Following the redrawing of Germany's national boundaries after 1945, there were five states or Länder in the Soviet controlled eastern zone: Brandenburg, Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania (Mecklenburg-Vorpommern), Saxony (Sachsen), Saxony-Anhalt (Sachsen-Anhalt), and Thuringia (Thüringen), which, together with East Berlin formed the German Democratic Republic in 1949.

In 1952, the Länder of East Germany were abolished, and the GDR was divided into Bezirke (districts), each named after the largest city: Rostock; Schwerin; Neubrandenburg; Magdeburg; Potsdam; Berlin; Frankfurt (Oder); Cottbus; Halle; Erfurt; Leipzig; Dresden; Karl-Marx-Stadt (now renamed Chemnitz); Gera; and Suhl.

In 1990, the Länder were reinstated and acceded to the Federal Republic of Germany. Each Land was divided into districts or Kreise as in West Germany, and the Bezirke were abolished.