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Coat of Arms
Capital: Munich (München)
Area: 70,553 km²
Inhabitants: 12.4 Million (08/2003)
pop. density: 164 inh./km²
ISO 3166-2: DE-BY
Minister-president: Edmund Stoiber (CSU)
Ruling party: CSU
Federal states of Germany: Bavaria
For other uses, see Bavaria (disambiguation).

The Free State of Bavaria (German: Bayern or Freistaat Bayern), with an area of 70,553 km² (27,241 square miles) and 12.4 million inhabitants, forms the southernmost of the 16 states of Germany. Its capital is Munich.



Bavaria has a culture very distinct from the rest of Germany. Noteworthy differences (especially in rural areas, less significant in the major cities) can be found with respect to:

Religion: Bavarians are typically very conservative Catholics, contrasting markedly with the more casual attitude to religion in much of the rest of Germany. The current pope, Benedict XVI, is from Bavaria

Appearance: Bavarians give great attention to their personal appearance, while much of the rest of Germany dresses very casually. Also in business context, wearing traditional-style clothing is not unusual at least in the south of the Free State. Bavarian cities and towns, whether rich or poor, are among the best looked after locations in Germany.

Food and Drink: As in the case of dress, Bavarians resemble the latin countries more closely than the rest of Germany with respect to the high priority they give to good food and drink. Bavarians also consume many items of food and drink which are unusual elsewhere in Germany.

Social behaviour: In comparison to the elaborate formality in the rest of Germany, Bavarians can be extremely egalitarian and folksy, to the point of sometimes giving strangers the impression of coarseness.

Politics: The Christian Social Union, which has ruled in Bavaria uninteruptedly since 1957, doesn't seek election in any other state of Germany. The CSU, arguably the most inward looking of the major German political parties, combines socially conservative positions with advocacy for extensive involvement of the state in the economy.


Bavaria shares international borders with Austria and the Czech Republic. Neighbouring states within Germany are Baden-Württemberg, Hesse, Thuringia and Saxony. Two major rivers flow through the state, the Danube (Donau) and the Main.

The major cities in Bavaria are Munich (München), Nuremberg (Nürnberg), Augsburg, Regensburg, Würzburg, Ingolstadt, Fürth and Erlangen.

See also: List of places in Bavaria.


Bavaria has a unicameral Landtag, or state parliament, elected by universal suffrage. Until December 1999, there was also a Senat, or Senate, whose members were chosen by social and economic groups in Bavaria, but following a referendum in 1998, this institution was abolished. The head of government is the Minister-president.

Bavaria has long been a bastion of conservative politics in Germany, with the Christian Social Union having almost a stranglehold on power since its inception in 1946. Every Minister-president since 1957 has been a member of this party.

In the 2003 elections the CSU won more than two thirds of the seats in Landtag. No party in post-war German history had achieved this before (not counting the rigged wins of the SED in East Germany).

Administrative Divisions

Regierungsbezirke (administrative regions)

Bavaria is divided into 7 administrative regions called Regierungsbezirke (singular Regierungsbezirk).


  1. Oberfranken (Upper Franconia)
  2. Mittelfranken (Middle Franconia)
  3. Unterfranken (Lower Franconia)
  4. Schwaben (Swabia)
  5. Oberpfalz (Upper Palatinate)
  6. Oberbayern (Upper Bavaria)
  7. Niederbayern (Lower Bavaria)

These administrative regions consist of 71 administrative districts (called Landkreise, singular Landkreis) and 25 independent towns (kreisfreie Städte, singular kreisfreie Stadt).

