Prussia

In its various forms, the national name Prussia (Prussian: Prusa, German: Preußen, Polish: Prusy) has been used by a wide variety of political entities during the 2nd millennium. Today the use of the term depends heavily on context. The term is used most often today to refer to Brandenburg-Prussia. Under Brandenburg's rule Brandenburg-Prussia became a powerful kingdom and eventually consolidated the German Empire, comprising in its last form almost two-thirds of the Empire's area. However, this article overviews Prussia proper as a nation area and does not go into the details of such specific periods.

Table of contents
1 Militarism
2 Geography
3 Prussians
4 Notable Persons of Prussian History
5 History of Prussia
6 Weimar Republic & WWII
7 Postwar
8 Provinces of Prussia
9 Further reading
10 See also
11 External links

Militarism

The traditional origins of most East-European nations can trace a stem from Scythia, and historians are aware that militaristically Prussia is no exception. Scythian ritual scarring as a young warrior's initiation continued in the Prussian fencing academy up into the latter first half of the 20th century. Prussia imported military nomenclature from the east, such as the 'Ulan' lancers, named after the Mongol royal clan, and the 'Hussar' cavalry. The image of Prussia as a militaristic state became fixed by the time the Teutonic Knights arose there. It was used by the Hohenzollern kings to elevate Prussia to the status of a major European power.

Geography

The historical identity of Prussia proper lies within the Baltic borders of the Prussian amber coast (from Hel to Klaipeda). This is the area which was refered to in Latin as Borussia where the Prusi Preußen, who gave the region its name, thrived upto Gdansk and the easternmost tip of Kashubia. Historical Baltic Prussia Proper does not include the marches of Brandenburg, Pomerania nor all but eastern parts around Pojezierze - Malbork (Marienburg), Kwidzyn (Marienwerder) and perhaps Torun( Thorn) - of former "West Prussia".

The Russian Kaliningrad region corresponds essentially to the core prussian provinces like Sembia. Present-day Poland's Mazury was South Prussia's provinces of Masurland and Sudovia, which included the Galindans and western Suduvians to the south and south-east. Under the Brandenburg-Prussia state most the rest of the Western-Balts (Aestians) like eastern Suduvian, Scalovian, Nadrovian and some Cour lands to the northeast were decisively incorporated into Prussia forming their own regions and eastern province. From Memel (Klaipeda) down to Goldap and as far west as Labiau/Labguva (Polessk) was once Prussia's "Province of Lithuania Minor". It is important to mention that the memel region was never a Prusi homeland, Prussians only migrated and integrated there during the time of The Kingdom. Tribes of "western Litts" which may have been any of the Aestians including the Norman influenced Prusi, migrated in masses after the Order's conquering wars.

Prussians

Though rapidly losing its sense of identity and with no political unity, Prussia still exists as a dispersed nation in exile. In addition, southern Germans described all Northern German as Prussians, while Rheinlander call people from Brandenburg, Mecklenburg or Berlin Prussians. For the vast majority however, Prussia is remembered only in the past tense, for its role in uniting Germany and is still, especially abroad, often wrongly perceived as a synonymous term for Germany. In this article "Prussians" are any of the multi-ethnic (including, unless otherwise specified, Prussia's Baltic German Prussishers) inhabitants of (GB) Prussia, while Prusi refers to the indigenous ancestral inhabitants of Prussia.

Notable Persons of Prussian History

History of Prussia

Historical texts using the word Prussia might refer to the geographical region of the Baltic Prussian country; the Papal Fief
ruled by the Teutonic Knights; the Prussian Confederation; the Polish province of Prussia or its components of Royal Prussia and Ducal Prussia; the state of Brandenburg Prussia or its provinces of West Prussia and East Prussia; or simply and most commonly East Prussia on its own.

