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(săk`sənē), Ger. Sachsen, Fr. Saxe, state (1994 pop. 4,901,000), 7,078 sq mi (18,337 sq km), E central Germany. Dresden is the capital. In its current form, Saxony is a federal state of Germany, with its pre–World War II borders reinstated as of Oct., 1990. It lies in E Germany, bordered on the west by the German states of Thuringia, Saxony-Anhalt, and Bavaria; on the south by the Czech Republic; on the east by Poland; and on the north by the German state of Brandenburg. The industrialized region is heavily polluted, due in large part to the mining of brown coal and uranium.


The geographic concept of Saxony has undergone great shifts and has acquired many meanings in the past 15 centuries. The land of the SaxonsSaxons,
Germanic people, first mentioned in the 2d cent. by Ptolemy as inhabiting the southern part of the Cimbric Peninsula (S Jutland). Holding the area at the mouth of the Elbe River and some of the nearby islands, they gradually extended their territory southward across the
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, Saxony was in Frankish times roughly the area in NW Germany between the Elbe and Ems rivers; it also included part of S Jutland. (This area corresponds in part to the state of Lower SaxonyLower Saxony,
Ger. Niedersachsen , state (1994 pop. 7,480,000), 18,295 sq mi (47,384 sq km), NW Germany. Hanover is the capital. The state was formed in 1946 by the merger of the former Prussian province of Hanover with the former states of Brunswick, Oldenburg, and
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, created after World War II.)

The Duchy of Saxony

After Charlemagne's conquest (772–804) of the Saxons, their land was incorporated into the Carolingian empire, and late in the 9th cent. the first duchy of Saxony. Including the four divisions of Westphalia, Angria, Eastphalia, and Holstein, it occupied nearly all the territory between the Elbe and Saale rivers on the east and the Rhine on the west; it bordered on Franconia and Thuringia in the south. Duke Henry I (Henry the Fowler) of Saxony was elected German king in 919, and his son, Emperor Otto I, bestowed (961) Saxony on Hermann Billung (d. 973), a Saxon nobleman, whose descendants held the duchy until the extinction of the male line in 1106. Lothair of Supplinburg (see Lothair IILothair II,
also called Lothair III,
1075–1137, Holy Roman emperor (1133–37) and German king (1125–37); successor of Holy Roman Emperor Henry V.
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) bestowed it on his Guelphic son-in-law, Henry the ProudHenry the Proud,
c.1108–1139, duke of Bavaria (1126–38) and of Saxony (1137–38). A member of the Guelph family, he inherited the duchy of Bavaria and enormous private wealth.
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, who was already duke of Bavaria.

In 1142 the duchy passed to Henry the LionHenry the Lion,
1129–95, duke of Saxony (1142–80) and of Bavaria (1156–80); son of Henry the Proud. His father died (1139) while engaged in a war to regain his duchies, and it was not until 1142 that Henry the Lion became duke of Saxony.
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, son of Henry the Proud. The struggle between Henry the Lion and Emperor Frederick I ended with Henry's loss of all his fiefs in 1180. The stem duchy was broken up into numerous fiefs. The Guelphic heirs of Henry the Lion retained only their allodial lands, the duchy of BrunswickBrunswick
, Ger. Braunschweig , former state, central Germany, surrounded by the former Prussian provinces of Saxony, Hanover, and Westphalia. The region of Braunschweig is situated on the North German plain and in the northern foothills of the Harz Mts.
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. The ducal title of Saxony went to Bernard of Anhalt, a younger son of Albert the BearAlbert the Bear,
c.1100–1170, first margrave of Brandenburg (1150–70). He was a loyal vassal of Holy Roman Emperor Lothair II, who, as duke of Saxony, helped him take (1123) Lower Lusatia and the eastern march of Saxony. Albert lost these lands in 1131.
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 of Brandenburg and founder of the Ascanian line of Saxon dukes. Besides Anhalt, Bernard received Lauenburg and the country around Wittenberg, on the Elbe. These widely separate territories continued after 1260 under separate branches of the Ascanians as Saxe-Lauenburg and Saxe-Wittenberg.

