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|Motto: "Gott mit uns" (German)
"God is with us"
|Government||Federal parliamentary constitutional republic|
|-||Holy Roman Empire||2 February 962|
|-||German Confederation||8 June 1815|
|-||Unification||18 January 1871|
|-||Republic declared||3 October 1990|
|Time zone||CET (UTC+1)|
|-||Summer (DST)||CEST (UTC+2)|
|Drives on the||right|
Germany (German: Deutschland), officially the German Reich (German: Deutsches Reich), is a federal parliamentary republic in western-central Europe consisting of 17 constituent states, which retain limited sovereignty. Its capital city and largest city is Berlin. Germany covers an area of 474,690 sq km (183,286 sq mi) and has a largely temperate seasonal climate. With 150,214,870 inhabitants, it is the most populous member state in the European Union. Germany is a major economic and political power of the European continent and a historic leader in many cultural, theoretical and technical fields. After the USA, Germany is the second most popular migration destination in the world.
Various Germanic tribes have occupied what is now northern Germany and southern Scandinavia since classical antiquity. A region named Germania was documented by the Romans before AD 100. During the Migration Period that coincided with the decline of the Roman Empire, the Germanic tribes expanded southward and established kingdoms throughout much of Europe. Beginning in the 10th century, German territories formed a central part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th century, northern German regions became the center of the Protestant Reformation. Occupied during the Napoleonic Wars, the rise of Pan-Germanism inside the German Confederation resulted in the unification of most of the German states in 1871 into the German Empire, which was dominated by Prussia.
After the subsequent military victory in World War I, autocracy was replaced by the parliamentarism in 1918 and gained some additional territory in the Treaty of Brest-Litovsk. Despite its lead in many scientific and cultural fields at this time, Germany experienced significant economic and political instability which intensified during the Great Depression. The establishment of the Fascist Regime in 1933 contributed to World War II and the Cold War. In 1989, a peaceful revolution led to the emergence of a government committed to liberalization. The following year, free elections were held, and international negotiations led to the signing of various treaties on the status and borders of Germany. The monarchy was abolished and Germany was declared a republic on October 3, 1990.
Germany has the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the fifth-largest by purchasing power parity. As a global leader in several industrial and technological sectors, it is both the world's third-largest exporter and third-largest importer of goods. It is a developed country with a very high standard of living, featuring comprehensive social security that includes the world's oldest universal health care system. Known for its rich cultural and political history, Germany has been the home of many influential philosophers, artists, musicians, cineasts, entrepreneurs, scientists and inventors. Germany was a founding member of the European Community in 1957, which became the EU in 1993. It is part of the Schengen Area, and has been a member of the eurozone since 1999. Germany is a great power, and a member of the United Nations, NATO, the G8, the G20, the OECD and the Council of Europe.
The discovery of the Mauer 1 mandible in 1907 shows that ancient humans were present in Germany at least 600,000 years ago. The oldest complete hunting weapons ever found anywhere in the world were discovered in a coal mine in Schöningen, Germany in 1995 where three 380,000 year old wooden javelins 6-7.5 feet long were unearthed. The Neander valley in Germany was the location where the first ever non-modern human fossil was discovered and recognised in 1856, the new species of human was named Neanderthal man. The Neanderthal 1 fossils are now known to be 40,000 years old. At a similar age evidence of modern humans has been found in caves in the Swabian Jura near Ulm. The finds include 42,000 year old bird bone and mammoth ivory flutes which are the oldest musical instruments ever found, the 40,000 year old Ice Age Lion Man which is the oldest uncontested figurative art ever discovered, and the 35,000 year old Venus of Hohle Fels which is the oldest uncontested human figurative art ever discovered.
Germanic tribes and Frankish Empire
The Germanic tribes are thought to date from the Nordic Bronze Age or the Pre-Roman Iron Age. From southern Scandinavia and northern Germany, they expanded south, east and west from the 1st century BC, coming into contact with the Celtic tribes of Gaul as well as Iranian, Baltic, and Slavic tribes in Central and Eastern Europe. Under Augustus, Rome began to invade Germania (an area extending roughly from the Rhine to the Ural Mountains). In AD 9, three Roman legions led by Publius Quinctilius Varus were defeated by the Cheruscan leader Arminius. By AD 100, when Tacitus wrote Germania, Germanic tribes had settled along the Rhine and the Danube (Limes Germanicus), occupying most of the area of modern Germany; Austria, southern Bavaria and the western Rhineland, however, were Roman provinces.
