Anhalt


Anhalt was a historical German Duchy with roots dating back to the 12th century. During the 9th century, the majority of Anhalt was part of the duchy of Saxony. Otto the Rich, count of Ballenstedt, united Anhalt with the Margraviate of Brandenburg. Otto’s son, Albert the Bear, became the margrave of Bradenburg upon his father’s death and in the 12th century, Anhalt came under the rule of Albert the Bear. Albert’s son, Bernard, became the count of Anhalt after Albert’s death on November 18, 1170. He would also receive the title of duke of Saxony in 1180. Bernard died in 1212 and Anhalt was separated from Saxony and passed to Henry I who took the title of prince. He is considered the founder of the house of Anhalt.

When Henry died in 1252, his three sons divided the principality into the lines of Aschersleben, Bernburg, and Zerbst. The ruling family in Aschersleben became extinct in 1315 and the district was incorporated into Halberstadt. The last prince of the Anhalt-Bernburg line died in 1468 and the land was inherited by the line of Anhalt-Zerbst. In the early 16th century, the family line of Zerbst was narrowed down to the branch of Anhalt-Köthen, and Anhalt-Dessau. Joachim Ernest united all of Anhalt under his rule in 1570, but the united principality was short lived and by 1603 it was split up into a series of mini-states: Anhalt-Dessau, Anhalt-Bernburg, Anhalt-Köthen, Anhalt-Zerbst and Anhalt-Plötzkau. Anhalt was devastated during the Thirty Years’ War and in 1635, the princes of Anhalt made an arrangement that gave authority to the eldest member of the family to represent the principality as a whole. The Anhalt-Köthen branch became extinct in 1665 and the district was inherited by Lebrecht of Anhalt-Plötzkau. Later in the same year, the princes of Anhalt agreed that if a family branch was to become extinct, the lands should be equally divided between the remaining branches.

In 1806, the remaining states of Anhalt-Bernburg, Anhalt-Dessau, and Anhalt-Köthen were raised to duchies by Napoleon. In 1863, the duchies were united due to the extinction of the Köthen and Bernburg family lines. The capital of Anhalt was Dessau. The new duchy of Anhalt consisted of Eastern and Western Anhalt, which were separated by a part of Saxony. In 1918, Anhalt became a state within the Weimar Republic (the Free State of Anhalt). After World War II, Anhalt was united with Saxony to forn Saxony-Anhalt. It was dissolved in 1952, but reestablished prior to the German reunification and is currently a part of the Bundesland Saxony-Anhalt in Germany. Anhalt is one of sixteen states in Germany with its own parliament.

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