthened the defenses of the region. After the Saxon royal dynasty had died out in 1024, the Ludowing family, through Louis the Bearded, controlled Thuringia. Louis' grandson was made landgrave of Thuringia by King Lothair III. (1075-1137) in 1130.

Landgrave Henry Raspe was elected German antiking (against Conrad IV) in 1246; he died the next year. After a war over the long-disputed succession (1256–63), Henry III the Illustrious, margrave of Meissen, of the house of Wettin, made good his claim and invested his son Albert with Thuringia in 1265. It thereafter remained a possession of the Wettins, and in the 15th century it was divided between Ernestine Saxony, Hesse-Kassel, and several smaller states. Prussia also received sections of Thuringia at the Congress of Vienna (1814–15) and after the Seven Weeks' War (1866).

In 1920, under the Weimar Republic, several old Thuringian territories (chiefly the Ernestine Saxon duchies) were merged in a new Thuringia, a Land of republican Germany, with Weimar as its capital. The frontiers remained anomalous: Erfurt was still attached to the Prussian province of Saxony; there were enclaves belonging to Prussian Saxony or to Prussian Hesse-Nassau surrounded by Thuringian territory; and conversely parts of Thuringia were enclaved within Prussian Saxony. After World War II all Thuringia fell to the Soviet-occupied zone of Germany. With the administrative dissolution of Prussia, an enlarged Thuringia Land was constituted within the German Democratic Republic, with rationalized frontiers, including the southwest of the former province of Saxony and all the former enclaves; the capital was Erfurt. In 1952, however, when the East German Länder were dissolved, Thuringia was divided between the Bezirke of Erfurt, Suhl, Gera, Halle, and Leipzig. Thuringia was reconstituted as a Land in 1990 with boundaries similar to those of its post-World War II predecessor.

Much of southern Thuringia is occupied by the picturesque rounded hills of the Thuringian Forest. The northern slopes of this forest reach elevations of about 3,000 feet (900 m). The Harz mountains mark the Land's northern border. Lying between the Harz (north) and Thuringian Forest (south) ranges is the Thuringian Basin, a fertile agricultural region whose eastward-flowing streams are tributaries of the Saale River. Wheat, barley, sugar beets, and market vegetables predominate in the basin's agriculture, and orchards and vineyards cover the slopes overlooking the Ilm River. Deposits of lignite and potash are worked in the northern part of the Thuringian Basin. Extreme eastern Thuringia is traversed by the westerly offshoots of the Erzgebirge, while the Rhon Mountains extend into western Thuringia. The southeastern portion of the Land belongs to the bleak, mountainous region of the Franconian Forest and the Vogtland. The principal river in Thuringia is the Saale, which runs basically northward.

Thuringia's economy is largely industrial, with the principal manufactures being metalworking, precision machinery, electrical equipment, textiles, and chemicals. Glass, wood, and toy industries are found in some towns of the forest valleys. Erfurt, Jena, Gera, and Weimar are the main urban centres in the Land. Pop. (1990 est.) 2,684,000.

Copyright © 1994-2002 Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.


  • Encylopedia Britannica 2002, Expanded Edition DVD

The Web