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Home Towns - Potsdam, Germany

Potsdam's Rulers throughout the Centuries

This site is part of our Potsdam, Germany site. Click the left turn sign to get back to the Potsdam start site.

History is not made by individuals, but by people. However, the history made by the people is often associated with the rulers of the time. Here is an overview of those who took credit and blame for Potsdam's history.

We are not trying to compete with Wikipedia's comprehensive list of Rulers of Brandenburg although we have been trying to fill in some blanks here and there.

100 v.u.Z - 400 u.Z
562 - 590
600 - 928
928 - 983
983 - 1150
1150 - 1320
1323 - 1373
1373 - 1415
1397 - 1417
Hohenzollern - Margraves
1415 - 1618
Hohenzollern - Prussian Dukes
1415 - 1701
1618 - 1648
Hohenzollern - Prussian Kings
1701 - 1871
French Occupation
1806 - 1813
Hohenzollern - German Emperors
1871 - 1918
Prussian Republic
1918 - 1933
1933 - 1945
Soviet Occupation
1945 - 1949
Brandenburg State
Potsdam District
Brandenburg State
1990 -
There is a lot more than would fit on one page. You can either simply go to Part 1 and work your way through all six parts, or you can pick a certain time period from the table below.
Part 1 Hevelli and Ottonian Dynasty 928-1157
Part 2 Ascanian Dynasty 1157-1320
Part 3 Houses of Wittelsbach and Luxembourg, Age of the Robber-Barons 1320-1415
Part 4 Houses of Hohenzollern - Brandenburg Margraves, Thirty-Years War 1415-1688
Part 5 Houses of Hohenzollern - Prussian Kings, Napoleonic War, WW I 1688-1918
Part 6 Weimar Republic, Nazi-Rule, WW II, GDR and German Unification 1918-present
For those who want us to be a little bit more specific: Here is an overview, sorted by dynasties.
You can click the right-turn-signs to get to the respective section.

The Semnoni
about 100 BC - about 400 AD

People lived in this area ever since the Early Bronze Age. At some point in history, the Bronze Age people became the ancestors one of the first Germanic nations, the Suebi. Written (Roman) history first mentions them in 59 BC. While "Suebi" was a general term for all the Germanic tribes between the Baltic Sea and rivers Elbe and Oder, the Germanic nation settling along River Havel was called the Semnoni. 1st Century AD Roman historian Tacitus described them as the "head of the Suevic race."

Starting in about the year 200, during the great European Migration Period, the Semnoni left the land along River Havel and moved south. They were later assimilated by the Alamanni. Some small groups stayed for another 200 years, but in 407, when several Germanic tribes conquered parts of Gaul, the last of them left their homeland and were never heard of again.

The Avari
562 - 590

While the Germans and other nations moved back west, the now empty land in Central Europe was flooded with nomadic pastoral people coming all the way from the steppes of Eastern Europe and Asia. History often generalizes them as "The Huns", but there were a lot more of them than just Attila's horsemen.

In the 500s, the Avars, a nation of Central Asian nomad warriors extended their territory from the Caspian Sea all the way to the Baltic. In 562, they reached River Havel. However, they left again around 590, concentrating their forces on the battle with the Byzantine Empire.

The Hevelli
600 - 928

For a long time, Rivers Havel and Spree formed the somewhat blurred borderline between a Proto-Germanic and a Proto-Slavic culture. So, not surpringly, after the Germans had moved south and west and the Avars went back to where the once came from, Slavonic people settled in the area. German language would later call them the Wends. The people along River Havel derived their name, Hevelli, from the River.

We don't know much about the social structure of this small nation. Most likely, they were ruled by a dynasty. The only name that has survived the centuries is that of Princess Drahomíra, wive of the Bohemian duke Vratislav I. Shortly before she died, Henry the Fowler conquered the land of the Hevelli, starting the reign of the Ottonians. For the next 220 years, the Ottonians and their successors on the German Throne considered themselves rulers of the land, but apparently, they didn't touch the privileges of the Hevelli nobel families, resulting in a diarchy that would last throughout their reign.

