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Thread: Germanisation of the Land Between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder Rivers

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    Germanisation of the Land Between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder Rivers

    http://www-user.tu-cottbus.de/Sorben...11/d01.htm#top

    Here's the document as a .doc file: http://www-user.tu-cottbus.de/Sorben...f/germ_w97.zip

    ...CONCLUSION

    It appears that althought the process of germanization took centuries, politically the Polabian Slavs were fully incorporated into the Empire by the middle of the thirteenth century.If that had not been a case they would have no doubt tried to rebel again.And the best opportunity to struggle for independence was between 1250 and 1378. During that period, Germany went into decline and the imperial power and authority practically collapsed.The local German rulers and margraves were virtualy independent and fighting among themselves.Ruling houses of Hohenstauf, Habsburg and Luxemburg themselves, for more than a century, struggled for the imperial crown. Such a revolt would probably have been popular among many Slavs, but they would have needed a strong leadership and organisation.It could be postulated that non-germanized Slavic nobility, which was already integrated into the Empire, was unwilling to lead the rebellion.With their position within the Empire secured they probably would not risk their priviliges for uncertain and doubtful gains.
    Contrary to common belief, a main factor in the process of germanisation of lands beyond the Elbe and Saale was not German colonisation, but rather slow germanisation of the Polabian Slavs.There is no hard evidence for mass Germanic migration into the region, except in Wagrien and Brandenburgia. Nor could the economic re-structuring of the region could be attributed entirely to the migrants, although, the Germans were a driving force in those developments. At the same time there is evidence of Slavic nobility being fully accepted by the Germans, while the Slavic townsfolk participated in development of the cities.The Polabian Slavs were reported in many rural areas for centuries after the conquest.Some indirect evidence, like the survival of place and personal names, retention of serfdom in the east,also points to the germanization rather than migration.
    So, in the light of the above evidence, the main factor in germanization of the region east of the Elbe and Saale, was not a Germanic colonisation but long process of assimilation of local Slavic population.Taking into consideration the survival of Lusatian Sorbs, the process is still not completed.Hence, the modern German population has a substantial Slavic component.And in the case of the Lands that once formed East Germany, the population there is a Slavo-Germanic mixture, most likely with the Slavic elements being dominant , a fact that probably many Germans would not wish to admit. Nevertheless, a modern German is not less German regardless of some of his ancestors beingSlavic. Neither would anysane person question the right of Germans to the territory east of Elbe and Saale where 98 percent of population feels they are German.
    It has to be admitted, that the precise estimation for Polabian contribution to the emergence of German nation appears to be extremely difficult if not impossible.This is so because to set up precise criteria in such a research is unfeasible.The mixing of population in Central Europe was ongoing process for almost a millennium and genetic criteria are unapplicable. The linguistic and cultural criteria could be applied only at the time of migration, andthe written records are incomplete and often inconclusive.It also should be stressed, that since the Middle Ages, besides the relatively large scale germanization, a process of slavization was also taking place in Central Europe.Numerous Germans settled in Bohemia, Poland and Hungary; and for centuries they all lived and worked peacefully side by side.In the course of time many Germans were assimilated by local populations. Not surprisingly the German surnames are not uncommon among todays Poles, Czechs, Slovaks and Hungarians.
    Although the whole germanization issue seems to be of no great importance, there are reasons why it should be addressed. For generations, many German historians tried to convince themeselves and everyone else, that the Polabian Slavs vanished from the land entirely soon after the conquest, or better, yet they never existed.To large extent they were successful.For example, while the Celtic heritage of Britain is widely acknowledged, the Polabian Slavs are hardly known outside academic circles.Also, a common understanding of the shared ethnic and cultural heritage in this part of Europe might have a wider implications.If the people of Central Europe had been always aware of that, such terrible things as happened there this century, might not have taken place at all.

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    Good post Triglav. Comments below...

    Quote Originally Posted by Triglav
    Nevertheless, a modern German is not less German regardless of some of his ancestors beingSlavic. Neither would anysane person question the right of Germans to the territory east of Elbe and Saale where 98 percent of population feels they are German..
    The author bespeaks his wisdom here. Regardless of whatever Slavic heritage certain ostdeutschers might have, the 'cling' on being 'Germanic' is stronger than being Slavic. Thus, trying to convince said folks of being Slavic is generally futile.

