The Germany reference article from the English Wikipedia on 24-Jul-2004
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Germany

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The Federal Republic of Germany (German: Bundesrepublik Deutschland) is one of the world's leading industrialized countries, located in the middle of the European Union. It is bordered to the north by the North Sea, Denmark and the Baltic Sea, to its east by Poland and the Czech Republic, to the south by Austria and Switzerland and to its west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Bundesrepublik Deutschland
Flag of Germany
Germany: Coat of Arms
(In Detail)
National motto: Einigkeit und Recht und Freiheit
(German: Unity and Justice and Freedom)''
Location of Germany
Official language German¹
Capital Berlin
Largest City Berlin
President: Horst Köhler
Chancellor: Gerhard Schröder
Area
 - Total
 - % water
Ranked 61st
357,022.90 km2
2.18%
Population
 - Total (2003)
 - Density
Ranked 13th
82,544,000
231/km²
Formation / Unification Treaty of Verdun (843),
January 18, 1871,
May 23, 1949
October 3, 1990
Currency Euro (€) (²)
Time zone UTC +1 (DST +2)
National anthem Das Lied der Deutschen
Internet TLD .de
Calling Code +49
(¹) Danish, Low German, Sorbian, Romany and Frisian are officially recognized and protected as minority languages per the ECRML. They are, however, not in common use.
(²) Prior to 1999: Deutsche Mark.

Table of contents
1 History
2 Politics
3 States
4 Geography
5 Economy
6 Demographics
7 Culture
8 Religion
9 International rankings
10 Miscellaneous topics
11 External links

History

Main article: History of Germany

The German language and the feeling of "Germanhood" go back more than a thousand years, but the state now known as Germany was unified as a modern nation-state only in 1871, when the German Empire, dominated by the Kingdom of Prussia, was forged. This was the second German Reich, usually translated as "empire", but also meaning "realm".

The first Reich – known for much of its existence as the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation – stemmed from a division of the Carolingian Empire in 843, which was founded by Charlemagne on December 25th, 800, and existed in varying forms until 1806.

During these almost thousand years, the Germans expanded their influence successfully with help of the organization of the Catholic Church, Northern Crusades and the Hanseatic League. In 1530, the attempt of Protestant Reformation of Catholicism turned out to have failed, and a separate Protestant church was acknowledged as new state religion in many states of Germany. This led to inter-German strife, the Thirty Years War (1618) and finally the Peace of Westphalia (1648), that resulted in a drastically enfeebled and politically disunited Germany, unable to resist the stroke of the Napoleonic Wars, during which the Reich was overrun and dissolved in 1806.

The lasting effect of the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire came to be the division between Austria, formerly the leading state of Germany, from the more western and northern parts. Between 1815 and 1871 Germany consisted of dozens of independent states, thirty-nine of which formed the German Confederation (Deutscher Bund).

The second Reich, the German Empire, was proclaimed January 18th, 1871, in Versailles after the French defeat in the Franco-Prussian War. This was mainly the result of the efforts of Otto von Bismarck, Germany's most prominent statesman of the 19th century, among other things known for fighting Socialists with social reform and Catholic influence in the so called Kulturkampf.

After the Holy Roman Empire was subdued by France in the Napoleonic Wars, France was for long perceived as Germany's arch-enemy. In the Franco-Prussian War of 1870, Germany revenged, but also during World War I, the invasion of France (1914) was a chief objective. After initial advances, World War I amounted to a slow war in the trenches, killing many on both sides. When the war ended in 1918, Germany's emperor was forced to abdicate, and after a quenched revolution the German Empire was succeeded by the democratic Weimar Republic.

Foundation of modern Germany, Versailles, 1871Enlarge

Foundation of modern Germany, Versailles, 1871

The Peace Treaty of Versailles held Germany responsible for the war. Economic hardship due to both the peace conditions and the world wide Great Depression is typically pointed to in order to explain why anti-democratic parties, both right-wing and left-wing, were increasingly supported by German opinion leaders and voters. In the extraordinary elections of July and November 1932, the anti-democratic Nazis got 37,2% and 33,0% respectively. On January 30, 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany, and by the Enabling Act on March 23, 1933, a wide majority of the parliament effectively disbanded the constitution of the Weimar Republic.

The Third Reich was that of the Nazis, which lasted 12 years, from 1933 to 1945. In 1934, Hitler affirmed total control of government, when he also succeeded the President of Germany.

