States of Germany

German states
Deutsche Länder  (German)
Also known as:
Bundesländer  (German)
Bundslänner  (Low German)
CategoryFederated state
LocationFederal Republic of Germany
Populations671,489 (Bremen) – 17,865,516 (North Rhine-Westphalia)
Areas419.4 km2 (161.92 sq mi) (Bremen) – 70,549.4 km2 (27,239.29 sq mi) (Bavaria)
GovernmentState government
SubdivisionsBorough, District, Amt, Governmental district
Coat of arms of Germany.svg
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Germany is a federal republic consisting of sixteen states (German: Land, plural Länder; commonly informally Bundesland and Bundesländer).[a] Since today's Germany was formed from an earlier collection of several states, it has a federal constitution, and the constituent states retain a measure of sovereignty.With an emphasis on geographical conditions, Berlin and Hamburg are frequently called Stadtstaaten (city-states), as is the Free Hanseatic City of Bremen, which in fact includes the cities of Bremen and Bremerhaven. The remaining 13 states are called Flächenländer (literally: "area states").

The creation of the Federal Republic of Germany (West Germany) in 1949 was through the unification of the western states (which were previously under American, British, and French administration) created in the aftermath of World War II. Initially, in 1949, the states of the Federal Republic were Baden (until 1952), Bavaria (in German: Bayern), Bremen, Hamburg, Hesse (Hessen), Lower Saxony (Niedersachsen), North Rhine-Westphalia (Nordrhein-Westfalen), Rhineland-Palatinate (Rheinland-Pfalz), Schleswig-Holstein, Württemberg-Baden (until 1952), and Württemberg-Hohenzollern (until 1952). West Berlin, while officially not part of the Federal Republic, was largely integrated and considered as a de facto state.

In 1952, following a referendum, Baden, Württemberg-Baden, and Württemberg-Hohenzollern merged into Baden-Württemberg. In 1957, the Saar Protectorate rejoined the Federal Republic as the Saarland. German reunification in 1990, in which the area of the German Democratic Republic (East Germany) became part of the Federal Republic, was performed by the way of accession of the re-established eastern states of Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-West Pomerania (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), Saxony (Sachsen), Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt), and Thuringia (Thüringen) to the Federal Republic, as well as the de facto reunification of West and East Berlin into Berlin and its establishment as a full and equal state. A regional referendum in 1996 to merge Berlin with surrounding Brandenburg as "Berlin-Brandenburg" failed to reach the necessary majority vote in Brandenburg, while a majority of Berliners voted in favour of the merger.

Federalism is one of the entrenched constitutional principles of Germany. According to the German constitution (Basic Law, or Grundgesetz), some topics, such as foreign affairs and defence, are the exclusive responsibility of the federation (i.e., the federal level), while others fall under the shared authority of the states and the federation; the states retain residual legislative authority for all other areas, including "culture", which in Germany includes not only topics such as financial promotion of arts and sciences, but also most forms of education and job training. Though international relations including international treaties are primarily the responsibility of the federal level, the constituent states have certain limited powers in this area: in matters that affect them directly, the states defend their interests at the federal level through the Bundesrat ("Federal Council", the upper house of the German Federal Parliament) and in areas where they have legislative authority they have limited powers to conclude international treaties "with the consent of the federal government".[3]


After 1945, new states were constituted in all four zones of occupation. In 1949, the states in the three western zones formed the Federal Republic of Germany. This is in contrast to the post-war development in Austria, where the Bund (federation) was constituted first, and then the individual states were created as units of a federal state.

The use of the term Länder (‘Lands’) dates back to the Weimar Constitution of 1919. Before this time, the constituent states of the German Empire were called Staaten (states). Today, it is very common to use the term Bundesland (federal Land). However, this term is not used officially, neither by the constitution of 1919 nor by the Basic Law (Constitution) of 1949. Three Länder call themselves Freistaaten (‘free states’, an older German term for ‘republic’): Bavaria (since 1919), Saxony (originally since 1919 and again since 1990), and Thuringia (since 1994). From the 16 states of the Weimar Republic six still exist (though partly with different border-lines):

The other 10 states either merged into one another or were separated into smaller entities.