    Quote Originally Posted by Triglav
    For generations, many German historians tried to convince themeselves and everyone else, that the Polabian Slavs vanished from the land entirely soon after the conquest, or better, yet they never existed.To large extent they were successful.For example, while the Celtic heritage of Britain is widely acknowledged, the Polabian Slavs are hardly known outside academic circles.
    Ostdeutschers will from now into the distant future consider themselves to be 'Germanic' regardless of the biological facts. If the bio. facts to the contrary persist long enough this attiude may perhaps be undermined. Slightly off topic, the author hints here by analogy to the English (Celtic heritage of Britain). The same argument for Ostdeutschers being 'Germanic' applies to Englishmen being 'Germanic.' There's little argument really, same situation, different place. Ostdeutschers & Englishmen have one thing in common: equal right to being called 'Germanic,' simply put.

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    "So, with non-conclusive evidence, for a large scale colonisation, a mass Germanic migration can not be whole heartly accepted. The colonisation of Polabian lands, by German speaking people, appears to have been rather a hardly traceable, constant stream of new settlers, mainly over two centuries, beginning in the middle of the twelfth century."

    It's undoubtable that there was not in the real sense of the word one mass movement of Germans into the area east of Elbe and Saale (and Oder), but that it was rather a process of constant colonisation through more or less small groups of settlers over several centuries. (Until to the year 14oo, the Ostsiedlung came to stillstand. One could only speak of a mass migration if one regards in retrospect the Ostsiedlung as awhole and as a historical process which lead to certain coherent folkish-cultural results. Also,it was not an all-national undertaking, as it was, besides from the fact that national feelings in a modern sense had not as far such a meaning in those days, initiatec by regional and local rulers and had its reasons in regional and local interests.

    "It also indicates that, contrary to what we are often told, the Germanic speaking migrants formed a minority of the population of the region. [...]
    Far more important than colonisation, was a germanization of the Polabian Slavs, who, as the Empire's subjects lost their language and ethnic identity during the centuries of German domination. When the Polabian Slavs found themselves under German rule, they soon realised that the old days would never return and their situation could only be improved if they joined mainstream German life. There is no doubt that this was the most important factor which contributed to the loss of their ethnic identity in almost the entire region."


