|Languages||German , German|
The Federal Republic of Germany is a country in Central Europe. It is the second-most populous country in Europe after Russia and the most populous member state of the European Union. Germany is situated between the Baltic and North seas to the north, and the Alps to the south; it covers an area of 357,022 square kilometers (137,847 sq mi), with a population of over 83 million within its 16 constituent states. It borders Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria and Switzerland to the south, and France, Luxembourg, Belgium, and the Netherlands to the west. The nation's capital and largest city are Berlin, and its financial center in Frankfurt; the largest urban area is the Ruhr.
Various Germanic tribes have inhabited the northern parts of modern Germany since classical antiquity. A region named Germania was documented before AD 100. In the 10th century, German territories formed a central part of the Holy Roman Empire. During the 16th century, northern German regions became the center of the Protestant Reformation. Following the Napoleonic Wars and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire in 1806, the German Confederation was formed in 1815. In 1871, Germany became a nation-state when most of the German states unified into the Prussian-dominated German Empire. After World War I and the German Revolution of 1918–1919, the Empire was replaced by the semi-presidential Weimar Republic.
The Nazi seizure of power in 1933 led to the establishment of a dictatorship, World War II, and the Holocaust. After the end of World War II in Europe and a period of Allied occupation, Germany was divided into the Federal Republic of Germany, generally known as West Germany, and the German Democratic Republic, East Germany. The Federal Republic of Germany was a founding member of the European Economic Community and the European Union, while the German Democratic Republic was a communist Eastern Bloc state and a member of the Warsaw Pact. After the fall of communism, German reunification saw the former East German states join the Federal Republic of Germany on 3 October 1990—becoming a federal parliamentary republic.
Germany is a great power with a strong economy; it has the largest economy in Europe, the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the fifth-largest by PPP. As a global leader in several industrial, scientific and technological sectors, it is both the world's third-largest exporter and importer of goods. As a developed country, which ranks very high on the Human Development Index, it offers social security and a universal health care system, environmental protection, and tuition-free university education. Germany is a member of the United Nations, NATO, the G7, the G20, and the OECD. It has the third-greatest number of UNESCO World Heritage Sites.
The concept of Germany as a distinct region in Central Europe can be traced to Roman commander Julius Caesar, who referred to the unconquered area east of the Rhine as Germania, thus distinguishing it from Gaul (France). The victory of the Germanic tribes in the Battle of the Teutoburg Forest (AD 9) prevented annexation by the Roman Empire, although the Roman provinces of Germania Superior and Germania Inferior were established along the Rhine. Following the Fall of the Western Roman Empire, the Franks conquered the other West Germanic tribes. When the Frankish Empire has divided among Charles the Great's heirs in 843, the eastern part became East Francia. In 962, Otto I became the first Holy Roman Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire, the medieval German state.
In the Late Middle Ages, the regional dukes, princes, and bishops gained power at the expense of the emperors. Martin Luther led the Protestant Reformation within the Catholic Church after 1517, as the northern and eastern states became Protestant, while most of the southern and western states remained Catholic. The two parts of the Holy Roman Empire clashed in the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648), which was ruinous to the twenty million civilians living in both parts. The Thirty Years' War brought tremendous destruction to Germany; more than 1/4 of the population in the German states were killed by the catastrophic war. The estates of the Holy Roman Empire attained a high extent of autonomy in the Peace of Westphalia, some of them being capable of their foreign policies or controlling land outside of the Empire, the most important being Austria, Prussia, Bavaria, and Saxony. With the French Revolution and the Napoleonic Wars from 1803 to 1815, feudalism fell away by reforms and the dissolution of the Holy Roman Empire. Thereafter liberalism and nationalism clashed with reaction. The German revolutions of 1848–49 failed. The Industrial Revolution modernized the German economy, led to the rapid growth of cities and the emergence of the socialist movement in Germany. Prussia, with its capital Berlin, grew in power. German universities became world-class centers for science and humanities, while music and art flourished. The unification of Germany (excluding Austria and the German-speaking areas of Switzerland) was achieved under the leadership of Chancellor Otto von Bismarck with the formation of the German Empire in 1871. This resulted in the Kleindeutsche Lösung, ("small Germany solution", Germany without Austria), rather than the Großdeutsche Lösung, ("greater Germany solution", Germany with Austria). The new Reichstag, an elected parliament, had only a limited role in the imperial government. Germany joined the other powers in colonial expansion in Africa and the Pacific.