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Ottonian Dynasty
928 - 1002

In 928, East Francian King Henry the Fowler, who is often considered to be the first German King, took Potztupimi from the Hevelli.
From 936 until 1002, Henry's Family, theOttonian Dynasty, ruled the Holy Roman Empire of the German Nation and with that, considered themselves also Rulers of the land. In 948, Henry's son, Otto I, founded the first Christian diocese east of river Elbe, predecessor of what was later to become Brandenburg.

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Hevelli Princes
983 - 1150

In 983, Wendish Nations staged a massive uprising. Between 985 and 1150, Polish and German Kings constantly sent troops into the land and fought the Wends and each other, but for a period of 167 years, no German or Polish ruler could really claim the land between Elbe and Oder.

Last of the Wendish rulers was Hevelli Prince Pribislav, who converted to Christianity and developed close ties with the German House of Ascania. Pribislav died in 1150 and passed his reign to German Albert the Bear.

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House of Ascania
1150 - 1320

Although originally coming from the German province Anhalt, the Ascanians were soon considered native to Brandenburg and their reign was a time of growth and consolidation for what was now known as the Brandenburg Margraviate.
Most famous members of their family were Brandenburg's first Margrave Albert the Bear and his grand-grandsons, brothers Johann I and Otto III, who brotherly shared the throne and turned Brandenburg into
one of the most important German principalities.

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House of Wittelsbach
1323 - 1371

The last Ascanian King died in 1320 and Brandenburg fell back into the possession of the German Emperor. Emperor Ludwig IV enfeoffed his own son with the Margraviate. In 1323 Louis of Brandenburg became the first Brandenburg margrave coming from the Bavarian House of Wittelsbach.

The Bavarians were never liked in Brandenburg and in return, they didn't like Brandenburg very much. After only 50 years, the last of their rulers, accurately related to as Otto the Lazy, was ousted by German Emperor Charles IV.

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House of Luxembourg
1373 - 1415

Today, the Grand Duke of Luxembourg rules a country smaller than Rhode Island (999 square miles). But there was a time in In the 14th and 15th centuries, when the House of Luxembourg ruled most of Central Europe. Peak of their reign was the coronation of Charles IV as Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire.

After Charles IV had sent Otto the Lazy back to his Bavarian Castle, he did what Emperor Ludwig IV had done 50 years earlier: he gave Brandenburg to his son, starting the age of the House of Luxembourg.

The Luxembourgian era was marked by endless struggles for power and money. In only 33 years, the province had to endure three different rulers (one of them twice) and Potsdam as well as other towns in the neighborhood was sold, mortgaged or put up for collateral countless times.

With the Margrave being hundreds of miles away most of the time, it was not surprising that local noble families tried to take matters into their own hands.

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The Age of the Robber-Barons"
1397 - 1417

The frequent change of leadership as well as the never ending sellout of the province lead to disorder and anarchy, and to what was later called "The Age of the Robber-Barons." Local noble families used the chaos to consolidate their own power and the towns had no other choice than a marriage of convenience with the Robber-Barons. After all, the outlaws were the only ones to provide some kind of law - even if it only was the law of the jungle.

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House of Hohenzollern - The Margraves
1415 - 1618

In 1412, the German King made Frederick, Burgrave of Nuremberg Steward of Brandenburg. Within only two years, Frederick crushed the "Robber-Barons" insurgence and was officially enfeoffed with the Brandenburg Margraviate in 1415. For the next twenty generations, until 1918, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Brandenburg and for most of the time, the rulers resided in Potsdam. first, until 1618, they were "just" Margraves of Brandenburg; then, they became Dukes of Prussia.

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House of Hohenzollern - The Dukes of Prussia
1618 - 1701

In 1594, John Sigismund, son of the Margrave of Brandenburg, married Anna of Prussia, daughter of the Duke of Prussia. When the duke died in 1618, the Margrave of Brandenburg inherited his title, and from now on, the Central-German Margraviate of Brandenburg and the East-German Duchy of Prussia were ruled in personal union and were soon called Brandenburg-Prussia.