    The author's conclusion seems for me hardly to be correct in this form, speaking of a low scale German colonisation of the whole area between Elbe/Saale and Oder, eben if he speaks of Wagrien and Brandenburg as exceptions. (In Brandenburg the colonisation had indeed in a higher degree the character as a promoted process than in some other areas.)
    What applies to the land east of Elbe/Saale (and also for the later German areas east of the Oder) is the different intensity of German colonisation which differed also between relatively small areas: from areas which were sparsely populated or even wilderness and where then settlements and places were new set up to regions where at least rural German colonisation hardly happened. From historical, topographical, lingual and local and regional settlement researches, there result for the area between Elbe/Saale and Oder, generalized and simplified of course to a certain degree, the following regional differences:
    (1) Areas with slight change of the pre-German settlement were the Lausitz (in its extent bigger than the today's area where Sorbian language is still spoken) and as second big area the Wendland north and south the low Elbe and reaching southwards east of the Lüneburger Heide); then a coast stripe of Vorpommern with Rügen and Usedom; smaller coastal areas of east Holstein; then stripes in the region of today's east Thuringia, northwest Saxony and south Saxony-Anhalt; stripes at the upper Elbe and at the banks of the river Oder.
    (2) Areas with predominantly conversion and strong extension of the pre-German settlement were regions in east Holstein and inner Mecklenburg; then areas directly east of the Elbe/Saale line from the mouth of the Spree down to Thuringian regions; then areas where Mecklenburg and Brandenburg border; stripes in middle Brandenburg, at the upper Elbe and Elster.
    (3) Predominantly new settlement and clearing: coast areas of Mecklenburg up to Vorpommern; southern Mecklenburg and inner Vorpommern; inner and south west Brandenburg; middle, south and southwest Saxony; a bigger area between the southern Wendland and the Elbe.
    The colonists in the North were mainly from Low Germany,in the southern areas from Middle Germany.
    In great areas there was until to modern early times a side by side of German and Wends, as the Germans used to call the Slavs, with the gradual, but constant tendency of a giving up of the Slavic languages in favour of German. Most Wend greater areas, isles and enclaves were absorbed by the German majority surrounding until to early modern times. Only the two biggest areas which were gradually little touched by German colonisation, the Wendland and the Lausitz, kept the language for longer.
    As the author said himself, it is hardly possible to do exact estimations of the estent of Germans and Slavs, but the author's assumption, regarding the area asa whole, of direct German colonisation as a rather unimportant factor of Germanization and of the Germanisation of Slavs as the main and first factor, isn't absolutely convincing. I don't doubt that the Germanisation of Slavic speaking people was a grave factor (in fact, there were only the named two factors: German colonisation and lingual-cultural Germanisation of Wends) and for some areas the first. He concludes from parts where the colonisation through Germans was indeed on a lower niveau and the Slavic population remained more untouched to others and stresses the evidences of further-existence of Slavic speakers or relatively closed Slavics peaking areas with only little German colonistaion. But when he makes from such a selective perception higher conclusions to the area as a whole that becomes quite speculative, as on the other hand all evidences of the existence of a German population and of numerous new German arrangements and foundings of rural and urban settlements and places seems to be somehow irrelevant.
    The process of the absorbation of the smaller Slavic areas, pockets and isles in the 15th and 16th century goes along with a sililar process of the loss of some larger and smaller German rural isles in west Galicia, from Krakau up to Lemberg which couldn't stand in alien folkish surroundings. Also, the inner areas of Bohemia remained largely untouched from rural German colonisation and inner Bohemia stayed Czech, though Bohemia was part of the Reich. There were numerous German peasant isles in inner Bohemia, but the smaller ones got also lost here in early modern times, and also some bigger German isles with a coherent German rural population until to the 19th/20th century remained in inner Bohemia like Iglau, Brünn or Budweis. An other example for a region where there only was urban, but as much as no rural Mediaval German colonisation, are the northern Baltic lands.

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    Post Germanisation of the land between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder rivers


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    Post Re: Germanisation of the land between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder rivers

    List of the place names in the modern Germany, appearing in the text,and their original Slavic names.All being still used by the Sorbs of Lusatia.

    Altenburg - Starohrod

    Bad Doberan - Doberan

    Berlin - Berlin

    Bautzen - Budy№in

    Berg on Rьgen - Gуra

    Brandenburg - Branibor

    Calau - Kalawa

    Cottbus - Chocebuѕ

    Dargun - Dargun

    Deberlug - Dobryіug

    Demmin - Dymin

    Dresden - Drjeѕdјany

    Elbe river - Јobjo

    Erfurt - Jarobrod

    Groitzsch - Grodјi№жo

    Havel river - Hobola

    Havelsberg - Hobolin

    Jahna - Gana ( doesn't exist anymore )

    Kцpenick - Kopjenik

    Lebus - Lubu№

    Leipzig - Lipsk

    Leitzkau - Leska

    Lьbeck - Lubice

    Magdeburg - Dјмwin

    Mersenburg - Mjezybor

    Meissen - Mi№no

    Mulde river - Modіa

    Naumburg - Namgrad

    Oder river - Wodra

    Oldenburg - Starigrad

    Peene river - Piana

    Platkow - Bіoto

    Prignitz - Przegnica

    Rethra - Radegosж ( doesn't exist anymore )

    Ratzeburg - Ratibor

    Rochlitz - Rochelice

    Rostock - Roztoka

    Rьgen island - Rugia ( this is slavization of old Germanic name )

    Saale river - Soіawa

    Schwerin - Swaryс

    Stolp - Stoіp

    Tornow - Tornow

    Usedom island - Uznoim

    Werben - Wjerbno

    Wismar - Wy№omir

    Zwickau - ¦wikawa

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    Post Germanisation of the Land Between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder Rivers

    Germanisation of the land between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder rivers


    Colonisation or assimilation ?

