East Prussia

East Prussia
Ostpreußen
Province of the Kingdom of Prussia (until 1918) and the Free State of Prussia
Puppet state of the Third Reich

1772–1829
1878–1945

 

FlagCoat of arms
FlagCoat of arms
Location of East Prussia
East Prussia (red), within the Kingdom of Prussia, within the German Empire, as of 1871
CapitalKönigsberg
History
 • Established31 January 1773
 • Province of Prussia3 December 1829
 • Province restored1 April 1878
 • Soviet capture1945
Area
 • 190536,993 km2 (14,283 sq mi)
Population
 • 19052,025,741 
Density54.8 /km2  (141.8 /sq mi)
Political subdivisionsGumbinnen
Königsberg
Allenstein (from 1905)
West Prussia (1922–1939)
Zichenau (from 1939)
Today part of Russia
 Poland
 Lithuania

East Prussia (German: Ostpreußen, pronounced [ˈɔstˌpʁɔʏsən] (About this sound listen); Polish: Prusy Wschodnie; Lithuanian: Rytų Prūsija; Latin: Borussia orientalis; Russian: Восточная Пруссия) was a province of the Kingdom of Prussia from 1773 to 1829 and again from 1878 (with the Kingdom itself being part of the German Empire from 1871); following World War I it formed part of the Weimar Republic's Free State of Prussia, until 1945. Its capital city was Königsberg (present-day Kaliningrad). East Prussia was the main part of the region of Prussia along the southeastern Baltic Coast.[1]

East Prussia enclosed the bulk of the ancestral lands of the Baltic Old Prussians. During the 13th century, the native Prussians were conquered by the crusading Teutonic Knights. After the conquest the indigenous Balts were gradually converted to Christianity. Because of Germanization and colonisation over the following centuries, Germans became the dominant ethnic group, while Masurians and Lithuanians formed minorities. From the 13th century, East Prussia was part of the monastic state of the Teutonic Knights. After the Second Peace of Thorn in 1466 it became a fief of the Kingdom of Poland. In 1525, with the Prussian Homage, the province became the Duchy of Prussia.[2] The Old Prussian language had become extinct by the 17th or early 18th century.[3]

Because the duchy was outside of the core Holy Roman Empire, the prince-electors of Brandenburg were able to proclaim themselves King beginning in 1701. After the annexation of most of western Royal Prussia in the First Partition of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth in 1772, eastern (ducal) Prussia was connected by land with the rest of the Prussian state and was reorganized as a province the following year (1773). Between 1829 and 1878, the Province of East Prussia was joined with West Prussia to form the Province of Prussia.

The Kingdom of Prussia became the leading state of the German Empire after its creation in 1871. However, the Treaty of Versailles following World War I granted West Prussia to Poland and made East Prussia an exclave of Weimar Germany (the new Polish Corridor separating East Prussia from the rest of Germany), while the Memel Territory was detached and was annexed by Lithuania in 1923. Following Nazi Germany's defeat in World War II in 1945, war-torn East Prussia was divided at Joseph Stalin's insistence between the Soviet Union (the Kaliningrad Oblast in the Russian SFSR and the constituent counties of the Klaipėda Region in the Lithuanian SSR) and the People's Republic of Poland (the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship).[4] The capital city Königsberg was renamed Kaliningrad in 1946. The German population of the province was largely evacuated during the war or expelled shortly thereafter in the expulsion of Germans after World War II. An estimated 300,000 (around one fifth of the population) died either in war time bombings raids, in the battles to defend the province or through mistreatment by the Red Army.[citation needed]

Background

Ethnic settlement in East Prussia by the 14th century

Upon the invitation of Duke Konrad I of Masovia, the Teutonic Knights took possession of Prussia in the 13th century and created a monastic state to administer the conquered Old Prussians. Local Old-Prussian (north) and Polish (south) toponyms were gradually Germanised. The Knights' expansionist policies, including occupation of Polish Pomerania with Gdańsk/Danzig and western Lithuania, brought them into conflict with the Kingdom of Poland and embroiled them in several wars, culminating in the Polish-Lithuanian-Teutonic War, whereby the united armies of Poland and Lithuania, defeated the Teutonic Order at the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg) in 1410. Its defeat was formalised in the Second Treaty of Thorn in 1466 ending the Thirteen Years' War, and leaving the former Polish region Pomerania/Pomerelia under Polish control. Together with Warmia it formed the province of Royal Prussia. Eastern Prussia remained under the Knights, but as a fief of Poland. 1466 and 1525 arrangements by kings of Poland were not verified by the Holy Roman Empire as well as the previous gains of the Teutonic Knights were not verified.

The Teutonic Order lost eastern Prussia when Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach converted to Lutheranism and secularized the Prussian branch of the Teutonic Order in 1525. Albert established himself as the first duke of the Duchy of Prussia and a vassal of the Polish crown by the Prussian Homage. Walter von Cronberg, the next Grand Master, was enfeoffed with the title to Prussia after the Diet of Augsburg in 1530, but the Order never regained possession of the territory. In 1569 the Hohenzollern prince-electors of the Margraviate of Brandenburg became co-regents with Albert's son, the feeble-minded Albert Frederick.

The Administrator of Prussia, the grandmaster of the Teutonic Order Maximilian III, son of emperor Maximilian II died in 1618. When Maximilian died, Albert's line died out, and the Duchy of Prussia passed to the Electors of Brandenburg, forming Brandenburg-Prussia. Taking advantage of the Swedish invasion of Poland in 1655, and instead of fulfilling his vassal's duties towards the Polish Kingdom, by joining forces with the Swedes and subsequent treaties of Wehlau, Labiau, and Oliva, Elector and Duke Frederick William succeeded in revoking the king of Poland's sovereignty over the Duchy of Prussia in 1660. The absolutist elector also subdued the noble estates of Prussia.

Other Languages
Afrikaans: Oos-Pruise
azərbaycanca: Şərqi Prussiya
беларуская: Усходняя Прусія
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Усходняя Прусія
български: Източна Прусия
brezhoneg: Prusia ar Reter
Deutsch: Ostpreußen
español: Prusia Oriental
Esperanto: Orienta Prusio
français: Prusse-Orientale
한국어: 동프로이센
hrvatski: Istočna Pruska
Bahasa Indonesia: Prusia Timur
kaszëbsczi: Wschòdné Prësë
latviešu: Austrumprūsija
Bahasa Melayu: Prusia Timur
Nederlands: Oost-Pruisen
Nordfriisk: Uastpreußen
norsk nynorsk: Aust-Preussen
Plattdüütsch: Oostpreußen
português: Prússia Oriental
slovenčina: Východné Prusko
српски / srpski: Источна Пруска
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Istočna Pruska
svenska: Ostpreussen
татарча/tatarça: Көнчыгыш Пруссия
Türkçe: Doğu Prusya
українська: Східна Пруссія
Tiếng Việt: Đông Phổ
粵語: 東普魯士
中文: 東普魯士