Please refer to articles related to the following specific periods for detailed discussions:

Habitation in the area of former Prussia might date back to 9000 B.C. and Scyth graves have been found in the area. It is thought that hemp fields there might have been an important textile source besides the importance of Baltic Amber which reached as far as China. It was probably around 10 C.E. that the Baltic tribes started to move north along the Prypet and Nemunas rivers, driving Finnic peoples north. Documented history of 'the Balts' seems to have started with Tacticus (1st century), and Ptolemy (2nd century). Aestian tribes like the Galindae, Sudeni, and the dark-haired warlike Yatvig (Yatvyag) Sudvins and Yadzing became the first documented inhabitants of the area. Historical Atlases show that the area also became the north-easternmost part of Attila's Empire in Central Europe, and at around the same time Danes sailed routes across Baltic shores going down as far as the Nemunas convergence (Muirs).

Weimar Republic & WWII

The German Empire ended in 1918. During the inter-war years Prussia briefly attained a form of semi-autonomy as the autonomous region of "East Prussia" but was soon overrun by Nazis, as Hitler built up to the reinvasion of 'the Polish corridor' in order to reunite the region to Germany.

Appealing to the spirit of ancient heritage in the area, "Baltic Germans" were sucked in by Hitler's speeches (as were Germans across Europe), and as the many other ethnicities (most notably Jews, Poles, and Lithuanians) in Prussia were not allowed to vote, Hitler apparently gained quite a few supporters winning a good majority of the "ethnic German" votes in this multi-ethnic and historically richly Yiddish region. Historically Jews had played an important role in the region; though the Jewish religious perspective on Christ was not popular, anti-Semitism has been said to have been non-existent there upto 1918. Not coincidentally Hitler formed his Gestapo there to counter this and any Communist revolutionaries.

The Nazis altered about 1/3 of the toponymy of the area before they were vanquished by Soviet forces. Russia had gained the eastern-most tip of Prussia by the 29th of August 1944. Many inhabitants of Prussia were sucked into evacuations through fear of the Stalinists (propaganda which did not need much exaggeration) who completed the conquest of the area by the end of autumn. Independent figures for Prussians are not recorded but some 350,000 "ethnic Germans" from across Eastern Europe had been evacuated in covered wagons to the Warthegau in Western Poland where they were settled, and granted German citizenship. They later fled from the Stalinists advance, to the interior of Germany.

Postwar

Prussians being as properly distinct from Germans as Austrians only really became 'German' only after the evacuations and deportations from their Baltic home to Germany, by Nazi and (during the Stalinist genocide) Soviet troops respectively, enabled by the Yalta Conference's agreement (February 1945, Roosevelt, Churchill, Stalin) where their Prussian ethnicity was not considered. Ever since many have failed to integrate and have never felt at home even to the point of a 2nd emigration.

Brandenburg's power was declared defunct post-facto in 1947 by the Allied victors of World War II and Prussia was to all intents & purposes "deleted". The Allied Control Council Decree No. 46 of February 25, 1947, declared: "The state of Prussia, which has forever been the carrier of militarism and reaction in Germany, [...] shall herewith be dissolved." and while Brandenburg came under the iron curtain, its capital was was split into eastern & western areas of control the area of Prussia proper was distributed amongst present-day Poland and Russia, with Klaipeda returning to Lithuania.

The Brandenburg & western areas of Brandenburg-Prussia's former Kingdom of Prussia were distributed among many of Germany's sixteen Bundesländer (federal states), among them Berlin, Brandenburg, Lower Saxony, and North Rhine-Westphalia. The Prussian parts of the pre-war Brandenburg-Prussian state were made parts of Poland and the Soviet Union at the Potsdam Conference, when the Oder-Neisse line was established as the new border between Poland and Germany.