    by Roman Zaroff


    INTRODUCTION

    During the second half of the fifth century, as a result of the collapse of the Hunnic empire, the area between Elbe-Saale and the Oder rivers, coresponding roughly to the former East Germany, was depopulated, as the various Germanic tribes moved toward the Mediteranean world.In the course of the late fifth and seventh centuries the poplulation vacuum was filled by the Slavic people.They assimilated the remnants of the Germanic population, and the entire territory by the seventh century was Slavic speaking.Consequently by the early tenth century the Germanic-Slavic frontier, in that part of the Europe, roughly followed the line of the Elbe and Saale rivers. [001] Between the 10th and the twelfth centuries the Germans brought the Slavic territory, east of that line, as far as the Oder river, under varying degrees of control.Over the following centuries, these lands were germanized and now form an integral part of Germany.Only around the Bautzen and Cottbus in Lusatia some Slavic speakers survived, being known as Wends or as they call themselves "Serby" - the Sorbs.According to recent estimations they number less than 100,000 people. [002] As a courtesy to them, one of the smallest nations of Europe,Appendix 1 lists the German and Slavic names of many places mentioned in following essay.

    The aim of the following work is to investigate the process of Germanization of the lands between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder rivers.The research will concentrate mainly on the period between the tenth and the fourteenth centuries, and will take a two-way approach. That is, looking at the colonisation of the region by the Germanic speaking settlers and germanization of the local Slavic population.It will attempt to analyse and evaluate both these factors and their contribution to this complex ethno and socio-political process.

    The names used to describe the Slavic inhabitants of these region is a confusing issue due to lack of commonly accepted terminology.Recently, it has become more common to call them Polabians or Polabs, instead of Wends.There are also some problems with their division.In the following work three large tribal groups are distinguished: Obodrites in north-west, Veleti in north-east and Sorbs in the south (for their distribution see Appendix 2).


    ABBREVIATIONS

    HB - Helmold's, The Chronicle Of Slavs.

    TM - Thietmar's Chronicon

    SG - Saxo Gramaticus





    HISTORICAL BACKGROUND

    The relationship between Germanic and Slavic people in the region went through number of phases between the sixth and twelfth centuries.Prior to Charlemagne's times, Germanic and Slavic tribes coexisted in balance and were not a significant threat to each other.Some conflicts must have occurred, but in a tribal world their implications were on the local scale.On some occasions they even formed alliances against common enemies. [003] Such was the case of the Thuringian ruler Radulf who allied himself with the Slavs against the Franks in the middle of the seventh century. [004]

    Since Charlemagne, from the late eighth century, the Polabian Slavs were drawn more and more into Frankish and later German political orbit.More and more tribes, especially western Sorbs became vassals of German rulers. The dependent, local Sorbian chieftains as long as they payed tribute remained in charge of their people and local affairs. At that time there was no significant Germanic settlement in the region.The presence and impact of some German merchants, craftsmen and slaves was negligible. Neither there were any real attempts to convert Slavs to Christianity. [005]

    In the tenth century, when the German medieval state reached its politcal peak, the Germans made significant advance into Polabian territory.This was a result of deliberate policies of the Saxon dynasty. As easterners and Saxons they had paid much more attention to the eastern affairs.During that period, German administration, civil and ecclasiastic, was established east of the Elbe and Saale rivers, practicaly for a first time. [006] Still, the German colonisation in the region was on an insignificant scale.In Western Sorbian lands between Saale and Mulde, some Germans settled mainly in towns but they formed a fraction of the population. [007] The Slavic revolt of 983 stoped German penetration in the north, among the Veleti and Obodrites, nor in the Sorbian lands had German colonisation made any significant progress. [008]

    The process of germanisation of the region did not really began until the middle of the twelfth century. It took a different form and different pace depending on the area, tribaland social group involved. [009] There were two elements involved in the germanization of newly acquired territories: colonisation by German settlers and germanization of the local Slavs.Let us discuss colonization first.




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    Post Re: Germanisation of the land between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder rivers

    COLONIZATION The scale of Germanic colonisation of Polabian lands presents a real difficulty.Any estimation of population movements in Middle Ages is highly speculative.This leaves a large margin for interpretation of scarce data.Estimations, of that type, are also quite often affected by the factors of political and nationalistic character, whether conscious or not.

