Administrative region (German Land) in southeast Germany, bordered to the west by Hesse and Baden-Württemberg, to the north by Thuringia and Saxony, to the northeast by the Czech Republic, and to the south and southeast by Austria; area 70,549 sq km/27,239 sq mi; population (2003 est) 12,209,900. Bavaria is the largest of the German Länder. The capital is Munich, and other major towns include Nuremberg, Augsburg, Würzburg, Regensburg, Passau, Fürth, and Ingolstadt.
Bavaria comprises the Danube and Main basins, and approximately one-third of the state is woodland, the principal forests being the Frankenwald in the north and the Bavarian Forest, or Bohemian Forest (Böhmerwald), in the northeast. The Bavarian Alps, along the Austrian border, culminate in Zugspitze, Germany's highest peak.
The region has had, since World War II, the highest rate of industrial growth in Germany. Bavaria's main industries are electronics, electrical engineering, optics, automobile assembly, aerospace, brewing, chemicals, plastics, oil refining, textiles, and glass. In the agricultural sector the main products are wheat, rye, barley, oats, potatoes, and sugar beet; there is also livestock farming and forestry. The region is home to three of the largest wine-growing estates in the country, and Bavarian beer is world famous. High-quality toys and musical instruments are also made.
Bavaria is home to the music festivals at Bayreuth (Wagner), Oberammergau (Passion Play, performed every ten years), Ansbach (Bach), Augsburg (Mozart), Munich (opera), Nuremberg (organ), and Würzburg (Mozart). The Oktoberfest, an internationally-known beer festival, is held annually in Munich, and ski resorts in the Bavarian Alps also attract many visitors. The state has 11 universities. Famous Bavarians include Lucas Cranach, Richard Strauss, Bertolt Brecht, Hermann Goering, Heinrich Himmler, and Franz Josef Strauss.
Originally inhabited by Celts, the region was conquered by Drusus and Tiberius in 15 BC and became part of a Roman province. With the decline of the Roman Empire at the end of the 5th century, Bavaria was subject to repeated invasions and settlement by Teutonic tribes from Bohemia. In 555, these new tribal groupings, who had become known as ‘Bajuwaren’, accepted the overlordship of the Franks, and were ruled for over two centuries (555-788) from Regensburg by dukes of the Agilolfing family. The last of this dynasty was deposed in 788 by Charlemagne, and Bavaria was incorporated into the Carolingian empire (and subsequently, from the 10th century onwards, the Holy Roman Empire).
After Charlemagne's death, the area was the cause of many disputes between rival princes, before passing in 1070 into the hands of the family of Welf (see Guelph and Ghibelline). Though lost to them in the interim, it was recovered by Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony and Bavaria, in 1156. He, in turn, incurred the disfavour of the Holy Roman Emperor Friedrich Barbarossa in 1180, and his lands were forfeited to Count Palatine Otto of Wittelsbach. The Wittelsbach dynasty dominated Bavarian history until the end of World War I.
Under the early Wittelsbachs, Bavaria increased in prosperity, but its territorial expansion was frustrated by the growing strength of neighbouring states. Internecine quarrels, leading to the repeated fragmentation of the duchy during the 13th and 14th centuries, further hampered Bavaria's development into a major regional power. In 1504, it was reunited under Albert the Wise; although his death witnessed a partial division between his sons, William IV and Louis, unity was restored after the death of the latter in 1545. William IV, ruler of the reunified Bavaria, was an ardent supporter of the Roman Catholic Church, and firmly resisted the Protestant Reformation; subsequent rulers were to confirm the staunchly Catholic nature of the duchy.
During the Thirty Years' War, Bavaria, under the strong leadership of Maximilian I, was the scene of fierce fighting between Protestant and Catholic forces; during Maximilian's reign, Bavaria gained control of the area known as the Upper Palatinate. The 18th century saw Bavaria embroiled in a number of conflicts arising from disputed dynastic successions. Land was lost when Maximilian Emmanuel, who had sided with France in the War of the Spanish Succession, was defeated at Blenheim in 1704. His dominions were only restored in 1714 in a despoiled condition. On the death of the Habsburg Emperor Charles VI in 1740, the War of the Austrian Succession was precipitated by the Bavarian Elector Charles Albert's refusal to acknowledge Charles' daughter Maria Theresa as the rightful heiress to the crown of Austria.
Although Charles Albert briefly became Holy Roman Emperor (1742-45), Bavaria and its allies were ultimately defeated. Finally, in 1777, the Bavarian line of the Wittelsbachs died out, and the succession passed to the Elector Palatine, Charles Theodore. As a result, the Palatinate and the duchies of Jülich and Berg were joined to Bavaria. However, at the same time, a third of Bavaria's territory was sold to Austria, a move which was disputed by Prussia, leading to the War of the Bavarian Succession. The resolution of this dispute, the Peace of Feschen, ceded the area known as the Innviertel to Austria.
