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Prussia

The Prussians were Western Balts who were closely related to the Eastern Balt tribes of Lithuania and many of those in Latvia. They were also neighboured by the Belgic Venedi tribe in the last few centuries BC and perhaps AD. Various tribes made up the peoples of Prussia, including (from east to west) the Skalvs, the Nadruvs or Nadruvians, the Sambians, the Natangians (all now within Kaliningrad), the Warmians, the Bartians (all but the northern area of each is now in Poland), the Galindians, the Sasna, the Pogesanians, the Lubavians, and the Pomesanians (all now completely within Poland), with the Yatvyags further to the south and east.

The Skalvs and Yatvyags were almost completely annihilated by the Teutonic Knights in the thirteenth and fourteenth centuries, and uninhabited areas appeared on the borderlands between the Order and Lithuania. The Zembs were another group of ancient Prussians, but parts of Zhemait territory such as Zhasino later became part of Lithuania. Kulmerland was a south-western tip of Prussian territory which was encircled by the River Vistula to the west and the Drewenz to the east. This later became the bishopric of Culm.

To all intents and purposes the Prussians were destroyed as a recognisable people by the Teutonic Knights, although some survived by crossing the eastern border and merging with the Lithuanians. By the seventeenth century, East Prussia was an entirely Germanic state, while West Prussia remained a Polish possession until 1772.

(Additional information from The History of the Baltic Countries, various authors.)

9000s BC

FeatureBy this date, Estonia, Finland, Latvia, Lithuania, and Prussia are settled by proto-Baltic hunter-gather tribes which all share the same cultural traces. They belong to two groups, one being the regionally-dominant Baltic Kunda culture, which is a development of the earlier Swiderian culture which itself is located on the eastern edges of the later Prussian territory. The other is the Magdalen-Ahrensburg culture located in north-western Germany and Denmark, which probably enriches the Kunda culture.

Traditional scholarly belief has these hunter-gatherers migrating from the southern Baltics and further east, but a more recent idea suggests that while this is correct for the Baltics, Finland and northern Scandinavia are also first inhabited via the sweeping grass plains of Doggerland (now under the North Sea).

Retreating ice sheet
The retreat of the glacial ice sheet allowed first plants and then animals to migrate into the region, closely followed by the first hunter-gatherers

c.8200 BC

The waters of the ice-damned Baltic Ice Lake penetrate the region of the Billingen Mountains to form a link with the Atlantic Ocean. As a result, the Yoldia Sea drops rapidly, by about thirty metres. This retreat is so sudden, and probably has such a profound effect on the early inhabitants of the Baltic area, that it is known as the Billingen Catastrophe.

8000 - 7100 BC

The Preboreal period sees the climate become significantly warmer in the Baltics. Birch and pine forests start to spread, and elk, bears, beavers, and various species of water birds migrate into the region from the south.

7100 - 5800 BC

The Boreal period sees the climate continue to warm and become drier. Pine forests decrease, allowing deciduous trees to gain a firmer foothold and become prevalent. The animal population thrives, with red deer, roe deer, and hares increasing considerably.

5800 - 2800 BC

The Atlantic period is characterised by a climate that is warmer than that of the present day. New species migrate into the Baltic region, including Baltic aurochs and wild boar, which inhabit forests of broad-leaved trees. Water chestnuts grow in the many lakes, and the bountiful life draws hunter-gatherers into the area. The warmness fails towards the end of this period, causing the disappearance of aurochs, wild horses, and water chestnuts.

c.3000 BC

The Comb Ceramic culture reaches Prussia, Latvia, Estonia and Finland as new peoples arrive from the east, almost certainly the Finno-Ugric tribes who form the later core of Finland and Estonia (Estonians, Finns, Livonians, Karelians, Wots, Weps, and Ingrians). The early Neolithic culture seems to form on the basis of the previous Mesolithic cultures, but uses a greater variety of bone, antler and stone implements, and employs boring, drilling, and abrading skills. The Mesolithic Nemunas culture of southern Lithuania is replaced by the Neolithic Nemunas culture.

c.2500 BC

The Corded Ware culture (or Boat Axe culture) arrives in southern Finland, along the coastal regions, as well as in Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania, Belarus, western Russia, Poland, northern Germany, Denmark, and southern Sweden. These new, probably early Indo-European, arrivals also have some domesticated animals and bring agriculture with them, although it continues to exist alongside universally-practised hunter-gather activities for some time. Both these people form the proto-Baltic ancestors of the later Latvians and Lithuanians.

