The city of Zerbst - is pleasant, hospitatable and over 1050 years old!
The city of Zerbst in Anhalt-Saxony, population 17,500, has been an economic and cultural centre for centuries. Situated at the Bundesstraße 184, it connects the two Autobahnen A2 and A9. The first written reference to a "Gau Cirvisti" dates from 948. The former market settlement in the North and the settlement around the old watercastle grew together to form what would become the city's centre. Dams were built to be able to cross the river Nuthe which ran inbetween the two settlements as is reflected in present-day streetnames such as "Alte Brücke" ("Old Bridge"), "Neue Brücke" ("New Bridge") or "Wolfsbrücke" ("Wolf's Bridge"). The city of Zerbst took on an important function during the Middle Ages. From 1430 to 1434, old fortifications were replaced with a 4,2 km long city wall which has encircled the old city centre since then.
In 1522, Martin Luther preached at the old Augustine Cloister and in the city. Only a few years later, the three cloisters in Zerbst were dissolved and the reformation took place. In 1582, the "gymnasium illustre", an Anhalt State University, was founded in the Francisceum, the former Franciscan Monastery, at which famous professors would teach. Spiritual and cultural traditions initiated at that time have had a lasting effect on the city. The Thirty-Years War brought about ecomonic decline. The troups of Count Mansfeld and General Wallenstein alternately occupied the city, ravaging and raiding it.
Following the division of Anhalt in 1603, Zerbst became a small independent duchy, and in 1744, the young Zerbst princess Sophie Friederike Auguste travelled Russia to marry the heir to the Russian throne as Catharine II. She ascended to the throne in 1762 and reigned the huge Russian empire until 1796. Following the death of the last reigning duke, Zerbst was divided up and attached to Anhalt-Dessau, with the duke Franz von Anhalt-Dessau shaping its further development greatly. Economic growth was rather slow; World War I did not leave any traces either. During the last days of World War II, on 16 April 1945, the once sleepy Zerbst with its beautiful timbered houses, picturesque corners, and narrow streets was heavily damanged.
The rebuilding of Zerbst began in the Brüderstraße, and with the emergence of the German Democratic Republic, the city aquired a new "face" which lacked harmony. Since the change in political power in 1989, tremendous attempts have been made to improve the city's external appearance. New shops, improved facades, and many new enterprises shape the present appearance of the city. Industry and commerce, agriculture, different trades, and businesses form the city's economic foundation. Zerbst also offers various educational, recreational and entertainment facilities to those who want to remain intellectually and physically active: a library, a city archive, two museums, public outdoor and indoor swimming pools, Tennis- and fitness centres, and other sporting facilities.
Zerbst maintains close ties with its twin towns Jever/Friesland, Nürtingen/Baden-Württemberg, and Puschkin, Russia. Today, the city of Zerbst, with its historical interesting past and its attachment to tradition, welcomes progress. Much of the historical points of interest have been preserved--a visit to Zerbst will always be worthwhile. One will continually discover some of its 1050-year old history and its present day image, note that what has been preserved has been united with new things and realize that... Zerbst is ... pleasant, hospitable and over 1050 years old.
The 2016 issue of our newsletter - 16 pages in all! - appeared on 28 July. Enjoy!