1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Mecklenburg

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MECKLENBURG, a territory in northern Germany, on the Baltic Sea, extending from 53° 4′ to 54° 22′ N. and from 10° 35′ to 13° 57′ E., unequally divided into the two grand duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

Mecklenburg-Schwerin is bounded N. by the Baltic Sea, W. by the principality of Ratzeburg and Schleswig-Holstein, S. by Brandenburg and Hanover, and E. by Pomerania and Mecklenburg-Strelitz. It embraces the duchies of Schwerin and Güstrow, the district of Rostock, the principality of Schwerin, and the barony of Wismar, besides several small enclaves (Ahrensberg, Rosson, Tretzeband, &c.) in the adjacent territories. Its area is 5080 sq. m. Pop. (1905), 625,045.

Mecklenburg-Strelitz consists of two detached parts, the duchy of Strelitz on the E. of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and the principality of Ratzeburg on the W. The first is bounded by Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Pomerania and Brandenburg, the second by Mecklenburg-Schwerin, Lauenburg, and the territory of the free town of Lübeck. Their joint area is 1130 sq. m. Pop. (1905), 103,451.

Mecklenburg lies wholly within the great North-European plain, and its flat surface is interrupted only by one range of low hills, intersecting the country from south-east to north-west, and forming the watershed between the Baltic Sea and the Elbe. Its highest point, the Helpter Berg, is 587 ft. above sea-level. The coast-line runs for 65 m. along the Baltic (without including indentations), for the most part in flat sandy stretches covered with dunes. The chief inlets are Wismar Bay, the Salzhaff, and the roads of Warnemünde. The rivers are numerous though small; most of them are affluents of the Elbe, which traverses a small portion of Mecklenburg. Several are navigable, and the facilities for inland water traffic are increased by canals. Lakes are numerous; about four hundred, covering an area of 500 sq. m., are reckoned in the two duchies. The largest is Lake Müritz, 52 sq. m. in extent. The climate resembles that of Great Britain, but the winters are generally more severe; the mean annual temperature is 48° F., and the annual rainfall is about 28 in. Although there are long stretches of marshy moorland along the coast, the soil is on the whole productive. About 57% of the total area of Mecklenburg-Schwerin consists of cultivated land, 18% of forest, and 13% of heath and pasture. In Mecklenburg-Strelitz the corresponding figures are 47, 21 and 10%. Agriculture is by far the most important industry in both duchies. The chief crops are rye, oats, wheat, potatoes and hay. Smaller areas are devoted to maize, buckwheat, pease, rape, hemp, flax, hops and tobacco. The extensive pastures support large herds of sheep and cattle, including a noteworthy breed of merino sheep. The horses of Mecklenburg are of a fine sturdy quality and highly esteemed. Red deer, wild swine and various other game are found in the forests. The industrial establishments include a few iron-foundries, wool-spinning mills, carriage and machine factories, dyeworks, tanneries, brick-fields, soap-works, breweries, distilleries, numerous limekilns and tar-boiling works, tobacco and cigar factories, and numerous mills of various kinds. Mining is insignificant, though a fair variety of minerals is represented in the district. Amber is found on and near the Baltic coast. Rostock, Warnemünde and Wismar are the principal commercial centres. The chief exports are grain and other agricultural produce, live stock, spirits, wood and wool; the chief imports are colonial produce, iron, coal, salt, wine, beer and tobacco. The horse and wool markets of Mecklenburg are largely attended by buyers from various parts of Germany. Fishing is carried on extensively in the numerous inland lakes.

In 1907 the grand dukes of both duchies promised a constitution to their subjects. The duchies had always been under a government of feudal character, the grand dukes having the executive entirely in their hands (though acting through ministers), while the duchies shared a diet (Landtag), meeting for a short session each year, and at other times represented by a committee, and consisting of the proprietors of knights’ estates (Rittergüter), known as the Ritterschaft, and the Landschaft or burgomasters of certain towns. Mecklenburg-Schwerin returns six members to the Reichstag and Mecklenburg-Strelitz one member.

In Mecklenburg-Schwerin the chief towns are Rostock (with a university), Schwerin, and Wismar the capital. The capital of Mecklenburg-Strelitz is Neu-Strelitz. The peasantry of Mecklenburg retain traces of their Slavonic origin, especially in speech, but their peculiarities have been much modified by amalgamation with German colonists. The townspeople and nobility are almost wholly of Saxon strain. The slowness of the increase in population is chiefly accounted for by emigration.