7th century AD

In this century Swedish forces establish strongholds at Truso and Viskiautias, in the territory of the Prussians. According to some sagas, Scandinavian kings are likely to rule over all the countries on the eastern shores of the Baltic, although in reality this probably means various strongholds and trading centres along the coastline.

997

St Adalbert of Prague, sent by the Pope into Prussian lands to convert the pagans, is escorted by soldiers granted to him by Boleslaw I the Brave, duke of Poland. He refuses to heed warnings to stay away from the sacred oak trees (it is customary for sacred oaks to be cut down by missionaries to show that Christianity is stronger than any spirits they are supposed to contain). Instead, Adalbert is executed for sacrilege. Boleslaw begins a series of unsuccessful attempts at conquering the Prussians.

fl 999

Widewuto / Waidewut

Semi-legendary chieftain of the Prussians.

fl 999

Bruteno the Priest

1009

The annals of the town of Quedlinburg in Germany report the arrival of Saint Brunon, known more normally as Bonifatius, on missionary work among the Prussians. His attempt ends in failure, and it is believed he is killed together with his eighteen companions somewhere in the vicinity of the Lithuanian border (the first mention of 'Lithuania' in written sources).

Mazovia's countryside
The border lands of Mazovia, which today form over a tenth of Poland, were hotly contested between the Poles and the Prussians in the thirteenth century

1147

Boleslaw IV of Poland attacks the Prussians with the aid of Russian troops, but is unable to conquer them.

1187

The 'pagans of the Eastern Sea' (Estonians of Saaremaa, Couronians, and Zembs of Prussia) conquer Sigtuna, the most important town of the Swedes, which they then burn down. The Swedish Eric's Chronicle of 1335 blames the Finnish Karelians for the attack. More recently, Professor Kustaa Vilkuna has suggested that the raid is in revenge for Sigtuna's merchants having intruded upon Kven fisheries on the River Kemijoki and the hunting grounds of the Karelians. The medieval naming of a settlement in the village of Liedakkala by the River Kemijoki as 'Sihtuuna' may be additional confirmation of this.

1209 - 1222

Under the Polish Prince Konrad of Mazovia, attempts to conquer the Prussians are intensified, with large battles and crusades taking place in 1209, 1219, 1220, and 1222.

1226

The Golden Bull of Rimini is issued by Frederick II, giving the Teutonic Knights wide-ranging powers in the name of the Holy Roman empire in Prussia.

1228 - 1238

Prince Konrad of Mazovia in Poland invites the Teutonic Knights to settle in the Lower Vistula on the border with the Prussians, who have been ravaging Mazovia, part of which occasionally includes their region of Chelmno. Over the following decade, the Prussian lands are swallowed piecemeal, as the Order uses its successful tactic of building a stronghold, pacifying the immediate territory, and then advancing to repeat the process. The dispersed and tiny lands of the Prussian tribes are an easy conquest.

1241

The conquered and newly baptised Prussians, no longer able to stand the oppression of the conquerors, rise up but are defeated by 1249. The Order continues its advance to the north, intent on forming its own military-religious state (known as the Ordenstaat) which it governs for the next three hundred years.

1243

The Papal legate, William of Modena, oversees the creation of the three dioceses of Culm, Ermland, and Pomesania within the recently conquered Prussian territories.

Bishops of Ermland
AD 1243 - 1356

Emland became a diocese within the Prussia of the Teutonic Knights. The Papal legate, William of Modena, oversaw the creation of the diocese in 1243, along with those of Culm and Pomesania. It was a semi-independent ecclesiastical state which fell under the jurisdiction of the archbishop of Riga.

During this period, while the native peoples of Livonia and Lithuania were consolidating into recognisable modern peoples, the inhabitants of Prussia were in a dismal state. Treaties signed between the Prussians and the Teutonic Knights had not been fulfilled; the Prussians were forbidden to live in towns, and they were driven out of their native areas and moved to the eastern districts of the state. Large numbers of Prussians died and their farms were destroyed during the crusade and the revolts of 1260-1274. The Knights ordered the colonisation of Prussia by German peasants with the result that the few Prussians who survived found themselves surrounded by Germans and were gradually assimilated. It was only in Samland that they constituted a majority.

