Prussia (; Latin: Borussia, Prutenia; ; ; ; Old Prussian: Prūsa; ; ) was a German kingdom and historic state originating out of the Duchy of Prussia and the Margraviate of Brandenburg. For centuries, the House of Hohenzollern ruled Prussia, successfully expanding its size by way of an unusually well-organized and effective army. Prussia shaped the history of Germany, with its capital in Berlin after 1451. By 1871, the smaller German states were merged with Prussia, resulting in the creation of the German Empire. In November 1918 the monarchies were abolished and the nobility lost its political power. Prussia was effectively abolished in 1932, and officially abolished in 1947.
The name Prussia derives from the Old Prussians. In the 13th century, "Old Prussia" was conquered by German crusaders, the Teutonic Knights. In 1308 Teutonic Knights conquered the formerly Polish region of Pomerelia with Gdańsk (Danzig). Their monastic state was mostly Germanized through immigration from central and western Germany and in the south it was Polonized by settlers from Masovia. After the Second Peace of Thorn of 1466, Prussia was split into the western Royal Prussia, a province of Poland, and the eastern part, since 1525 called Duchy of Prussia, a fief of the Crown of Poland up to 1657. The union of Brandenburg and the Duchy of Prussia in 1618 led to the proclamation of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701.
Prussia was a great power since its foundation as a kingdom.
Prussia achieved its greatest importance in the 18th and 19th centuries. During the 18th century, it had a major say in many international affairs under the reign of Frederick the Great. During the 19th century, Chancellor Otto von Bismarck united the German principalities into a "Lesser Germany" which would exclude the Austrian Empire.
After 1810 Prussia dominated Germany politically, economically, and in population, and was the core of the unified North German Confederation formed in 1867, which became part of the German Empire or Deutsches Reich in 1871.
The term "Prussian" has often been used, especially outside of Germany, to emphasize the professionalism, aggressiveness, militarism, and conservatism of the Junker class of landed aristocrats in the East who dominated Prussia into the 20th century.
In 1211 Andrew II of Hungary granted Burzenland in Transylvania as a fiefdom to the Teutonic Knights. In 1225, Andrew II expelled the Teutonic Knights from Transylvania, and they had to transfer to the Baltic Sea. Konrad I, the Polish Duke of Masovia, unsuccessfully attempted to conquer pagan Prussia in crusades in 1219 and 1222. In 1226 Duke Konrad invited the Teutonic Knights, a German military order of crusading knights, headquartered in the Kingdom of Jerusalem at Acre, to conquer the Baltic Prussian tribes on his borders.
During 60 years of struggles against the Old Prussians, the order created an independent state which came to control Prūsa. After the Livonian Brothers of the Sword joined the Teutonic Order in 1237 they also controlled Livonia (now Latvia and Estonia). Around 1252 they finished the conquest of the northernmost Prussian tribe of the Skalvians as well as the western Baltic Curonians and erected the Memel Castle, which developed into the major port city of Memel (Klaipėda). The final border between Prussia and the adjoining Grand Duchy of Lithuania was determined in the Treaty of Melno in 1422.
The Hanseatic League was officially formed in 1356 as a group of trading cities in northern Europe which came to have a monopoly on all trade leaving the interior of Europe and Scandinavia and on all sailing trade in the Baltic Sea for foreign countries. The businessmen of the interior Sweden, Denmark and Poland came to feel oppressed by the Hanseatic League.
In the course of the Ostsiedlung process, settlers were invited in, a majority of them Germans. This brought about changes in the ethnic composition as well as in language, culture and law. Low German became the dominant language.
The Knights were subordinate to the pope and the emperor. Their initially close relationship with the Polish Crown deteriorated after they conquered Polish-controlled Pomerelia and Danzig (Gdańsk) in 1308. Eventually Poland and Lithuania, allied through the Union of Krewo (1385), defeated the Knights in the Battle of Grunwald (Tannenberg) in 1410.
The Thirteen Years' War (1454–1466) began when the Prussian Confederation, a coalition of Hanseatic cities of western Prussia, rebelled against the Order and requested help from the Polish king. The Teutonic Knights were forced to acknowledge the sovereignty of and to pay tribute to King Casimir IV Jagiellon of Poland in the Second Peace of Thorn (1466), losing western Prussia (Royal Prussia) to Poland in the process. Pursuant to the Second Peace of Thorn, two Prussian states were established
In 1525, Grand Master Albert of Brandenburg-Ansbach, a member of a cadet branch of the House of Hohenzollern, became a Lutheran Protestant and secularised the Order's remaining Prussian territories into the Duchy of Prussia. This was the area east of the mouth of the Vistula River, later sometimes called "Prussia proper." For the first time, these lands came into the hands of a branch of the Hohenzollern family. (The Hohenzollern dynasty had ruled the Margraviate of Brandenburg to the west, a German state centered on Berlin, since the 15th century.) Furthermore, with his renunciation of the Order, Albert could now marry and produce legitimate heirs.