Introduction of Berlin
The old capital of Prussia and the capital of Germany until 1945; it was divided politically between West Germany and East Germany, but has again become the capital of reunified Germany since 1990. Built on the Spree River, Berlin is a major transportation center as well as a political and cultural center. A comparatively young city, Berlin grew out of two Wendish fishing villages named Kolln and Berlin, which merged in 1307. Chosen as the capital of the Hohenzollern electors of Brand enburg in 1486, it was damaged during the Thirty Years’ War but recovered under the Great Elector Frederick William (1640–88) who stimulated commerce by linking the Oder and Spree rivers by canal and by opening the city to French Huguenots.
When the Hohenzollerns became kings of Prussia in 1701, Berlin became the Prussian capital. It was captured during the Seven Years’ War by the Austrians in 1757 and by the Russians in 1760. Occupied by the French during the Napoleonic Wars from 1806 to 1808, it became the focus of German nationalism in the early 19th century and increased in importance with the growing might of Prussia. At the same time, it was an important center of philosophy and the home of Georg W.F. Hegel and Johann Fichte. The scene of an abortive revolution in 1848, Berlin became the seat of the North German Confederation in 1866, a fact that reflected the new dominance of Prussia over Austria in German affairs. After the Franco-Prussian War Berlin became the capital of the German Empire in 1871 and began a period of rapid expansion that was to make it the second-largest city in Europe. The capital of the illfated Weimar Republic after World War I, Berlin experienced frequent political and social unrest, though the city’s cultural life flourished, especially in the world of theater and film. Under the Nazis the cultural brilliance of Berlin was extinguished, and by the end of World War II the city had been almost completely razed by Allied bombers and Soviet artillery. For the purposes of administering the city after the war Berlin was divided into four zones of Allied occupation. This scheme crumbled in 1948 when the Soviets ceased to cooperate with the Western powers and blockaded West Berlin. After a massive airlift of supplies into the beleaguered city, the blockade was lifted in 1949, but Berlin remained politically divided. In 1961 the Soviets tightened their grip on the East Germans by constructing the Berlin Wall, a forbidding maze of wall, electrified fence, guard towers, and obstacles through which many have sought freedom, and many have been killed in the attempt. Both sides of the modern city reflected the prosperity and forward thinking of their respective worlds.
The Berlin Wall fell in 1989 when the communist block collapsed. On October 3, 1990, the unification of Germany was celebrated in Berlin with a state ceremony. Since then, united Berlin has once again been the capital of unified Germany.
Major historic monuments include the Brand enburg Gate and the Reichstag building.