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Bavaria (bəvârˈēə), Ger. Bayern, state, 27,239 sq mi (70,549 sq km), S Germany. Munich is the capital. The largest state of Germany, Bavaria is bordered by the Czech Republic on the east, by Austria on the southeast and south, by Baden-Württemberg on the west, by Hesse on the northwest, and by Thuringia and Saxony on the north.


A region of rich, softly rolling hills, it is drained by several rivers (notably the Main, Danube, Isar, and Inn) and is bounded by mountain ranges (especially the Bavarian Alps and the Bohemian Forest). Bavaria is divided into seven administrative districts: Upper and Lower Bavaria; Upper, Middle, and Lower Franconia; Swabia; and the Upper Palatinate. Until the early 19th cent. Bavaria did not include Swabia and Franconia, which have separate histories. Upper Bavaria, with Munich as its capital, rises to the Bavarian Alps, along the Austrian border, and culminates in the Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak. Between the Alps and the Bohemian Forest, which forms the border with the Czech Republic, lies the Franconian Jura plateau, traversed by the Danube. Lower Bavaria comprises part of this plateau and part of the Bohemian Forest. Franconia, in N Bavaria, includes the Frankenwald, the Fichtelgebirge, and the Main valley. Swabia, in SW Bavaria, is part of the Danubian plateau. The Upper Palatinate, in NE Bavaria, is separated from the Czech Republic by the Bohemian Forest.

Economy and People

Forestry and agriculture account for about 10% of the state's economic output; wheat, barley, sugar beets, and dairy goods are the leading products. Since World War II, Bavaria has had the highest rate of industrial growth in Germany, which has transformed the formerly rural state. Industry produces more than half of the state's gross output and is centered in Munich, Nuremberg, Augsburg, Hof, Ingolstadt, Erlangen, and Schweinfurt. Leading industries are electronics, computers, machinery, chemicals, automobiles, clothing, and foodstuffs. Bavarian beer is world famous. Toys and musical instruments are made by artisans. Salt, graphite, iron ore, and lignite are the chief mineral resources.

The scenic beauties and the picturesque local customs and costumes of the Bavarian Alps attract many tourists. Among the resorts are Garmisch-Partenkirchen, Berchtesgaden, and the spas Bad Kissingen and Bad Reichenhall. Bayreuth is a cultural center, and Augsburg, Nuremberg, Bamberg, and Würzburg are historic and artistic centers. There are universities at Munich, Regensburg, Würzburg, and Erlangen-Nuremberg. A majority of Bavarians are Roman Catholic.


From the Romans to the Wittelsbachs

The borders of Bavaria have varied considerably in its history. The region was inhabited by Celts when Drusus conquered it (15 B.C.) for Rome. The Baiuoarii (see Germans) invaded it (6th cent. A.D.) and set up the duchy to which they gave their name. It was one of the five basic or stem duchies of medieval Germany. Irish and Scottish monks began the Christianization of the area, and it was completed (8th cent.) by St. Boniface. In 788, Charlemagne defeated Duke Tassilo III and added Bavaria to his empire. From 817 to 911, Bavaria was ruled by the Carolingians Louis the German, Carloman (d. 880), Arnulf, and Louis the Child.

In 911 the duchy (then comprising, roughly, Bavaria proper, present-day Austria, and part of the Upper Palatinate) came under indigenous rulers. Frequent Magyar inroads were stopped (955) by Emperor Otto I, who in 947 had given Bavaria to his brother Henry. Henry's grandson was duke of Bavaria when he was elected (1002) German king as Henry II. After his accession Bavaria was ruled by various houses, but in 1070 Emperor Henry IV gave the fief to Welf, or Guelph, d'Este IV (see Este), who began the dynasty of the Guelphs.

