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Dresden (drĕzˈdən), city, capital of Saxony, E central Germany, on the Elbe River. It is an industrial and cultural center, a rail junction, and a large inland port. Manufactures include precision and optical instruments, computers and office machinery, radio and electrical equipment, and electrical transformers. Flowers and shrubs are grown for export. The Dresden china industry began in Dresden but moved to Meissen, 15 mi northwest, in 1710.

Originally a Slavic settlement called Drezdane, Dresden was settled with Germans by the margrave of Meissen in the 13th cent. From 1485 until 1918 it was the residence of the dukes, then the electors, and later the kings, of Saxony. Prussia occupied Dresden in the Second Silesian War (see Austrian Succession, War of the), but withdrew after the Treaty of Dresden (1745). In the Seven Years War, Dresden was again occupied (1756) by the Prussians. In Aug., 1813, Napoleon I defeated the coalition forces near Dresden in his last great victory before his defeat (Oct., 1813) at Leipzig. In the late 17th and 18th cent., particularly under the electors Frederick Augustus I and Frederick Augustus II (Augustus II and Augustus III as kings of Poland), Dresden became a center of the arts and an outstanding showplace of baroque and rococo architecture. In the late 18th and early 19th cent. it was a leading center of the romantic movement, and in the late 19th and early 20th cent. it was a center of German opera. Ranked as one of the world's most beautiful cities before World War II, Dresden was severely damaged by British and U.S. bombing during the war (Feb., 1945). Although deaths from the bombing and firestorm have been estimated at between 35,000 and 135,000 (and sometimes higher), an official German historical investigation reported (2010) that up to 25,000 died.

Among the city's famous landmarks, all damaged in the war, are the city hall, the Zwinger palace and museum, the Semper Opera, the Hofkirche [court chapel], the Kreuzkirche [Holy Cross church], and the Frauenkirche [church of Our Lady], the ruins of which were left unreconstructed for many years as a war memorial. Most of the fabulous art collection, acquired by the court in the 18th and 19th cent., was safely kept through the war outside Dresden, but many art objects were afterward moved to the Soviet Union. The city is the seat of a technical university.

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



a district in the southwestern German Democratic Republic, in the basin of the upper reaches of the Elbe. Area, 6,700 sq km. Population, 1.9 million (1972). In addition to Germans, a small number of Lusatians or Wends (2-3 percent of the population) live in the administrative counties of Bautzen, Niesky, and Kamenz (Oberlausitz). The administrative center of the district is the city of Dresden.

The southern part of Dresden District is occupied by the northern slopes of the Erzgebirge (maximum altitude, 895 m), which are covered with dense mixed forests. The Elbsandsteingebirge, located in the Elbe valley, is a popular region for recreation and tourism. The fertile Dresden and Zittau depressions are located in the foothills of the Erzgebirge. The northern part of Dresden District is occupied primarily by highlands.

Dresden District is an economically well-developed industrial region. According to 1969 figures, 53.8 percent of the working population is employed in industry and trade, and 9.9 percent is employed in agriculture and forestry. Various branches of the machine-building industry are concentrated in the city of Dresden and the cities located around it. The electrical engineering and electronics industries are located in Radeburg, the automobile industry in Zittau, railroad car production in Górlitz, Niesky, and Bautzen, and steel and rolled metal goods production in the cities of Riesa, Groditz, and Freital. The center of the district’s textile industry is Zittau, and the porcelain industry is located in Meissen. Bituminous and anthracite coal are mined, and there are small deposits of copper, tin, and tungsten. A large part of the plains and the foothills are cultivated, and dairy animal husbandry is carried on in the district.




a city in the German Democratic Republic (GDR). Administrative center of Dresden District. Population, 585,800 (1970). Dresden is a major economic and cultural center of the country. The city’s favorable location on the Elbe waterway from Central Europe to the North Sea and on the trade route that passes near the foothills of the Erzgebirge promoted its early economic growth. Dresden is a river port and a junction of railroad lines and highways. It has an airport.