    Until the late eleventh century, although the Germans controled most of the Sorbian territory, they were practically unable to colonise conquered lands, simply due to low population.And in Saxony and Thuringia there had always been much lower population than in the western lands, not significantly higer than across the Elbe-Saale. In the north, that is in the Obodrite and Veleti lands, Germanic political control was not fully established before the middle of the twelfth century. [010]

    Between the eleventh and thirteenth century, Western Europe experienced a substantial growth of population.This was a general trend,which began sometime in the tenth century, reaching its peak during the twelfth.The population stabilized at the turn of fourtenth century, not long before the Black Death. [011] To a large extent, this rapid population growth was a result of improved agricultural methods and the spread of new technologies in the Western Europe. A significant new development was a three-field rotation cultivation method that became more common.It increased the crops and allowed the introduction of new high protein leguminous plants. [012] The spread of the wheeled plough with mould-board also increased a crop yield.At the same time, a new improved shoulder harness for draught and plough animals made animal work more effective and much faster. [013] Soon some Western Germanic regions became overpopulated, and land usage was stretched to its medieval limits.As a result of population pressure many people were desperate for new arable lands and newly acquired territories became atractive for settlers.The German upper class was also attracted to the east.The medieval economy was practically entirely agriculture based.Social status was measured in wealth, and for the medieval nobles only the large estates could prvide substantial income.Many landless knights came to the east to serve in retinues of margraves or even the Slavic dukes in hope of becaming landlords. [014]

    The overpopulation in the Low Countries, that is modern Holland, was even greater than in Germany, and a large proportion of a new settlers came from this region.The Low Countries provided mainly peasant settlers, very efficient and sophisticated by medival standards. [015] In some areas, Germanic colonisation was on relatively a large scale, such as in the Wagrien region, a western Obodrite land, where after 1139 many settlers were brought in by Count Adolph of Holstein.In this region, many Saxons, mainly Holzatians, settled, together with numerous Hollanders and Frisians. The Westphalian peasants came to till the soil in the Ratzeburg district, and numerous Flemings colonised Holstein. [016]

    A similar large scale and organised colonisation took place in Brandenburgia, after Albrecht the Bear took full control of the region in 1157. [017] He brought there a large number of Hollanders, Zeelanders and Flemish peasants.This migration is still reflected in the name Flдming, an area of Brandenburgia. [018]

    However, there is no evidence, for mass shift of population from west to the east, or at least it is not traceble anywhere else.An organised migration from Saxony, Westphalia and the Low Countries, involving a relatively large number of people, took place practically only on the two above mentioned occasions.

    In the other areas, many new settlers were brought by local nobility and bishops, but it was rather on a smaller, village scale. For example, a Flemish village of eighteen families was founded in the Meisen diocese, by bishop Gerung in 1154. [019] In the Magdeburg diocese, archbishop Wichman brought a number of Flemish settlers who founded a new village of Flemmingen, near Naumburg and Grosswusteritz, in the second half of the twelfth century. [020] Similary, a nobleman Wyprecht of Groitzsch, brought some Franconian farmers into his estates, located in Mersenburg diocese. [021]

    Bringing new settlers from afar had another important aspect, for German landlords and margraves.By granting the colonists better conditions, they tried to assure their loyalty. In many areas, new immigrants were granted some privileges and tax concesions in the initial phase of their settlement on the new land.Some areas had free tenure for a number of years, and overall feudal obligations were lower. [022] In some areas Flemish settlers were also granted the right to exercise a lower justice, on the village level. [023]

    Overall, the German colonisation of the territory was peaceful, with exeption of the Western Obodrite lands. [024] Only there was a large proportion of Slavic population forcefully removed from the best land.Still, it appears that the Slavs formed a majority of population in the region in the second half of the twelfth century.Helmold of Bossau reported huge numbers of Slavs, in 1156, who gathered on market place at Lьbeck, to be baptised. [025] In Brandenburgia and Sorbian teritories eviction of the Slavic farmers probably took place on a much smaller scale. Many Slavs who were evicted from their land must have been resettled in newly established German estates. As a result, those displaced and uprooted people became much more prone to germanization. It comes as no surprise that Wagrien, Brandenburgia and Western Sorbian lands lost their Slavic identity much earlier then other regions.