Electoral Saxony

The Golden Bull of 1356 raised the duke of Saxe-Wittenberg to the permanent rank of elector, with the right to participate in the election of the Holy Roman Emperor. Electoral Saxony, as his territory was called, was a relatively small area along the middle Elbe. To the S of Electoral Saxony extended the margraviate of Meissen, ruled by the increasingly powerful house of WettinWettin
, German dynasty, which ruled in Saxony, Thuringia, Poland, Great Britain, Belgium, and Bulgaria. It takes its name from a castle on the Saale near Halle. The family gained prominence in the 10th cent.
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. The margraves of Meissen acquired (13th–14th cent.) the larger parts of ThuringiaThuringia
, Ger. Thüringen, state (1994 pop. 2,533,000), 6,273 sq mi (16,251 sq km), central Germany. It is bordered on the south by Bavaria, on the east by Saxony, on the north by Saxony-Anhalt and Lower Saxony, and on the west by Hesse.
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 and of Lower LusatiaLusatia
, Ger. Lausitz, Pol. Łużyce, region of E Germany and SW Poland. It extends N from the Lusatian Mts., at the Czech border, and W from the Oder River.
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 and the intervening territories, and in 1423 Margrave Frederick the Warlike added Electoral Saxony; he became (1425) Elector Frederick IFrederick I
or Frederick the Warlike,
1370–1428, elector of Saxony (1423–28). As margrave of Meissen he was involved in disputes with his brothers and his uncles over the division of his father's territory.
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. Thus, Saxony shifted to E central and E Germany from NW Germany.

In 1485 the Wettin lands were partitioned between two sons of Elector Frederick II; the division came to be permanent. Ernest, founder of the Ernestine branch of Wettin, received Electoral Saxony with Wittenberg and most of the Thuringian lands. Albert, founder of the Albertine branch, received ducal rank and the Meissen territories, including Dresden and Leipzig. Duke MauriceMaurice,
1521–53, duke (1541–47) and elector (1547–53) of Saxony. A member of the Albertine branch of the ruling house of Saxony, he became duke of Albertine Saxony during the Protestant Reformation.
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 of Saxony, a grandson of Albert and a Protestant, received the electoral title in the 16th cent.; it remained in the Albertine branch until the dissolution (1806) of the Holy Roman Empire.

Saxon Kings of Poland

The rivalry between Saxony and Brandenburg (after 1701 the kingdom of Prussia) was a decisive factor in later Saxon history, as was the election (1697) of Augustus IIAugustus II,
1670–1733, king of Poland (1697–1733) and, as Frederick Augustus I, elector of Saxony (1694–1733). He commanded the imperial army against the Turks (1695–96), but had no success and was replaced by Prince Eugene of Savoy as soon as he
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 (who was Frederick Augustus I as elector of Saxony) as king of Poland; the election led to an economic partnership between the declining Poland and Saxony, whose prestige was thereby diminished. In the War of the Austrian SuccessionAustrian Succession, War of the,
1740–48, general European war. Causes of the War

The war broke out when, on the strength of the pragmatic sanction of 1713, the Austrian archduchess Maria Theresa succeeded her father, Holy Roman Emperor Charles VI, as ruler
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, Saxony adhered to what had become its traditional wavering policy, changing sides in the middle of the conflict. The death (1763) of Augustus III ended the union with Poland.

The period of Saxon rule in Poland marked a time of economic and social decay but of cultural and artistic flowering. Augustus II and Augustus III were lavish patrons of art and learning and greatly beautified their capital, DresdenDresden
, city (1994 pop. 479,300), 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.
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. The universities of Wittenberg and Leipzig had long been leading intellectual centers, and 18th-century Leipzig led in the rise of German literature as well as in music, which reached its first peak in J. S. Bach.