By 1900, Germany was the dominant power on the European continent and its rapidly expanding industry had surpassed Britain's while provoking it in a naval arms race. Germany led the Central Powers in World War I (1914–1918) against France, the United Kingdom, Russia, (by 1915) Italy, and (by 1917) the United States. Defeated and partly occupied, Germany was forced to pay war reparations by the Treaty of Versailles and was stripped of its colonies as well as of home territory to be ceded to Belgium, France, and Poland, and was banned from uniting with German-settled regions of Austria. The German Revolution of 1918–19 put an end to the federal constitutional monarchy, which resulted in the establishment of the Weimar Republic, an unstable parliamentary democracy. In the early 1930s, the worldwide Great Depression hit Germany hard, as unemployment soared and people lost confidence in the government. In January 1933, Adolf Hitler was appointed Chancellor of Germany. His Nazi Party quickly established a totalitarian regime, and Nazi Germany made increasingly aggressive territorial demands, threatening war if they were not met. The remilitarization of the Rhineland came in 1936, then annexation of Austria in the Anschluss and German-speaking regions of Czechoslovakia with the Munich Agreement in 1938, and further territory of Czechoslovakia in 1939. On 1 September 1939, Germany initiated World War II in Europe with the invasion of Poland. After forming a pact with the Soviet Union in 1939, Hitler and Stalin divided Eastern Europe. After a "Phoney War" in spring 1940, German forces swiftly conquered Denmark, Norway, Belgium, Luxembourg, the Netherlands, and France, and forced the British army out of Western Europe. In 1941, Hitler's army invaded Yugoslavia, Greece, and the Soviet Union.
Racism, especially antisemitism, was a central feature of the Nazi regime. In Germany, but predominantly in the German-occupied areas, the systematic genocide program known as the Holocaust killed 17 million people, including 6 million Jews (representing 2/3rd of the European Jewish population of 1933), Poles, Romanies, Soviets (Russian and non-Russian), people with disabilities, LGBTQ people, German dissidents, and others. In 1942, the German invasion of the Soviet Union faltered, and after the United States entered the war, German cities became targets for massive Allied bombing raids. It has been estimated that in all about 353,000 German civilians were killed and 9 million left homeless during the Allied bombing raids. Following the Allied invasion of Normandy (June 1944), the German Army was pushed back on all fronts until the final collapse in May 1945. Under occupation by the Allies, German territories were split up, Austria was again made a separate country, denazification took place, and the Cold War resulted in the division of the country into democratic West Germany and communist East Germany, reduced in the territory by the establishment of the Oder-Neisse line. Millions of ethnic Germans were deported from pre-war Eastern Germany, Sudetenland, and from all over Eastern Europe. Germans also fled from Communist areas into West Germany, which experienced rapid economic expansion, and became the dominant economy in Western Europe. West Germany was rearmed in the 1950s under the auspices of NATO, but without access to nuclear weapons. The Franco-German friendship became the basis for the political integration of Western Europe in the European Union.
In 1989, the Berlin Wall was opened, the Eastern Bloc collapsed, and East Germany was reunited with West Germany in 1990. In 1998–1999, Germany was one of the founding countries of the Eurozone. Germany remains one of the economic powerhouses of Europe, contributing about one-quarter of the Eurozone's annual gross domestic product. In the early 2010s, Germany played a critical role in trying to resolve the escalating euro crisis, especially concerning Greece and other Southern European nations. In the middle of the decade, the country faced the European migrant crisis as the main receiver of asylum seekers from Syria and other troubled regions.
Germany is the seventh-largest country in Europe; bordering Denmark to the north, Poland and the Czech Republic to the east, Austria to the southeast, and Switzerland to the south-southwest. France, Luxembourg, and Belgium are situated to the west, with the Netherlands to the northwest. Germany is also bordered by the North Sea and, at the north-northeast, by the Baltic Sea. German territory covers 357,022 km2 (137,847 sq mi), consisting of 348,672 km2 (134,623 sq mi) of land and 8,350 km2 (3,224 sq mi) of water.
Elevation ranges from the mountains of the Alps (highest point: the Zugspitze at 2,963 meters or 9,721 feet) in the south to the shores of the North Sea (Nordsee) in the northwest and the Baltic Sea (Ostsee) in the northeast. The forested uplands of central Germany and the lowlands of northern Germany (lowest point: in the municipality Neuendorf-Sachsenbande, Wilstermarsch at 3.54 meters or 11.6 feet below sea level) are traversed by such major rivers as the Rhine, Danube, and the Elbe. Significant natural resources include iron ore, coal, potash, timber, lignite, uranium, copper, natural gas, salt, and nickel.
