The name Berlin might have originated as a geographical reference -“berl-/birl”, a stem in Old Polabian language (Slavic) that means “swamp” or “meadow”.
The city’s multicultural foundation involved the surrounding Bargudian and Swabian Germanic tribes, as well as the Slavic Wends. The earliest evidence of settlement in the city’s central areas dates from 1192.
In the early 13th century, the towns of Berlin and Cölln developed on both sides of the Spree River. The towns merged when population grew, becoming a commerce, agriculture and social center. Berlin’s founding date would be 1244, though the political union only took place in 1307.
The 30 years’ War in the early 17th century killed about half of the population, so the area kept some 10,000 inhabitants until French Huguenots and other asylum seekers settled – in the late 17th century. Berlin became Prussia’s capital in 1701 and was merged with surrounding cities 9 years later.
In 1871 Berlin became the German Reich’s capital, with a fast-growing industry that soon made population grow to over one million. Last city merges took place in 1920, when the National Socialist government took office, Berlin became the home and office of Hitler as well as the Third Reich’s capital.
Severely damaged during the Second World War, the city was first divided into four sectors - analogous to the American, French, British and Soviet occupation zones during war times. When the German Democratic Republic (GDR) was founded, in 1949, East Berlin became its capital, while West Berlin remained an exclave of West Germany in the east. East-west tension grew to the point the GDR built the Berlin Wall in 1961.
The Wall fell in 1989, with the German revolution. In 1990, Berlin became the capital of reunified Germany. Immigrant workers arrived from the end of WWII, adding to Berlin’s multiculturalism. The Bundestag (German Parliament) moved the Western German capital back from Bonn to Berlin in 1991, and the parliament itself moved back to Berlin in 1999.
Today Berlin is the economic engine of Europe, and also a leading financial, business and tourism hub of the world. Its inhabitants enjoy high lifestyle standards, while tolerance and respect have contributed to a great cultural development in the city.
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