    However, inMecklenburgia and Western Pomerania it was another story. Both were defeated by the Saxon duke Henry the Lion, but neither was conquered. [026] As a result of 1166 agreement between the Saxon duke, the Obodrite prince Przybys aw and the Pomeranian princes, both principalities became Saxon vassals.As a part of the deal, Przybys aw's son, Boriwoj married Matilda, an illegitimate daughter of Henry the Lion.Soon both principalities became duchies of the Empire.So, the Slavic population there was treated as were other imperial subjects. There were no evictions there and local princes and nobility remained in charge of local affairs. [027] Consequently, the slow stream of colonists from Saxony and Flanders settled peacefully on vacant land next to the Slavs.There were some attempts to calculate the number of people that moved from west to east.One such calculation, by German scholar Walter Kuhn, puts the number of German rural settlers in the twelfth century at 200,000.According to Bartlett:



    "He ( Kuhn ) based this calculation on the number of mansi or peasant farms which can be demonstrated or reasonably assumed to have been created..". [028]



    It is beyond our judgement to challenge the computation, as I was unable to see its details or the data it was based on. However, this number could hardly be accepted as such. To begin with, the available documents are scarce [029] , hence the outcome of such estimation is highly speculative. But above all, the assumption that all new settlements were populated by Germanic colonists is definitely very suspect (This issue will be addressed in a following paragraph).But let us accept Kuhn's findings, purely for the sake of the argument.

    Limited space does not allow us to expand on Polabian agriculture and the emergence of their towns. However, there is solid archaeological data and many written sources confirm that all the Slavs including their Polabian branch were sedentary people and their main mode of subsitence was agriculture. From the turn of the seventh century a crop rotation in a two-field system, similar to one practised in the Western Europe, became widespread. [030] Evidence of a relatively advanced agriculture among medieval Western Slavs comes from many historical accounts. Ibrahim ibn Jacub, a Jewish merchant, who travelled through Piast's principality (modern Poland) and northern Polabian lands in the middle of the tenth century, reported that the Slavs sowed twice a year. [031] This is confirmed by archaeological data from Tornow, near Calau in Lower Lusatia, where rye and barley were sown in autumn and wheat and millet in the spring. [032] Also, an English missionary from Wessex, Saint Boniface, who worked in central Germany in the eighth century, praised Baltic Slavs (most likely the Sorbs or Obodrites) for their highly developed agriculture, trade and crafts in comparison with the Eastern Germanic tribes of Saxons and Thuringians. [033] By the seventh century agriculture among all the Western Slavs was dominated by ploughing. Burning wild vegetation and shifting the fields was probably practised only in marginal areas. Fields were ploughed by wooden ards and pulled by yoked oxen. Medieval Slavic ards were usualy made of hard oak wood. Many ards were reinforced with iron tip or coulter, definitely from the eighth - nineth century. This is confirmed by the finds at Tornow, and at Platkow, near Lebus. [034]

    Animal husbandry was an important part of Slavic economy, second only to agriculture. [035] The analysis of animal bones excavated from various early Slavic sites, including those in modern eastern Germany, revealed that between 90 and 100 percent of animal remains were of domesticated species, such as pigs, cattle, horses, goats, sheep, chicken and geese. [036] Archaeological data from Wolin shows that pork comprised over 60 percent and beef almost one third of all red meat consumed, while sheep and goat meat contributed to only around 5 percent of the diet. [037] It can be safely assumed that for the rest of the Polabian Slavs meat consumption was close to that of Wolin.

    Prior to their subjugation by the Empire, many Polabian settlements grew into adminstrative, manufacturing and trade centres. The strongholds like Lьbeck, Schwerin, Ratzeburg, Demmin, Radogost, Ralswiek on Rьgen, Brandenburg, Havelsberg, Kцpenick (today a suburb of Berlin), Gana, Bautzen, and Liubu a developed into early mediaeval towns, as a result of local socio-political developments and extensive contacts of various nature with the Empire.Still, they were not of great size by modern standards.Based on the archaeological data, their average estimated size was somewhere between 2,000 and 3,000 inhabitants.That is smaller then average towns in the

    Empire, but not significantly.Two towns, on the Veletian-

    Pomeranian border, Szczecin (GermanStettin) and Wolin, were

    exceptions as they were relatively large, and both were involved in lucrative Baltic trade.They also developed a peculiar form of government, a "merchant republic", in a similar way to Novgorod in Russia.They were run by wealthy merchants and other prominent citizens of the town. [038] The memories of Wolin's greatness, sometimes exaggerated, were recorded by Adam of Bremen:



