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Administrative divisions of East Germany

The administrative divisions of the German Democratic Republic (commonly referred to as East Germany) were constituted in two different forms during the country's history. The GDR first retained the traditional German division into federated states called Länder, but in 1952 they were replaced with districts called Bezirke. Immediately before German reunification in 1990, the Länder were restored, but they were not effectively reconstituted until after reunification had completed.

Contents

Division into LänderEdit

General backgroundEdit

 
The GDR (in red) with its original Länder.

In May 1945, following its defeat in World War II, Germany was occupied by the United States, Britain, France and the Soviet Union. All four occupation powers reorganised the territories by recreating the Länder (states), the constituting parts of federal Germany. The state of Prussia, whose provinces extended to all four zones and covered two thirds of Germany, was abolished in 1947.[1]

Special conditions were assigned to Berlin, which the four powers divided into four sectors. A united German state government existed in the city until it broke apart in 1948. After 1949, both West Berlin and East Berlin (officially only called Berlin) were in effect incorporated into the Federal Republic of Germany and the German Democratic Republic, respectively, despite not legally being part of these countries.

Länder in East GermanyEdit

In the Soviet occupation zone, five Länder were established which roughly corresponded to the preexisting states and provinces. (The territories east of the Oder–Neisse line had been transferred from the Soviet occupation zone to the Polish authorities as agreed upon at the Potsdam Conference.) The five states were:

In 1949, the Soviet occupation zone was transformed into the German Democratic Republic. The five Länder (and East Berlin, though the latter only with consultative votes) participated in the legislative branch through the Länderkammer (Chamber of States), which was elected by the Landtage (state parliaments). However, the Länder were not constituting entities forming a federal republic (as in West Germany) but rather decentralised administrative entities of a quasi-unitary state.

As a nod to the legal fiction that East Berlin was still occupied territory, it was neither counted as part of Brandenburg, nor as a state in its own right. East Germany claimed East Berlin as its capital, a status recognised by virtually all Eastern Bloc countries. However, most Western Bloc countries did not recognise this.

Division into BezirkeEdit

 
Bezirke of the GDR (1952–1990).[2]

On 23 July 1952, a law combined the GDR's municipal districts (Kreise) into 14 regional districts (Bezirke), and subsequently, on 25 July 1952, the state governments transferred their administrative tasks to the new districts.[3]

With this law, the Länder were in effect dissolved. While they formally remained in existence, they no longer had any political or administrative functions. The 14 new Bezirke were drawn without regard to the borders of the Länder and each named after their capitals, from north to south: Rostock, Neubrandenburg, Schwerin, Potsdam, Frankfurt (Oder), Magdeburg, Cottbus, Halle, Leipzig, Erfurt, Dresden, Karl-Marx-Stadt (named Chemnitz until 1953), Gera and Suhl.

The Länderkammer also remained in existence and its members were elected in 1954 by combined sessions of the Bezirkstage (district assemblies) in each Land and in 1958 directly by the Bezirkstage. However, on 8 December 1958, the Länderkammer and Länder were formally dissolved with no objections being raised.

Due to its special status, East Berlin was originally not counted as a Bezirk. In 1961, after the construction of the Berlin Wall, East Berlin came to be recognised in GDR administration as the Bezirk Berlin, though it retained a special status until the adoption of the revised 1968 Constitution.[4]

The Bezirke (with the exception of Berlin, which consisted of a single municipality) were subdivided into rural districts (Landkreise) and urban districts (Stadtkreise):

