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Free State of Saxony

This article is about the modern state of Saxony, listed as Sachsen in German textbooks,[1] in present-day Germany. For other uses, see Saxony (disambiguation).

Free State of Saxony
Freistaat Sachsen (de)
Swobodny stat Sakska (wen) 
State of Germany
Coat of arms

Coordinates: 51°1′37″N 13°21′32″E / 51.02694°N 13.35889°E / 51.02694; 13.35889

Country Germany
Capital Dresden
 • Minister-President Stanislaw Tillich (CDU)
 • Governing parties CDU / FDP
 • Votes in Bundesrat 4 (of 69)
 • Total 18,415.66 km2 (7,110.33 sq mi)
Population (2012-12-31)[2]
 • Total 4,050,204
 • Density 220/km2 (570/sq mi)
Time zone CET (UTC+1)
 • Summer (DST) CEST (UTC+2)
ISO 3166 code DE-SN
GDP/ Nominal €94.99 billion (2010)

The Free State of Saxony (German: Freistaat Sachsen [ˈfʁaɪ̯ʃtaːt ˈzaksən]; Upper Sorbian: Swobodny stat Sakska; Czech: Sasko) is a landlocked federal state of Germany, bordering the federal states of Brandenburg, Saxony Anhalt, Thuringia, and Bavaria, as well as the countries of the Czech Republic and Poland. Its capital is Dresden.

It is the tenth-largest German state in area, with an area of 18,413 square kilometres (7,109 sq mi), and the sixth most populous of Germany's sixteen states, with a population of 4.3 million.

Located in the middle of a former German-speaking part of Europe, the history of the state of Saxony spans more than a millennium. It has been a medieval duchy, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire, a kingdom, and twice a republic.

The area of the modern state of Saxony should not be confused with Old Saxony, the area inhabited by Saxons. Old Saxony corresponds approximately to the modern German states of Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt and the Westphalian part of North Rhine-Westphalia.



Sachsen is divided into 10 districts:

  1. Bautzen (BZ)
  2. Erzgebirgskreis (ERZ)
  3. Görlitz (GR)
  4. Leipzig (L)
  5. Meißen (MEI)(Meissen)
  6. Mittelsachsen (FG)
  7. Nordsachsen (TDO)
  8. Sächsische Schweiz-Osterzgebirge (PIR)
  9. Vogtlandkreis (V)
10. Zwickau (Z)

In addition there are three urban districts (German: kreisfreie Städte), which also have district status:

  1. Chemnitz (C)
  2. Dresden (DD)
  3. Leipzig (L)

Between 1990 and 2008, Saxony was divided into regions (Regierungsbezirke) of Chemnitz, Dresden and Leipzig.

The Erzgebirgskreis district covers the Ore Mountains, and the Schweiz-Osterzgebirge district includes Saxon Switzerland and the Eastern Ore Mountains.

Largest cities

The largest cities in Saxony according to 31 December 2012 estimate.[3]

Rank City Population
1 Dresden 525,105
2 Leipzig 520,838
3 Chemnitz 241,210
4 Zwickau 92,227
5 Plauen 64,115
6 Görlitz 54,114
7 Freiberg 40,083
8 Bautzen 39,743
9 Freital 38,757
10 Pirna 37,688


Saxony has, after Saxony Anhalt,[4] the most vibrant economy among the federal states of the former East Germany (GDR). Its economy grew by 1.9% in 2010.[5] Nonetheless, unemployment remains high, and investment is scarce. The eastern part of Germany, excluding Berlin, qualifies as an "Objective 1" development-region within the European Union, and is eligible to receive investment subsidies of up to 30% until 2013. FutureSAX, a business plan competition and entrepreneurial support organisation, has been in operation since 2002.

Microchip makers near Dresden have given the region the nickname "Silicon Saxony". The publishing and porcelain industries of the region are well known, although their contributions to the regional economy are not significant. The state government is attempting to develop tourism, notably in the lake district of Lausitz.[6]

Saxony reported an average unemployment of 11.9% in 2010. By comparison the average in the former GDR was 12% for Saxony and 7.7% for Germany overall. The unemployment rate reached a record low of 8.8% in October 2012 (6.5% for complete Germany).