1249 - 1250

Heinrich von Strateich

1250

Heinrich von Strateich is elected to be the first bishop of Ermland, but he does not take up the office. Instead, his replacement, Anselm, becomes the first bishop of Ermland to enter the region and perform the duties of his office.

1250 - 1274

Anselm of Meissen

1252

The Teutonic Knights take northern Prussia, with the result that the bishopric of Samland is formed there, comprising the Frisches Haff (Vislinskii Zaliv) and Kurisches Haff (Kurskii Zaliv), with Königsberg serving as the administrative headquarters

1260 - 1274

The Livonian Knights, along with the Teutonic Knights, are abandoned by their Estonian and Couronian vassals and defeated again, this time severely, at the Battle of Durbe in Livonia by the Samogitians. As a result, numerous rebellions break out against the Teutonic Knights all across the Baltics, including a general uprising throughout Prussia. The Prussians win several battles against the hard-pressed Knights and by 1264 the situation is critical. Reinforcements arrive from Germany and the Order launches an attack against the rebels led by Henrich Mantas, with final defeat of the Prussians coming in 1274. Several uprisings occur in the thirteenth century, but none as serious as this.

fl 1270s

Henrich Mantas

Prussian rebel leader.

1278 - 1300

Henryk / Heinrich Fleming

1283

The Order continues to advance north, and having conquered the lands of the Skalvs and part of that of the Yatvyags, it drives the Nadruvians to the River Nemunas in 1283, right on the border with Lithuania. The population of these areas is killed off, with only a few managing to escape across the border.

1301 - 1326

Eberhard von Neiße

Neiße is Nysa in Poland.

1327 - 1328

Jordan

Bishop of Warmia.

1329 - 1334

Heinrich Wogenap

1334 - 1337

The position is vacant for over two years. Coincidentally, perhaps, at the end of this period, in 1337, Duke Otto IV of Carinthia founds the Societas Templois Order of knights to play a part in the suppression of the Prussians and the conquest of the Lithuanians.

Allenstein Castle
Allenstein (now Olsztyn) was located in the south of Warmia, and construction on its castle began in 1346, with the later city growing up around it

1337 - 1349

Hermann von Prag

Herman of Prague.

1350 - 1355

Johannes of Meissen

Prince-Bishops of Warmia
AD 1356 - 1512

In 1356, the bishops of Ermland became Imperial prince-bishops under Holy Roman Emperor Charles IV. By now, Ermland in its German form was being written as Warmia, a more Polish Latinised form of the name.

1355 - 1373

Johannes Stryprock

1373 - 1401

Heinrich Sorbom

1401 - 1415

Heinrich Heilsberg von Vogelsang

1415 - 1424

Johannes Abezier

1424 - 1457

Franciscus Kuhschmalz

1457 - 1458

Enea Silvio Piccolomini

Later Pope Pius II (1458-1464).

1458 - 1467

Paul von Legendorf

1466

At the conclusion of the Thirteen Year War, along with the Teutonic Knights, the bishopric of Warmia falls under the suzerainty of Poland and German prince-bishops are replaced by mostly Polish archbishops, although the congregation in the northern part of the diocese is still German.

1467 - 1489

Nicolaus von Tüngen / Mikołaj Tungen

1489 - 1512

Lucas Watzenrode

1512

Warmia becomes an exempt bishopric, removing it from regional control and placing it under the direct jurisdiction of the Pope.

1512 - 1523

Fabian of Lossainen

1523 - 1537

Mauritius Ferber

1525

The Teutonic Knights' Ordenstaat is secularised and converted to Lutheran Protestantism as the duchy of East Prussia, although Warmia remains a catholic archdiocese. In the same year, the reverberations of the Peasants' War in Germany reach Prussia.

1537 - 1548

Johannes Dantiscus / Jan Dantyszek

'Father of Polish Diplomacy'.

1549 - 1550

Tiedemann Giese

1551 - 1579

Stanislaus Hosius

1579 - 1589

Martin Kromer

1589 - 1599

Andrew Báthory

1600 - 1604

Piotr Tylicki

1604 - 1621

Szymon Rudnicki

1618

The duke of East Prussia, Albert Frederick, dies without an heir and the territory is inherited by the senior Hohenzollern line in Brandenburg. Much of Prussia is united to the German electorate.

1621 - 1633

John Albert Vasa

1633

The line of bishops of Warmia continues during the Swedish period in Prussia.