Prussia fell victim to popular myths that surrounded her, the prussian story was obscured as she was scapegoated for the war. The Yalta Conference determined to delete the area. For being an object of Nazi desire, Prussia was cut into three. South Prussia, the biggest portion including Warmia-Mazurski (Ermeland and Masurland), was ceded to Poland. The major Part of north-east Prussia with the port Königsberg went to Russia becoming an enclave and colony on the Baltic coast - regardless of the fact that the territories were not even connecting - out of fear that Prussia might be too much of a temptation to Germany. The rest, being the far northern 'Department of Lithuania-Minor' with the port Memel (Klaipeda), was ceded again to Lithuania as part then of the USSR. According to Lithuanian sources, the bulk of the population in this part of former Prussia were and still are Lithuanians. From the same source a major portion of the pre-war Prussish inhabitants emigrated.

Stalin did not differentiate civilian Prussishers (nor any of the other nationalities present in the area) from soldiers. He also considered "ethnic Germans" from all over what was Soviet occupied East Europe, repatriated in 1945 as traitors and therefore also war criminals.

For those left in Prussia, "The Terror" of 1945-50 began. In traumatised post-war Europe a silent ethnocide slipped by enabled by Roosevelt and Churchill. All remaining Prussians (110-170 thousand) who had not been forced into evacuation by the Nazis were also accused of collaboration with the Nazis. Stalin, in accordance with the Yalta agreement, set about the deletion process.

Much of the following narative is parallelled from a Lithuanian source with details added.

"In the formerly Soviet north, in order to make Prussia look more Russian, the entire ancient toponymy of the land was reinvented as a Russian one, while it suffered badly in the Polish south. Cities, towns and settlements acquired Russian names which were often made of Bolsheviks', statesmen's and servicemen's second names, even the second names of the Tsar's generals to complete the artificiality! The names of all places underwent a total metamorphosis. The port and region of Kaliningrad was born, becoming a Russian colony and strategic Soviet power foothold.

People were deprived of their homes and murdered. Some were sent to (East?)Germany between 1946-48. Anything left in the region was confiscated or burned. Some remaining Prussishers fled to Soviet Lithuania, believing they would be safe there, but this was not their salvation. By the autumn of 1944-spring of 1945 refugees from Prussia, mostly women, little children and disabled old persons, all living in penury, were concentrated in the western part of Soviet Lithuania. Some spoke Lithuanian but many did not understand the language at all. Despite Soviet prohibitions, everybody tried to help the deprived. The adults were deported by the Soviets. Mothers left their children with kind Lithuanians who raised these vokietukai (the "Little Germans") up.

Eventually the entire population was deported and sent to labour camps or killed and a Soviet one imported. The rulers of the Kremlin inhabited their part of north Prussia mostly with Russians coming from Smolensk, Voronez, Oriol, and other regions. By the end of 1946 about 12 thousand families had been moved. Absurd ideas about Prussia being the native Russian or at least Slavic land from times immemorial were drummed into their heads. This was even written in the Great Soviet Encyclopaedia published in 1953. Authors of scientific researches had been ordered to prove unreal facts."

No autochthons were left in (north) Prussia. As were all newly defined "Soviet Germans" Prussishers were made to sign a statement that they would never return to their former districts, or put in a claim for confiscated property?

Nevertheless, there are people all over the world who still determine themselves ethnically/culturally as Prussians. Thousands of Prussians stil live in central asia and Siberia and attempts are being made to gain international recognition for their minority.

Provinces of Prussia

The following list names all provinces and equivalent subdivisions which were considered part of Prussia between 1815 and 1947.

Further reading

Publications in German

  • B. Schumacher, Geschichte Ost- und Westpreussens, Wurzburg 1959

Publications in Polish

  • K. Piwarski, Dzieje Prus Wschodnich w czasach nowożytnych, Gdańsk 1946
  • Gerard Labuda (ed.), Historia Pomorza, vol. I-IV, Poznań 1969-2003 (also covers East Prussia)
  • collective work, Szkice z dziejów Pomorza, vol. 1-3, Warszawa 1958-61

See also

External links


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