In April 2012 Saxony had an unemployment rate of 10.3%, compared to Germany's 7%, western Germany's 6% and eastern Germany's 11.2%. The Leipzig area, which until recently was among the regions with the highest unemployment rate, could benefit greatly from the investments of Porsche and BMW. With the VW Phaeton factory in Dresden, and many part suppliers, the automoile industry has again become one of the pillars of Saxon industry, as it was in the early 20th century. Zwickau is another major Volkswagen location. Freiberg, the former mining town, has emerged as a foremost location for solar technology. Dresden and some other regions play a leading role in some areas of international biotechnology, such as electronic bioengineering. While these high-technology sectors do not yet offer a large number of jobs, they have stopped or even reversed the brain drain that was occurring until the early 2000s in many parts of Saxony. Regional universities have strengthened their positions by partnering with local industries. Unlike smaller towns, Dresden and Leipzig now have a significant growth in population. [7]


The population of Saxony has been declining since 1950. In recent years only the cities of Dresden and Leipzig and some towns in their hinterlands have had increases. The following table illustrates the population of Saxony since 1905:

Year Inhabitants
1905 4,508,601
1946 5,558,566
1950 5,682,802
1964 5,463,571
1970 5,419,187
1981 5,152,857
1990 4,775,914
1995 4,566,603
2000 4,425.581
Year Inhabitants
2001 4,384.192
2002 4,349,059
2003 4,321,437
2004 4,296,284
2005 4,273,754
2006 4,249,774
2007 4,220,200
2008 4,192,801
2009 4,168,732
Year Inhabitants
2010 4,149,477
2011 4,054,182
2012 4,050,204

The average number of children per woman in Saxony was 1.49 in 2010, the highest of all German states. [8] Within Saxony, the highest is the Erzgebirgskreis district with 1.537, while Leipzig is the lowest with 1.371. Dresden's birth rate of 1.479 is the highest of all German cities with more than 500,000 inhabitants.


Main article: History of Saxony

Saxony has a long history as a duchy, an electorate of the Holy Roman Empire (the Electorate of Saxony), and eventually as a kingdom (the Kingdom of Saxony). In 1918, subsequent to Germany's defeat in World War I, its monarchy was overthrown and a republican form of government was established under the current name. The state was broken up into smaller units during communist rule (1949–1989), but was re-established on 3 October 1990 on the reunification of East and West Germany.


In prehistoric times, the territory of Saxony was the site of some of the largest of the ancient Central European monumental temples, dating from the 5th century BC. Notable archaeological sites have been discovered in Dresden and the villages of Eythra and Zwenkau near Leipzig. The Slavic and Germanic presence in the territory of today's Saxony is thought to have begun in the 1st century BC. Parts of Saxony were possibly under the control of the Germanic King Marobod during the Roman era. By the late Roman period, several tribes known as the Saxons emerged, from which the subsequent state(s) draw their name. For the origins of the Saxon tribes, see Saxons.

Duchy of Saxony

Main article: Duchy of Saxony

The first medieval Duchy of Saxony was a late Early Middle Ages "Carolingian stem duchy", which emerged about the year 700, and grew to cover the greater part of Northern Germany. It covered the area of the modern German states of Lower Saxony, North Rhine-Westphalia, Schleswig-Holstein and Saxony-Anhalt. The Saxons converted to Christianity during this period.

While the Saxons were facing pressure from Charlemagne's Franks, they were also facing a westward push by Slavs to the east. The territory of the Free State of Saxony was occupied by Slavs before being reconquered by Germans. A legacy of this period is the Sorb population in Saxony.

