, a historic region, now the state of Saarland in Germany. Located in the southwestern part of the country, it is bounded on the west and south by Luxembourg and France. It covers 992 square miles (2,570 km2), an area somewhat smaller than that of Rhode Island. The capital is Saarbrüken. For centuries, France and Germany disputed control of the Saar, first because of its strategic location and later because of its rich coal deposits and productive iron and steel industry.
The early inhabitants of the Saar region were Celts who came under the control of Rome in the first century B.C. In the fifth century A.D., the area was absorbed by the Frankish Empire. It became part of the Kingdom of Lotharingia when the empire was divided in 843. In 925 it passed to Germany. Despite this German connection, the Saar was strongly influenced by neighboring France during the Middle Ages.
The Saar was under French rule from 1797 to 1815. By the Treaty of Paris of 1815, it was divided between Prussia and Bavaria. It became a part of Germany after German unification in 1871. At the end of World War I, the Saar Territory, as it was called, was put under the administration of the League of Nations. France was allowed to operate the coal mines as payment for the wartime destruction of French coalfields by Germany. In 1935 the German-speaking Saarlanders voted overwhelmingly for reunion with Germany.
After World War II, the Saar was placed in the French military occupation zone. It was granted internal autonomy in 1947 but was linked with France in a monetary, customs, and economic union. In a 1955 plebiscite, the people again voted for a return to German rule. In 1957 the Saar became a state of West Germany; it remained a state after Germany was reunified in 1990.