The Kingdom and Province of Saxony

Saxony sided with Prussia against France early in the French Revolutionary Wars, but changed sides in 1806. For this act its elector was raised to royal rank, becoming King Frederick Augustus IFrederick Augustus I,
1750–1827, king (1806–27) and elector (1763–1806) of Saxony, grand duke of Warsaw (1807–14). He sided with the allies in the French Revolutionary Wars and joined Prussia in the campaign of 1806 against the French emperor Napoleon I.
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. His failure to change sides again before Napoleon's fall cost him (1815) nearly half his kingdom at the Congress of Vienna. The kingdom of Saxony lost Lower Lusatia, part of Upper Lusatia, and all its northern territory including Wittenberg and Merseburg to Prussia. Its principal remaining cities were Dresden, Leipzig, Chemnitz, and Plauen. The larger part of the territories ceded in 1815 were incorporated with several other Prussian districts into the Prussian province of Saxony, with Magdeburg its capital. (This was united after 1945 with Anhalt to form the state of Saxony-AnhaltSaxony-Anhalt
, Ger. Sachsen-Anhalt, state (1994 pop. 2,965,000), 7,892 sq mi (20,445 sq km), E Germany. Magdeburg is the capital. It is bordered on the east by Brandenburg, on the west by Lower Saxony, and in the south by Thuringia and Saxony.
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.) The kingdom sided (1866) with Austria in the Austro-Prussian WarAustro-Prussian War
or Seven Weeks War,
June 15–Aug. 23, 1866, between Prussia, allied with Italy, and Austria, seconded by Bavaria, Württemberg, Saxony, Hanover, Baden, and several smaller German states.
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 and was defeated. It was forced to pay a large indemnity and to join the North German Confederation. From 1871 until the abdication (1918) of Frederick Augustus III, it was a member state of the German Empire.

The State of Saxony

The kingdom of Saxony became the state of Saxony after 1918 and joined the Weimar Republic. Dresden became its capital. In the 19th and early 20th cent. Saxony became one of the most industrialized German states, with a noted textile industry. Chemnitz became its main industrial center and Leipzig its chief commercial hub.

After World War II the state of Saxony was reconstituted (1947) under Soviet occupation; it lost a small district E of the Lusatian Neisse, but gained a part of Silesia W of the Neisse. The postwar state became part of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) in 1949. From 1952 to 1990 Saxony was divided into the East German districts of Handeburg Halle, Leipzig, and Cottbus; the districts produced about a third of East Germany's gross domestic product. In 1990, prior to German reunification, the districts were reintegrated as a state.

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



(German Sachsen), a historical region in the German Democratic Republic. The nucleus of Saxony was the Margra-vate of Meissen, which was formed from lands taken by the German feudal lords in the tenth century from the Wends, a group of the Polabian Slavs. In 1089, Meissen passed to the feudal House of Wettin. The Wettins laid claim to Thuringia in 1247 and assumed control of it in 1264. In 1423 they obtained Saxe-Wittenberg, which was part of the former Duchy of Saxony, and the title of elector. The name “Saxony” gradually came to be applied to the Wettin possessions; at first the name “Upper Saxony” was used—in contrast to Lower Saxony, which was located in northern Germany.

Saxony became one of the major territorial principalities of Germany. In 1485 it was divided between two brothers, Ernest and Albert, of the House of Wettin. Ernest received Saxe-Wittenberg, most of Thuringia, and the title of elector; his capital was Wittenberg. Albert was given Meissen, Leipzig, northern Thuringia, and the title of duke; Dresden was his capital.

In the late 15th and 16th centuries, Saxony, with its mining, printing, and other industries, was one of the chief areas of development of capitalist industry in Germany. It was important with respect to cultural development as well: universities were founded in Leipzig in 1409 and in Wittenberg in 1502. Saxony was a stronghold of the Reformation, whose beginning can be traced to the theses put forth by M. Luther in Wittenberg in 1517.