Holy Roman Empire

The territory of the Free State of Saxony became part of the Holy Roman Empire by the 10th century. In the 10th century, the dukes of Saxony were also kings (or emperors) of the Holy Roman Empire, comprising the Ottonian, or Saxon, Dynasty. Around this time, the Billungs, a Saxon noble family, received extensive fiefs in Saxony. The Emperor eventually gave them the title of Duke of Saxony. After Duke Magnus died in 1106, causing the extinction of the male line of Billungs, oversight of the duchy was given to Lothar of Supplinburg, who also became Emperor for a short time.

In 1137, control of Saxony passed to the Guelph dynasty, descendants of Wulfhild Billung, eldest daughter of the last Billung duke, and the daughter of Lothar of Supplinburg. In 1180 large portions west of the Weser were ceded to the Bishops of Cologne, while some central parts between the Weser and the Elbe remained to the Guelphs, later forming the Duchy of Brunswick-Lüneburg). The remaining eastern lands, together with the title of Duke of Saxony, passed to an Ascanian dynasty (descended from Eilika Billung, Wulfhild's younger sister) and was divided in 1260 into the two small states of Saxe-Lauenburg and Saxe-Wittenberg, the former also named Lower Saxony, the latter Upper Saxony, thence the later names of the two Imperial Circles. Saxe-Lauenburg and Saxe-Wittenberg both claimed the Saxon electoral privilege for their part, but the Golden Bull of 1356 only accepted Wittenberg's claim, with Lauenburg nevertheless maintaining its claim. In 1422, when the Saxon electoral line of the Ascanians was extinct, the Ascanian Eric V of Saxe-Lauenburg tried to reunite the Saxon duchies.

However, Sigismund, King of the Romans, had already granted Margrave Frederick IV the Warlike of Meissen (House of Wettin) an expectancy on the Saxon electorate, in order to remunerate his military support. On 1 August 1425 Sigismund enfeoffed the Wettinian Frederick as Prince-Elector of Saxony, despite protestations of Eric V. Thus the Saxon territories remained separated in permanence. The Electorate of Saxony was then merged in the much bigger Wettinian Margraviate of Meissen, however using the higher ranking name Electorate of Saxony and even the Ascanian coat-of-arms for the entire monarchy.[9] Thus the name Saxony was translated to areas as far as Dresden and Meissen. In the 18th and 19th centuries Saxe-Lauenburg became colloquially called the Duchy of Lauenburg, which in 1876 merged in Prussia as Duchy of Lauenburg district.

Foundation of the second Saxon state

Saxony-Wittenberg, in modern Saxony-Anhalt, became subject to the margravate of Meissen, ruled by the Wettin dynasty in 1423. This established a new and powerful state, occupying large portions of the present Free State of Saxony, Thuringia, and Saxony-Anhalt. Although the centre of this state was far to the southeast of the former Saxony, it came to be referred to as Upper Saxony and then simply Saxony, while the former Saxon territories were now known as Lower Saxony.

In 1485, Saxony was split. A collateral line of the Wettin princes received what later became Thuringia and founded several small states there (see Ernestine duchies). The remaining Saxon state became still more powerful, becoming known in the 18th century for its cultural achievements, although it was politically inferior to Prussia and Austria, which pressed Saxony from either side.

Between the years 1697 and 1763, the Electors of Saxony were also elected Kings of Poland in personal union.

In 1756, Saxony joined the coalition of Austria, France and Russia against Prussia. Frederick II of Prussia chose to attack preemptively and invaded Saxony in August 1756, precipitating the Seven Years War. The Prussians quickly defeated Saxony and incorporated the Saxon army into the Prussian army. At the end of the Seven Years War, Saxony once again became an independent state.

Saxony in the 19th and 20th centuries

19th Century

Main article: Kingdom of Saxony

In 1806, French Emperor Napoleon abolished the Holy Roman Empire and decreed the Electorate of Saxony a kingdom in itself. Elector Frederick Augustus III became King Frederick Augustus I. Frederick Augustus remained loyal to Napoleon during the wars that swept Europe in the following years; he was taken prisoner and his territories declared forfeit by the allies in 1813, who intended the annexation of Saxony by Prussia. Ultimately, the opposition of Austria, France, and the United Kingdom to this plan resulted in the restoration of Frederick Augustus to his throne at the Congress of Vienna. At this time in 1815, Saxony was forced to cede the northern part of the kingdom to Prussia.[10] These lands became the Prussian province of Saxony, incorporated today in Saxony-Anhalt. The remnant of the Kingdom of Saxony was roughly identical with the present federal state.

