Prussia (German: ; Latin: Borussia, Prutenia; Latvian: Prūsija; Lithuanian: Prūsija; Polish: Prusy; Old Prussian: Prūsa) was, most recently, a historic state originating in Brandenburg, an area that for centuries had substantial influence on German and European history. The last capital of Prussia was Berlin.
Prussia attained its greatest importance in the 18th and 19th centuries. During the 18th century, it became a great European power under the reign of Frederick II of Prussia (1740–86). During the 19th century, Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck pursued a policy of uniting the German principalities into a "Lesser Germany" that would exclude the Austrian Empire. This led to the unification of Germany in 1871, with Prussia forming the core of the German Empire.
In the course of its history, Prussia has had various meanings:
Since then, the term's relevance has been limited to historical, geographical, or cultural usages. Even today, a certain kind of ethic is called "Prussian virtues", for instance: perfect organisation, sacrifice, rule of law, obedience to authority, and militarism, but also reliability, religious tolerance, sobriety, pragmatism, thriftiness, punctuality, modesty, and diligence. Many Prussians believed that these virtues promoted the rise of their country.
The land of the Baltic Prussians, so-called Old Prussia (prior to the 13th century): conquered by the Teutonic Knights and gradually Christianised, Germanized and Polonized - this region is now situated in parts of southern Lithuania, the Kaliningrad exclave of Russia, and north-eastern Poland;
Royal Prussia (1466 – 1772): territory awarded to Poland after its victory over the Teutonic Order in the Thirteen Years' War;
The Duchy of Prussia (1525 – 1701): a territory formed by the secularisation of the Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights, originally under the sovereignty of Poland, later ruled by the Hohenzollern margraves and electors of Brandenburg;
Brandenburg-Prussia (1618 – 1701): a personal union between the Hohenzollern rulers of Ducal Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg;
The Kingdom of Prussia (1701-1918): formed the elevation of Brandenburg-Prussia to a kingdom, this state went on to become the dominant state of the German Empire (1871-1918);
The Free State of Prussia (1918-1947): the republic state of Weimar Germany formed after the dissolution of the Hohenzollern monarchy at the end of World War I. Prussia as a state was abolished de facto by the Nazis in 1934 and de jure by the Allied Control Council in 1947 in the aftermath of World War II. Symbols
Prussia began as a small territory in what was later called East Prussia, which is now divided into the Warmian-Masurian Voivodeship of Poland, the Kaliningrad Oblast exclave of Russia, and the Klaipėda Region of Lithuania. The region, originally populated by Baltic Old Prussians who were Christianised and Germanised, became a preferred location for immigration by (later mainly Protestant) Germans as well as Poles and Lithuanians along border regions.
Before its abolition, the territory of the Kingdom of Prussia included "Prussia proper" (West and East Prussia), Brandenburg, the Province of Saxony (including most of the present-day state of Saxony-Anhalt and parts of the state of Thuringia in Germany), Pomerania, Rhineland, Westphalia, Silesia (without Austrian Silesia), Lusatia, Schleswig-Holstein, Hanover, Hesse-Nassau, and some small detached areas in the south such as Hohenzollern, the ancestral home of the Prussian ruling family.
In 1914, Prussia had an area of 354,490 km². In May 1939 Prussia had an area of 297,007 km² and a population of 41,915,040 inhabitants. The Principality of Neuenburg, now the Canton of Neuchâtel in Switzerland, was a part of the Prussian kingdom from 1707 to 1848.
Prussia was predominantly a Protestant German state. East Prussia's southern region of Masuria was largely made up of Germanised Protestant Masurs. This explains in part why the Catholic South German states, especially Austria and Bavaria, resisted Prussian hegemony for so long.