Saxony (Sachsen in German) is the most populous and second smallest state in the former East Germany. With a land area of 18,415 km² (7,110 sq mi) and 4.15 million inhabitants, it is only slightly larger than Kuwait or the US state of Connecticut (though more populous than either).
The area has been known historically as Upper Saxony. The traditional dialects spoken are Erzgebirgisch in the southwest, Upper Saxon between Dresden, Leipzig and Zwickau, and Silesian in the east, around Bautzen and Görlitz.
Particularly rich in castles and palaces, Saxony is one of Germany's most beautiful regions, both for architecture and natural landscapes. Leipzig is one of the capitals of classical music, the former working place of Bach, Schuman, Mendelssohn, Wagner, Mahler and von Weber. Dresden, with its unrivaled baroque and rococo historic centre, may well be the most beautiful city in all Germany.
In 2004, the Dresden Elbe Valley was designated a World Heritage Site. This included the city of Dresden, the Dresden Funicular Railway, the Schwebebahn Dresden, the suburb of Blasewitz, Übigau Palace, Albrechtsberg Palace and Pillnitz Palace. In 2006, the city of Dresden planned to build the Waldschlösschen Bridge across the valley. The UNESCO Committee opposed the project, claiming that it would have a serious impact on the integrity of local landscape. Construction started in late 2007, and the UNESCO decided to delist the area in 2009.
Famous people from Saxony include (chronologically): the mathematician and philosopher Gottfried Wilhelm Leibniz, the composer Robert Schumann, and the composer Richard Wagner.
In the late Antiquity, the region was settled by Germanic tribes, then from the 6th century, by Slavic people, notably the Sorbs. The modern state of Saxony laid entirely outside the borders of Charlemagne's empire, and was only Germanised in the 10th century.
Integrated to the Marca Geronis ("March of Gero", which expanded from Saxony to Mecklenburg) in the 920s, the territory was divided upon Gero's death in 965, and the southern part became the Margraviate of Meissen, also known as the Thuringian March. In 1423, it merged with the Duchy of Saxe-Wittenberg to form the Electorate of Saxony.
Elevated to the rank of Kingdom of Saxony by Napoleon in 1806, it would remain a powerful semi-independent state until the dissolution of the German Empire in 1918. The kingdom was subsequently rebranded as the Free State of Saxony.