Meanwhile, in 1815, the southern part of Saxony, now called the "State of Saxony joined the German Confederation.[11] (The German Confederation should not be confused with the North German Confederation mentioned below.) In the politics of the Confederation, Saxony was overshadowed by Prussia. King Anthony of Saxony, came to the throne of Saxony in 1827. Shortly thereafter, liberal pressures in Saxony mounted and broke out in the revolt during 1830—a year of revolution in Europe.[11] The revolution in Saxony resulted in a Constitution for the State of Saxony which served as a basis for the government in Saxony until 1918.[11]

During the 1848–49 constitutionalist revolutions in Germany, Saxony became a hotbed for revolutionaries, with anarchists such as Mikhail Bakunin and democrats including Richard Wagner and Gottfried Semper taking part in the May Uprising in Dresden in 1849. (Scenes of Richard Wagner's participation in the May 1849 Uprising in Dresden are pictured in the 1983 movie, Wagner starring Richard Burton as Richard Wagner.) The May Uprising in Dresden forced King Frederick Augustus II of Saxony to concede further reforms in the Saxon government.[11]

In 1854 Frederick Augustus II's brother, King John of Saxony, succeeded to the throne. A scholar, King John translated Dante.[11] King John followed a federalistic and pro-Austrian policy throughout the early 1860s until the outbreak of the Austro-Prussian War. During the war, Prussian troops overran Saxony without a fight and invaded then Austrian (today's Czech) Bohemia.[12] After the war, Saxony was forced to pay an indemnity and to join the North German Confederation in 1867.[13] Under the terms of the North German Confederation, Prussia took over control of the Saxon postal system, railroads, military and foreign affairs.[13] In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Saxon troops fought together with Prussian and other German troops against France.[13] In 1871, Saxony joined the newly formed German Empire.[13]

20th Century

After King Frederick Augustus III of Saxony had abdicated on 13 November 1918, Saxony, remaining a constituent state of Germany (Weimar Republic), became a republic renamed the Free State of Saxony following the new Saxon constitution of 1 November 1920. In October 1923 Reichs's chancellor Gustav Stresemann overthrew the legally elected SPD-Communist coalition Saxon government. The state maintained its name and borders during the National Socialist era as a Gau, but lost any quasi-autonomous status and its parliamentarian democracy.

By the by end of World War II in April 1945, U.S. troops under General George Patton conquered the western part of the Free State, while Soviet troops conquered the eastern part. That summer, the entire state was handed over to Soviet forces as agreed upon by the London Protocol of September 1944. Thereafter Britain, the USA, and the USSR negotiated at the Potsdam Conference on Germany's future. By their trilateral Potsdam Agreement all German territory east of the Oder-Neisse line was to be annexed by Poland and the Soviet Union and, unlike the post-World War I secessions of German territory, this time the annexing powers were allowed to expel the inhabitants.

During following three years, Poland and Czechoslovakia forcibly expelled German-speaking people from their territories and some of these expellees came to Saxony. Only a small Saxon area, lying east of the Neisse river and centred around the town of Reichenau (now called Bogatynia), was annexed by Poland. The Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SVAG) merged that part of the Prussian province of Lower Silesia, which remained with Germany west of the Neisse, into Saxony.

On 20 October 1946, the SVAG organised elections for the Saxon state parliament (Landtag), which were unbalanced since many people were arbitrarily excluded from candidacy and suffrage and the Soviet support unilaterally preferring the communist Socialist Unity Party of Germany (SED). The new Saxon minister-president (governor) Rudolf Friedrichs (SED, until April 1946 SPD), who met with his Bavarian counterparts in the US zone of occupation in October 1946 and May 1947, suddenly died under unknown circumstances the month after. He was succeeded by Max Seydewitz, a loyalist of Joseph Stalin.

