New states of Germany

The new states of Germany (die neuen Länder / die neuen Bundesländer) are the five re-established states of the former German Democratic Republic (GDR) that unified with the Federal Republic of Germany (FRG) with its 10 states upon German reunification on 3 October 1990.

The new states, which were dissolved by the GDR government in 1952 and re-established in 1990, are Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Thuringia. The state of Berlin, the result of a merger between East and West Berlin, is usually not considered one of the new states although many of its residents are former East Germans. There have been 16 states in Germany since reunification.


The population density of the new German states is lower than that of the old states.
Proportion of Germans without a migrant background (2016).

After the fall of the Berlin Wall, the former East German states experienced high rates of depopulation until around 2008.[1] About 2,000 schools closed between 1989 and 2008, because of a demographic shift to a lower number of children.[2] In 2006, the fertility rate in the new states (1.30) approached those in the old states (1.34) and in 2016 it was higher than in the old states (1.64 vs. 1.60 in the old states).[3][4] In 2019, the new states had exactly the same fertility rate as the old states (both 1.56).[5]

More children are born out of wedlock in the new states than in the old states. In the new states, 61% of births were from unmarried women compared to 27% in the old states in 2009. Both states of Saxony-Anhalt and Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had the highest rates of birth outside wedlock at 64% each, followed by Brandenburg with 62%, Bavaria and Hesse at 26%, while the state of Baden-Württemberg had the lowest rate at 22%.[6]

Demographic evolutionEdit

Brandenburg had a population of 2,660,000 in 1989[7] and 2,531,071 in 2020.[8] It has the second-lowest population density in Germany. In 1995, it was the only new state to experience population growth, aided by nearby Berlin.[9]

Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania had a population of 1,970,000 in 1989[7] and 1,610,774 in 2020,[8] with the lowest population density in Germany. The local Landtag held several inquiries on population trends after the opposition requested an annual report on the topic.[9]

Saxony had a population of 5,003,000 in 1989,[7] which fell to 4,056,094 in 2020.[8] It remains the most populated among the five new states. The proportion of the population under 20 years of age fell from 24.6% in 1988 to 19.7% in 1999.[9] Dresden and Leipzig are among the fastest-growing cities in Germany, both raising their population by over half a million inhabitants again.

Saxony-Anhalt had a population of 2,960,000 in 1989,[7] which fell to 2,180,684 in 2020.[8] The state has a long history of demographic decline: its current territory had a population of 4,100,000 in 1945. The emigration already began during the GDR years.[9]

Thuringia had a population of 2,680,000 in 1989,[7] which fell to 2,120,237 in 2020.[8]

As of 2021 the new states have 12.5 million people, about 15% of Germany's population, and slightly less than that of Bavaria.[10]


There are more migrants in former West Germany than in former East Germany.[11][12][13] About 1.7 million people (or 12% of the population) had left the new states.[2] A disproportionately high number of them were women under the age of 35.[14] About 500,000 women under the age of 30 left for western Germany between 1993 and 2008.[15] In some rural regions, the number of women between the ages of 20 and 30 dropped by more than 30 percent.[2] After 2008, the net migration rate decreased significantly.[16] In 2017, for the first time since German reunification, more people emigrated from the old states to the new states than vice versa.[16] All of the new states have populations where 90-95% of people do not have a migrant background.[11][12][13]


Irreligion is predominant in former East Germany.[17][18][19] An exception is former West Berlin, which had a Christian plurality in 2016 (44.4% Christian and 43.5% unaffiliated). It also has a higher share of Muslims at 8.5%, compared to former East Berlin with only 1.5% self-declared Muslims as of 2016.[20]

An explanation for the atheism in the new states, popular in other states, is the aggressive state atheist policies of the former GDR government. However, the enforcement of atheism existed only for the first few years. After that, the state allowed churches to have a relatively high level of autonomy.[21]

Another explanation could be the secularizing trend (the "Kulturkampf") dating back to the second half of the 19th century in Prussia and through the Weimar Republic which was strongest in the states of Thuringia and Saxony as well as the late arrival of Christianity to the region as opposed to southern Europe where it was the state religion from late antiquity.

