Free State (Republic)

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Free state is the name that emerged in Germany in the 19th century for a free state that was not ruled by a monarch , i.e. for a republic . In the Weimar Republic , the concept of the Free State was - alongside the People's State - the official name of most of the German territorial states . Today it is the official name for the states of Bavaria (since 1945), Saxony (since 1990) and Thuringia (since 1993) and was also used for the state of Baden from 1945 to 1952 .


Already in the Middle Ages the term was freely available for estates , imperial cities or Hanseatic cities . This stood for the granting of certain rights, tax exemption or one's own jurisdiction .

In modern times the word free state is used in the sense of republic, namely as the translation of the Latin name for the Roman republic ( libera res publica 'free state', while res publica often only means 'state' in general). In the 18th century the term Freistaat is a German synonym for republic (lat. Res publica , French république ) introduced by language purists . It describes a state in which state authority comes from the people and in particular - in contrast to the monarchy - the head of state is directly or indirectly elected by the people.

The Weimar Constitution (1919) also uses this word as a synonym for republic , when it stipulates in Article 17: "Every country must have a free-state constitution". Constitutional law teachers like Rolf Gröschner advocate the synonymous use of “free state” and “republican” to denote a constitutional order that is legitimized by freedom, organized in offices and oriented towards the common good. Today the Free State is usually organized as a parliamentary democracy ; the term was also used, for example, by the Munich Soviet Republic . In its constitution, the Swiss canton of Obwalden describes itself as a “democratic free state and, within the framework of the federal constitution, a sovereign state and a federal member of the Swiss Confederation”.

German Free States after 1918

Official Free States in the Weimar Republic

At the end of the First World War , on the night of November 7th, 1918, the socialist Kurt Eisner proclaimed the Free State of Bavaria in Munich and was elected Prime Minister a little later by the workers 'and soldiers' councils . After the proclamation of the republic in Germany on November 9, 1918 in Berlin, many of the new German republics - in accordance with Article 17 of the Weimar Constitution: "Every country must have a free state constitution" - took over Bavaria as the official name for a republic: Prussia , Saxony , Braunschweig , Anhalt , Oldenburg , Mecklenburg-Schwerin , Mecklenburg-Strelitz , Waldeck , Lippe , Schaumburg-Lippe and the small states of Thuringia with the exception of Reuss .

Other German member states called themselves republic or people's state , such as the "free" people's state of Württemberg . In 1919 the establishment of a north-west German republic was considered, which should consist of ten socialist free states. In 1920 the Free State of Coburg joined Bavaria. Various Thuringian states merged into the newly founded state of Thuringia , which (at that time) did not use the designation free state. In 1929 Waldeck joined Prussia, and in 1934 the National Socialists forcibly united the two Mecklenburg states to form Mecklenburg .

Unofficial Free State bottleneck

The occupation situation after the First World War left a narrow strip of land on the Rhine to the northeast of Lorch (Rheingau) free, which, however, was in fact isolated from the rest of unoccupied Germany and thus forced to self-rule. It existed from 1919 to 1923 and the 17,363 residents ironically referred to it as the Bottleneck Free State .

After the Second World War

After the Second World War , the State of Prussia was formally dissolved by the Control Council Act No. 46 in 1947 . Braunschweig, Oldenburg and Schaumburg-Lippe became part of the newly founded state of Lower Saxony in 1946 , Lippe became part of North Rhine-Westphalia in 1947 , and Anhalt became part of Saxony-Anhalt in 1945/1947 .

After Saxony was dissolved together with the other states of the German Democratic Republic in 1952 and divided into the districts of Dresden , Chemnitz (later Karl-Marx-Stadt ) and Leipzig , Bavaria alone remained of all the states that had designated themselves as free states. Only on the day of German unity did the Free State of Saxony come into being again, and about three years later the state government of Thuringia decided to introduce the name for their state for the first time.

Todays situation

Also in the structure of the Federal Republic of Germany with its federal system , the designation Free State has no legal meaning, since all the federal states have the same constitutional status. Therefore, there are no special positions for the federal states that use them - such as the Free State of Bavaria primarily for historical reasons. The existence of the regional party CSU (instead of a regional association of the CDU) does not justify an exception with regard to federalism , but is merely a consequence of the independent organization of political Catholicism in Bavaria (instead of the center in the Empire, the Bavarian Patriot Party in the Kingdom and in the Weimar Republic Bavarian People's Party ).

The Free and Hanseatic City of Hamburg and the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen have comparable names with a historical background . In the case of Bremen, the name is also suitable to distinguish the state of Bremen, to which the city of Bremerhaven also belongs, from the city of Bremen . Free State and Free City differ in their historical background.

Web links

Wiktionary: Republic  - explanations of meanings, word origins, synonyms, translations

Individual evidence

  1. cf. Cicero , de re publica 1, 42: cum penes unum est omnium summa rerum, regem illum vocamus et regnum eius rei publicae statum (“If an individual has authority over everything, then we call him the king and the constitution this res publica as royalty. ").
  2. See under State Center for Civic Education Thuringia: History of the term "Free State" .
  3. ^ Rolf Gröschner, Der Freistaat des Grundgesetzes, in: Gröschner / Lembcke (ed.), Freistaatlichkeit, 2011, pp. 293–352; another, because we want to be free, 2016.
  4. ^ Constitution of the canton of Obwalden from May 19, 1968.
  5. ^ Hans Georg Lehmann: Chronicle of the Federal Republic of Germany. Munich 1981, p. 17.
  6. The reason was that Prussia had "always been the bearer of militarism and reaction in Germany".
  7. ^ Heinrich Oberreuter: Land (Free State) Bavaria. ( online ) In: Concise dictionary of the political system of the Federal Republic of Germany. 5th edition, Leske + Budrich, Opladen 2003; Licensed edition: Federal Agency for Civic Education, Bonn 2003. Edited by Uwe Andersen, Wichard Woyke, accessed on June 21, 2009 .