    " Jumne (Wolin), a most noble city, affords a very widely known trading centre for the barbarians and Greeks wholived round about... It is truly the largest of all the cities of Europe, and there live in it Slavs and many other peoples...Rich in the wares of all the northern nations, that city lacks nothing that is either pleasingor rare". [039]



    With the exception of Wolin and Szczecin, and possibly the Obodrite Lьbeck, the Polabian centres were smaller and less numerous then in Western Europe.However, the diffrence between them and eastern German towns in Saxony and Thuringia, was not really great.One more issue still has to be addressed.That is an alleged Norsemen foundation and domination of Wolin.The entire claim is based on the Jцmsviking Saga of the twelfth or thirteenth century, a rather unreliable historical source. [040] Neither, any other German written source, or archaeological data supports this fantastic claim.Wolin developed into a commercial centre during the nineth century, and declined in the twelfth as a result of Danish raids. [041] Both written records and archaeology clearly show its predominantly Slavic character in all aspects of life.Of course, some Danish and other foreign merchants, craftsmen and mercenaries lived there, but this is in no way surprising. [042]

    Also, it seems reasonable to assume that agricultural changes in the Western Europe had a profound effect east of the Elbe and Saale between the tentth and thirteenth centuries. Taking into consideration close contacts with the Germanic people, it would be hard to imagine otherwise.This in turn would facilitate some population growth. This claim is supported by the analysis of land usage among the Polabian Slavs, conducted by German scholar Joachim Herrmann. The finding shows that there was a 25 percent increase in land cultivation and expansion of agriculture in the areas with heavier soils during the eleventh and twelfth century. [043] That is prior to any significant Germanic migration into the region. Hence, this suggests that there was asubstantial population growth in that period in the area east of Elbe and Saale rivers. Even if the entire population growth had been neutralised by losses during the numerous wars, which is unlikely in any case, the Polabian population would remain at the tenth century level.

    The above evidence shows clearly that the Polabian Slavs were not hunter-gatherers in the sparsely populated wilderness, and that such an idea was devised and perpetuated for German political and chauvinistic purposes. Unfortunately, it is still a common assumption, due to inability or unwillingness to access other sources, and still "rattles" in many English language publications. [044] To be sure, the Polabian lands were less advanced than Germanic speaking regions of Europe, but a mode of subsistence was similar to that of the West, and the technological gap was not of great magnitude. In this context the population density east of the Elbe and Saale was not substantialy lower than in the Empire. And the difference was even smaller in comparison with eastern provinces of the Empire such as Saxony and Thuringia. In the context of the above evidence, even accepting Kuhn's doubtful estimations, his data shows that the Germanic speaking settlers, would still form a minority. As the area we are concerned with covers around 120,000 square kilometres and the population density there was almost certainly not lower than 5-6 people per square kilometre. [045] So, with non-conclusive evidence, for a large scale colonisation, a mass Germanic migration can not be whole heartly accepted. The colonisation of Polabian lands, by German speaking people, appears to have been rather a hardly traceable, constant stream of new settlers, mainly over two centuries, beginning in the middle of the twelfth century. It also indicates that, contrary to what we are often told, the Germanic speaking migrants formed a minority of the population of the region. The eastward movement of Germanic people slowed down and practically ceased in the middle of the fourteenth century. [046] The turning point was the first major outbreak of the Black Death in 1347. [047] The impact of Black Death on all European population was enormous. According to some estimates Europe lost between 33 and 50 percent of its population. The mortality rate in western Germany was lower than in the Mediterranean, but still is estimated to have been between 25 and 30 percent. The former Polabian lands, with the exception of the Baltic coast and its towns, which suffered as badly as the rest of western Germany, were affected much less. It has been estimated that those region lost only somewhere between 20 and 30 percent, while the Bohemia fared even better with between 10 and 15 percent loss. Consecutive outbreaks of epidemics in Western Europe, during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, caused such depopulation, that arable land was easly available. [048] Still, more important were the changes in tenurial obligations. Labour and other services to landlord began to be replaced by rent in most of Western Europe, including Western Germany. With a shortage of labour, peasants could easly renew the tenure of land for much lower rent than in the pre-plague period. [049] Hence, taking into consideration the conditions in East and West, since the middle of the fourteenth century, emigration patterns could reverse, attracting the people from eastern provinces to migrate west. [050]