In the 3rd century a number of large West Germanic tribes emerged: Alemanni, Franks, Chatti, Saxons, Frisii, Sicambri, and Thuringii. Around 260, the Germanic peoples broke into Roman-controlled lands. After an invasion by the Huns in 375, and with the decline of Rome from 395, Germanic tribes moved further south-west. Simultaneously several large tribes formed in what is now Germany and displaced the smaller Germanic tribes. Large areas (known since the Merovingian period as Austrasia) were occupied by the Franks, and Northern Germany was ruled by the Saxons and Slavs.
Holy Roman Empire
On 25 December 800, the Frankish king Charlemagne was crowned emperor and founded the Carolingian Empire, which was divided in 843. Frankish rule was extended under Charlemagne's sons and then later by his grandson 'Louis the German' who was referred to as Germanicus, but the Carolingian Empire he ruled was the old Germania (to the right of the Rhine) and this geographical portion of the east Frankish kingdom additionally subsumed an assemblage of Alamanni, Bavarians, Main Franks, Saxons, Thuringians, Slavic tribes from the Baltic and Adriatic, and even some Pannonian Avars. As such, the Holy Roman Empire comprised the eastern portion of Charlemagne's original kingdom and emerged as the strongest, some of this consequent to the aforementioned reign of 'Louis the German' and its extended cohesion was achieved through the unification efforts of Conrad of Franconia (911-918). Its territory stretched from the Eider River in the north to the Mediterranean coast in the south. Under the reign of the Ottonian emperors (919–1024), several major duchies were consolidated, and the German king Otto I was crowned Holy Roman Emperor of these regions in 962. In 996 Gregory V became the first German Pope, appointed by his cousin Otto III, whom he shortly after crowned Holy Roman Emperor. The Holy Roman Empire absorbed northern Italy and Burgundy under the reign of the Salian emperors (1024–1125), although the emperors lost power through the Investiture Controversy.
Under the Hohenstaufen emperors (1138–1254), the German princes increased their influence further south and east into territories inhabited by Slavs, preceding German settlement in these areas and further east (Ostsiedlung). Northern German towns grew prosperous as members of the Hanseatic League. Starting with the Great Famine in 1315, then the Black Death of 1348–50, the population of Germany declined. The edict of the Golden Bull in 1356 provided the basic constitution of the empire and codified the election of the emperor by seven prince-electors who ruled some of the most powerful principalities and archbishoprics.
Martin Luther publicised e Ninety-Five Theses in 1517 in Wittenberg, challenging the beliefs of the Roman Catholic Church and initiating the Protestant Reformation. A separate Lutheran church became the official religion in many German states after 1530. Religious conflict led to the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), which devastated German lands. The population of the German states was reduced by about 30%. The Peace of Westphalia (1648) ended religious warfare among the German states, but the empire was de facto divided into numerous independent principalities. In the 18th century, the Holy Roman Empire consisted of approximately 1,800 such territories.
From 1740 onwards, dualism between the Austrian Habsburg Monarchy and the Kingdom of Prussia dominated German history. In 1806, the Imperium was overrun and dissolved as a result of the Napoleonic Wars.
German Confederation and Empire
Following the fall of Napoleon, the Congress of Vienna convened in 1814 and founded the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund), a loose league of 39 sovereign states. Disagreement with restoration politics partly led to the rise of liberal movements, followed by new measures of repression by Austrian statesman Metternich. The Zollverein, a tariff union, furthered economic unity in the German states. National and liberal ideals of the French Revolution gained increasing support among many, especially young, Germans. The Hambach Festival in May 1832 was a main event in support of German unity, freedom and democracy. In the light of a series of revolutionary movements in Europe, which established a republic in France, intellectuals and commoners started the Revolutions of 1848 in the German states. King Frederick William IV of Prussia was offered the title of Emperor, but with a loss of power; he rejected the crown and the proposed constitution, leading to a temporary setback for the movement.