From the 9th to the 12th cent. the Bavarian dukes, of whatever house, were at the center of the rebellions of the great German princes against the imperial authority. To reduce their power Emperor Otto II in 976 stripped the duchy of all but present-day Upper and Lower Bavaria and the Tyrol. When in 1137 the Guelph Henry the Proud acquired Saxony in addition to Bavaria, Conrad III deposed him and gave Bavaria to the Babenberg rulers of Austria. Frederick II restored (1156) Bavaria to Henry the Lion but in 1180 deposed the rebellious Guelph and bestowed the duchy (from which he detached considerable territory in what is now Austria) on Otto of Wittelsbach. The political history of Bavaria, much reduced in importance, became that of the Wittelsbach family, which ruled until 1918.

Bavaria under the Wittelsbachs

The Wittelsbach fiefs, including the Rhenish Palatinate (acquired in 1214), were almost always divided among the numerous branches of the dynasty. Under the Wittelsbach emperor Louis IV (reigned 1328–47), Bavaria was briefly reunited. Duke Albert IV (1467–1508), who again united Bavaria (except the Rhenish Palatinate), introduced the law of primogeniture; thus Bavaria entered the Reformation period much strengthened. The triumph of Catholicism in Bavaria proper was crucial for its later history. Duke Maximilian I (1597–1651) headed the Catholic League in the Thirty Years War and was rewarded with the Upper Palatinate and the rank of elector.

The agricultural wealth and the strategic position of Bavaria made it a coveted prize and a frequent battleground then and later. Bavaria was overrun by foreign armies, notably in the War of the Spanish Succession, the War of the Austrian Succession, the War of the Bavarian Succession (1778, by which Bavaria lost the Inn Quarter to Austria), and the French Revolutionary Wars. Elector Maximilian IV Joseph, who in 1799 united all Wittelsbach lands, allied himself with Napoleon I, joined the Confederation of the Rhine, and in 1806 was proclaimed king of Bavaria as Maximilian I. In 1813 Maximilian abandoned Napoleon and joined the allies, who at the Congress of Vienna (1814–15) left him in possession of virtually all of present-day Bavaria, including the Rhenish Palatinate.

During the period of reaction that followed in Europe, Bavaria stood out for its relatively liberal government. The liberal constitution of 1818 lasted exactly a century. King Louis I (1825–48), dethroned by the mild revolution of 1848, was succeeded by the able Maximilian II (1848–64) and the brilliant but insane Louis II (1864–86). All three rulers had a passion for the arts, science, and architecture. The reputation of Bavaria, particularly Munich, as a cultural center dates from their reigns. The abolition in 1848 of guild restrictions opened the way for industrialization.

At the same time, the rural prosperity of Bavaria and the strong influence of the Catholic Church (which predominates except in the Upper Palatinate and in Middle Franconia) accented the hostility of Bavaria toward the rising power of Prussia. Bavaria sided with Austria in the Austro-Prussian War (1866). Defeated in that war, it acknowledged Prussian leadership, sided with Prussia against France in 1870–71, and joined (1871) the German Empire. As the chief German state after Prussia, Bavaria retained separatist tendencies.

Bavaria since World War I

King Louis III, successor to the mad Otto I, was dethroned in Nov., 1918, by Kurt Eisner, who established a socialist republic. The assassination (Feb., 1919) of Eisner led to a Communist revolution (Apr., 1919), which was bloodily suppressed by the German army. Bavaria then joined the Weimar Republic. In the early 1920s, Munich became the center of the National Socialist (Nazi) movement; in 1923 the National Socialists made an abortive attempt (Beer Hall Putsch) in that city to seize power. Catholic Bavaria as a whole gave little support to the movement until Adolf Hitler came to national power in 1933. Under the National Socialist regime Bavaria lost its autonomy.

After World War II, Bavaria became part of the American occupation zone. The Rhenish Palatinate was separated from Bavaria and was later made part of the state of Rhineland-Palatinate. A new constitution for Bavaria was drawn up in 1946. Since the founding of the Federal Republic of Germany in 1949, the conservative Christian Social Union, allied nationally with the Christian Democratic Union, has been the strongest Bavarian political party.

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.