His policy of annexing neighbouring territories may have been one of several reasons that led to the outbreak of World War II in Europe on September 1, 1939. Initially, Germany and her allies had many military successes, and gained control over most of Europe's mainland. After the Soviet Union and the United States entered the war, the momentum in the war switched, signaled by the Wehrmacht's dramatic defeat in the Battle of Stalingrad (now Volgograd). On 8 May 1945, Germany surrendered after the Red Army had occupied Berlin where Hitler had committed suicide. The war resulted in large losses of territory, 15 million Germans expelled, and 45 years of division, during which the country was split up into West Germany and East Germany, founded in 1949.

After the fall of Communism in Europe, Germany was reunited in 1990. Together with France the new Germany is playing the leading role in the European Union. Germany is at the forefront of European states seeking to exploit the momentum of monetary union to advance the creation of a more unified and capable European political, defense and security apparatus. The Chancellor recently also claimed a permanent seat for Germany in the UN Security Council.

Politics

Main article: Politics of Germany

Germany is a constitutional federal republic, whose political system is laid out in the 1949 'constitution' called Grundgesetz (Basic Law). It has a parliamentary system in which the head of government, the Bundeskanzler (Chancellor), is elected by the parliament.

The parliament, called Bundestag (Federal Assembly), is elected every four years by popular vote in a complex system combining direct and proportional representation. The 16 Bundesländer are represented at the federal level in the Bundesrat (Federal Council), which—depending on the subject matter—may have a say in the legislative procedure. Lately, there has been much concern about the Bundestag and the Bundesrat blocking each other, making effective government very difficult.

The function of head of state is performed by the Bundespräsident (Federal President), whose powers are mostly limited to ceremonial and representative duties.

The judiciary branch includes a Constitutional Court called Bundesverfassungsgericht, which may ultimately overturn all acts by the legislature or administration if they are deemed unconstitutional; as well as a Federal Court of Justice (Bundesgerichtshof), responsible for appeals from lower state court. All lower courts are created by the Bundesländer.

States

Main article: States of Germany Germany is divided into sixteen Bundesländer (singular Bundesland), or federal statess:

State Capital In German
Baden-Württemberg Stuttgart Baden-Württemberg Stuttgart
Free State of Bavaria Munich Freistaat Bayern München
Berlin Berlin Berlin Berlin
Brandenburg Potsdam Brandenburg Potsdam
Free Hanseatic City of Bremen Bremen Freie Hansestadt Bremen Bremen
Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg Hamburg Freie und Hansestadt Hamburg Hamburg
Hesse Wiesbaden Hessen Wiesbaden
Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania Schwerin Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Schwerin
Lower Saxony Hanover Niedersachsen Hannover
North-Rhine/Westphalia Düsseldorf Nordrhein-Westfalen Düsseldorf
Rhineland-Palatinate Mainz Rheinland-Pfalz Mainz
Saarland or The Saar Saarbrücken Saarland Saarbrücken
Free State of Saxony Dresden Freistaat Sachsen Dresden
Saxony-Anhalt Magdeburg Sachsen-Anhalt Magdeburg
Schleswig-Holstein Kiel Schleswig-Holstein Kiel
Free State of Thuringia Erfurt Freistaat Thüringen Erfurt


Germany is further subdivided into 438 Kreise (districts).

Geography

Main article: Geography of Germany

Map of Germany with cities

Germany stretches from the high mountains of the Alps (highest point: the Zugspitze at 2,962 m) in the south to the shores of the North Sea and the Baltic Sea in the north. In between are found the forested uplands of central Germany and the low-lying lands of northern Germany (lowest point: Neuendorfer/Wilstermarsch at -3.54 m), traversed by some of Europe's major rivers such as the Rhine, Danube and Elbe.

The Federal Republic is bordered to the north by Denmark, to its east by Poland and the Czech Republic, to the south by Austria and Switzerland and to its west by France, Luxembourg, Belgium and the Netherlands.

The weather is sometimes unpredictable. In the middle of summer it could be warm and sunny one day and then cold and rainy the next. However truly extreme weather conditions, like severe droughts, tornados, destructive hailstorms, severe frost or heat etc. are all extremely rare. There have been two bad large-scale floodings in the last few years, but in the long term those are also quite rare. Damaging earthquakes are unheard-of.