Germany is a federal, parliamentary, representative democratic republic. Federal legislative power is vested in the parliament consisting of the Bundestag (Federal Diet) and Bundesrat (Federal Council), which together form the legislative body. The Bundestag is elected through direct elections using the mixed-member proportional representation system. The members of the Bundesrat represent and are appointed by the governments of the sixteen federated states. The German political system operates under a framework laid out in the 1949 constitution known as the Grundgesetz (Basic Law). Amendments generally require a two-thirds majority of both the Bundestag and the Bundesrat; the fundamental principles of the constitution, as expressed in the articles guaranteeing human dignity, the separation of powers, the federal structure, and the rule of law, are valid in perpetuity.
The president, currently Frank-Walter Steinmeier, is the head of state and invested primarily with representative responsibilities and powers. He is elected by the Bundesversammlung (federal convention), an institution consisting of the members of the Bundestag and an equal number of state delegates. The second-highest official in the German order of precedence is the Bundestagspräsident (President of the Bundestag), who is elected by the Bundestag and responsible for overseeing the daily sessions of the body. The third-highest official and the head of government is the chancellor, who is appointed by the Bundespräsident after being elected by the party or coalition with the most seats in the Bundestag. The chancellor, currently Olaf Scholz, is the head of government and exercises executive power through his Cabinet.
Since 1949, the party system has been dominated by the Christian Democratic Union and the Social Democratic Party of Germany. So far every chancellor has been a member of one of these parties. However, the smaller liberal Free Democratic Party and the Alliance '90/The Greens have also been junior partners in coalition governments. Since 2007, the left-wing populist party The Left has been a staple in the German Bundestag, though they have never been part of the federal government. In the 2017 German federal election, the right-wing populist Alternative for Germany gained enough votes to attain representation in the parliament for the first time.
Germany has a social market economy with a highly skilled labor force, a low level of corruption, and a high level of innovation. It is the world's third-largest exporter and third-largest importer of goods and has the largest economy in Europe, which is also the world's fourth-largest economy by nominal GDP, and the fifth-largest by PPP. Its GDP per capita measured in purchasing power standards amounts to 121% of the EU27 average (100%). The service sector contributes approximately 69% of the total GDP, industry 31%, and agriculture 1% as of 2017. The unemployment rate published by Eurostat amounts to 3.2% as of January 2020, which is the fourth-lowest in the EU.
Germany is part of the European single market, which represents more than 450 million consumers. In 2017, the country accounted for 28% of the Eurozone economy, according to the International Monetary Fund. Germany introduced the common European currency, the Euro, in 2002. Its monetary policy is set by the European Central Bank, which is headquartered in Frankfurt.
Being home to the modern car, the automotive industry in Germany is regarded as one of the most competitive and innovative in the world and is the fourth-largest by production. The top ten exports of Germany are vehicles, machinery, chemical goods, electronic products, electrical types of equipment, pharmaceuticals, transport types of equipment, basic metals, food products, and rubber and plastics.
Of the world's 500 largest stock-market-listed companies measured by revenue in 2019, the Fortune Global 500, 29 are headquartered in Germany. 30 major Germany-based companies are included in the DAX, the German stock market index, which is operated by the Frankfurt Stock Exchange. Well-known international brands include Mercedes-Benz, BMW, Volkswagen, Audi, Siemens, Allianz, Adidas, Porsche, Bosch, and Deutsche Telekom. Berlin is a hub for startup companies and has become the leading location for venture capital-funded firms in the European Union. Germany is recognized for its large portion of specialized small and medium enterprises, known as the Mittelstand model. These companies represent 48% of global market leaders in their segments, labeled hidden champions
Research and development efforts form an integral part of the German economy. In 2018 Germany ranked fourth globally in terms of the number of science and engineering research papers published. Germany was ranked 9th in the Global Innovation Index in 2019 and 2020. Research institutions in Germany include the Max Planck Society, the Helmholtz Association, and the Fraunhofer Society, and the Leibniz Association. Germany is the largest contributor to the European Space Agency.
Culture in German states has been shaped by major intellectual and popular currents in Europe, both religious and secular. Historically, Germany has been called Das Land der Dichter und Denker ('the land of poets and thinkers), because of the major role its scientists, writers, and philosophers have played in the development of Western thought. A global opinion poll for the BBC revealed that Germany is recognized for having the most positive influence in the world in 2013 and 2014.
Germany is well known for such folk festival traditions as Oktoberfest and Christmas customs, which include Advent wreaths, Christmas pageants, Christmas trees, Stollen cakes, and other practices. As of 2016, UNESCO inscribed 41 properties in Germany on the World Heritage List. There are the number of public holidays in Germany determined by each state; 3 October has been a national day of Germany since 1990, celebrated as the Tag der Deutschen Einheit (German Unity Day).