Free City

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 It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Free City


in international law, an independent, territori-ally and politically neutralized and demilitarized formal entity whose legal system is established by international treaties and guaranteed by states or international organizations. A free city is a determinate entity in international law.

In accordance with the 1815 Treaty of Vienna, Kraków, along with its surrounding territory, was the first in international legal practice to be a “free, independent, and completely neutralized city” under the protection of Russia, Austria, and Prussia. The legal status of Kraków as a free city was established in a special supplementary agreement on Kraków dated Apr. 21 (May 3), 1815, and by the articles of the principal act of the Congress of Vienna dated May 28 (June 9), 1815.

After World War I the status of a free city was established for Danzig in accordance with the Versailles Peace Treaty of 1919. It became a separate and independent political entity, or “free state,” with its own constitution (effective June 4, 1922), organs of authority, administration (a Volkstag and a senate), and citizenship. The legal status of the Free City of Danzig was defined by the Versailles Peace Treaty (articles 100-108) and the Polish-Danzig Paris Convention of Nov. 9, 1920; its constitution was ratified by the Council of the League of Nations, the Polish-Danzig Treaty of Oct. 24, 1921, and a number of resolutions of the Council of the League of Nations. Danzig was placed under the protection of the League of Nations. Particularly characteristic of the Free City of Danzig’s legal position was the fact that, in order to ensure Poland’s access to the sea at Danzig, the following broad political and economic rights were granted: the terri-tory of the Free City was included within the Polish customs borders, Poland received the right to utilize the port of Danzig for its own export and import and the right to administer the city’s rail network, and Poland was entrusted with the conduct of Danzig’s foreign relations and the protection of its citizens abroad. At the beginning of World War II in September 1939, Danzig was captured by Hitler’s Germany. In 1945 it was liberated by the Soviet Army and, in accordance with the Potsdam Agreement of 1945, became part of Poland under the name of Gdansk.

The peace treaty with Italy in 1947 provided that Trieste would be an independent political entity (a free territory) and that it would be demilitarized and neutralized so that no armed forces at all could be stationed on its territory except by decree of the UN Security Council. The Security Council was also bound to ensure the integrity and independence of Trieste. In fact, Trieste was not made a free city.

A regime that had a status similar to that of a free city existed in Tangier from 1923 to 1940 and again from 1945 to 1956. The establishment of a similar regime was provided for Jerusalem by a resolution of the UN General Assembly dated Nov. 29, 1947.

In view of the circumstances which developed in Berlin after World War II as the result of the policy of the Western powers, the government of the USSR proposed in 1958 in agreement with the government of the German Democratic Republic the establishment of a statute granting to West Berlin the status of a demilitarized and neutralized free city.


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