History.—The Teutonic peoples, who in the time of Tacitus occupied the region now known as Mecklenburg, were succeeded in the 6th century by some Slavonic tribes, one of these being the Obotrites, whose chief fortress was Michilenburg, the modern Mecklenburg, near Wismar; hence the name of the country. Though partly subdued by Charlemagne towards the close of the 8th century, they soon regained their independence, and until the 10th century no serious effort was made by their Christian neighbours to subject them. Then the German king, Henry the Fowler, reduced the Slavs of Mecklenburg to obedience and introduced Christianity among them. During the period of weakness through which the German kingdom passed under the later Ottos, however, they wrenched themselves free from this bondage; the 11th and the early part of the 12th century saw the ebb and flow of the tide of conquest, and then came the effective subjugation of Mecklenburg by Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony. The Obotrite prince Niklot was killed in battle in 1160 whilst resisting the Saxons, but his son Pribislaus (d. 1178) submitted to Henry the Lion, married his daughter to the son of the duke, embraced Christianity, and was permitted to retain his office. His descendants and successors, the present grand dukes of Mecklenburg, are the only ruling princes of Slavonic origin in Germany. Henry the Lion introduced German settlers and restored the bishoprics of Ratzeburg and Schwerin; in 1170 the emperor Frederick I. made Pribislaus a prince of the empire. From 1214 to 1227 Mecklenburg was under the supremacy of Denmark; then, in 1229, after it had been regained by the Germans, there took place the first of the many divisions of territory which with subsequent reunions constitute much of its complicated history. At this time the country was divided between four princes, grandsons of duke Henry Borwin, who had died two years previously. But in less than a century the families of two of these princes became extinct, and after dividing into three branches a third family suffered the same fate in 1436. There then remained only the line ruling in Mecklenburg proper, and the princes of this family, in addition to inheriting the lands of their dead kinsmen, made many additions to their territory, including the counties of Schwerin and of Strelitz. In 1352 the two princes of this family made a division of their lands, Stargard being separated from the rest of the country to form a principality for John (d. 1393), but on the extinction of his line in 1471 the whole of Mecklenburg was again united under a single ruler. One member of this family, Albert (c. 1338–1412), was king of Sweden from 1364 to 1389. In 1348 the emperor Charles IV. had raised Mecklenburg to the rank of a duchy, and in 1418 the university of Rostock was founded.

The troubles which arose from the rivalry and jealousy of two or more joint rulers incited the prelates, the nobles and the burghers to form a union among themselves, and the results of this are still visible in the existence of the Landesunion for the whole country which was established in 1523. About the same time the teaching of Luther and the reformers was welcomed in Mecklenburg, although Duke Albert (d. 1547) soon reverted to the Catholic faith; in 1549 Lutheranism was recognized as the state religion; a little later the churches and schools were reformed and most of the monasteries were suppressed. A division of the land which took place in 1555 was of short duration, but a more important one was effected in 1611, although Duke John Albert I. (d. 1576) had introduced the principle of primogeniture and had forbidden all further divisions of territory. By this partition John Albert’s grandson Adolphus Frederick I. (d. 1658) received Schwerin, and another grandson John Albert II. (d. 1636) received Güstrow. The town of Rostock “with its university and high court of justice” was declared to be common property, while the Diet or Landtag also retained its joint character, its meetings being held alternately at Sternberg and at Malchin.

During the early part of the Thirty Years’ War the dukes of Mecklenburg-Schwerin and Mecklenburg-Güstrow were on the Protestant side, but about 1627 they submitted to the emperor Ferdinand II. This did not prevent Ferdinand from promising their land to Wallenstein, who, having driven out the dukes, was invested with the duchies in 1629 and ruled them until 1631. In this year the former rulers were restored by Gustavus Adolphus of Sweden, and in 1635 they came to terms with the emperor and signed the peace of Prague, but their land continued to be ravaged by both sides until the conclusion of the war. In 1648 by the Treaty of Westphalia, Wismar and some other parts of Mecklenburg were surrendered to Sweden, the recompense assigned to the duchies including the secularized bishoprics of Schwerin and of Ratzeburg. The sufferings of the peasants in Mecklenburg during the Thirty Years’ War were not exceeded by those of their class in any other part of Germany; most of them were reduced to a state of serfdom and in some cases whole villages vanished. Christian Louis who ruled Mecklenburg-Schwerin from 1658 until his death in 1692 was, like his father Adolphus Frederick, frequently at variance with the estates of the land and with members of his family. He was a Roman Catholic and a supporter of Louis XIV., and his country suffered severely during the wars waged by France and her allies in Germany.

In June 1692 when Christian Louis died in exile and without sons, a dispute arose about the succession to his duchy between his brother Adolphus Frederick and his nephew Frederick William. The emperor and the rulers of Sweden and of Brandenburg took part in this struggle which was intensified when, three years later, on the death of Duke Gustavus Adolphus, the family ruling over Mecklenburg-Güstrow became extinct. At length the partition Treaty of Hamburg was signed on the 8th of March 1701, and a new division of the country was made. Mecklenburg was divided between the two claimants, the shares given to each being represented by the existing duchies of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, the part which fell to Frederick William, and Mecklenburg-Strelitz, the share of Adolphus Frederick. At the same time the principle of primogeniture was again asserted, and the right of summoning the joint Landtag was reserved to the ruler of Mecklenburg-Schwerin.

