The Saarland (German: das Saarland, pronounced [das ?za???lant]; French: la Sarre [la sa?]) is one of the sixteen states (or Bundesländer) of the Federal Republic of Germany. With its capital at Saarbrücken, it has an area of 2,570 km² and its population (as of 30 April 2012) is approximately 1,012,000. In terms of both area and population size – apart from the city-states of Berlin, Bremen and Hamburg – it is Germany's smallest state. The wealth of its coal deposits and their large-scale industrial exploitation, coupled with its location on the border between France and Germany, have given the Saarland a unique history in modern times. Prior to its creation as the Territory of the Saar Basin by the League of Nations after World War I, the Saarland (or simply "the Saar", as it is frequently referred to) did not exist as a unified entity. Until then, some parts of it had been Prussian while others belonged to Bavaria. The inhabitants voted to rejoin Germany in a referendum held in 1935. From 1947 to 1956 the Saarland was a French-occupied territory (the "Saar Protectorate") separate from the rest of Germany. Between 1950 and 1956, Saarland was a member of the Council of Europe. In 1955, in another referendum, the inhabitants were offered independence, but voted instead for the territory to become a state of West Germany. From 1920 to 1935, and again from 1947 to 1959, the inhabitants of the Saarland used money (Saar franc) and postage stamps issued specially for the territory.
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