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  Brief Political History of Ostfriesland

There is evidence that settlements in Ostfriesland began around 3000 BC, and between 600 AD and 700 AD the first Frisians appear. In the sixth century the Frisian people lived in an area from the Rhine Delta to the delta of the Weser. There were battles with the Franks but it was only Charlemagne who was able to defeat "Friesenland". About 775 AD the first Christian missionaries appeared, and the Normans also came but were driven into the sea by the Frisians.

One of the most important building projects began about the year 1000 AD, when dyke construction was started. At this time Ostfriesland, which comprised the area along the North Sea coast from the Netherlands to the Weser River in the East, consisted of seven districts ruled by local chieftains, called “Häuptlinge", who were selected annually by the people of each district. Each "Chief" was responsible for administering law and order in his own district.

There was no centralized government and no one ruler. This loosely governed "league" was known as the Seven Sea Lands (Sieben Friesischen Seelande). The ruling representatives met yearly at the Upstalsboom (a hill a few miles west of Aurich) near Aurich to deal with political rules and regulations and other matters which concerned the mutual interest & protection of the "country". This form of government continued until about the middle of the 15th century.

There were many feuds and rivalries among the different chiefs, with unsuccessful attempts to unite the entire area. The first recognized ruler of the region was Ulrich 1, a noble of the House of Cirksena, who came to power in 1454. This was the beginning of a 320-year rule for the Counts, and later Princes, of Ostfriesland. The seat of government for the Counts and Princes was in Emden. During their rule, the territory of Ostfriesland was expanded and extended from the Dollart Bay on the border of the Netherlands to the Jade Basin in the East, but excluded the Duchy of oldenburg. When the last prince of Ostfriesland, Carl Edzard Cirksena, died in 1744 without any male heirs, Ostfriesland became part of the Prussian kingdom.

In 1806, French troops invaded Ostfriesland, and in 1807, Ostfriesland became a part of the kingdom of Holland, where a brother of Napoleon Bonaparte was king. In 1811 it became "Departement Ost-Ems" under the French rule of Napoleon himself. The French occupation ended in 1813 and Ostfriesland became Prussian again.

The next political change occurred in 1815, when East Frisia was sold to the “Kingdom of Hannover” after the Liberation War against Napoleon. The Hanoverian Kingdom ended in 1868. In the German-Austrian war of 1866, Hannover was allied with Austria against Prussia; Austria lost the war and Prussia occupied the Kingdom of Hannover, and Ostfriesland once again became Prussian.

Thus, Ostfriesland was, during its history: 1st, an independent land; 2nd, part of the French Empire; 3rd, a province of Prussia; 4th, a province of Hannover; and 5th, Prussian again. After WW2 the German Federal Republic was founded and the province of Hannover became the Federal State Niedersachsen (Lower Saxony), and Ostfriesland was part of Niedersachsen. After 1978 Ostfriesland ceased to be a separate political entity.