Thuringia (Germany)

2017-04-10 16:06:16 , Source : The Government Website of Shaanxi Province

The Free State of Thuringia is a federal state in central Germany. It has an area of 16,171 square kilometres (6,244 sq mi) and 2.29 million inhabitants, making it the sixth smallest by area and the fifth smallest by population of Germany's sixteen states. Most of Thuringia is within the watershed of the Saale, a left tributary of the Elbe. The capital is Erfurt.

Thuringia has been known as "the green heart of Germany" (das grüne Herz Deutschlands) from the late 19th century, due to the dense forest covering the land.

It is home to the Rennsteig, Germany's most well-known hiking trail, and the winter resort of Oberhof making it a well known winter sports destination. Half of Germany's 136 Winter Olympic gold medals (through the Sochi games in 2014) have been won by Thuringian athletes.

Johann Sebastian Bach spent the first part of his life (1685–1717) and important further stages of his career in Thuringia. Goethe and Schiller lived in Weimar and both worked at the University of Jena, which today hosts Thuringia's most important science centre. Other Universities in this federal state are the Ilmenau University of Technology, the University of Erfurt, and the Bauhaus University of Weimar.

History

Named after the Thuringii tribe who occupied it around AD 300, Thuringia came under Frankish domination in the 6th century.

Thuringia became a landgraviate in 1130 AD. After the extinction of the reigning Ludowingian line of counts and landgraves in 1247 and the War of the Thuringian Succession (1247–1264), 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, and Roman Catholicism was suppressed as early as 1520; priests who remained loyal to it were driven away and churches and monasteries were largely destroyed, especially during the German Peasants' War of 1525. In Mühlhausen and elsewhere, the Anabaptists found many adherents. Thomas Müntzer, a leader of some non-peaceful groups of this sect, was active in this city. Within the borders of modern Thuringia the Roman Catholic faith only survived in the Eichsfeld district, which was ruled by the Archbishop of Mainz, and to a small degree in Erfurt and its immediate vicinity.

Some reordering of the Thuringian states occurred during the German Mediatisation from 1795 to 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 Elder Line and Reuss Younger Line. 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. The coat of arms of this new state was simpler than those of its predecessors.

In 1930 Thuringia was one of the free states where the Nazis gained real political power. Wilhelm Frick was appointed Minister of the Interior for the state of Thuringia after the Nazi Party won six delegates to the Thuringia Diet. In this position he removed from the Thuringia police force anyone he suspected of being a republican and replaced them with men who were favourable towards the Nazi Party. He also ensured that whenever an important position came up within Thuringia, he used his power to ensure that a Nazi was given that post.

After being controlled briefly by the US, from July 1945, the state of Thuringia came under the Soviet occupation zone, and was expanded to include parts of Prussian Saxony, such as the areas around Erfurt, Mühlhausen, and Nordhausen. Erfurt became the new capital of Thuringia. Ostheim, an exclave of Landkreis (roughly equivalent to a county in the English-speaking world) Eisenach, was ceded to Bavaria.

In 1952, the German Democratic Republic dissolved its states, and created districts (Bezirke) instead. The three districts that shared the former territory of Thuringia were Erfurt, Gera and Suhl. Altenburg Kreis was part of Leipzig Bezirk.

The State of Thuringia was recreated with slightly altered borders during German reunification in 1990.

Nature and environment

Due to many centuries of intensive settlement, most of the area is shaped by human influence. The original natural vegetation of Thuringia is forest with beech as its predominant species, as can still be found in the Hainich mountains today. In the uplands, a mixture of beech and spruce would be natural. However, most of the plains have been cleared and are in intensive agricultural use while most of the forests are planted with spruce and pine. Since 1990, Thuringia's forests have been managed aiming for a more natural and tough vegetation more resilient to climate change as well as diseases and vermin. In comparison to the forest, agriculture is still quite conventional and dominated by large structures and monocultures. Problems here are caused especially by increasingly prolonged dry periods during the summer months.

Environmental damage in Thuringia has been reduced to a large extent after 1990. The condition of forests, rivers and air was improved by modernizing factories, houses (decline of coal heating) and cars, and contaminated areas such as the former Uranium surface mines around Ronneburg have been remediated. Today's environmental problems are the salination of the Werra River, caused by discharges of K+S salt mines around Unterbreizbach and overfertilisation in agriculture, damaging the soil and small rivers.

Environment and nature protection has been of growing importance and attention since 1990. Large areas, especially within the forested mountains, are protected as natural reserves, including Thuringia's first national park within the Hainich mountains, founded in 1997, the Rhön Biosphere Reserve, the Thuringian Forest Nature Park and the South Harz Nature Park.

Current population

The current population is 2,170,000 (in 2012) with an annual rate of decrease of about 0.5%, which varies wide between the local regions. In 2012, 905,000 Thuringians lived in a municipality with more than 20,000 inhabitants, this is an urbanization rate of 42% which continues to rise.

In July 2013, there were 41,000 non-Germans by citizenship living in Thuringia (1.9% of the population − among the smallest proportions of any state in Germany). Nevertheless, the number rose from 33,000 in July 2011, an increase of 24% in only two years. About 4% of the population is migrants (including persons that already received the German citizenship). The biggest groups of foreigners by citizenship are (as of 2012): Russians (3,100), Poles (3,000), Vietnamese (2,800), Turks (2,100) and Ukrainians (2,000). The amount of foreigners varies between regions: the college towns Erfurt, Jena, Weimar and Ilmenau have the highest rates, whereas there are almost no migrants living in the most rural smaller municipalities.

The Thuringian population has a significant sex ratio gap, caused by the emigration of young women, especially in rural areas. Overall, there are 115 to 120 men per 100 women in the 25–40 age group ("family founders") which has negative consequences for the birth ratio. Furthermore, the population is getting older and older with some rural municipalities recording more than 30% of over-65s (pensioners). This is a problem for the regional labour market, as there are twice as many people leaving as entering the job market annually.