Religion by state, 2016[20] Protestants Catholics Not religious Muslims Others
  Brandenburg 24.9% 3.5% 69.9% 0.0% 1.5%
  former East Berlin 14.3% 7.5% 74.3% 1.5% 2.4%
  Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania 24.9% 3.9% 70.0% 0.3% 0.9%
  Saxony 27.6% 4.0% 66.9% 0.3% 1.1%
  Saxony-Anhalt 18.8% 5.1% 74.7% 0.3% 1.2%
  Thuringia 27.8% 9.5% 61.2% 0.0% 1.5%
Total 24.3% 5.2% 68.8% 0.3% 1.4%

Major citiesEdit

Federal capital
State capital
Rank City Pop.
per km²
1.   Berlin 3,336,026 3,274,016 3,208,719 3,048,759 3,433,695 3,382,169 3,460,725 887,70 3,899 2.32 1747   Berlin
2.   Dresden 494,187 493,603 502,432 516,225 490,571 477,807 523,058 328,31 1,593 9.47 1852   Saxony
3.   Leipzig 617,574 589,632 583,885 562,480 511,079 493,208 522,883 297,36 1,758 6.02 1871   Saxony
4.   Chemnitz 293,373 286,329 299,411 317,644 294,244 259,246 243,248 220,84 1,101 −6.17 1883   Saxony
5.   Halle 289,119 277,855 257,261 232,294 247,736 247,736 232,963 135,02 1,725 −5.96 1890   Saxony-Anhalt
6.   Magdeburg 260,305 261,594 272,237 289,032 278,807 231,450 231,549 200,99 1,152 0.04 1882   Saxony-Anhalt
7.   Erfurt 188,650 186,448 196,528 211,575 208,989 200,564 204,994 269,14 762 2.21 1906   Thuringia
8.   Rostock 133,109 158,630 198,636 232,506 248,088 200,506 202,735 181,26 1,118 1.11 1935   Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
9.   Potsdam 118,180 115,004 111,336 130,900 139,794 129,324 156,906 187,53 837 21.33 1939   Brandenburg
Total 5,730,523 5,643,111 5,630,445 5,541,415 5,853,003 5,622,010 5,779,061 2,708 2,134 2.79
Rank City Pop.
per km²


The Ampelmännchen, symbol of East German culture

Persisting differences in culture and mentality among older East Germans and West Germans are often referred to as the "wall in the head" ("Mauer im Kopf").[22] Ossis (Easties) are stereotyped as racist, poor and largely influenced by Russian culture,[23] while Wessis (Westies) are usually considered snobbish, dishonest, wealthy, and selfish. The terms can be considered to be disparaging.

In 2009, a poll found that 22% of former East Germans (40% under 25) considered themselves "real citizens of the Federal Republic";[24] 62% felt they were no longer citizens of East Germany, but not fully integrated into the unified Germany; and around 11% would have liked to have re-established East Germany.[24] An earlier poll 2004 found that 25% of West Germans and 12% of East Germans wished reunification had not happened.[22]

Some East German brands have been revived to appeal to former East Germans who are nostalgic for the goods they grew up with.[25] Brands revived in this manner include Rotkäppchen, which holds about 40% of the German sparkling wine market, and Zeha, the sports shoe maker that supplied most of East Germany's sports teams as well as the Soviet Union national football team.[25]


Tesla Gigafactory (under construction) in Grünheide, Brandenburg

The economic reconstruction of eastern Germany (German: Aufbau Ost) proved to be longer-term than originally foreseen.[26] As of 2005, the standard of living and average annual income remained significantly lower in the new states.[27]

The federal government spent 2 trillion to reunify[26] and privatise 8,500 state-owned east German enterprises.[28] Almost all East German industries were considered outdated while reunifying.[28] Since 1990, amounts between €100 billion and €140 billion have been transferred to the new states annually.[28] More than €60 billion were spent supporting businesses and building infrastructure in the years 2006-2008.[2]

A €156 billion economic plan, Solidarity Pact II, was enforced in 2005 and provided the financial basis for the advancement and special promotion of the economy of the new states until 2019.[26] The "solidarity tax", a 5.5% surcharge on the income tax, was implemented by the Kohl government to match the infrastructure of the new states to the levels of the western ones[29] and to apportion the cost of unification and the expenses of both the Gulf War and European integration. The tax, which raises €11 billion annually, was planned to remain in force until 2019.[29]

Since reunification, the unemployment rate in the East has doubled that of the West. The unemployment rate reached 12.7%[30] in April 2010, after reaching a maximum of 18.7% in 2005. As of 2020, the unemployment rates in the new states were lower than in some old states.[31]

In the decade 1999-2009, economic activity per person rose from 67% to 71% of western Germany.[2] Wolfgang Tiefensee, the minister then responsible for the development of the new states, said in 2009: "The gap is closing."[2] The new states are also the part of the country that was least affected by the 2007-2008 financial crisis.[32]

All the new states qualify as Objective 1 development regions within the European Union and were eligible to receive investment subsidies of up to 30% until 2013.[needs update]


The "German Unity Transport Projects" (Verkehrsprojekte Deutsche Einheit, VDE) is a programme launched in 1991 that is intended to upgrade the infrastructure of eastern Germany and modernize transport links between the old and new states.[33] It consists of nine railway projects, seven motorway projects, and one waterway project with a total budget of €38.5 billion. As of 2009, all 17 projects were under construction or have been completed.[34] The construction of new railway lines and high-speed upgrades of existing lines reduced journey times between Berlin and Hanover from over four hours to 96 minutes.[33] Many railway lines (branches and main lines) have been closed by the unified Deutsche Bahn (German Railways) because of increased car usage and depopulation. The VDE states that some main lines are still not finished or upgraded, with the Leipzig-Nuremberg line (via Erfurt and part of the Munich-Berlin route) scheduled to come on-line in December 2017,[needs update] almost three decades after reunification.

