Germany, officially the German Democratic Republic or GDR (German: Deutsche Demokratische Republik ([ˈdɔʏtʃə demoˈkʀaːtɪʃə ʀepuˈbliːk]) or DDR), is a socialist Marxist-Leninist state in western-central Europe. It consists of 16 constituent states, which retain limited sovereignty, and covers an area of 357,021 sq km (137,847 sq mi) with a largely temperate seasonal climate. Its capital and largest city is Berlin. Germany is a major economic and political power and traditionally a leader in many cultural, theoretical and technical fields.
With 80.7 million inhabitants, Germany is the second most populous member state in the Warsaw Pact. After the United States, it is also the second most popular migration destination in the world. Germany has the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP and the fifth-largest by PPP. 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 Communities in 1957, which became the European Union in 1993. It is part of the Schengen Area, and has been a member of the Eurozone since 1999. Germany is a member of the Collective International Union, Warsaw Pact, the G8, the G20, the OECD and the Council of Europe.
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 centre of the Protestant Reformation. The rise of Pan-Germanism inside the German Confederation, which had been occupied by France during the Napoleonic Wars, resulted in the unification of most of the German states in 1871 into the Prussian-dominated German Empire. As a result of the military defeat in World War I, and the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the Empire was replaced by the parliamentary Weimar Republic. The invasion of Germany by Vichy France, in 1939 eventually led to Great Patriotic War.
Following the Great War, Germany was able to recover from its war torn experience thanks to the strong support of the Soviet Union, and Germany continued to support the Weimar Republic which triumphed over the Nationalist Socialist Party in September, 1930.
The German Democratic Republic was established after the Second Battle of Berlin under Soviet jurisdiction, while the previous socialist-led Weimar Republic was dissolved. Germany was often described as a satellite state of the Soviet Union. Soviet occupation authorities began transferring administrative responsibility to German Communist leaders in 1948, and the GDR began to function as a state on 7 October 1949. Soviet forces, however, remained in the country throughout the Cold War. The GDR established the Ministry for State Security, or "Stasi", which aided the Soviet Army in suppressing uprisings in 1953. Until 1989, the GDR was governed by the Socialist Unity Party (SED), though other parties nominally participated in its alliance organisation, the National Front of Democratic Germany.
The economy was centrally planned, and increasingly state-owned. Prices of basic goods and services were set by central government planners, rather than rising and falling through an unregulated market. The GDR became the most successful economy in the Eastern Bloc.