Bezirk subdivisions
Cottbus Urban districts: Cottbus
Rural districts: Bad Liebenwerda · Calau · Cottbus-Land · Finsterwalde · Forst · Guben (Wokrejs Gubin) · Herzberg · Hoyerswerda · Jessen · Luckau · Lübben · Senftenberg · Spremberg · Weißwasser
Dresden Urban districts: Dresden · Görlitz
Rural districts: Bautzen · Bischofswerda · Dippoldiswalde · Dresden-Land · Freital · Görlitz-Land · Großenhain · Kamenz · Löbau · Meißen · Niesky · Pirna · Riesa · Sebnitz · Zittau
Erfurt Urban districts: Erfurt · Weimar
Rural districts: Apolda · Arnstadt · Eisenach · Erfurt-Land · Gotha · Heiligenstadt · Langensalza · Mühlhausen · Nordhausen · Sömmerda · Sondershausen · Weimar-Land
Frankfurt (Oder) Urban districts: Frankfurt (Oder) · Eisenhüttenstadt · Schwedt/Oder
Rural districts: Angermünde · Bad Freienwalde · Beeskow · Bernau · Eberswalde · Eisenhüttenstadt · Fürstenwalde · Seelow · Strausberg
Gera Urban districts: Gera · Jena
Rural districts: Eisenberg · Gera-Land · Greiz · Jena · Lobenstein · Pößneck · Rudolstadt · Saalfeld · Schleiz · Stadtroda · Zeulenroda
Halle Urban districts: Halle · Dessau · Halle-Neustadt (from 12 May 1967)
Rural districts: Artern · Aschersleben · Bernburg · Bitterfeld · Eisleben · Gräfenhainichen · Hettstedt · Hohenmölsen · Köthen · Merseburg · Naumburg · Nebra · Quedlinburg · Querfurt · Roßlau · Saalkreis · Sangerhausen · Weißenfels · Wittenberg · Zeitz
Karl-Marx-Stadt Urban districts: Karl-Marx-Stadt · Plauen · Zwickau · Johanngeorgenstadt (until 1957) · Schneeberg (until 1958)
Rural districts: Annaberg · Aue · Auerbach · Brand-Erbisdorf · Flöha · Freiberg · Glauchau · Hainichen · Hohenstein-Ernstthal · Karl-Marx-Stadt-Land · Klingenthal · Marienberg · Oelsnitz · Plauen-Land · Reichenbach · Rochlitz · Schwarzenberg · Stollberg · Werdau · Zschopau · Zwickau-Land
Leipzig Urban districts: Leipzig
Rural districts: Altenburg · Borna · Delitzsch · Döbeln · Eilenburg · Geithain · Grimma · Leipzig-Land · Oschatz · Schmölln · Torgau · Wurzen
Magdeburg Urban districts: Magdeburg
Rural districts: Burg · Gardelegen · Genthin · Halberstadt · Haldensleben · Havelberg · Kalbe (Milde) (until December 1987) · Klötze · Loburg (until June 1957) · Oschersleben · Osterburg · Salzwedel · Schönebeck · Seehausen (until July 1965) · Staßfurt · Stendal · Tangerhütte (until December 1987) · Wanzleben · Wernigerode · Wolmirstedt · Zerbst
Neubrandenburg Urban districts: Neubrandenburg (from January 1969)
Rural districts: Altentreptow · Anklam · Demmin · Malchin · Neubrandenburg-Land · Neustrelitz · Pasewalk · Prenzlau · Röbel/Müritz · Strasburg · Templin · Teterow · Ueckermünde · Waren
Potsdam Urban districts: Potsdam · Brandenburg an der Havel
Rural districts: Belzig · Brandenburg · Gransee · Jüterbog · Königs-Wusterhausen · Kyritz · Luckenwalde · Nauen · Neuruppin · Oranienburg · Potsdam · Pritzwalk · Rathenow · Wittstock · Zossen
Rostock Urban districts: Rostock · Greifswald (from January 1974) · Stralsund · Wismar
Rural districts: Bad Doberan · Greifswald Land · Grevesmühlen · Grimmen · Ribnitz-Damgarten · Rostock-Land · Rügen · Stralsund · Wismar · Wolgast
Schwerin Urban districts: Schwerin
Rural districts: Bützow · Gadebusch · Güstrow · Hagenow · Ludwigslust · Lübz · Parchim · Perleberg · Schwerin-Land · Sternberg
Suhl Urban districts: Suhl
Rural districts: Bad Salzungen · Hildburghausen · Ilmenau · Meiningen · Neuhaus · Schmalkalden · Sonneberg · Suhl-Land

