East Prussia


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East Prussia

East Prussia, Ger. Ostpreussen, former province of Prussia, extreme NE Germany. The region of East Prussia has low rolling hills that are heavily wooded, and it is dotted by many lakes (especially in Masuria) and drained by several rivers including the Nemen (Nieman). Its Baltic coast is deeply indented by the Vistula Lagoon (Frisches Haff) and by the Gulf of Kursh (Kurisches Haff). In the 13th cent. the Teutonic Knights conquered the region from the Borussi, or Prussians (a people related to the Liths), displaced the original population, and secured the territory as a fief for their order. In 1309, Malbork became the headquarters of the grand master of the Teutonic Knights.

In 1466, by the Peace of Torun, the knights ceded Pomerelia (see Pomerania; later a part of West Prussia) and Ermeland to Poland and accepted Polish suzerainty over the rest of their domain. Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg, after secularizing the Teutonic order, took the title “duke of Prussia” in 1525, remaining under Polish suzerainty. The duchy was inherited (1618) by the elector of Brandenburg. Frederick William, the Great Elector, won full sovereignty over the duchy at the Peace of Oliva (1660), and in 1701 his son, Frederick III, had himself crowned “king in Prussia” as Frederick I at Königsberg (Kaliningrad).

East Prussia, as the original Prussia came to be called, from 1701 to 1945 shared the history of Prussia. It remained the stronghold of the Prussian landowning and military aristocracy—the Junkers—whose immense estates took up a large part of the province. From 1919 to 1939 it was separated from the rest of Germany by the Polish Corridor and the Free City of Danzig (Gdańsk). Königsberg was the capital. East Prussia bordered on Poland and Lithuania in the south and east and stretched to Memel and the Baltic Sea in the north and northeast.

In 1945, at the end of World War II, East Prussia was overrun by Soviet troops and about 600,000 of its inhabitants were killed. Most Germans who had not left by the end of the war were expelled by the Polish and Soviet governments shortly after its end. At the Potsdam Conference (1945), East Prussia was divided by two transfers; the transfers were made permanent by treaties between West Germany and Poland and the USSR that were signed and ratified between 1970 and 1972. The northern part was assigned at Potsdam to the USSR; it includes the cities of Kaliningrad, Sovetsk (Tilsit), Chernyakhovsk (Insterburg), Gusev (Gumbinnen), and Baltiysk (Pilau). The rest was incorporated into Poland as Olsztyn province; this part includes the cities of Olsztyn (Allenstein), Malbork (Marienburg), and Elbląg (Elbing).

Bibliography

See M. Egremont, Forgotten Land: Journeys among the Ghosts of East Prussia (2011).

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East Prussia

a former province of NE Germany on the Baltic Sea: separated in 1919 from the rest of Germany by the Polish Corridor and Danzig: in 1945 Poland received the south part, the Soviet Union the north
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
References in periodicals archive ?
In the first frigid months of 1945, nearly 750,000 Germans fled East Prussia ahead of the advancing Red Army.
Every serious work includes a discussion of the early failures of the Russian army in East Prussia and its early successes in Galicia, but few deal as expertly with the continuing slugfest in Poland that occupied both Russia and the Central Powers for the remainder of the fall and winter of 1914-1915.
Valkyrie Located in the Masurian Woods, East Prussia, this map was inspired by The Wolf's Lair The Fuhrer's Eastern-front headquarters during Operation Barbarossa the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union.
Sabina Kowalewski originally inherited most of the books from her father Arnold Kowalewski, who was a philosophy professor at University of Konigsberg in East Prussia.
In 1871 a united German state was proclaimed and the Old Prussian lands remained part of the country, as the region of East Prussia, until the end of World War Two.
The vessel was pressed into service in March 1945, when a massive seaborne operation was conducted to evacuate civilian and military personnel from East Prussia ahead of the advancing Soviet armies.
Widespread recognition came late; for much of his life, this refugee--who was born in what was then Konigsberg, East Prussia, and had to flee his newly adopted home city of Florence when Italy introduced anti-Semitic legislation in 1938--was benignly ignored.
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Ilse Stritzke, with help from her son Bernard Stritzke, recounts her childhood in Palmnicken, East Prussia, a small coastal village on the Baltic Sea that was part of Germany during World War II.

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