Economy

Main article: Economy of Germany

Germany possesses the world's third most technologically powerful economy after the US and Japan. While exports remain strong, the local market of the basically capitalistic economy has started to struggle under the burden of generous social benefits. Structural rigidities—like a high rate of social contributions on wages—have made unemployment a long-term, not just cyclical, problem, while Germany's aging (and often involuntarily early-retired) population has pushed social security outlays to exceed contributions from workers. Both employers' associations and unions are increasingly deeply entrenched. After many failed starts, and continued unrelenting lobbyist attempts to mold government in their image, the word "reform" has acquired such a bad name among the population that the government has a hard time getting anything at all done.

The integration and upgrading of the eastern German economy remains a costly long-term problem, with annual transfers from the west amounting to roughly $100 billion without conditions in the East actually improving after 1997. Some economists have started saying that the transfers hurt more than they help since they don't encourage the East to get out of the slump by its own effort, while at the same time preventing dearly-needed infrastructure investment and upkeep in the West. There are still almost no internationally renowned companies headquartered in the East, most have only established subsidiaries

Since the end of WWII the government is making efforts to integrate more and more with France, both economically and politically, to form what is today called Franco German locomotive. This alliance is the basis of what is called the "core" countries in favour of greater integration of the European Union.

The recent adoption of a common European currency and the general political and economic integration of Europe including the eastward expansion of the European Union are thought to bring major changes to the German economy in the early 21st century.

Demographics

Main article: Demographics of Germany

Germany has many large cities but no really large ones, Berlin being a borderline case; the population is thus much less centralized and oriented towards a single large capital than in most other European countries. The largest cities are Berlin, Cologne, Frankfurt am Main, Hamburg, Munich and Stuttgart. The largest multi-city metropolitan areas are the Ruhr Area, the Rhein-Main Region and the Stuttgart Region.

Germany has about 7.3 million non-citizen residents, including refugees, foreign workers (Gastarbeiter), and their dependents. About 2/3s of these have been in the country for more than 8 years, 20% have been born in Germany; both groups would qualify for citizenship after recent changes in immigration law (2002 data). Germany is still a primary destination for political and economic refugees from many developing countries, but the number of asylum seekers has been dropping in recent years, reaching about 50,000 in 2003. A proper immigration law has been bounced back and forth between the Bundestag and Bundesrat without much success for about five years now, leaving immigration largely ad-hoc and German language classes for immigrants poorly organized small-scale affairs.

An ethnic Danish minority of about 50,000 people lives in Schleswig, mostly close to the Danish border, in the north; a small number of Slavic people known as the Sorbs lives in the states of Saxony (about 40.000) and Brandenburg (about 20.000). The Frisian language, considered the living language closest to the English language, is mother tongue for about 12,000 speakers in Germany, the rest living in the Netherlands. In rural areas of Northern Germany Low Saxon is widely spoken.

Immigration has created a sizeable minority from Turkey (ca. 1.9 million Kurds and Turks), and other smaller minorities including Italians (0.6 million), Serbs (0.6 million), Greeks (0.4 million), Poles (0.3 million) and Croats (0.2 million) (figures from year 2002). Anti-immigrant sentiments are chiefly directed against the largest group of muslims from Turkey, which is perceived as less integrated in the German society than the smaller immigrated minorities.

There is also a large number of ethnic German immigrants from the former Soviet Union area (1.7 million), Poland (0.7 million) and Romania (0.3 million) (19801999 totals), which are automatically granted German citizenship, and thus do not show up in foreign resident statistics; unlike the foreigners they have been settled by the government almost evenly spread throughout Germany. Many of them speak the languages of their former resident countries at home.

Even with the mentioned difficulties, Germany still has one of the world's highest levels of education, technological development, and economic productivity. Since the end of World War II, the number of youths entering universities has more than tripled, and the trade and technical schools of Germany are among the world's best. University attendance still lags behind many other European nations, though. With a per capita income level of about $25,000, Germany is a broadly middle class society. A generous social welfare system provides for universal (but not government-run) medical care, unemployment compensation, and other social needs. Germans also are mobile; millions travel abroad each year, most of their favourite destinations being at the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea.

Culture

Main article: Culture of Germany

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a significant German poetEnlarge

Johann Wolfgang von Goethe was a significant German poet

Germany's contributions to the world's cultural heritage are numerous, and the country is often known as das Land der Dichter und Denker (The Land of Poets and Thinkers). Germany was the birthplace of composers such as Beethoven, Bach, Brahms, Schumann and Wagner; poets such as Goethe and Schiller as well as Heine; philosophers including Kant, Hegel, Marx and Nietzsche, theologians like Luther and Bonhoeffer, authors including Hermann Hesse and Grass; scientists including Einstein, Born, Planck, Heisenberg, Hertz and Bunsen; and engineers such as Otto, Daimler, Benz, Diesel and Linde. There are also numerous fine artists from Germany such as the Renaissance artist Albrecht Dürer, the surrealist Max Ernst, the expressionist Franz Marc, the conceptual artist Joseph Beuys or the neo expressionist Georg Baselitz.