In 1799 Elector Maximilian of Zweibrücken united all the Wittelsbach lands. He allied himself with Napoleon in 1801, and for its support of Napoleon's invasion of Austria, Bavaria was rewarded by its elevation into a kingdom; Maximilian became king of Bavaria in 1806. Bavaria remained a firm ally of Napoleon until 1813, when an adroit late change of allegiance after the Battle of the Nations ensured that it was permitted to retain all its territorial gains under Napoleon, and additionally regain the Rhineland Palatinate, by the powers of the Fourth Alliance at the Congress of Vienna (1815).
External stability brought internal reform; in 1818, Maximilian Joseph I presented his people with a constitution, and instituted new political and religious reforms. This popular monarch died in 1825 and was succeeded by his son, Ludwig I. Ludwig was instrumental in making Munich a centre of culture and art, but parliamentary opposition to the king, led by the Catholic party, the Ultramontanes, led to his abdication in 1848 in favour of his son, Maximilian II. During the Seven Weeks' War (or Austro-Prussian War) of 1866, Bavaria sided with Austria, and was forced to pay indemnity and cede territory to the victorious Prussians. At the outbreak of the Franco-Prussian War in 1870, however, it placed its army under Prussian command, and by the Treaty of Versailles (1871) became a constituent state of the Second German Empire (the largest after Prussia). Ludwig II, who had succeeded to the throne in 1864, was forced by madness to abdicate, and he committed suicide in 1886.
Despite the fact that Ludwig II's brother Otto, who succeeded him on the throne, was also afflicted by insanity, Bavaria enjoyed a period of prosperity and stability until the outbreak of World War I, largely as a result of the regency of Ludwig's uncle, Luitpold, 1886-1912. His son Ludwig III succeeded Luitpold as regent, and on 5 November 1913 was crowned king. As Germany's fortunes waned in the course of World War I, popular opposition came to a head in Bavaria, and it became a socialist republic in 1918 under Kurt Eisner of the Independent Socialist Party. The fear that Bavaria might act as a catalyst for proletarian uprisings throughout Germany prompted an armed insurrection against the infant Räterepublik by a militia, or Freikorps, recruited from among ex-servicemen by ultra-rightist Prussian officers.
Munich was starved into surrender and capitulated on 1 May 1919. Bavaria now became a hotbed of conservative reaction and agitation; in 1920, many of the counter-revolutionaries involved in an unsuccessful attempt to overthrow the Weimar Republic (the Kapp Putsch) in Berlin sought refuge in Munich. Under the authoritarian rule of the monarchist Prime Minister Gustav von Kahr, nationalist groupings flourished there; chief among these was the National Socialist German Workers' Party (NSDAP, or ‘Nazi’ Party), led by Adolf Hitler. As tension between Bavaria and the rest of Germany grew, particularly over the question of continued French military occupation of the industrial Ruhr and Rhineland, Hitler, in league with World War I veteran General Ludendorff, planned a march on Berlin to overthrow the Weimar Republic. After the withdrawal of the promised support of von Kahr and the regional army commander General von Lossow, however, the so-called ‘Beer Hall Putsch’ collapsed, and the main protagonists were arrested. An uneasy peace was restored in the state.
After Hitler's accession to power in 1933, Bavaria lost its autonomy. As the original stronghold of Nazi support, Bavaria was accorded the honour of staging the annual party rally by Germany's new Führer; these spectacles took place in the city of Nuremberg. During World War II, this and other major Bavarian cities, such as Munich, Augsburg, and Schweinfurt, were largely destroyed by Allied bombing raids. Eventually Bavaria was overrun by the US Third Army under General Patton, which entered Regensburg in March 1945.
After the war, trials of the principal Nazi war criminals were held in Nuremberg (1945-46). Limited regional government was re-established in 1946, and Bavaria became a constituent state of the new Federal Republic of Germany in 1949. However, Bavaria continued to be administered as part of the US and French zones of occupation until 1952. The conservative Christian Social Union (CSU) dominated political life in the state after 1958. Bavaria shared in the prosperity that the Federal Republic enjoyed from the 1950s onwards, and Munich once again gained a reputation as a cosmopolitan centre of the arts and commerce. The capital was especially successful in attracting investment by high-tech industries. The Olympic Games were held there in 1972. Up to German reunification and the collapse of communism in Europe in 1989-90, one special factor influencing the social and political life of Bavaria was its geographical position as the first place of settlement of large numbers of refugees and economic migrants from Eastern Europe. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, CSU politicians have played a large role in central government, as ministers in the administration headed by their senior coalition partner, the Christian Democrats (CDU). See also Germany.
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