1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Rügen

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RÜGEN, an island of Germany, in the Baltic, immediately opposite Stralsund, 1½ m. off the north-west coast of Pomerania in Prussia, from which it is separated by the narrow Strelasund, or Bodden. Its shape is exceedingly irregular, and its coastline is broken by numerous bays and peninsulas, sometimes of considerable size. The general name is applied by the natives only to the roughly triangular main trunk of the island, while the larger peninsulas, the landward extremities of which taper to narrow necks of land, are considered to be as distinct from Rügen as the various adjacent smaller islands which are also included for statistical purposes under the name. The chief peninsulas are those of Jasmund and Wittow on the north, and Mönchgut, at one time the property of the monastery of Eldena, on the south-east; and the chief neighbouring islands are Ummanz and Hiddensee, both off the north-west coast. Rügen is the largest island in Germany. Its greatest length from N. to S. is 32 m.; its greatest breadth is 25½ m.; and its area is 377 sq. m. The surface gradually rises towards the west to Rugard (335 ft.) — the “eye of Rügen” — near Bergen, but the highest point is the Hertaburg (505 ft.) in Jasmund. Erratic blocks are scattered throughout the island, and the roads are made with granite. Though much of Rügen is flat and sandy, the fine beech woods which cover a great part of it, and the bold northern coast scenery combine with the convenient sea-bathing offered by the various villages around the coast to attract large numbers of visitors. The most beautiful and attractive part of the island is the peninsula of Jasmund, which terminates to the north in the Stubbenkammer (Slavonic for “rock steps”), a sheer chalk cliff, the summit of which, the Königsstuhl, is 420 ft. above the sea. The east of Jasmund is clothed with an extensive beech wood called the Stubbenitz, in which lies the Borg, or Herta Lake. Connected with Jasmund by the narrow isthmus of Schabe to the west is the peninsula of Wittow, the most fertile part of the island. At its north-west extremity rises the height of Arcona, with a lighthouse.

A ferry connects the island with Stralsund, and from the landing-stage at Altefähr a railway traverses the island, passing the capital Bergen to Sassnitz, on the north-east coast. Hence a regular steamboat service connects with Trelleborg in Sweden, thus affording direct communication between Berlin and Stockholm. The other chief places are Garz, Sagard, Gingst and Putbus, the last being the old capital of a barony of the princes of Putbus. Sassnitz, Göhren, Sellin and Lauterbach-Putbus are among the favourite bathing resorts. Schoritz was the birthplace of the patriot and poet, Ernst Moritz Arndt. Ecclesiastically Rügen is divided into 75 parishes, in which the pastoral succession is said to be almost hereditary. The inhabitants are distinguished from those of the mainland by peculiarities of dialect, costume and habits; and even the various peninsulas differ from each other in these particulars. The peninsula of Monchgut has best preserved its peculiarities; but there, too, primitive simplicity is yielding to the influence of the annual stream of summer visitors. The inhabitants raise some cattle, and Rügen has long been famous for its geese; but the only really considerable industry is fishing, — the herring-fishery being especially important. Rügen, with the neighbouring islands, forms a governmental department, with a population (1905) of 47,023.

The original Germanic inhabitants of Rügen were dispossessed by Slavs; and there are still various relics of the long reign of paganism that ensued. In the Stubbenitz and elsewhere Huns' or giants' graves are common; and near the Hertha Lake are the ruins of an ancient edifice which some have sought to identify with the shrine of the heathen deity Hertha or Nerthus, referred to by Tacitus. On Arcona in Wittow are the remains of an ancient fortress, enclosing a temple which was destroyed in 1168 by the Danish king Waldemar I., when he made himself master of the island. Rügen was ruled then by a succession of native princes, under Danish supremacy, until 1218. After being for a century and a half in the possession of a branch of the ruling family in Pomerania, it was finally united with that duchy in 1478, and passed with it into the possession of Sweden in 1648. With the rest of Western Pomerania Rügen has belonged to Prussia since 1815.

See Fock, Rügensch-pommersche Geschichten (6 vols., Leipzig, 1861-72); R. Baier, Die Insel Rügen nach ihrer archäologischen Bedeutung (Stralsund, 1886); R. Credner, Rügen. Eine Inselstudie (Stuttgart, 1893); Edwin Müller, Die Insel Rügen (17th ed., Berlin, 1900); Schuster, Führer durch die Insel Rügen (7th ed., Stettin, 1901); Boll, Die Insel Rügen (Schwerin, 1858); O. Wendler, Geschichte Rügens seit der ältesten Zeit (Bergen, 1895); A. Haas, Rügensche Sagen und Märchen (Greifswald, 1891); U. John, Volkssagen aus Rügen (Stettin, 1886); and E. M. Arndt, Fairy Tales from the Isle of Rügen (London, 1896).