The German language was once the lingua franca of central, eastern and northern Europe, and remains one of the most popular foreign languages taught worldwide, after English and French. Many important historical figures, though not citizens of Germany in the modern sense, were nevertheless seen as Germans in the sense that they were immersed in the German culture, for example Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart, Franz Kafka and Copernicus.

Since about 1970 Germany has once again had a thriving popular culture, now increasingly being led by its new old capital Berlin, and a self-confident music and art culture. Germany is also well known for its many opera houses.

Religion

The
Grundgesetz, Germany's constitution, guarantees freedom of faith and religion. It also states that no one may be discriminated against due to their faith or religious opinions. However, unlike some other countries, it is entirely in keeping with the German constitution for larger religions to receive some preferential treatment, for example being able to teach religion to adherents' children in public schools and having membership fees collected by the German Finanzamt (equivalent to the U.S. Internal Revenue Service). There have been numerous discussions of allowing Muslims into this system as well, hampered by the public adversity and also by the Muslims' own disorganized state with many small rivaling organizations and no central leadership, which do not fit well into a legal frame that was originally created with well-organized, large Christian churches in mind.

Christianity is the major religion, with Protestants (particularly in the north and east) comprising 33% of the population and Catholics (particularly in the south and west) also 33%.

Currently about two thirds of the German population, more than 55 million people, officially belong to a Christian denomination, although most of them take no part in church life except at such events as weddings and funerals. Nearly half of them are Protestants and nearly half of them Roman Catholics. Most German Protestants are members of the Evangelical Church in Germany. Independent and congregational churches exist in all larger towns and many smaller ones, but most such churches are small.

Roman Catholicism was Germany's top religion in the 15th century, but the religious movement commonly known as the Reformation changed this drastically. In 1517 Martin Luther challenged this religion as he saw it as a commercialisation of his faith. Through this, he altered the course of European and world history and established Protestantism, the largest denomination in Germany today.

Before World War II, about two-thirds of the German population was Protestant and one-third was Roman Catholic. In the north and northeast of Germany especially, Protestants dominated. In the separated West Germany between 1945 and 1990, Catholics had a small majority.

In the former East Germany, there is much less religious feeling — probably the result of forty years of Communism — than in the West. The average church attendance is one of the lowest in the World, with only 5% attending at least once per week, compared to 14% in the West according to a recent study. The number of people who attend church for christenings, weddings and funerals is also lower than in the West.

About 30% of the population are officially religiously unaffiliated. In the East this number is also considerably higher.

Approximately 3.7 million Muslims (mostly of Turkish descent) live in Germany. Lately there have been heated discussions about the question if Muslim women working in public service, such as schoolteachers, should be allowed to wear headscarves to work or not.

Besides this there are a few hundred thousand Orthodox Christians, 400,000 New Apostolic Christians, numerous other small groups, and 160,000 Jews, of which around 100,000 belong to a synagogue.

Today Germany, especially its capital Berlin, has the fastest growing Jewish community worldwide. Some ten thousands of Jews from the former Eastern Bloc, mostly from ex-Soviet Union countries, settled in Germany since the fall of the Berlin wall. This is mainly due to a German government policy which basically grants an immigration ticket to anyone from the CIS and the Baltic states with Jewish heritage, and the fact that today's Germans are seen as significantly more accepting of Jews than many people in the ex-Soviet realm. Some of the about 60,000 long-time resident German Jews have expressed some mixed feelings about this immigration that they perceive as making them a minority not only in their own country but also in their own community; but largely the integration seems to work out. Prior to Nazism, about 600,000 Jews lived in Germany, most of them long-time resident families.

In the mid-90s there was a moral panic about Scientology in Germany, which was largely perceived as planing to infiltrate the top tiers of society, with an exaggerated picture of the number and influence of its adepts being reported by the press but also by Scientology groups themselves. As of 2004, the scare has pretty much turned into a non-topic, with the German inland intelligence service assuming less than 10,000 followers in the country.

International rankings

Miscellaneous topics

External links


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