Mecklenburg-Schwerin began its existence by a series of constitutional struggles between the duke and the nobles. The heavy debt incurred by Duke Charles Leopold (d. 1747), who had joined Russia in a war against Sweden, brought matters to a crisis; the emperor Charles VI. interfered and in 1728 the imperial court of justice declared the duke incapable of governing and his brother Christian Louis was appointed administrator of the duchy. Under this prince, who became ruler de jure in 1747, there was signed in April 1755 the convention of Rostock by which a new constitution was framed for the duchy. By this instrument all power was in the hands of the duke, the nobles and the upper classes generally, the lower classes being entirely unrepresented. During the Seven Years’ War Duke Frederick (d. 1785) took up a hostile attitude towards Frederick the Great, and in consequence Mecklenburg was occupied by Prussian troops, but in other ways his rule was beneficial to the country. In the early years of the French revolutionary wars Duke Frederick Francis I. (1756–1837) remained neutral, and in 1803 he regained Wismar from Sweden, but in 1806 his land was overrun by the French and in 1808 he joined the Confederation of the Rhine. He was the first member of the confederation to abandon Napoleon, to whose armies he had sent a contingent, and in 1813–1814 he fought against France. In 1815 he joined the Germanic Confederation (Bund) and took the title of grand duke. In 1819 serfdom was abolished in his dominions. During the movement of 1848 the duchy witnessed a considerable agitation in favour of a more liberal constitution, but in the subsequent reaction all the concessions which had been made to the democracy were withdrawn and further restrictive measures were introduced in 1851 and 1852.

Mecklenburg-Strelitz adopted the constitution of the sister duchy by an act of September 1755. In 1806 it was spared the infliction of a French occupation through the good offices of the king of Bavaria; in 1808 its duke, Charles (d. 1816), joined the confederation of the Rhine, but in 1813 he withdrew therefrom. Having been a member of the alliance against Napoleon he joined the Germanic confederation in 1815 and assumed the title of grand duke.

In 1866 both the grand dukes of Mecklenburg joined the North German confederation and the Zollverein, and began to pass more and more under the influence of Prussia, who in the war with Austria had been aided by the soldiers of Mecklenburg-Schwerin. In the Franco-German War also Prussia received valuable assistance from Mecklenburg, Duke Frederick Francis II. (1823–1883), an ardent advocate of German unity, holding a high command in her armies. In 1871 the two grand duchies became states of the German Empire. There was now a renewal of the agitation for a more democratic constitution, and the German Reichstag gave some countenance to this movement. In 1897 Frederick Francis IV. (b. 1882) succeeded his father Frederick Francis III. (1851–1897) as grand duke of Mecklenburg-Schwerin, and in 1904 Adolphus Frederick (b. 1848) a son of the grand duke Frederick William (1819–1904) and his wife Augusta Carolina, daughter of Adolphus Frederick, duke of Cambridge, became grand duke of Mecklenburg-Strelitz. The grand dukes still style themselves princes of the Wends.

See F. A. Rudloff, Pragmatisches Handbuch der mecklenburgischen Geschichte (Schwerin, 1780–1822); C. C. F. von Lützow, Versuch einer pragmatischen Geschichte von Mecklenburg (Berlin, 1827–1835); Mecklenburgische Geschichte in Einzeldarstellungen, edited by R. Beltz, C. Beyer, W. P. Graff and others; C. Hegel, Geschichte der mecklenburgischen Landstände bis 1555 (Rostock, 1856); A. Mayer, Geschichte des Grossherzogtums Mecklenburg-Strelitz 1816–1890 (New Strelitz, 1890); Tolzien, Die Grossherzöge von Mecklenburg-Schwerin (Wismar, 1904); Lehsten, Der Adel Mecklenburgs seit dem landesgrundgesetzlichen Erbvergleich (Rostock, 1864); the Mecklenburgisches Urkundenbuch in 21 vols. (Schwerin, 1873–1903); the Jahrbücher des Vereins für mecklenburgische Geschichte und Altertumskunde (Schwerin, 1836 fol.); and W. Raabe, Mecklenburgische Vaterlandskunde (Wismar, 1894–1896); von Hirschfeld, Friedrich Franz II., Grossherzog von Mecklenburg-Schwerin und seine Vorgänger (Leipzig, 1891); Volz, Friedrich Franz II. (Wismar, 1893); C. Schröder, Friedrich Franz III. (Schwerin, 1898); Bartold, Friedrich Wilhelm, Grossherzog von Mecklenburg-Strelitz und Augusta Carolina (New Strelitz, 1893); and H. Sachsse, Mecklenburgische Urkunden und Daten (Rostock, 1900).