Who are the Sorbs?

Sorbs are a Western Slavic people of Central Europe living predominantly in Lusatia, a region on the territory of Germany and Poland. In Germany, they live in the states of Brandenburg and Saxony. They speak the Sorbian languages (Wendish, Lusatian), closely related to Polish, Kashubian, Czech and Slovak and officially recognized and protected as minority languages of Germany, but due to Germanization, only the older generation in Lower Sorbia speak the language at home. Their religions are predominantly Catholicism and Lutheranism. Ethnic Sorbs also lived in the territory which is now the modern nation of Poland. As most Sorbs held German citizenship they too, like the ethnic Germans, were expelled from Poland after the second world war.

    Sorbs are divided into two geographical groups:
  • Upper Sorbs, who speak Upper Sorbian (about 40,000 people).
  • Lower Sorbs, who speak Lower Sorbian (about 20,000 people).

During the 6th century A.D., Sorbs arrived in the area extending between the Bober, Kwisa and Oder rivers to the East and the Saale and Elbe rivers to the West. In the North, the area of their settlement reached Berlin. In 631 A.D., for the first time, the Fredegar’s Chronicle described them as Surbi, being ruled by a Dervan, an ally of Samo. Annales Regni Francorum mention that in 806 AD, Sorbian Duke Miliduch fought against the Franks and was killed. In 840, the Sorbian Duke Czimislav was killed. In 932, Henry I conquered Lusatia and Milsko. In 933, Lusatia was again conquered by Gero II – the Margrave of the Saxon Ostmark, who in 939 treacherously murdered 30 Sorbian princes during the feast. As a result, there were many Sorbian uprisings against the Germans. From this early period there remains only a reconstructed castle —Raddusch in Lower Lusatia. During the reign of Boleslaw I of Poland in 1002-1018, three Polish-German wars were waged which caused Lusatia to come under the domination of new rulers. In 1018, on the strength of peace in Bautzen, Lusatia became a part of Poland; however, before 1031 it was returned to Germany. From the 11th to the 15th century, agriculture in Lusatia developed and colonization by Frankish, Flemish and Saxon settlers intensified. In 1327, the first prohibitions on using Sorbian in Altenburg, Zwickau and Leipzig appeared. From 1635 Lusatia became a fiefdom of Saxon electors.

There are 3 main regions of Lusatia that differ in language, religion and customs. They are: the Region of Catholic Lusatia, the Region of Hoyerswerda (Wojerecy) and Schleife (Slepo), and the Region of Lower Lusatia.