Landkreise/kreisfreie Städte (administrative districs/independent towns)

Map of Bavaria

Administrative districts:

  1. Aichach-Friedberg
  2. Altötting
  3. Amberg-Sulzbach
  4. Ansbach
  5. Aschaffenburg
  6. Augsburg
  7. Bad Kissingen
  8. Bad Tölz-Wolfratshausen
  9. Bamberg
  10. Bayreuth
  11. Berchtesgadener Land
  12. Cham
  13. Coburg
  14. Dachau
  15. Deggendorf
  16. Dillingen
  17. Dingolfing-Landau
  18. Donau-Ries
  19. Ebersberg
  20. Eichstätt
  21. Erding
  22. Erlangen-Höchstadt
  23. Forchheim
  24. Freising
  1. Freyung-Grafenau
  2. Fürstenfeldbruck
  3. Fürth
  4. Garmisch-Partenkirchen
  5. Günzburg
  6. Haßberge
  7. Hof
  8. Kelheim
  9. Kitzingen
  10. Kronach
  11. Kulmbach
  12. Landsberg
  13. Landshut
  14. Lichtenfels
  15. Lindau
  16. Main-Spessart
  17. Miesbach
  18. Miltenberg
  19. Mühldorf
  20. Munich (München)
  21. Neuburg-Schrobenhausen
  22. Neumarkt
  23. Neustadt (Aisch)-Bad Windsheim
  24. Neustadt (Waldnaab)
  1. Neu-Ulm
  2. Nürnberger Land
  3. Oberallgäu
  4. Ostallgäu
  5. Passau
  6. Pfaffenhofen
  7. Regen
  8. Regensburg
  9. Rhön-Grabfeld
  10. Rosenheim
  11. Roth
  12. Rottal-Inn
  13. Schwandorf
  14. Schweinfurt
  15. Starnberg
  16. Straubing-Bogen
  17. Tirschenreuth
  18. Traunstein
  19. Unterallgäu
  20. Weilheim-Schongau
  21. Weißenburg-Gunzenhausen
  22. Wunsiedel
  23. Würzburg

Independent towns:

  1. Amberg
  2. Ansbach
  3. Aschaffenburg
  4. Augsburg
  5. Bamberg
  6. Bayreuth
  7. Coburg
  8. Erlangen
  9. Fürth
  1. Hof
  2. Ingolstadt
  3. Kaufbeuren
  4. Kempten
  5. Landshut
  6. Memmingen
  7. Munich (München)
  8. Nuremberg (Nürnberg)
  9. Passau
  1. Regensburg
  2. Rosenheim
  3. Schwabach
  4. Schweinfurt
  5. Straubing
  6. Weiden
  7. Würzburg

Gemeinden (municipalities)

The 71 administrative districts are on the lowest level divided into 2031 municipalities (called Gemeinden, singular Gemeinde). Together with the 25 independent towns (which are in effect municipalities independent of Landkreis administrations), there is a total of 2056 municipalities in Bavaria.

In 44 of the 71 administrative districts, there is a total of 215 unincorporated areas (as of January 1, 2005, called gemeindefreie Gebiete, singular gemeindefreies Gebiet), not belonging to any municipality, all uninhabited, mostly forested areas, but also four lakes (Chiemsee -without islands, Starnberger See -without island Roseninsel, Ammersee, which are the three largest lakes of Bavaria, and Waginger See).


A village chapel in Franconia
A village chapel in Franconia

Several German dialects are spoken in Bavaria. In the administrative regions to the north the Franconian dialect is prevalent, in Swabia the local dialect is Swabian, a thread of the Alemannic dialect family. In the Upper Palatinate people speak the Northern Bavarian dialect that can vary regionally. In Upper and Lower Bavaria (Middle) Austro-Bavarian is the predominant dialect.


Main article: History of Bavaria

The first known mention of the Bavarian name was made by the Franks ca. 520. Saint Boniface completed the people's conversion to Christianity in the early 8th century. Bavaria resisted the Protestant Reformation, and remains strongly Roman Catholic.

