Rügen is the largest German island. It is situated off the coast of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania in the Baltic Sea. Its area is 935 km² and its population was 73,000 in 2001.
Rügen is also the name of a Kreis (district) of Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, consisting of Rügen and the neighbouring islands of Hiddensee and Ummanz. Area 974 km², population 74,400 (2001). The district's capital is Bergen.
Rügen is mainly accessible by a bridge connecting the island with the city of Stralsund on the mainland. There are also ferry connections from Stralsund, Greifswald and Wolgast. The island has some crowded tourist resorts along the eastern coast as well as quiet and lonely places in the west. There are three nature reserves extending at least partially on the island:
- Vorpommern Lagoon Area National Park (Vorpommersche Boddenlandschaft); the west coast of Rügen and the island of Hiddensee are parts of this large national park.
- Jasmund National Park; a small park including the famous chalk cliffs (Königsstuhl).
- Southeast Rügen Biosphere Reserve; a nature reserve consisting of the peninsulas in the southeast.
Rügen was populated since about 4000 BC. In the 7th century Slavic peoples
came to settle the place. Many traces of their life can be found today. Rügen became a Slavic principality with the political and religious centre in the temple castle at Cape Arkona
, the northernmost point of Rügen. In 1168
the place was destroyed by Danish
invaders. The now weakened principality became receptive to Christianisation. The Slavic time ended in 1325
, when Rügen was conquered by the dukes of Pomerania
Rügen was a part of Swedish Pomerania from 1648 to 1815; afterwards it became a part of Prussia.
In 1816 the first bathing resort was founded (Putbus). Later more resorts were established, and Rügen remained the most famous holiday resort of Germany until World War II. In 1936 the bridge connecting Rügen with the mainland was constructed. The Nazis added a resort of outstanding ugliness: Prora, planned by the Kraft durch Freude ("Strength through joy") organisation, which aimed to occupy people's free time. However, Prora was never completed.
Rügen regained its status as a holiday island after the German reunification; now it has surpassed Sylt as the most popular German island again.
Towns on the island of Rügen: Bergen, Sassnitz, Putbus, Garz.