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The Thirty Years War
1618 - 1648

for thirty years, a war for power devastated Europe and Potsdam shared the fate of many other towns: In 1626, Danish soldiers as well as Bohemian troops under Ernst von Mansfeld raided Potsdam several times. In 1627, imperial troops under Wallenstein took Brandenburg and until 1629, Potsdam had to pay 450 Gold Talers per month for their support. In 1631, Sweden's King Gustav Adolph took the town with 16,000 soldiers. Later, Potsdam was raided by the Saxons in 1633, by the Swedes in 1635 and by marauding troops in 1638 and 1640. At some point in time, every warlord of the Thirty Years War dominated Potsdam.

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House of Hohenzollern - The Prussian Kings
1701 - 1871

According to German law of the 1600s, no kingdoms could exist within the Holy Roman Empire. but in the 1700s, after the War of the Spanish Succession, the Duke of Prussia was rewarded for his loyalty with the title "King in Prussia," turning Prussia into an independent Kingdom within the German Empire with Potsdam as its capital.

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French Occupation
1806 - 1813

In the early 1800s all European powers were yet again engulfed in war. Napoleon Bonaparte had invaded Italy, fought the British at sea and in Egypt and was a threat to all his neighbors. In November of 1805, the leaders of Russia and Prussia met in Potsdam's Garrison Church to join forces against Napoleon but less than a year later, at the Battle of Jena and Auerstedt, their troops were decisively defeated. On October 24, 1806, Napoleon took Potsdam and a day later he marched into Berlin.

In 1812, after Napoleon's defeat in Russia, Prussia renewed her alliance with Russia and in March 1813, Russian Cossacks reached Potsdam and effectively ended seven years of French rule.

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House of Hohenzollern - The German Emperors
1871 - 1918

Before the reign of the Hohenzollern ended in 1918, they went out with a bang and the last three Prussian Kings were also Emperors of the second German Empire. In 1871, Prussian King William I was crowned German Kaiser. It all ended with the German Revolution in 1918, which not only ended over 500 years of Hohenzollern Dynasty in Brandenburg but also Monarchy as an institution in Germany.

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Prussian Republic
1918 - 1933

Prussian Republic sounds as impossible a word combination as military intelligence. But after the monarchy was toppled in the 1918 Revolution, Germany became a republic and the former kingdoms within the German Empire became "Freistaaten" - a German word for republic. In a time that was politically extremely instable for Germany, the Prussian Republic was a haven of stability and was called a "Fortress of Democracy."

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Nazi Rule
1933 - 1945

Prussia's democracy ended in 1932, when German President Paul von Hindenburg paved the way for the Nazi takeover, issuing an emergency decree which dismissed the cabinet of Prussia, the largest German state, thus dismissing one of the last major republican forces against the rise of the Nazis. What followed were 12 years of Nazi rule that left the world in ruins.

Under Nazi rule, Germany was divided in new administrative sections, called Gau. So, although the Prussian state was officially desolved by the allies after the end of World War II, it already ceased to exist 14 years earlier.

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Soviet Occupation
1945 - 1949

After Germany's defeat in World War II and her surrender in May 1945, Prussia was officially dissolved by the allies and Brandenburg became a state within the Soviet Zone of Germany. Until the founding of the two German states in 1949, the four zones were under direct controll of the allies. The original plan called for a temporary occupation and later a united democratic Germany, but history had other plans.

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German Democratic Republic
1945 - 1989

In 1949, the (East) German Democratic Republic was founded. First, Brandenburg kept existing as one of the states within the Republic, but in 1952, the States were dissolved as was Prussia before. For the next 38 years, Potsdam was the capital of Potsdam District, one of 14 East German districts.

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Brandenburg State after German Reunification
1990 -

After almost 1,000 years of monarchy, three periods of foreign occupation, at least 25 wars, two revolutions and two dictatorships, a peaceful revolution in 1989 reunited Germany as a democratic state and revived the best traditions of the old Brandenburg Margraviate. Since 1990, Brandenburg is again a state and has been restored to old beauty and glory.

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