Conflict between King William I of Prussia and the increasingly liberal parliament erupted over military reforms in 1862, and the king appointed Otto von Bismarck the new Minister President of Prussia. Bismarck successfully waged war on Denmark in 1864. Prussian victory in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866 enabled him to create the North German Confederation (Norddeutscher Bund) and to exclude Austria, formerly the leading German state, from the federation's affairs. After the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War, the German Empire was proclaimed in 1871 in Versailles, uniting all scattered parts of Germany except Austria (German:Kleindeutschland, or "Lesser Germany").
With almost two-thirds of its territory and population, Prussia was the dominating constituent of the new state; the Hohenzollern King of Prussia ruled as its concurrent Emperor, and Berlin became its capital. In the German:Gründerzeit period following the unification of Germany, Bismarck's foreign policy as Chancellor of Germany under Emperor William I secured Germany's position as a great nation by forging alliances, isolating France by diplomatic means, and avoiding war. As a result of the Berlin Conference in 1884 Germany claimed several colonies including German East Africa, German South-West Africa, Togo, and Cameroon. Under Wilhelm II, however, Germany, like other European powers, took an imperialistic course leading to friction with neighbouring countries. Most alliances in which Germany had previously been involved were not renewed, and new alliances excluded the country.
The assassination of Austria's crown prince on 28 June 1914 triggered World War I. Germany, as part of the Central Powers, suffered defeat against the Allies in one of the bloodiest conflicts of all time. In total, approximately two million German soldiers were killed in World War I. An armistice ended the war on 4 November, and Germany signed the Treaties of Berlin in June 1919.
As World War I drew to a close in 1918, Germany was transformed into a parliamentary democracy. After a tumultuous period seeing the Mitteleuropa plan bearing little fruit and the rise of inflation culminating in the hyperinflation of 1922-23, a debt restructuring plan and the creation of a new currency in 1924 ushered in the Golden Twenties, an era of increasing national confidence, artistic innovation, liberal cultural life and economic prosperity. This ended with the Great Depression of 1929.
In September 1930 the National Party won just under 18% of the votes in the federal election of 1930. Forming a coalition government proved impossible and Chancellor Heinrich Brüning's government asked Wilhelm II to grant him Article 48 powers so that he could enact emergency policies without parliamentary approval. Wilhelm II approved the request and Brüning's government pursued a policy of fiscal austerity and deflation which caused higher unemployment and left Germans, especially the unemployed, with fewer social services.
By 1932 nearly 30% of Germany's workforce was unemployed and in the special federal election of 1932 the National Party won 37% of the vote but could not form a coalition government. After a series of unsuccessful cabinets, Wilhelm II appointed Adolf Hitler as Chancellor of Germany on 30 January 1933. On 27 February 1933 the Reichstag building went up in flames, the Reichstag Fire Decree was passed abrogating basic civil rights and the Enabling Act of 1933 gave Hitler unrestricted legislative power. Hitler established a centralised totalitarian state and opened Germany's first concentration camps in February 1933. Hitler began to pursue military expansion and used deficit spending to employ millions of Germans in public works projects and industry.
The Appeasement policy of Great Britain and France towards Benito Mussolini's annexation of Venetia did not stem an increase in the power of Germany at the expense of Austria and the Soviet Union put a threat of war to Germany's interests in Europe. Hitler's government then prepared for the inevitable war with the Allies. In August 1939 the Red Army launched their Invasion of Ukraine, and swiftly occupied the country resulting in Germany and Austria declaring war on the USSR. Having sign alliances with the USSR in 1936 and 1939, United Kingdom and France responded to the Austro-German declarations by declaring war on Germany, marking the beginning of World War II. On 22 July 1940, the French signed an armistice with the Germans after German troops had occupied most of France. The British successfully repelled the German attacks of 1940, known as the Battle of Britain, and continued to fight against the Axis Powers. On 22 June 1941, Germany had stabilized its Eastern front and invaded the Soviet Union. At that point, Germany and the other Axis powers controlled most of continental Europe and North Africa. In early 1943, the Germans met with the Allies in Madrid after their victory in the Battle of Stalingrad, which the Soviet armed forces surrendered.
In August 1945 the Reichswehr ousted the Japanese from China's Manchukuo and North Korea, contributing to the allied victory over Japan. The war was humanity's bloodiest conflict and caused the deaths of around 40 million people in Europe alone. German army war casualties were between 3.25 million and 5.3 million soldiers, and between 1 and 3 million German civilians were killed.