Deutsche Einheit Fernstraßenplanungs- und -bau GmbH, (English: German Unity Road Construction Company; DEGES) is the state-owned project management institution responsible for the construction of approximately 1,360  km of federal roads within the VDE with a total budget of €10.2 billion. It is also involved in other transport projects, including 435  km of roads costing about €1,760 million as well as a city tunnel in Leipzig costing €685 million.[35]

The Federal Transport Infrastructure Plan 2003 includes plans to extend the A14 motorway from Magdeburg to Schwerin and to build the A72 from Chemnitz to Leipzig.[34]

Private ownership rates of cars have increased since 1990: in 1988, 55% of East German households had at least one car; in 1993 it rose to 67% and 71% in 1998, compared to the West German rates of 61% in 1988, 74% in 1993, and 76% in 1998.[36][37]


Unlike the West, there was a three-party system (CDU, SPD, PDS/The Left) until the Alternative für Deutschland (AfD) formed in 2013,[38][39][40] creating a four-party system.[41] Since 2009 at least four factions have been represented in each of the East German regional parliaments, six in Saxony. In 1998/1999, for example, only one of the regional parliaments included more than three factions.[42]


The democratic socialist party, The Left (Die Linke, successor to the Party of Democratic Socialism, the GDR state party's successor) has been successful throughout eastern Germany, perhaps as a result of the continued disparity of living conditions and salaries compared with western Germany, and high unemployment.[43] Ever since it associated with the WASG, The Left frequently loses in state elections and has been losing members since 2010.[44]

The Party of Democratic Socialism (PDS), and The Left from 2005, have gained the following vote shares in recent elections:

Election Vote percentages
1990 East German general election 16.4%, Communist Party of Germany (KPD) 0.1%
1990 all-German federal election East 11.1%, West 0.2%
1990 state elections East Berlin 30.1%, KPD 0.2%; Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 15.7%; Saxony 10.2%; Saxony-Anhalt 12.0%; Thuringia 9.7%; East Berlin 23.6%
1994 federal election East 19.8%, West 1%
1994 state elections 18.7% in Brandenburg; 19.9% in Saxony-Anhalt; Saxony 16.5%; Thuringia 16.6%; 22.7% in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern
1995 Berlin state election in East Berlin the PDS was the biggest party with 36.3%.
1998 federal election East 21.6%, West 1.2%.
1998–99 state elections 23.3% in Brandenburg; 19.6% in Saxony-Anhalt; Saxony 22.2%, KPD 0.1%; Thuringia 21.3%; 24.4% in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern; 39.5% in East Berlin.
2001–02 state elections 16.4% in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern; 20.4%, KPD/DKP 0.1% in Saxony-Anhalt; 47.6%, 0.2% DKP in East Berlin.
2002 federal election East 16.9%, West 1.1%
2005 federal election East 25.3%, West 4.9%
2004–06 state elections 16.8% in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (+0.5% WASG), 24.1% in Saxony-Anhalt and 28.1% (+3.3% WASG) in East Berlin (–19.5%).
2009 federal election East 28.5% (The Left became the strongest force in Brandenburg and Saxony-Anhalt); West 8.3%.
2009 state elections 20.6% in Saxony, 27.2% in Brandenburg and 27.4% in Thuringia
2011 state elections 18.6% in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, 23.7% in Saxony-Anhalt and 22.7% in East Berlin.
2013 federal election East 22.7%, West 5.2%.
2014 state elections 18.9% in Saxony, 28.2% in Thuringia and 18.6% in Brandenburg (–8.6%).
2014 European Parliament election German Communist Party (DKP) had its strongest vote in Eastern Germany (0.2% in East,[45] 0.0% in West[46]).
2016 state elections 16.3% in Saxony-Anhalt, 13.2% in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and 23.4% in Berlin
2017 federal election East 17.8%; West 7.4%.