Dresden’s industry is dominated by highly developed branches of machine building, primarily those that use little metal. Among them are the electrical engineering and electronics industries (transformers, refrigerators, heat engineering and vacuum equipment, and semiconductors), instrument-making, the optics industry, and precision machine building (for example, X-ray machines and motion picture and photography apparatus). The city is also the site of light industry, a centuries-old porcelain and glassware industry, and clothing, furniture, food and tobacco production.

Historical survey. Dresden was originally a fishermen’s settlement populated by Serbo-Lusatian Slavs. It was first mentioned as a city in 1216. Artisans’ uprisings against the aristocrats took place in Dresden around 1345 and 1368. In 1485 the city became the residence of the Albertine line of the Saxon dukes of Wettin, and in 1806 it became the capital of the Kingdom of Saxony. A major battle was fought near Dresden during the Napoleonic wars (Aug. 26-27, 1813). At the time of the Revolution of 1848-49 in Germany, the city was the site of an uprising in defense of the imperial constitution.

In 1871, Dresden and the rest of Saxony became part of the German empire. In 1917 and 1918 the movement against the imperialist war attracted a significant following in Dresden. The demonstration of the “proletarian hundreds,” which took place in the city in September 1923, inaugurated an upswing of the revolutionary movement in Saxony. The bombing of Dresden by the British and American air forces at the end of World War II (February 1945) destroyed a great part of the city and killed many of its inhabitants. After its liberation by the Soviet Army on May 8, 1945, Dresden became part of the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. Later, it became part of the GDR, which was formed on Oct. 7, 1949.

Architecture and city planning. Dresden is one of the most beautiful cities in Germany. Parks and bridges across the Elbe give the city its characteristic appearance. The bridges connect left-bank Dresden—the Altstadt (Old City), which is the city’s historical nucleus—with the Neustadt (New City). The central part of the Neustadt, which was built primarily in the 19th and 20th centuries, has a radial plan. Its center is the Einheitsplatz (Unity Square), which is surrounded by business districts. A number ot architectural monuments on the right bank of the Elbe have been restored, including the Japanese Palace, which was built between 1715 and 1741 by the architects Z. Longuelune, J. de Bodt, and M. D. Póp-pelmann, and the Pillnitz a palace and parks complex built between 1720 and 1724 by the architects Poppelmann and Longuelune.

The Altstadt has had a relatively regular grid of streets since the Middle Ages. Its center is the Postplatz, which is situated between a new building (on the site of blocks that were destroyed) and the major architectural monuments along the Elbe. The latter include the Palace of the Electors (later, of the kings, established c. 1200, built between the 15th and 19th centuries and now being restored), the Zwinger, a baroque palace ensemble made up of pavilions connected by galleries on three sides of a courtyard (1711-22, architect M. D. Poppelmann; restored, 1955-62), and the Hofkirche (1738-56, architect G. Chiaveri; restored). The Zwinger adjoins the Picture Gallery (1847-49, architect G. Semper; completed in 1856, architect K. M. Haenel; the building has been restored).

The socialist reconstruction of Dresden began with the building of the Altmarkt (1953-56, architects I. Rasher, H. Miiller, and G. Guder) and several streets, such as the Ernst Thálmannstrasse. High-rise buildings have been erected near the Pragerstrasse (architect, P. Sniegon). New buildings include the House of the Press (1960-68) and the Palace of Culture, which was built in 1970 by the architects W. Hánsch and H. Lóschau. Dresden’s state art collections include the Dresden Picture Gallery, the Museum of History, the Porcelain Collection, the Green Vault (a collection of Saxon jewelry), and the Museum of Folk Art.

Among Dresden’s educational and scientific institutions are the Technical University, the Higher Transportation School, the Medical Academy, the Higher School of Music, the Higher School of Arts, and a pedagogical institute. Major libraries are located in the city. Dresden, a center for nuclear research, has an atomic reactor in Rossendorf, which is located near the city.


Unter der Fahne der Revolution: Die Dresdner Arbeiter im Kampf gegen den 1. Weltkrieg. Dresden, 1959.
Löffler, F. Das alte Dresden, 4th ed. Dresden, 1962.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


an industrial city in SE Germany, the capital of Saxony on the River Elbe: it was severely damaged in the Seven Years' War (1760); the baroque city was almost totally destroyed in World War II by Allied bombing (1945). Pop.: 483 632 (2003 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005