A new delimitation of the federal territory keeps being debated in Germany, in contrast to how there are "significant differences among the American states and regional governments in other federations without serious calls for territorial changes" in those other countries.[4] Arthur B. Gunlicks summarizes the main arguments for boundary reform in Germany: "the German system of dual federalism requires strong Länder that have the administrative and fiscal capacity to implement legislation and pay for it from own source revenues. Too many Länder also make coordination among them and with the federation more complicated".[5] But several proposals have failed so far; territorial reform remains a controversial topic in German politics and public perception.[6]


Coat of arms Flag State Part of FRG since Head of government Legislature Government

Area (km2) Population Pop.
per km2
Capital ISO
GDP per Capita
in Euro (2017)[8]
Coat of arms of Baden-Württemberg Baden-Württemberg 1952[9] Winfried Kretschmann (Greens) Landtag of Baden-Württemberg Greens, CDU 6 35,752 10,755,000 301 0.953 Stuttgart BW 44,886
Coat of arms of Bavaria Bavaria
1949 Markus Söder (CSU) Landtag of Bavaria CSU, FW 6 70,552 12,542,000 178 0.944 Munich
BY 45,810
Coat of arms of Berlin Berlin 1990[10] Michael Müller (SPD) Abgeordnetenhaus SPD, The Left, Greens 4 892 3,469,000 3,890 0.944 BE 38,032
Coat of arms of Brandenburg Brandenburg 1990 Dietmar Woidke (SPD) Landtag of Brandenburg SPD, The Left 4 29,479 2,500,000 85 0.913 Potsdam BB 27,675
Coat of arms of Bremen Bremen
1949 Andreas Bovenschulte (SPD) Bürgerschaft of Bremen SPD, Greens, The Left 3 419 661,000 1,577 0.952 Bremen HB 49,570
Coat of arms of Hamburg Hamburg
1949 Peter Tschentscher (SPD) Bürgerschaft of Hamburg SPD, Greens 3 755 1,788,000 2,368 0.977 HH 64,576
Coat of arms of Hesse Hesse
1949 Volker Bouffier (CDU) Landtag of Hesse CDU, Greens 5 21,115 6,066,000 287 0.947 Wiesbaden HE 44,804
Coat of arms of Lower Saxony Lower Saxony
1949 Stephan Weil (SPD) Landtag of Lower Saxony SPD, CDU 6 47,609 7,914,000 166 0.922 Hanover
NI 36,164
Coat of arms of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern Mecklenburg-Vorpommern 1990 Manuela Schwesig (SPD) Landtag of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern SPD, CDU 3 23,180 1,639,000 71 0.908 Schwerin MV 26,560
Coat of arms of North Rhine-Westphalia North Rhine-

1949 Armin Laschet (CDU) Landtag of North Rhine-Westphalia CDU, FDP 6 34,085 17,837,000 523 0.935 Düsseldorf NW 38,645
Coat of arms of Rhineland-Palatinate Rhineland-Palatinate
1949 Malu Dreyer (SPD) Landtag of Rhineland-Palatinate SPD, FDP, Greens 4 19,853 4,052,803 202 0.924 Mainz RP 35,455
Coat of arms of Saarland Saarland 1957 Tobias Hans (CDU) Landtag of Saarland CDU, SPD 3 2,569 1,018,000 400 0.926 Saarbrücken SL 35,460
Coat of arms of Saxony Saxony
1990 Michael Kretschmer (CDU) Landtag of Saxony CDU, SPD 4 18,416 4,143,000 227 0.926 Dresden SN 29,856
Coat of arms of Saxony-Anhalt Saxony-Anhalt
1990 Reiner Haseloff (CDU) Landtag of Saxony-Anhalt CDU, SPD, Greens 4 20,446 2,331,000 116 0.905 Magdeburg ST 27,221
Coat of arms of Schleswig-Holstein Schleswig-Holstein 1949 Daniel Günther (CDU) Landtag of Schleswig-Holstein CDU, Greens, FDP 4 15,799 2,833,000 179 0.917 Kiel SH 32,342
Coat of arms of Thuringia Thuringia
1990 Bodo Ramelow (The Left) Landtag of Thuringia The Left, SPD, Greens 4 16,172 2,231,000 138 0.917 Erfurt TH 28,747