Junker (Prussia)

The Junkers (ər/ YUUNG-kər; German: [ˈjʊŋkɐ]) were members of the landed nobility in Prussia. They owned great estates that were maintained and worked by peasants with few rights.[1] These estates often stood in the countryside outside of major cities or towns. They were an important factor in Prussia and, after 1871, in German military, political and diplomatic leadership. The most famous Junker was Chancellor Otto von Bismarck.[2] Bismark held power in Germany from 1862 to 1890 not as an emperor or president, but only as a parliamentary minister. He was removed from power by Kaiser Wilhelm II.[3]

Many Junkers lived in the eastern provinces that after World War II were annexed by either Poland or the Soviet Union. Junkers fled or were expelled alongside other German-speaking population by the incoming Polish and Soviet administrations, and their lands were confiscated. In western and southern Germany, the land was often owned by small independent farmers or a mixture of small farmers and estate owners, and this system was often contrasted with the dominance of the large estate owners of the east.

Origins

Junker is derived from Middle High German Juncherre, meaning "young nobleman"[4] or otherwise "young lord" (derivation of jung and Herr), and originally was the title of members of the higher edelfrei (immediate) nobility without or before the accolade. It evolved to a general denotation of a young or lesser noble, often poor and politically insignificant, understood as "country squire" (cf. Martin Luther's disguise as "Junker Jörg" at the Wartburg; he would later mock King Henry VIII of England as "Juncker Heintz"[5]). As part of the nobility, many Junker families only had prepositions such as von or zu before their family names without further ranks. The abbreviation of the title is Jkr., most often placed before the given name and titles, for example: Jkr. Heinrich von Hohenberg. The female equivalent Junkfrau (Jkfr.) was used only sporadically. In some cases, the honorific Jkr. was also used for Freiherren (Barons) and Grafen (Counts).

A good number of poorer Junkers took up careers as soldiers (Fahnenjunker), mercenaries, and officials (Hofjunker, Kammerjunker) at the court of territorial princes. These families were mostly part of the German medieval Uradel and had carried on the colonization and Christianization of the northeastern European territories during the Ostsiedlung. Over the centuries, they had become influential commanders and landowners, especially in the lands east of the Elbe River in the Kingdom of Prussia.[6]

As landed aristocrats, the Junkers owned most of the arable land in Prussia. Being the bulwark of the ruling House of Hohenzollern, the Junkers controlled the Prussian Army, leading in political influence and social status, and owning immense estates, especially in the north-eastern half of Germany (i.e. the Prussian provinces of Brandenburg, Pomerania, Silesia, West Prussia, East Prussia and Posen). This was in contrast to the predominantly Catholic southern states such as the kingdoms of Bavaria or the Grand Duchy of Baden, where land was owned by small farms, or the mixed agriculture of the western states like the Grand Duchy of Hesse or even the Prussian Rhine and Westphalian provinces.[7]

Other Languages
العربية: يونكر
български: Юнкер
català: Junker
dansk: Junker
español: Junker
français: Junker
한국어: 융커
italiano: Junker
עברית: יונקרים
ქართული: იუნკერი
kaszëbsczi: Junker
Nederlands: Junker
日本語: ユンカー
occitan: Junker
polski: Junkier
português: Junker
română: Junker
suomi: Junkkeri
svenska: Junker
українська: Юнкер (аристократ)
Tiếng Việt: Junker (Phổ)
中文: 容克