Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (also known as Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in English, or nicknamed MeckPomm) is a federal state in northern Germany. The capital city is Schwerin. The state was formed through the merger of the historic regions of Mecklenburg and Vorpommern after World War II, dissolved in 1952 and recreated prior to the German reunification in 1990.
Mecklenburg-Vorpommern is the sixth largest German state by territory, and the least densely populated one. The coastline of the Baltic Sea, including islands such as Rügen and Usedom, as well as the Mecklenburg Lake District are characterised by many holiday resorts and pristine nature, making Mecklenburg-Vorpommern one of Germany's leading tourist destinations. Three of Germany's fourteen national parks are in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, in addition to several hundred nature conservation areas. The University of Rostock (est. 1419) and the University of Greifswald (est. 1456) are amongst the oldest in Europe.
In the aftermath of World War II and the German re-unification in 1990, the state was constituted from the historic states of Mecklenburg and Vorpommern, both of which had long and rich independent histories.
Human settlement in the area of modern Mecklenburg and Vorpommern began after the Ice Age, about 10,000 BC. About two thousand years ago, Germanic peoples were recorded in the area. Most of them left during the Migration Period, heading towards Spain, Italy and France, leaving the area relatively deserted. In the 6th century Polabian Slavs populated the area. While Mecklenburg was settled by the Obotrites, Vorpommern was settled by the Veleti (later Liuticians) and the Rani.
Along the coast, Vikings and Slavs established trade posts like Reric, Ralswiek and Menzlin. In the 12th century, Mecklenburg and Vorpommern were conquered by Henry the Lion and incorporated into the Duchy of Saxony, joining the Holy Roman Empire in the 1180s. All of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was settled with Germans in the Ostsiedlung process, starting in the 12th century.
In the late 12th century, Henry the Lion, Duke of the Saxons, conquered the Obotrites, subjugated its Nikloting dynasty, and Christianized its people. In the course of time, German monks, nobility, peasants and traders arrived to settle here. After the 12th century, the territory remained stable and relatively independent of its neighbours; one of the few German territories for which this is true. Mecklenburg first became a duchy of the Holy Roman Empire in 1348. Though later partitioned and re-partitioned within the same dynasty, Mecklenburg always shared a common history and identity. The states of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Grand Duchy of Mecklenburg-Strelitz became Grand Duchies in 1815. After World War I and the abdication of the German Kaiser, the monarchy was abolished and a republican government of Mecklenburg was established.
In the Middle Ages, the area was ruled by the Pomeranian dukes as part of the Duchy of Pomerania. Pomerania was under Swedish rule after the Peace of Westphalia from 1648 until 1815 as Swedish Pomerania. Pomerania then became a province of Prussia in 1815. It remained a Prussian province until 1947.
In May 1945, the armies of the Soviet Union and the western allies met east of Schwerin. Following the Potsdam Agreement, the western allies handed over Mecklenburg to the Soviets. Mecklenburg-Vorpommern was established on July 9, 1945, per order Nr. 5 of Red Army marshall Georgy Zhukov, head of the Soviet Military Administration in Germany (SMAD), as the Province of Mecklenburg and West Pomerania (zapadnoi Pomeranii).
During the war, the make-up of Mecklenburg and Vorpommern's population changed due to wartime losses and the influx of evacuees (mainly from the Berlin and Hamburg metropolitan areas that were subject to air raids). After the war, people who fled and were expelled from the former eastern territories of Germany east of the Oder-Neisse line settled in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern (and elsewhere in Germany), increasing the population by 40%. Before the war, Mecklenburg and Western Pomerania had a population of 1,278,700, of whom many perished during the war and another share moved west in the course of the Red Army's advance. In 1947, some 1,426,000 refugees from the former eastern parts of Germany were counted. Most of them were settled in rural communities, but also the towns' population increased, most notably in Schwerin from 65,000 (1939) to 99,518 (January 1947), in Wismar from 29,463 to 44,173, and in Greifswald from 29,488 to 43,897.
On June 5, 1946, a law enacted by the Soviets led to the constitution of a provisional German administration (Beratende Versammlung) under Soviet supervision on June 29, 1946. After the rigged elections of October 20, 1946, a Landtag replaced the Beratende Versammlung and worked out the constitution of January 16, 1947, for the Land Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. On April 18, 1947, the state's name was shortened to Land Mecklenburg. The GDR regime attempted to downplay the fact that Germany had made significant concessions to Poland as a result of WWII including the discontinuing the use of any terms referring to these former territories. Mecklenburg was a constituent state of the German Democratic Republic (GDR) upon its formation in 1949. In 1952, the East Berlin government abandoned "states" in favour of districts (German: Bezirke). As a result of this, Mecklenburg and Vorpommern were replaced by three districts covering roughly the same area (Bezirk Rostock, Bezirk Schwerin and Bezirk Neubrandenburg, commonly known as the Nordbezirke (northern districts)) under the highly centralised GDR government. The administrative changes also made the historical border between Mecklenburg and Pomerania vanish from the maps. The East German government developed the shipyards in the old Hanseatic ports (the largest being in Rostock and Stralsund), and also established a nuclear power plant in Lubmin near Greifswald.
Prior to German reunification in 1990, the postwar eastern states were reconstituted, including the use of the full historic term Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Since 1990, the state has undergone dramatic changes.