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The kingdom of Prussia, itself in existence since 1701, made up two‐thirds of the German Empire founded in 1871, and three‐fifths of its population. The King of Prussia was also the German Emperor and, but for six years, the Prussian Minister President was also the Imperial Chancellor. Quite apart from its constitutional prerogatives, therefore, Prussia occupied a pivotal position in the Empire, and its position relative to the other German states and to the country as a whole was a central constitutional question. During the Empire its state parliament, whose members were elected on a highly restrictive franchise, developed into a bulwark of conservatism, which frustrated any liberal or social democrat attempts at constitutional reform.

During the Weimar Republic, the political problem posed by Prussia was reversed. A universal franchise returned a majority for the Centre Party, the SPD, and the liberal parties combined. With its large working classes given an equal franchise, Prussia became a solid democratic stronghold, distinguishing itself from radical right‐wing and left‐wing states (e.g. Bavaria and Saxony respectively). The dismissal of the state government by von Papen in 1932 therefore fundamentally weakened the Weimar Republic and heralded its end. It meant, for instance, that the police, a state matter in Germany, were no longer in democratic hands throughout most of Germany. Prussia was officially dissolved by the Allied Control Council of occupied Germany, on 25 February 1947.

Subjects: Early Modern History (1500 to 1700).

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