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|Bundesland: Freistaat Thüringen||Thuringia|
|Landkreis: Altenburger Land|
Altenburg is situated at an elevation of 227 m on the river Pleiße in eastern Thuringia. The first mentioning in a document dates from AD 976. From 1328 on it was in possession of the House of Wettin (Saxony). The rights of a free town were confirmed in 1256 by Margrave Heinrich of Meißen (Heinrich der Erlauchte, 'H. the Illustrous'), Landgrave of Thuringia, and were renewed in 1356 by Margrave Friedrich III of Meißen (Friedrich der Strenge, 'F. the Austere'). In 1455, Kunz von Kauffungen tried to enforce his demands against Elector Friedrich II of Saxony (Friedrich der Sanftmütige, 'F. the Gentle') by kidnapping the two sons of Friedrich, Ernst and Albrecht ('Sächsischer Prinzenraub'). When Friedrich died in 1464, his countries were jointly ruled by his sons. In 1485 they divided the countries among themselves (see chart of the Wettin dynasty). Altenburg was among the countries received by Elector Ernst. After the War of Schmalkalden Altenburg was in possession of the Albertine line of the family from 1547 until 1554. The Duchy Saxe-Altenburg was founded in 1603. During the Thirty Years' War (1618–1648) the majority of the population of Altenburg was killed. With the death in 1672 of Duke Friedrich Wilhelm III the line of Saxe-Altenburg became extinct and three quarters of the country became part of the Duchy Saxe-Gotha, the rest became part of the Duchy Saxe-Weimar (later Saxe-Weimar-Eisenach). Saxe-Gotha was divided again in 1680/1681 into Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg, Saxe-Coburg (until 1699), Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Römhild (until 1710), Saxe-Eisenberg (until 1707), Saxe-Hildburghausen and Saxe-Saalfeld (1735 Saxe-Coburg-Saalfeld). When Saxe-Gotha-Altenburg became extinct in 1825, the duchies were rearranged in 1826 by an arbitration of King Friedrich August I of Saxony (see map of the Thuringian states in 1815, 1826, and 1848): the new Duchies were Saxe-Meiningen, Saxe-Coburg-and-Gotha (a personal union of Saxe-Coburg and Saxe-Gotha), and Saxe-Altenburg (which was awarded to Duke Friedrich of Saxe-Hildburghausen in return for his renunciation of Hildburghausen). Saxe-Altenburg joined the German Customs Union in 1833/34, the North German Federation in 1867 and the German Empire in 1871. After World War I the last Duke (Ernst II) abdicated in 1918. Saxe-Altenburg joined the newly-founded state of Thuringia in 1920.
Altenburg castle high on a rock dominates the town. The oldest existing parts of the castle date back to the 11th century. During the 12th and 13th century it served as an imperial residence. Later it was a temporary residence of the Saxon Electors. Between 1603 and 1673, and again 1826–1918 it was the residence of the Dukes of Saxe-Altenburg. Its present appearance was shaped by the rebuilding in Baroque style 1706–1730. The south facade is marked by the Gothic castle church [centre right] of the 15th century.
The popular German card game 'Skat' was invented in Altenburg around 1810/1815. The Bechstein playing card manufacture was founded here in 1832 and became the largest manufacture of playing cards in Germany after 1900. In 1923 a playing card museum was opened in Altenburg castle.