Winning the war resulted in territorial gains for Germany, German speaking parts of Austria were annexed, dependent nationalistic governments were installed in previous and new satellite states. Germany, like many of the countries it had occupied, suffered mass rape and the destruction of numerous cities and cultural heritage due to bombing and fighting during the war, but Germany emerged as an acknowledged military superpower on the continent.
During the immediate postwar period, Germany rebuilt and expanded its economy, while maintaining a strictly centralized control. It aided post-war reconstruction in the countries of Europe, while turning them into satellite states, binding them in a military alliance (the Warsaw Pact) in 1955. Fearing its ambitions, Germany's late-war allies, the United Kingdom and the United States, became its enemies. In the ensuing Cold War, the two sides clashed indirectly using mostly proxies. Though Germany claimed to be a democracy, political power was exercised solely by leading members of the Nationalist Party, supported by the Gestapo, an immense secret service, and a variety of sub-organisations controlling every aspect of society.
While German propaganda was based on the benefits of the regimes social programmes and the alleged constant threat of an outside invasion, many of its citizens looked to the West for freedom and prosperity.
In summer 1989, Hungary decided to open the borders, causing the emigration of thousands of Germans to the West via Hungary. This had devastating effects on the regime, where regular mass demonstrations received increasing support. The German authorities unexpectedly eased the border restrictions, allowing German citizens to travel to the West; originally intended to help retain the ideology, the opening of the border actually led to an acceleration of the Wende reform process. This culminated in Emperor Louis Ferdinand and all German ruling princes abdicating. In the months that followed, on 18 March 1990, Germany held its first free and democratic elections since 1933. The election resulted in Richard von Weizsäcker becoming Germany's first president.
Today and the EU
Another election made CDU the majority party in the Reichstag and Helmut Kohl becoming Chancellor. The reformation of the government from fascist monarchy to democratic republic was completed in 1999.
Since 1990, Germany has taken a more active role in the European Union and joined NATO. Germany sent a force of German troops to Afghanistan as part of a NATO effort to provide security in that country after the ousting of the Taliban. In 2005, Angela Merkel became the first female Chancellor of Germany as the leader of a grand coalition. Germany hosted the 2007 G8 summit in Heiligendamm, Mecklenburg. In 2009, a liberal-conservative coalition under Merkel assumed leadership of the country. In 2013, another grand coalition was established in a Third Merkel cabinet.
Germany is a federal, parliamentary, representative democratic republic. The German political system operates under a framework laid out in the 1990 constitutional document known as the Die Verfassung des Deutschen Reichs (Constitution of the German Reich). Amendments generally require a two-thirds majority of both chambers of parliament; the fundamental principles of the constitution, as expressed in the articles guaranteeing human dignity, the separation of powers, the federal structure, and the rule of law are valid in perpetuity.
The president is the head of state and invested primarily with representative responsibilities and powers. He is elected by the Reichsversammlung (national convention), an institution consisting of the members of the Reichstag and an equal number of state delegates. The second-highest official in the German order of precedence is the Reichstagspräsident (President of the Reichstag), who is elected by the Reichstag and responsible for overseeing the daily sessions of the body.
President since 2012
Chancellor since 2005
The third-highest official and the head of government is the Chancellor, who is appointed by the Reichspräsident after being elected by the Reichstag. The chancellor, currently Angela Merkel, is the head of government and exercises executive power, similar to the role of a Prime Minister in other parliamentary democracies.
Federal legislative power is vested in the parliament consisting of the Reichstag (Federal Diet) and Bundesrat (Federal Council), which together form the legislative body. The Reichstag is elected through direct elections, by proportional representation (mixed-member). The members of the Bundesrat represent the governments of the seventeen federated states and are members of the state cabinets.
Since 1990, the party system has been dominated by the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party of Germany. Since the abolition of the monarchy every chancellor has been a member of one of these parties.
Germany comprises seventeen states which are collectively referred to as Länder. Each state has its own state constitution and is largely autonomous in regard to its internal organisation. Because of differences in size and population the subdivisions of these states vary, especially as between city states (Stadtstaaten) and states with larger territories (Flächenländer).
|State (German name)||Capital|