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(tho͝orĭn`jə), 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. The region of Thuringia extends to the foot of the Harz Mts. in the north and is crossed by the Thuringian Forest, Ger. Thüringer Wald, which stretches from the Werra River in the west to the Thüringer Saale River in the southeast and rises to an altitude of 3,222 ft (982 m) in the Grosser Beerberg. Erfurt (the capital), Weimar, Jena, Gotha, Eisenach, Gera, Altenburg, Mühlhausen, and Suhl are the chief cities.


The ancient Thuringians, a Germanic tribe occupying central Germany between the Elbe and the Danube, were conquered by the Franks during the 6th cent. A.D. and were converted (8th cent.) to Christianity by St. Boniface. Charlemagne made Thuringia a march (frontier country) against the Slavs in the 9th cent., but it passed under the control of the Saxon dukes in the 10th cent.

In the 11th cent. the landgraves of Thuringia, with their seat at the celebrated WartburgWartburg
, castle near Eisenach, in the state of Thuringia, central Germany. Built c.1070, later enlarged, and renovated in the 18th cent., it was the seat of the medieval landgraves of Thuringia.
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, emerged as princes of the Holy Roman Empire and ruled over much of the territory that is modern Thuringia. When Landgrave Louis IV died (1227) on a Crusade, Louis's widow, St. ElizabethElizabeth, Saint,
1207–31, daughter of King Andrew II of Hungary and wife of Landgrave Louis II of Thuringia. She is called St. Elizabeth of Hungary. She led a simple life, personally tended the sick and the poor, and spent long hours at prayer.
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 of Hungary, was expelled by his brother and successor, Henry Raspe, who later was antiking to Conrad IV. Although the succession to Thuringia was long contested after Henry's death in 1247, the major part eventually fell to the 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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, i.e., to the margraves of Meissen, who in 1423 became electors of Saxony.

The division (1485) of the Wettin lands left most of the Thuringian territories in the hands of the Ernestine branch of the family, which also received the electoral title. Thuringia was split, under the Ernestines, into several duchies (see Saxe-AltenburgSaxe-Altenburg
, Ger. Sachsen-Altenburg, former duchy, Thuringia, central Germany. Altenburg was the capital. Created a separate duchy in 1603, it was ruled by an Ernestine line of the house of Wettin.
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; Saxe-CoburgSaxe-Coburg
, Ger. Sachsen-Coburg, former duchy, central Germany. A possession of the Ernestine branch of the house of Wettin, it was given by Ernest the Pious (d. 1675) of Saxe-Gotha to his son Albert.
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; Saxe-GothaSaxe-Gotha
, Ger. Sachsen-Gotha, former duchy, Thuringia, central Germany. A possession of the Ernestine branch of the house of Wettin, it passed in the 16th cent. to the dukes of Saxe-Weimar.
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; Saxe-MeiningenSaxe-Meiningen
, Ger. Sachsen-Meiningen, former duchy, Thuringia, central Germany. The capital was Meiningen. A possession of the Ernestine branch of the house of Wettin, it became a separate duchy in 1681 under Bernard, third son of Ernest the Pious of Saxe-Gotha.
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; Saxe-WeimarSaxe-Weimar
, Ger. Sachsen-Weimar, former duchy, Thuringia, central Germany. The area passed in the division of 1485 to the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty and remained with that branch after the redivision of the Wettin lands in 1547, when Elector John Frederick I
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). Principalities situated in Thuringia but not ruled by any of the branches of the Ernestine line were those of Reuss and Schwarzburg. Among the Ernestine duchies (which underwent several redivisions in the 17th, 18th, and 19th cent.) the most important, both politically and culturally, was Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (see under Saxe-WeimarSaxe-Weimar
, Ger. Sachsen-Weimar, former duchy, Thuringia, central Germany. The area passed in the division of 1485 to the Ernestine branch of the Wettin dynasty and remained with that branch after the redivision of the Wettin lands in 1547, when Elector John Frederick I
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All the Thuringian territories except Saxe-Meiningen sided with Prussia in the Austro-Prussian War of 1866. The Thuringian states had been members of the German Confederation from 1815; they joined the North German Confederation in 1866 and the German Empire in 1871. Their rulers were expelled in 1918, and in 1920 the state of Thuringia was founded under the Weimar Republic by the union of Saxe-Coburg-Gotha (without the city of Coburg, which went to Bavaria), Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach, Saxe-Altenburg, Saxe-Meiningen, the two sister principalities of Reuss, and the two sister principalities of Schwarzburg.

As constituted in 1946 under Soviet military occupation, Thuringia consisted of the prewar state of Thuringia with the addition of former Prussian enclaves and border areas, notably Erfurt and Mühlhausen. In 1952 the state was abolished as an East German administrative unit, and Thuringia was split into the districts of Erfurt, Suhl, and Gera. It was reintegrated as a state shortly before German reunification in Oct., 1990. It is the smallest but most densely populated of the new German states. The heavily industrial region began to experience economic hardship by the 1990s; many of its largest industrial concerns went out of business.

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



(German, Thüringen), a historical region in the German Democratic Republic. Originally the area in which the Thuringians settled, the region became a landgraviate in 1130. The house of Wettin laid claim to Thuringia in 1247, and the margrave of Meissen, of the house of Wettin, assumed control of it in 1264.

The Wettins became the electors of Saxony in the 15th century. In 1485, Thuringia was divided between two brothers, Albert and Ernest, of the house of Wettin. Ernest received electoral Saxony and southern Thuringia; Albert received northern Thuringia. In 1547 the Albertine line increased its holdings by taking from Ernest’s grandson electoral Saxony and some of his Thuringian territories. Northern Thuringia was incorporated into the electorate, which later became the Kingdom of Saxony. As a result of the Congress of Vienna of 1814–15, northern Thuringia was ceded to Prussia.

The southern Thuringian lands that were given to Ernest were divided into feudal states known as the Ernestine Saxon duchies. Their number and boundaries changed with time. The most important of the Ernestine duchies were Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach (a grand duchy from 1815 to 1918), Saxe-Coburg-Gotha, Saxe-Meiningen, and Saxe-Altenburg. After the November Revolution of 1918, the duchies were abolished, and in 1920 the Land of Thuringia was established with its capital at Weimar.

After the defeat of fascist Germany in 1945, Thuringia was included in the Soviet occupation zone of Germany. In 1946 the Land of Thuringia was reorganized, and the city of Erfurt became its capital. Since 1949, the area has been part of the German Democratic Republic. In 1952, Thuringia was abolished as an administrative unit and was divided into the districts of Erfurt, Gera, and Suhl.

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


a state of central Germany, formerly in East Germany. Pop.: 2 373 000 (2003 est.)
Collins Discovery Encyclopedia, 1st edition © HarperCollins Publishers 2005
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