After losing votes to the AfD, the Left plans to establish a regional group in eastern Germany.[47][48][49]


Second vote share percentage for the AfD in the 2013 federal election in Germany, final results
Second vote share percentage for the AfD in the 2017 federal election in Germany, final results

After 1990, far-right and German nationalist groups gained followers. Some sources[who?] claim mostly among people frustrated by the high unemployment and the poor economic situation.[50] Der Spiegel also points out that these people are primarily single men and that there may also be socio-demographic reasons.[14] Since around 1998 the support for right-wing parties shifted from the south of Germany to the east.[51][52][53][54]

The far-right party German People's Union (DVU) formed in 1998 in Saxony-Anhalt and Brandenburg since 1999. In 2009, the party lost its representation in the Landtag of Brandenburg.[55]

The far-right National Democratic Party of Germany (NPD) was represented in the Saxon State Parliament from 2004 to 2014.[56][57] In Mecklenburg-Vorpommern the NPD losts its representation in the parliament following the 2016 state elections.[58] In 2009, Junge Landsmannschaft Ostdeutschland, supported by the NPD, organized a march on the anniversary of the Bombing of Dresden in World War II. There were 6,000 Nationalists which were met by tens of thousands of ″anti-Nazis″ and several thousand policemen.[59]

The Free Voters of Germany emerged in 2009 from the Land Brandenburg regional branch of Free Voters, after being excluded because of "signs of right infiltration" from the Federal Association of Free Voters Germany.[60]

Pegida has its focus in eastern Germany.[61] A survey by TNS Emnid reports that in mid-December 2014, 53% of East Germans in each case sympathised with the PEGIDA demonstrators. (48% in the West)[62]

The Alternative for Germany (Alternative für Deutschland; AfD) had the most votes in the new states of Germany in the 2013 German federal elections, in 2017.[63] and in 2021 elections. The party is seen as harbouring anti-immigration views.[64]

In 2016, AfD reached at least 17% in Saxony-Anhalt,[65] Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (where the NPD lost all seats)[66] and Berlin.[67]

In 2015, Rhineland-Palatinate interior minister Roger Lewentz said the former communist states were "more susceptible" to "xenophobic radicalization" because former East Germany had not had the same exposure to foreign people and cultures over the decades that the people in the West of the country have had.[68]

In the 2017 federal election, AfD received approximately 22% of the votes[69] in the East and approximately 11%[70] in the West.[71]

In the 2021 federal election, the AFD emerged as the largest in the states of Saxony and Thuringia, and saw a strong performance in eastern Germany.[72]

*With the votes of the FDP gains of 2001/02.[73]

Protest voteEdit

Fringe parties, particularly the AfD and The Left,[74][75][76] receive a large number of protest votes in eastern Germany, which causes voter shifting from left to right and vice versa.[77]

The Pirate Party Germany was chosen slightly more frequently in the East (10.1 percent) than in the West (8.1 percent) of Berlin. Among those under 30 years of age in East Berlin, the Pirates were the second most popular party with 20 percent of the votes.[78] For example, none of the parties elected to the Berlin House of Representatives in 2011 lost a high proportion of their voters to the AfD as the Pirates at the next election in 2016 (16%).[79][80] Other findings also suggest that some of their voters, like the AfD, regard the Pirate Party primarily as a protest party.[74][81]

The election slogans of the DVU in the regional elections in Saxony-Anhalt in 1998 were directed primarily against the politicians already represented in parliament: "Not the people - the political bigwigs, will dole!" And "German, let's not make the sow you. DVU - The protest in the election against dirty things from above". In particular, politically dissatisfied people were advertised towards with the slogan "vote protest - vote German." [82] At the time, the DVU had 12.9% of the votes.


In 1991, the PDS demanded the right for Thuringia to leave the united Germany in its draft of the constitution, which ultimately did not pass.[83][84]

Tatjana Festerling was a leader in the Dresden Pegida demonstrations from February 2015 to mid-April 2016 after Kathrin Oertel withdrew. She demanded the "Säxit"—the secession of Saxony from the Federal Republic of Germany—on October 12, 2015, after she had already demanded the rebuilding of the former Iron Curtain over Germany on March 9, 2015.[85][86]

Opinion pollsEdit

Percentage of respondents supporting independence from the new states of Germany:

Polling firm Fieldwork date Sample size   Brandenburg   Berlin   Mecklenburg-Vorpommern   Saxony   Saxony-Anhalt   Thuringia
YouGov[87] 2017 2076 19 13 21 21 20 22
infratest dimap 2014 2020 16
Insa-Consulere[88] 2014 ~1000 19 (partially)
Emnid 2010 1001 15 (+8 partially)
Sozialwissenschaftliche Forschungszentrum Berlin-Brandenburg 2010 ~1900 10
Emnid 2009 1208 57 (partially)
RP Online 2009 2892 11
Infratest dimap 2007 ? 23
Institut für Marktforschung Leipzig 2007 1001 18
mitBERLIN 1996 6000 63.6
Infratest 1996 2000 22
Infratest 1990 ? 11

See alsoEdit


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