area known as Prussia was inhabited in early times by West Slavic tribes,
ancestors of the modern Poles, in the West, and Baltic tribes, closely
related to Lithuanians, in the East. Sometime after the seventh century,
the area was invaded and settled by pagan German tribes, later known
1226, Prussia was conquered by the Teutonic Knights, a military religious
order, who converted the Prussians to Christianity. The Teutonic Knights
were overthrown by the Prussians, with help from Poland and Lithuania
in 1454. Prussia was divided into Royal Prussia in the west and Ducal
Prussia in the east. Royal Prussia was incorporated into Poland providing
it with a corridor to the Baltic Sea (the "Danzig Corridor").
Ducal Prussia became a Polish territory. At this time, the port city
of Danzig (modern day Gdansk) was designated a "free city".
Protestant Reformation in the early to mid 1500s saw most Prussians
convert to Protestantism whereas Poland remained, and still remains,
solidly Roman Catholic. In 1525 Ducal Prussia became a hereditary duchy
under Albrecht Hohenzollern, the last grand master of the Teutonic Knights.
1657, after an invasion by the Swedes, Poland surrendered sovereignty
over Ducal Prussia which then became the Kingdom of Prussia headed by
the Hohenzollern line. Prussia's power grew and in 1772, under King
Friedrich II (Frederick the Great), consisted of the provinces of Brandenburg,
Pomerania, Danzig, West Prussia and East Prussia (modern day East Germany,
northern Poland, and a small portion of the Soviet Union).
major event in German history was the defeat of France in the Franco-Prussian
War in 1871, making Germany a world power. It was during this war that,
in 1870, Prussian Prime Minister Otto von Bismarck orchestrated the
unification of the German states. The German Empire was established
under Prussian leadership with Bismarck as Chancellor. Wilhelm II, the
last of the Hohenzollern dynasty, became Emperor of Germany (Kaiser)
in 1888 and ruled until Germany's defeat in World War I.
Germany's defeat in World War II, West Prussia and East Prussia were
divided by Poland and the Soviet Union.
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