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Country Germany
Population 3,562,166
Area (sq mi) 344.35 sq mi
Population density (/sq mi) 10,000/sq mi
Current mayor Michael Müller
Co-ordinates 52.5° N., 13.3° E.[1]
The Brandenburg Gate (Brandenburger Tor), viewed from the newly restored Paris Place (Pariser Platz).

Berlin is the capital and largest city of the Federal Republic of Germany, as well as one of its sixteen federal states (Bundesländer). Having formerly been the capital city of the Kingdom of Prussia and the Duchy of Brandenburg, it has been a center of German political and intellectual life since the 18th century, and is today regarded as one of the most significant cities in the world.

During the Cold War it was divided into an Eastern and a Western part. Both were considered to be under the control of the four WWII Allies. However, in fact, the USSR and East Germany (a.k.a. the German Democratic Republic) made East Berlin into the capital of East Germany, whereas the Western Allies (USA, UK, France) and West Germany (the Federal Republic of Germany) insisted on the allied status of all sectors of Berlin and made Bonn into the provisional capital of West Germany. A wall between the two parts was built by East Germany in order to stop people escaping from East Berlin to West Berlin for economic as well as political reasons. The wall's opening in November 1989 heralded the end of the Cold War, and was a milestone on the path to the reunification of Germany. Today, Berlin is both an economic and political powerhouse in Germany and Europe, and is internationally recognized for its historical landmarks and cultural heritage.


The city's name is probably not originally Germanic, but instead derives from the area's early medieval inhabitants, a Slavic sub-group known as the Wends. They referred to the site as "Berlin" or "Birlin," which may have meant "swamp," given the marshy lowlands around the Spree river that flows through the city. Though the region was steadily conquered by the Germans in the Middle Ages (some Wends nonetheless remain in and around Berlin to this day), many of the original place names remain; a number of the names of Berlin's neighborhoods themselves have Slavic roots, as do those of many other communities in eastern Germany. As the "Ber" in Berlin sounds like the German for bear (Bär), the city's official coat of arms includes a depiction of a bear.

Berlin is a much younger city than most other major European capitals such as London, Rome, Paris, and even Moscow. As a result of the Thirty Years War, by 1650 Berlin's population was reduced by half to only about 6,000 residents.

A very short history to 1945:

  • grew from a pair of Wendish villages ( Berlin and Kölln), founded in the early 13th century.
  • was member of Hanseatic League from the 14th century.
  • became capital of Brandenburg.
  • became Protestant mid 16th century. (after 1540)
  • population and buildings devastated in the Thirty Years War (1618-1648)
  • capital of Prussia from 1701
  • occupied by Austrians, 1757, then the Russians, 1760
  • occupied by Napoleon, 1806.
  • capital of the Second German Empire, 1871-1918
  • Congress of Berlin, 1878 – Berlin Conference, 1885.
  • capital of the Weimar Republic, 1918-1933
  • capital of Nazi Germany, 1933-1945 (entered by Soviet Red Army May 1945)
  • greatly damaged by Allied bombing, 1941 and 1943-45.
  • partitioned into zones and occupied (Americans, British, French, Soviet Union), June 1945
  • reunited 1990

Berlin is well known for the liberal attitudes that proliferate in its corners. During the time of the Cold War, numerous young men from West Germany moved to West Berlin, in order to avoid military service. They founded numerous communities, mainly in the city district Kreuzberg, known also as the Turkish Quarter, for its large concentration of Turkish immigrants. Annual events include the depraved and decadent spectacle of the so-called 'Love Parade' (until 2006), a procession designed to promote perversion and immorality. What Westerners called a "remarkable" political event was the former mayor of Berlin, Klaus Wowereit, publicly announcing in his election campaign that he is homosexual.[2] Since 2014 Michael Müller, a member of left-center SPD, is the mayor of Berlin.

On 19 December 2016, a truck was driven into a Christmas market beside Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church at Breitscheidplatz in Berlin. The terrorist attack left 12 people dead. The perpetrator was Anus Amri, a Tunisian fugitive and illegal immigrant.


Since German reunification, Berlin has been one of three cities (the others are Hamburg and Bremen) that constitute separate states within the Federal Republic. The Governing Mayor (Regierender Bürgermeister) is simultaneously Minister President of the Federal State of Berlin (Ministerpräsident des Bundeslandes), and other leading city officials hold the title of State Ministers.

The city-state government operates as a parliamentary system. It has a bicameral legislature, consisting of a House of Representatives, which is composed of elected deputies and holds most lawmaking power, and a Senate, which consists of the Governing Mayor and up to eight senators appointed by the mayor; it acts as Berlin's executive authority. The main government building is the Rotes Rathaus (Red City Hall), located in central Berlin near the original medieval district.

The city is subdivided into 12 boroughs or districts (Bezirke), which are further unofficially divided into smaller local neighborhoods. Each borough has its own government, with a mayor, council, and assembly, but is subordinate to the overall city government. These boroughs are as follows:

  • Charlottenburg-Wilmersdorf
  • Friedrichshain-Kreuzberg
  • Lichtenberg
  • Marzahn-Hellersdorf
  • Mitte
  • Neukölln
  • Pankow
  • Reinickendorf
  • Spandau
  • Steglitz-Zehlendorf
  • Tempelhof-Schöneberg
  • Treptow-Köpenick

Berlin has an extremely leftist political culture. Since the most recent state election in 2016, it has been governed by a coalition including the Social Democratic Party, the German Green Party, and The Left (Die Linke)--the latter being a successor to the East German Communist Party. The current mayor is Social Democrat Michael Müller, in office since 2014.


The Berlin Philharmonic in concert

Berlin is well known worldwide for its cultural institutions, such as the Berlin Philharmonic Orchestra, its three opera houses, its museums like on the Museumsinsel and art galleries, and its remaining architectural history. Re-emerging from the aftermath of WWII and the Cold War, Berlin has since firmly established itself as one of Europe's brightest centres of culture.[3] The Hebbel-Theater is one of the centers for contemporary dance and opera in Europe. With seven major symphony orchestras (and several private ones), two major concert halls, and a plethora of smaller venues and churches, Berlin is indisputably one of the world's greatest cities for classical music.[4] The Konzerthaus is Berlin’s most elegant venue for classical music.

See also

External links


  1. (1922) World Almanac and Book of Facts for 1923, series: World Almanac and Book of Facts (in English). New York: Press Pub Co. (The New York World), 63.  Rounded down towards zero.
  2. article in NY Times
  3. Culture in Berlin
  4. Classical Music