The Peasant War of 1524–26 was fought partly in Saxony, which was the chief location of T. Münzer’s revolutionary activity. For defeating the Protestant princes in the Schmalkaldic War of 1546–48, Duke Maurice of Saxony received in 1547 from Emperor Charles V most of the Electorate of Saxony together with the title of elector; almost all the Saxon lands were thereby united. During the Thirty Years’ War of 1618–48, Saxony was subjected to terrible devastation. Its elector changed allies several times. Under the terms of the Peace of Prague of 1635, he received Upper and Lower Lusatia.

In the late 17th and 18th centuries, Saxony was economically one of the most highly developed regions of Germany. It had mining and textile industry and was an important producer of porcelain. Europe’s first porcelain factory was established in Meissen in 1710. The Leipzig fairs were of importance for all of Germany. Even in Saxony, however, the development of capitalist relations was held back by the continued feudal dependence of the peasants and by the increase in taxes that came with the establishment of princely absolutism in the second half of the 17th century.

In 1697, Elector Frederick Augustus I was elected king of Poland; the union with Poland lasted until 1763. Saxony took part in most of the European wars of the 18th century. It was invaded by Sweden during the Northern War of 1700–21 and was occupied by Prussia during the Seven Years’ War of 1756–63. Saxony was restored to its elector by the Treaty of Hubertus-burg of 1763.

In the late 18th century, Saxony took part in the wars against revolutionary France. Allied with Prussia, it fought against Napoleon I in 1806. After it was defeated at Jena on Oct. 14, 1806, Saxony went over to Napoleon’s side. Saxony became a kingdom in 1806 and was admitted to the Confederation of the Rhine. By a decision of the Congress of Vienna of 1814–15, about half the territory of the Kingdom of Saxony, including Wittenberg, was ceded to Prussia. The ceded lands were combined with other territories to form the Prussian Province of Saxony; the province’s capital was Magdeburg.

Disturbances broke out in Dresden, Leipzig, and other cities in 1830 under the influence of the July Revolution of 1830 in France. A moderately liberal constitution was promulgated in 1831; it established a bicameral diet with representation along the lines of social estates. Saxony was one of the centers of the Revolution of 1848–9 in Germany, as is evidenced by the Dresden Rebellion of 1849 in defense of the imperial constitution. In 1866, Saxony took Austria’s side in the war between Austria and Prussia. It joined the North German Confederation in 1867 and became part of the German Empire in 1871.

Saxony was a leading German industrial region and became a base of the German workers’ movement in the 1860’s and 1870’s. Workers’ Vereine (associations) came into being in Leipzig, Dresden, and other industrial centers. Saxony was one of the principal strongholds of German social democracy. It was largely here that A. Bebel and W. Liebknecht carried out their work. Universal suffrage for men was introduced in Saxony in 1909.

The November Revolution of 1918 brought about the overthrow of the monarchy and the establishment of a republic in Saxony. Under the Weimar Constitution Saxony became a Land (state) in the German Republic. In an atmosphere of revolutionary enthusiasm, a workers’ government was formed in October 1923 in Saxony. A coalition of left Social Democrats and Communists, the government was removed by troops of the central government.

A large antifascist underground organization, headed by the Communist G. Schumann, operated in Saxony under the fascist dictatorship; the organization was especially active during World War II. After the defeat of fascist Germany in 1945, Saxony was included in the Soviet zone of occupation. In 1949 it became part of the German Democratic Republic. Saxony was divided into the districts of Dresden, Leipzig, and Karl-Marx-Stadt in 1952.


Kötzschke, R., and H. Kretzschmar. Sächsische Geschichte [new ed.]. Frankfurt am Main, 1965.
Sächsische Bibliographie. Published by the Sächsische Landesbibliothek. Dresden, 1962–64.
The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.


A fine-quality woolen made of short-staple, botany wools of superior felting power.
McGraw-Hill Dictionary of Scientific & Technical Terms, 6E, Copyright © 2003 by The McGraw-Hill Companies, Inc.


1. a state in E Germany, formerly part of East Germany. Pop.: 4 321 000 (2003 est.)
2. a former duchy and electorate in SE and central Germany, whose territory changed greatly over the centuries
3. (in the early Middle Ages) any territory inhabited or ruled by Saxons
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005