(Bayern), a Land of the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) in the valley of the Danube. Area, 70,600 sq km; population, 10.2 million (1967). The administrative center is Munich; the major cities (more than 100,000 inhabitants) are Nuremberg, Augsburg, and Regensburg. Bavaria is the highest region in the nation; it includes the northern slopes of the Alps (highest point, Zugspitze, 2,963 m, in the Bavarian Alps), the eastern part of the Swabian-Bavarian plateau (400–1,000 m), the Franconian Alps (or Franconian Jura; highest point, Poppberg, 657 m), the western part of the Bohemian Forest and the Sumava Mountains, and the Bavarian Forest. The average temperature in Munich in July is 17° C, and the precipitation is 935 mm per year. There is a dense network of rivers (the Danube and its tributaries) and lakes. About one-third of the territory is covered by spruce and beech forests and spruce and fir forests; there are large areas of alpine meadow.

Bavaria is an industrial and agrarian region. Of the economically active population 45.7 percent are engaged in industry and trades, 17.2 percent in agriculture and forestry, 15.9 percent in transport and commerce, and 21.2 percent in nonproductive spheres (1966). Approximately one-half of the electrical energy is produced in hydroelectric power plants. InGun-dremmingen (near Gunzburg) is located the first industrial atomic energy plant in the FRG (237,000 kilowatts). In the postwar period the petroleum-refining (in Ingolstadt and Neustadt) and the petrochemical industries have been established. (Oil is transported by pipe from the ports of Marseille, Genoa, and Trieste.) Bavaria produces one-third of the aluminum of the FRG (Töging). The leading industry, machine building, employs one-third of those engaged in industry. Included in this total are electrotechnical machine building, occupying over one-fifth of those engaged in industry (Munich, Nuremberg, Erlangen); general machine production (Augsburg, Aschaffenburg), including the production of ball bearings (Schweinfurt); transport machinery, including automobile manufacturing (Munich, Augsburg, Ingolstadt) and aircraft production (Augsburg); and precision machinery (Nuremberg). Of great importance are the textile (Hof and Augsburg) and sewing industries as well as glass-ceramic and food industries (cheese, beer, butter, and sugar).

The dairy industry is well developed in Bavaria, especially in the mountain pastures. (In 1966 there were 4.2 million head of cattle, including 2 million dairy cows, and 3.6 million pigs.) Also well developed are grain farming (1.5 million tons of wheat in 1966,1 million tons of barley) and the sowing of sugar beets (harvest, 2.3 million tons), hops (in the Danube valley and in the northwest), oats, rye, and potatoes (6.1 million tons). There is viticulture in the Main valley. About 70 percent of the farmlands and forest are concentrated in farms of the capitalist type (with plots larger than 10 hectares) and in the estates of landowners.

For the most part the railroads are electric. There is a dense system of highways. There is navigation on the Danube and Main rivers. The Bavarian Alps are a tourist region. In Bavaria there are three universities (Erlangen-Nuremberg, Munich, and Würzburg).


Historical information. The name Bavaria is derived from the German tribe of Bavarians, which in the middle of the sixth century inhabited the greater part of modern Bavaria and the territory to the south and east, forming their duchy there. (The dukes were of the Agilolfing family and were dependents of the Franks.) In 788 (under Duke Tassilo III) the Bavarian Duchy was dissolved and its territory was included in the Frankish state; in the early tenth century it reemerged as one of the tribal duchies of the German kingdom. From 1070 to 1180 the Welfs ruled in Bavaria; from 1180, the Wit-telsbachs. From the end of the tenth century to the 13th century the territory of the Bavarian Duchy was reduced (by the partitioning of Karnten, the Bavarian Ostmark, Tirol, and Salzburg). Bavaria itself disintegrated into independent principalities. They were reunited under Duke Albrecht IV (1467–1508). In the 16th and 17th centuries, Bavaria became one of the most powerful territorial principalities of Germany and also one of the strongholds of Catholic reaction. Duke Maximilian the Bavarian (1597–1651) headed the Catholic league of 1609 and played an active part in the Thirty Years’ War of 1618–48, as a result of which Bavaria acquired the Upper Palatinate (1628) and became an electorate (1623, confirmed by the Peace of Westphalia of 1648). In the 17th century, monarchic absolutism developed in Bavaria. In the War of the Spanish Succession (1701–14) and the War of the Austrian Succession (1740–48), Bavaria fought on the side of France. In 1777 the line of the Bavarian Wittelsbachs died out, and Bavaria passed to the line of Wittelsbachs ruling in the Palatinate. This was confirmed in 1779, after the War of the Bavarian Succession.