List of BezirkeEdit

From north to south, the Bezirke were:

Lage Bezirk Area (km²) Population
(1989)
Population density
(people/km²)
Licence
plates
Internal divisions
(1989)
Towns
  Rostock 7,075 916,500 130 A 10 Landkreise,
4 Stadtkreise
360
  Schwerin 8,672 595,200 69 B 10 Landkreise,
1 Stadtkreis
389
  Neubrandenburg 10,948 620,500 57 C 14 Landkreise,
1 Stadtkreis
492
  Potsdam 12,568 1,123,800 89 D, P 15 Landkreise,
2 Stadtkreise
755
  Frankfurt (Oder) 7,186 713,800 99 E 9 Landkreise,
3 Stadtkreise
438
  Magdeburg 11,526 1,249,500 108 H, M 17 Landkreise,
1 Stadtkreis
655
  Cottbus 8,262 884,700 107 Z 14 Landkreise,
1 Stadtkreis
574
  Halle 8.771 1.776.500 203 K, V 20 Landkreise,
3 Stadtkreise
684
  Leipzig 4,966 1,360,900 274 S, U 12 Landkreise,
1 Stadtkreis
422
  Erfurt 7,349 1,240,400 169 L, F 13 Landkreise,
2 Stadtkreise
719
  Dresden 6,738 1,757,400 261 R, Y 15 Landkreise,
2 Stadtkreise
594
  Karl-Marx-Stadt* 6,009 1,859,500 309 T, X 21 Landkreise,
3 Stadtkreise
601
  Gera 4,004 742,000 185 N 11 Landkreise,
2 Stadtkreise
528
  Suhl 3,856 549,400 142 O 8 Landkreise,
1 Stadtkreis
358
  Berlin** 403 1,279,200 3,174 I 11 Stadtbezirke 1
DDR 108,333 16,669,300 154 191 Landkreise,
27 Stadtkreise
(+ Ost-Berlin)
7,570

*) The Bezirk Karl-Marx-Stadt was named Bezirk Chemnitz for a short period at both the beginning and end of the republic, corresponding with the renaming and reversal of the city Chemnitz. Between 10 May 1953 and 30 May 1990, both the city and Bezirk were named Karl-Marx-Stadt.
**) East Berlin was not officially a Bezirk, but from 1961 was provided with the function of one.

Reconstitution of the LänderEdit

 
The reconstituted Länder in 1990, with borders in red. The purple borders show the original borders pre-1952.

On 23 August 1990 — just over a month before German reunification on 3 October — East Germany reconstituted the five original Länder. In theory, it was these Länder that then acceded to the Federal Republic of Germany.[3]

The restored Länder did not fully reconstitute themselves until after reunification. On 14 October 1990, elections to the Landtage (state parliaments) were held in the five new states, initiating the formation of state governments.

Since changes to the boundaries of municipal districts were not reversed, and also due to considerations of expediency, the territorial make-up of the restored Länder differed somewhat from the borders prior to 1952.

Saxony and Saxony-Anhalt initially retained the rural and urban districts as administrative entities (Regierungsbezirke). Saxony-Anhalt later abolished them in 2003, while Saxony transformed them into directorates in 2008.

See alsoEdit

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Orlow, Dietrich (1986-12-15). Weimar Prussia, 1918–1925: The Unlikely Rock of Democracy. University of Pittsburgh Pre. p. 3. ISBN 9780822976400.
  2. ^ Grieder, Peter (2012-11-02). The German Democratic Republic. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. xviii. ISBN 9780230356863.
  3. ^ a b Illing, Falk (2014-10-07). Die sächsische FDP seit 1990: Auf dem Weg zur etablierten Partei? (in German). Springer-Verlag. p. 71. ISBN 9783658046576.
  4. ^ Horváth, Gyula (2014-08-21). Spaces and Places in Central and Eastern Europe: Historical Trends and Perspectives. Routledge. p. 109. ISBN 9781317917540.

External linksEdit

  Media related to Districts of the German Democratic Republic at Wikimedia Commons