From about 550 to 788, the house of Agilolfing ruled the duchy of Bavaria, ending with Tassilo III who was deposed by Charlemagne. For the next 400 years numerous families held the duchy, rarely for more than three generations. The last, and one of the most important, of these dukes was Henry the Lion of the house of Welf, founder of Munich.

When Henry the Lion was deposed as duke of Saxony and Bavaria by his cousin, Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, in 1180, Bavaria was awarded as fief to the Wittelsbach family, which ruled from 1180 to 1918. It became a kingdom in 1806, and in 1815 the Rhenish Palatinate was annexed to it. It managed to preserve its independence by playing off the rivalries of Prussia and Austria, but defeat in the 1866 Austro-Prussian War led to its incorporation into the German Empire. In the early 20th century Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee, Henrik Ibsen, and other notable artists were drawn to Bavaria, notably to the Schwabing district of Munich, but the region was devastated by World War I.

Socialist premier Kurt Eisner, who deposed Ludwig III, was assassinated in 1919 leading to a violently suppressed communist revolt. Extremist activity on the right also increased, notably the 1923 Beer Hall Putsch, and Munich and Nuremberg became Nazi strongholds under the Third Reich. As a manufacturing center, Munich was heavily bombed during World War II and occupied by U.S. troops.

Since World War II, Bavaria has been rehabilitated into a prosperous industrial hub. A massive reconstruction effort restored much of Munich's historic core, and the city played host to the 1972 Summer Olympics. More recently, state minister-president Edmund Stoiber was the CDU/CSU candidate for chancellor in the 2002 federal election, and native son Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger was elected Pope Benedict XVI in 2005.

See also

Bavarian Soviet Republic
List of rulers of Bavaria
List of Premiers of Bavaria
Former countries in Europe after 1815


The many famous Bavarians include:

The motorcycle and automobile makers BMW (Bayerische Motoren-Werke, or Bavarian Motor Works) and Audi, Grundig (consumer electronics) and Siemens (electricity, telephones, informatics, medical instruments) have (or had) a Bavarian industrial base.

A famous annual festival is called Oktoberfest or October Festival. It is the largest public beer festival in the world, celebrated since 1811 during the two weeks leading up to the first Sunday in October.

Bavaria has also given its name to a major Dutch brewery, Bavaria Brewery.

Bavarian "citizenship"

The fact that, different to the constitutions of all other German Länder, the Bavarian constitution provides for a Bavarian citizenship, is often mentioned as an indicator for Bavarian distinctiveness. Some Bavarians are keen to emphasize that - in accordance with the generous indication of the constitution - they regard everyone

  • born in Bavaria,
  • born to a Bavarian parent,
  • adopted by a Bavarian as a child,
  • married to a Bavarian, or
  • naturalized in Bavaria,

as a fellow-Bavarian; some of those falling under this untechnical definition express pride to being "Bavarian". However, state legislation regulating citizenship procedures has never been enacted, the consitution itself provides that all Germans enjoy the same rights as Bavarian citizens, and no office issues certificates concerning a "Bavarian" citizenship. Thus, the notion of citizenship rather bears a folkloristic, not really a political meaning.

Population and area

District             population(2003)    area (km²)     municipalities
Lower Bavaria ....   1,162,972   9.6%   10,330  14.6%     258  12.5%
Lower Franconia ..   1,329,399  11.0%    8,531  12.1%     308  15.0%
Upper Franconia ..   1,113,790   9.2%    7,231  10.2%     214  10.4%
Middle Franconia .   1,678,535  13.9%    7,246  10.3%     210  10.2%
Upper Palatinate .   1,069,121   8.8%    9,690  13.7%     226  11.0%
Swabia ...........   1,773,688  14.4%    9,992  14.2%     340  16.5%
Upper Bavaria ....   3,996,043  33.1%   17,530  24.8%     500  24.3%
------------------  ---------- ------   ------ ------    ---- ------
BAVARIA ..........  12,086,548 100.0%   70,549 100.0%    2056 100.0%

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