Thuringia (German: Thüringen) (German pronunciation: [ˈtyːʁɪŋən] (listen)), officially the Free State of Thuringia (English: /; German: Freistaat Thüringen, pronounced [ˈfʁaɪʃtaːt ˈtyːʁɪŋən]), is a state of Germany.
Thuringia is located in central Germany covering an area of 16,171 square kilometres (6,244 sq mi) and a population of 2.15 million inhabitants, making it the sixth smallest German state by area and the fifth smallest by population. Erfurt is the state capital and largest city, while other major cities include Jena, Gera, and Weimar. Thuringia is surrounded by the states of Bavaria, Hesse, Lower Saxony, Saxony-Anhalt, and Saxony.
Most of Thuringia is within the watershed of the Saale, a left tributary of the Elbe, and has been known as "the green heart of Germany" (das grüne Herz Deutschlands) from the late 19th century due to the dense forest covering the land. Thuringia is home to the Rennsteig, Germany's most well-known hiking trail, and the winter resort of Oberhof, making it a well-known winter sports destination with half of Germany's 136 Winter Olympic gold medals won through 2014 having been won by Thuringian athletes. Thuringia is also home to prominent German intellectuals and creative artists, including Johann Sebastian Bach, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe, and Friedrich Schiller, and is location of the University of Jena, the Ilmenau University of Technology, the University of Erfurt, and the Bauhaus University of Weimar.
Thuringia was established in 1920 as a state of the Weimar Republic from a merger of the Ernestine duchies, except for Saxe-Coburg, but can trace its origins to the Frankish Duchy of Thuringia established around 631 AD by King Dagobert I. After World War II, Thuringia came under the Soviet occupation zone in Allied-occupied Germany, and its borders altered to become contiguous. Thuringia became part of the German Democratic Republic in 1947, but was dissolved in 1952 during administrative reforms, and its territory divided into the districts of Erfurt, Suhl and Gera. Thuringia was re-established in 1990 following German reunification, with slightly different borders, and became one of the Federal Republic of Germany's new states.
Etymology and symbols
The name Thuringia or Thüringen derives from the Germanic tribe Thuringii, who emerged during the Migration Period. Their origin is largely unknown. An older theory claims that they were successors of the Hermunduri, but later research rejected the idea. Other historians argue that the Thuringians were allies of the Huns, came to central Europe together with them, and lived before in what is Galicia today. Publius Flavius Vegetius Renatus first mentioned the Thuringii around 400; during that period, the Thuringii were famous for their excellent horses.
The Thuringian Realm existed until after 531, the Landgraviate of Thuringia was the largest state in the region, persisting between 1131 and 1247. Afterwards the state known as Thuringia ceased to exist; nevertheless the term commonly described the region between the Harz mountains in the north, the White Elster river in the east, the Franconian Forest in the south and the Werra river in the west. After the Treaty of Leipzig, Thuringia had its own dynasty again, the Ernestine Wettins. Their various lands formed the Free State of Thuringia, founded in 1920, together with some other small principalities. The Prussian territories around Erfurt, Mühlhausen and Nordhausen joined Thuringia in 1945.
The coat of arms of Thuringia shows the lion of the Ludowingian Landgraves of 12th-century origin. The eight stars around it represent the eight former states which formed Thuringia. The flag of Thuringia is a white-red bicolor, derived from the white and red stripes of the Ludowingian lion. The coat of arms and flag of Hesse are quite similar to the Thuringian ones, because they are also derived from the Ludowingian symbols.
Symbols of Thuringia in popular culture are the Bratwurst and the Forest, because a large amount of the territory is forested.