The German Democratic Republic (East Germany), including Saxony, was established in 1949, out of the Soviet zone of Occupied Germany, becoming a constitutionally socialist state, part of COMECON and the Warsaw Pact. Under the leadership of the SED, in 1952 the government officially divided the Free State into the three smaller Bezirke of Leipzig, Dresden, and Karl-Marx-Stadt (formerly and presently Chemnitz). The Free State was reconstituted with slightly altered borders in 1990 upon German reunification. Besides the formerly Silesian area of Saxony, which was mostly included in the territory of the new Saxon state, the free state gained further areas north of Leipzig, which belonged to Saxony-Anhalt until 1952.



Religion in Saxony - 2009
religion percent
Roman Catholics
Other or none

As of 2009 the Evangelical Church in Germany is the largest faith in the state, adhered to by 20.5% of the population. Members of the Catholic Church form a minority of 3.6%. 75.9% of the Saxons are irreligious or adhere to other faiths.[14]


The most common patois spoken in Saxony are combined in the group of "Thuringian and Upper Saxon dialects". Due to the incorrect usage of "Saxon dialects" in colloquial language, the Upper Saxon attribute has been added to distinguish it from Old Saxon and Low Saxon. Other German dialects spoken in Saxony are the dialects of the Erzgebirge (Ore Mountains), which have been affected by Upper Saxon dialects, and the dialects of the Vogtland, which are more affected by the East Franconian languages.

Upper Sorbian (a Slavic language) is still actively spoken in the parts of Upper Lusatia that are occupied by the Sorbian minority. The Germans in Upper Lusatia speak distinct dialects of their own (Lusatian dialects).


The Dresden University of Technology, founded in 1828, is one of the Germany's oldest universities. With 36,066 students as of 2010, it is the largest university in Saxony and one of the ten largest universities in Germany. It is a member of TU9, a consortium of nine leading German Institutes of Technology.


Except for Dresden and Leipzig (and the WWII prison camp of Colditz), Saxony is not a primary destination for foreign tourists. Areas along the border with the Czech Republic, such as the Lusatian Mountains, Ore Mountains, Saxon Switzerland, and Vogtland, attract significant visitors, largely Germans. Saxony has well preserved historic towns such as Meissen, Freiberg, Pirna, Bautzen, and Görlitz.


A minister-president heads the government of Saxony. Stanislaw Tillich has been minister-president since 28 May 2008. See: List of Ministers-President of Saxony, for a full listing.

2009 state election

e • d Summary of the 30 August 2009 election results for the Landtag of Saxony
Party Ideology Vote % (change) Seats (change) Seat %
Christian Democratic Union (CDU) center-right 40.2% −0.9% 58 +3 43.9%
Linke (formerly PDS) far-left, socialism, communism 20.6% −3.0% 29 −2 22%
Social Democratic Party (SPD) center-left, social democracy 10.4% +0.6% 14 +1 10.6%
Free Democratic Party (FDP) classical liberalism 10.0% +4.1% 14 +7 10.6%
Alliance '90/The Greens (Die Grünen) green politics, center-left 6.4% +1.3% 9 +3 6.8%
National Democratic Party (NPD) far-right, nationalist 5.6% −3.6% 8 −4 6%
Animal Protection Party (Die Tierschutzpartei) environmental 2.1% +0.5%
Pirate Party (PIRATEN) freedom of information, intellectual property rights reform, transparency 1.9% +1.9%
Free Saxons (Freie Sachsen) independent 1.4% +1.4%
Party of Bible-Loyal Christians (PBC) religious, conservative 0.4% −0.3%
All Others 1.0%
Total 100.0%   132 +8 100.0%

The centre-right CDU has formed a coalition with the classical liberal FDP.

See also

Germany portal


External links

  • Official governmental portal
  • Christmas time in Saxony
  • some facts about Saxony
  • some stories about Dresden Neustadt - The Capital of Saxony
  • Geographic data related to OpenStreetMap

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