Swedish Prussia
AD 1626 - 1635

Hostilities between Poland and Sweden flared up in 1617, but this time the reorganised Swedish forces were unstoppable, taking Riga and pushing into Lithuanian and Polish territories. The Treaty of Altmark in 1629 concluded the First Polish-Swedish War by recognising the Swedish capture of most of Poland's southern Estonian and Livonian territories, with Poland retaining just Latgallia in the east of Livonia. Poland was also forced to temporarily cede the port cities of Braunsberg (Braniewo in Ermland), Elbing (Elblag), Memel (Klaipeda), and Pillau (Baltiysk). The territory was termed Swedish Prussia, and Swedish governors-general were appointed to manage it (shown in red). They became part of the front line during the Thitry Years' War, which began in 1630, often commanding large swathes of Sweden's forces outside Scandinavia. The bishops of Warmia continued to hold their own post, and the list of them continues here from 1635 onwards.

1626 - 1629

Aleksander von Essen

Swedish commander in Pillau.

1629 - 1630

Johan Banér

First governor-general, in Ebling.

1630 - 1631

Axel Gustafson Oxenstierna

Lord High Chancellor of Sweden. Regent (1632-1644).

1630 - 1632

Sweden enters the Thirty Years' War in summer 1630. As part of the military funding, tolls and food supplies secured in Swedish Prussia are pivotal assets. The first major victory of the Protestant forces in the war is at the Battle of Breitenfeld in September 1631, which ensures that the northern German Protestant states will not be forced to reconvert to Catholicism. The forces of Sweden and Saxony force the Catholic League's line to collapse, and serious casualty numbers are inflicted on the armies of the Holy Roman empire, Hungary and Croatia. Tragically for Sweden, the king is killed at the Battle of Lützen on 6 November 1632. Axel Gustafson Oxenstierna, governor-general of Swedish Prussia, becomes supreme commander of the Swedish troops in Germany and then regent for the king's daughter, Christina.

1631 - 1632

Bengt Bagge

Acting governor-general.

1632

Karl Banér

Jan-Apr only.

1632

Bengt Bagge

Acting governor-general for the second time, Apr-Aug only.

1632 - 1635

Hermann greve Wrangel

Later governor of Livonia (1643).

1635

Johan Nicodem

Acting governor-general.

1635

Poland regains Swedish Prussia, first with Memel in July and then the remainder in September. The line of bishops of Warmia has continued in the meantime without interruption.

1633 - 1643

Mikołaj Szyszkowski

Successor to Prince-Bishop John Albert Vasa.

1643 - 1644

Jan Karol Konopacki

1644 - 1659

Wacław Leszczyński

1659 - 1679

Jan Stefan Wydżga

1680 - 1688

Michał Stefan Radziejowski

1688 - 1697

Jan Stanisław Zbąski

1698 - 1711

Andrzej Chryzostom Załuski

1701

The electorate of Brandenburg-Prussia is elevated to a kingdom by the Holy Roman Emperor, the first German state to be raised in this manner.

1711

Stefan Wierzbowski

Auxiliary bishop.

1711 - 1723

Teodor Andrzej Potocki

1723 - 1724

Jan Franciszek Kurdwanowski

Auxiliary bishop.

1724 - 1740

Krzysztof Andrzej Jan Szembek

1740 - 1741

Michal Remigiusz Laszewski

Auxiliary bishop.

1741 - 1766

Adam Stanisław Grabowski

1767 - 1795

Ignacy Krasicki

1772

The First Partition of Poland-Lithuania takes place on 5 August, removing large swathes of the commonwealth from Polish control. Warmia and parts of Great Poland are taken by Prussia (as West Prussia).

1795 - 1803

Karl von Hohenzollern-Hechingen

1803 - 1808

The position is vacant for five years in a period which sees the kingdom of Prussia conquered by Napoleonic France (1806).

1808 - 1836

Joseph von Hohenzollern-Hechingen

1836 - 1841

Andreas Stanislaus von Hatten

1841 - 1867

Joseph Ambrosius Geritz

1867 - 1885

Philipp Krementz

1886 - 1908

Andreas Thiel

1908 - 1930

Augustinus Bludau

1930 - 1945

Maximilian Kaller

Died 1947 as exiled bishop.