At the end of the 18th century, Bavaria participated in the wars against France; however, in 1801–13 it sided with Napoleon. In 1806, Bavaria became a kingdom and joined the Rhenish Confederation. During the so-called Napoleonic Wars, Bavaria substantially expanded to the northwest through the secularizing of church lands (the bishopric of Bamberg and others) and the annexation of a number of secular domains (the principality of Ansbach and others) and free imperial cities (Nuremberg, Ulm, and others). In 1813, Bavaria went over to the side of the anti-French coalition. At the beginning of the 19th century in Bavaria, as in other German states, capitalist relations were beginning to develop. In 1832 representatives of bourgeois opposition groups organized demonstrations (the so-called Hambach festival) under the slogan of the creation of a republican constitutional order and the unification of Germany. As a result of the March Revolution of 1848 the obligations of the peasantry in Bavaria were partially abolished. In the 1850’s and 1860’s, a period of increasing struggle between Austria and Prussia for ascendancy in Germany, the ruling class of Bavaria introduced the idea of a threefold alliance with Prussia and Austria of medium-sized and small German states headed by Bavaria. In the Austro-Prussian War of 1866, Bavaria sided with Austria but signed a secret defense alliance with Prussia. In 1871, Bavaria became part of the German Empire. It continued to be a stronghold of separatism and clericalism. In the second half of the 1860’s, great secular and clerical landowners and Grossbauern (wealthy peasants) united to form the so-called Patriot Party, which at the end of the 1880’s became part of the nationwide Center Party. The unification of Germany hastened the development of capitalism in Bavaria as well; however, Bavaria lagged considerably behind the western and central regions of Germany in industrial development.

As a result of the revolution of November 1918 in Germany a republican government was formed in Bavaria. The Social Democrats and Independent Social Democrats were active in government and followed a political course of collaboration with the bourgeoisie. In April 1919 the Bavarian Soviet Republic was proclaimed, headed by the communists, but it was crushed by the German government. By the terms of the Weimar Constitution of 1919, Bavaria became a part of the German Republic as one of the states. The same year the National Socialist (fascist) Party was born in Bavaria, and in succeeding years Bavaria became one of the main hotbeds of fascism. This was facilitated by the relative weakness of the working class, which at that time in Bavaria comprised only 7 percent of the population, and by the presence of a large number of kulak farms. During the years 1924–33 the Bavarian People’s Party, similar to the national Center Party, was in power. In the period of fascist dictatorship (1933–1945), Bavaria was the traditional center of fascism; the headquarters of the fascist party were located in Munich, in the so-called Brown House, and congresses of the party took place in Nuremberg.

After the defeat of fascist Germany in 1945, Bavaria was included in the American occupation zone. Since 1949, Bavaria has been a state of the Federal Republic of Germany. Bavaria is one of the centers of political clericalism and neonazism of the FRG. The governing party is the Christian Socialist Union (CSU), founded in 1945. This party is allied in the FRG with the Christian Democratic Union (CDU). The CSU and the CDU form a single faction in the Bundestag of the FRG.


Riezler, S. Geschichte Bayerns, vols. 1–8. Gotha, 1878–1914.
Hubensteiner, B. Bayerische Geschichte. Munich, 1950.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


a state of S Germany: a former duchy and kingdom; mainly wooded highland, with the Alps in the south. Capital: Munich. Pop.: 12 155 000 (2000 est.). Area: 70 531 sq. km (27 232 sq. miles)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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