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Originally a Slavic settlement called Lipsk, Leipzig was chartered at the end of the 12th cent. and rapidly developed into a commercial center located at the intersection of important trade routes.Leipzig entered recorded history in AD 1015 as the fortified town of Urbs Libzi and was granted municipal status by 1170. Its favourable position in the middle of a plain intersected by the principal trade routes of central Europe stimulated the town's commercial development. Its two annual markets, at Easter and at Michaelmas, were raised in 1497 to the rank of imperial fairs. Additional economic privileges enabled Leipzig to become the foremost German commercial centre by about 1700, a development that in turn promoted the growth of a network of roads converging on the town. 

Leipzig's focal geographic situation had another, less fortunate consequence: several important battles were fought in or near the town. These included two at Breitenfeld (now a suburb) in 1631 and 1642 and one at Lützen in 1632, during the Thirty Years' War, and in particular the Battle of Leipzig (or Battle of the Nations) in October 1813, in the Napoleonic Wars. The battle of Leipzig, was a decisive victory of the Austrian, Russian, and Prussian forces over Napoleon I. On Oct. 16 the Prussians under General Blücher defeated the French under Auguste de Marmont at Möckern, near Leipzig. A peace offer by the vastly outnumbered French army was rejected on the following day while the Allies closed in. On Oct. 18 the French were driven to the gates of Leipzig, and most of their Saxon and Württemberg auxiliaries (but not the king of Saxony himself) passed over to the enemy camp. Leipzig was stormed on Oct. 19, and Napoleon's forces began their flight across Germany and beyond the Rhine. It is estimated that 120,000 men (of both sides) were killed or wounded in the battle. Allied losses were heavier than those of the French. The battle is commemorated by a large monument in the city. 

The city was one of the leading cultural centers of Europe in the age of the philosopher and mathematician Leibnitz, who was born there in 1646, and of the composer Johann Sebastian Bach, who was cantor at the Church of St. Thomas from 1723 until his death. The Univ. of Leipzig (founded 1409) became one of the most important in Germany. In the 18th cent. Gottsched, Gellert, Schiller, and many others made Leipzig a literary center; the young Goethe studied there in 1765. The city's musical reputation reached its peak in the 19th and early 20th cent. Felix Mendelssohn, who died there in 1847, made the Gewandhaus concerts (begun in the 18th cent. in a former guildhouse and still continuing) internationally famous. Robert Schumann worked in Leipzig, Richard Wagner was born there in 1813, and the Leipzig Conservatory (founded by Mendelssohn in 1842–43) became one of the world's best-known musical academies. 

One-quarter of Leipzig was destroyed in the last years of World War II. After the devastation of the war, the restoration and reconstruction of the city were carried out under the communist policies of East Germany. With renewed attention being paid to the Leipzig Fair and other exhibitions held in the city, Leipzig continues to play an important role among European cities. Peaceful but massive demonstrations by citizens of Leipzig in late 1989 played a significant role in bringing an end to the communist regime of East Germany. 

The traditional fur and book-publishing industries of Leipzig are still well known. Modern industries include heavy constructional engineering and the manufacture of electrical products, textiles, clothing, chemicals, and machine tools. The annual Leipzig Fair, held in the spring, is one of the most important forums for international trade between eastern and western Europe. Leipzig is the centre of many railway lines, and its main railway station is one of the most important passenger stations in central Europe. Leipzig is also the focus of several major roads, and two airports serve the city. 

Leipzig is a major intellectual and cultural centre. The University of Leipzig (called Karl Marx University of Leipzig from 1953 to 1990) dates from 1409. Leipzig has many museums, and its academies of dramatic art, musical history, graphic arts, and bookmaking are internationally known. 

Among the city's libraries are the German Library and the Comenius Library, which is Europe's largest library specializing in education. The university library, the Leipzig City Library, and the City Archives are also important. Musical traditions are carried on by the Thomaner Choir, the Gewandhaus Orchestra, and the Radio Symphony Orchestra. There is also a fine opera house (1963). 

Historic landmarks that were restored after World War II include the Old Town Hall, the Old Commercial Exchange, the old residential and market squares, Auerbach's Cellar, and the 13th-century Church of St. Thomas. The skyline of the modern city now includes the university tower and new hotels and commercial and residential buildings. Within the city, former woodlands along the riverbanks have been partly converted to parks and fulfill an important recreational function. Pop. (1994 est.) 490,851.

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