1945 - 1972

The bishop's seat is left vacant following the conclusion of the Second World War and the expulsion of the German population by the Soviet Russian victors. This expulsion includes the German bishop, with the result that the position remains vacant in Poland until a new Polish diocese is formed in 1972.

1972 - 1978

Józef Drzazga

1979 - 1981

Józef Glemp

1981 - 1988

Jan Władysław Obłąk

1988 - 2006

Edmund Michał Piszcz

Archbishop from 1995.

1995

The diocese is elevated to an archdiocese.

2006 - Present

Wojciech Ziemba

Duchy of East Prussia
AD 1525 - 1618

The Teutonic Knights' Ordenstaat was secularised and converted to Lutheran Protestantism in 1525, with the new name of the state, Prussia, being selected after the name of the indigenous people. Unfortunately, that indigenous people, the Prussians, were fast becoming extinct. By the end of the seventeenth century, Prussian as a spoken language had disappeared completely and the Prussians as an ethnic group had also disappeared.

Albrecht von Hohenzollern, margrave of Brandenburg-Kulmbach, was closely related by birth to the Hohenzollern electors of Brandenburg, and for a while the two territories were separately run by these two main branches of the family. East Prussia remained under the control of first Albrecht and then Albert Frederick of Hohenzollern, but unification of the two states followed in 1618. The Teutonic Knights, ousted entirely from power, remained as mere titular administrators, supported by the Holy Roman Emperor who continued to hold a claim on Prussia.

1525 - 1568

Albrecht of Hohenzollern

Former grand master of the Teutonic Knights.

1568 - 1618

Albert Frederick of Hohenzollern

1577

The bishopric of Samland is dissolved and the territory is submerged within the East Prussia.

1587

The bishopric of Pomesania is dissolved and the secularised territory is submerged within East Prussia.

1618 - 1945

Albert Frederick dies without an heir and the territory is inherited by the senior Hohenzollern line in Brandenburg. The two are united, and East Prussia remains under German control. In 1773 the now totally-Germanised state is reorganised as the province of East Prussia within the kingdom of Prussia. Following the conclusion of the First World War, West Prussia is absorbed by Poland, but East Prussia remains a German enclave until the end of the Second World War, when it is occupied by the Soviet Russians.

Modern Kaliningrad (East Prussia)
AD 1945 - Present Day

Kaliningrad is an enclave of territory on the eastern Baltic coast which is sandwiched between Poland to the south and west, and Lithuania to the north and east. It was annexed from Germany following the conclusion of the Second World War by the victorious Soviet Russians and turned into a military zone, but for seven hundred years before that it had been a German possession, carved out of the lands of the former pagan Prussians and other related tribes by the Teutonic Knights. Now, the region is administered by Russian governors who are appointed by Moscow.

1945 - 1991

The victorious Soviet Russians take the northern section of East Prussia, including the region of Samland, and annexe it directly to the state. The southern half, which includes the regions of Culm and Pomesania go to Poland. The German population either flees or is expelled and is replaced by an imported Russian and Belarusian population. The capital is renamed from Königsberg to Kaliningrad, and the entire region remains a closed military zone throughout the Soviet period. Memel (Klaipeda), to the north, is incorporated into Soviet Lithuania.

1991

The Soviet empire collapses, and neighbouring Poland and Lithuania become independent states. Kaliningrad remains directly part of Russia, but the reason for its existence as a heavily fortified military base of massive proportions is ended and it becomes an isolated enclave and an almost forgotten backwater in Europe.

Königsberg Cathedral
The fourteenth century Königsberg Cathedral was almost completely destroyed during the Second World War, but was rebuilt in the early 1990s

1991 - 1996

Yury Matochkin

First post-Soviet governor.

1996 - 2001

Leonid Gorbenko

Born in the village of Simskoe in 1931.

2001 - 2005

Vladimir Yegorov

Born in Moscow in 1938. Former admiral of Baltic Sea Fleet.

2004 - 2006

Lithuania joining the European Union in 2004 means it is impossible to travel overland between the Russian enclave in Europe and the rest of Russia without crossing the territory of at least one EU state. This causes friction, particularly with Lithuania, over transit regulations. As an attempt to take its travel needs out of EU hands, Russia inaugurates a new sea route linking the region with Ust-Luga, near St Petersburg, in 2006.

2005 - Present

Georgiy Boos

Born in Moscow in 1963.

2007

Kaliningrad undergoes a massive economic boom, with a modern airport terminal being opened in this year.