Useful Notes / Prussia
Iron Kingdom

Niemand wird Preuße denn aus Not,
Ist er's geworden, dankt er Gott.note 
German 18th-century saying

Prussia (Preußen in German), named after the duchy and former Ordenstaat but born of the margravate and electorate of Brandenburg (coincidentally by merging with said Ordenstaat, by then secularized), historically the land of the Baltic Old Prussians, was the descendant of The Teutonic Knights and became the dominant state in Germany (having more than half of Germany's land area and population) by the time it was unified (by Prussia, incidentally) in 1871. Brandenburg, Prussia was the location of the German capital, Berlin. From 1701 until the end of World War I in 1918, it was known as "The Kingdom of Prussia", and post-WWI as "The Free State of Prussia". Because "republic" sounded too French. Which had one of the most stable democratic state governments of the Weimar Republic until it was deposed in a military coup on the orders of President Hindenburg. After World War II Prussia ceased to exist because the four Allied powers saw fit to place the blame for what had gone wrong with Germany and dismembered its territory.

Ironically considering their authoritarian bent, some members of the old conservative, aristocratic Prussian officer class often despised the revolutionary and demagogic Nazism but were also often willing to give it tacit support considering democrats, catholics and socialists to be worse. When the Nazis came to power, usurping much of the aristocratic officer corps' power and enjoying military success, the Prussian officer class had mixed but mostly positive feelings. However, when the war turned and Hitler's strategy became increasingly irrational they were much disillusioned. Eventually they were heavily involved in the plot to assassinate Hitler, but it doesn't stop Hollywood from confusing the two.

Wilhelm II, pictured, Kaiser (German Emperor) and King of Prussia from 1888 to 1918 is probably the most famous Prussian in popular imagination, mostly for being the "bad guy" of WWI. Well, he did show up in The Simpsons once.

Another notable Prussian was Otto von Bismarck, a real-life Magnificent Bastard and exemplar of Germanic Efficiency with a Magnificent Hat to prove it. He is at Number 9 on Germany's list of its top 200, because we all love a Magnificent Bastard. Despite his being deceased this is undoubtedly part of his plan. Just what part, we may never know.

Earlier on, Prussia's dominance was built in the eighteenth century on its trademark militarism, which was summarized by Count Mirabeau as "some countries possess armies, but Prussia is an army that happens to possess a country." This reached its Crowning Moment of Awesome in the Seven Years' War, when Prussia essentially stood alone (heavily subsidized by Great Britain) against Austria, Saxony, Russia, France and Sweden. All at once. And not only survived, but kept all of its pre-war territorynote . That's why Frederick II is called the Great. Notably the country was completely smashed flat by Napoleon in 1806, but made a Back from the Brink rally, kicked ass at the Battle of the Nations and Waterloo (despite turning up late...or depending on who you ask, just in time) and was set on the road to domination of Germany. With the proclamation of the German Empire in 1871 at the Palace of Versailles, Prussia became the part of the new Germany. Some scholars have argued that Germany was not unified at all, and merely "Prussianized".

After World War I, the Hohenzollern monarchy was overthrown and Germany was forced by the Allies to give up a significant chunk of its eastern territory to the newly-recreated state of Polandnote . This left East Prussia and the old imperial capital Königsberg (plus the neighbouring, short-lived, Free State of Danzig) physically separated from the rest of Germany by a small strip of land known as the Polish Corridor, the existence of which was one of the many many factors that led that short guy with the Chaplin moustache and his friends to start another war. It didn't end well.

Incidentally, while many in the Nazi top leadership had a big nostalgia for the glory days of the Prussian-run Empire and of the Prussian military, most of these men, including Hitler, weren't Prussian at all: they were predominantly southerners (or Austrians like Hitler). Furthermore, while they both supported the idea of a powerful German empire, the Nazis largely had nothing but contempt for the Prussian aristocracy, holding them to blame for losing the First World War. It is also worth noting that the Kreisau Circle, one of the main focal points of conservative resistance to Nazism, also considered itself to be acting in the best Prussian traditions; when Erich von Manstein refused to join the plot by saying that "Prussian field marshals do not mutiny", his interlocutor countered with the example of Yorck, who had done exactly that. "Prussiandom" as a concept, as an ideology, and as a national identity had by then become so ephemeral as to be claimed by a very diverse range of individuals with very diverse hopes and fears.

After World War II, all of Germany east of the Oder-Neisse linenote , most of which was Prussia, was handed over to Poland, partly to compensate her for her own territorial losses to Ukraine and Russia (the northern part of East Prussia, including its capital, went directly to the Soviets). The Germans kept a claim on those areas until 1970, when it signed the Treaties of Moscow and Warsaw. This was again confirmed with the 1992 Treaty of Good Neighbourship, which formally and finally recognized East Prussia, along with Pomerania and Silesia, as part of Poland. The area remains a part of Poland to this day, and almost everyone is happy for it to stay that way. The northern half of East Prussia however outlasted the USSR and remains part of Russia as the Kaliningrad Oblast, where there is still talk by some locals (odd, considering said locals are almost all Russians, or perhaps not so odd given that it's currently named after a member of Stalin's inner circle who was personally responsible for some Soviet atrocities, and post-Soviet Russia has reversed most other Stalin-era renamings) to rename the titular city back to Königsberg.note 

In modern historiography, Prussia remains a controversial proposition. To some historians, especially those who subscribe to the Sonderweg theory of German history, it represents everything that was wrong with German historical development; expansionist, militaristic, intolerant, reactionary yet technically competent - in essence, a land built of the same ingredients as Nazism, a land which turned Germany into the land of "judges and hangmen" after its centuries as a seat of "poets and philosophers". When it was suggested in 2002 that the name be revived for a proposed merger of Berlin and Brandenburg, one German historian even went so far as to declare "Prussia poisons us". On the other hand, other historians reject viewing the entire history of Prussia through the lens of Nazism; Christopher Clark, in his seminal Iron Kingdom, argues that Prussia was not Germany's undoing, but the opposite. Furthermore, the caricature of Prussia as a "termite-state" ignores a long tradition of intellectual inquiry, scientific progress, and political tolerance; Jewish emancipation in Prussia came early, and during the Catholic-Protestant convulsions that seized Europe in the 16th, 17th and early 18th centuries it even had a reputation for taking in refugees, such as Huguenots from France, Brethren from the Czech-speaking parts of Austria, and Lutherans from the bishopric of Salzburg. Whatever one's conclusion, Prussia remains a compelling historical enigma.

Also see Prussian Kings. Compare and contrast Imperial Germany. Also related to Kaiserreich.