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    Post Re: Germanisation of the land between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder rivers

    GERMANIZATION Far more important than colonisation, was a germanization of the Polabian Slavs, who, as the Empire's subjects lost their language and ethnic identity during the centuries of German domination. When the Polabian Slavs found themselves under German rule, they soon realised that the old days would never return and their situation could only be improved if they joined mainstream German life. There is no doubt that this was the most important factor which contributed to the loss of their ethnic identity in almost the entire region. Contrary to widely held opinion, the Germans did not mass exterminate indigenous Slavic population. Neither did the Slavs leave their land and migrate elsewhere.It is true that some areas were depopulated and impoverished by centuries of war, but certainly there were no deserted wastelands. The civilian Slavic population suffered mostly during the conquest and numerous rebellions. The Germans were ruthless during the war but so were the others.Such was the medieval way of waging war. Certainly after the conquest christianisation of the Polabian Slavs claimed numerous victims among the civilians. Imposition of the new religion involved destruction of pagan idols and places of worship, and it was definitely met with some resistance. No doubt, in the course of conversion, the pagan priests and defenders of old beliefs were most likely not spared.

    It appears, then, that the fallacy of total extermination served its purpose as a propaganda tool for the champions of racial purity and some chauvinists, especialy during the Nazi times. It also backfired because it was sometimes used by German neighbours to portrait all the Germans as a Slav-eaters and cruel beasts. Many claims of almost total anihilation of Polabian Slavs were based on the Helmold of Bossau chronicle, which on a number of occasions, stated that the Slavs were totaly wiped out in some areas. However, Helmold contradicted himself almost as many times, when in later passages he mentioned numerous Slavic inhabitants of the same areas, still living there. [051] We will return to more evidence for Slavic presence in eastern parts of Empire later.

    In this context, we may postulate that there was no extermination of Slavic inhabitants in the region. After all, ethnicity was not a main issue and the German landlords desperately needed people to work on their new estates. Labour was a much sought commodity. For the German nobility and Empire, it would be against their own interests to wipe out the Slavic population of the region. Subdue and bind them to the land: yes, but definitely not to exterminate. [052] Numerous documents indicate that lands beyond Elbe and Saale were of great economic importance for the Ottonian Empire as a source of large revenues from the first half of the tenth century. The conquered Slavs were obliged to pay a tithe equal to a tenth of their produce. It was usually extracted in honey, furs, slaves, garments, grain, and pigs, but sometimes in silver and sales tax, or in a form of a labour. [053] There are many examples supporting this claim.Just to cite afew: According to Thietmar, a Sorbian tribe of Milchane were obliged to supply labour and "decimae" for building the Meissen stronghold. [054] St. Maurice monastery at Magdeburg received a tenth from the entire region of Lusatia, and this was extended to the other lands with their conquest. [055] In the north, a substantial episcopal tithe was paid to the bishopric of Oldenburg, by at least the Western Obodrites, from the middle of the tenth century. [056] At the same time, the loyal landlords in the region as well as some based in Saxony and Thuringia, extracted substantial revenues for their own coffers. [057] All this clearly indicates that the Slavic population was well incorporated into the political and economic system of the Empire. [058]




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    Post Re: Germanisation of the land between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder rivers

    UPPER CLASS After the subjugation of the Polabian Slavs, the social group which was assimilated in a relatively short period of time was the Slavic elite. Although, the Slavic nobility was decimated during the numerous wars and some survivors never cooperated with new authority, most of them became loyal subjects of the Empire. The pressure for germanization of Slavic upper class was strong but it was of a social nature. For the Slavic elite retention of privileges and status was only possible if they joined the mainstream of German life, and converted to Christianity. [059] Then, the Germans fully recognised Slavic princes, nobility and landlords as equal to them. The story of bishop Wago's sister's marriage to the Slavic chieftain Billug is one such example. [060] In Mecklenburgia and north-eastern Veletian lands, then part of the Pomeranian duchy, a German administration was not imposed at all. Practically all Slavic nobility there retained their status and position. Still, pressure to accept German ways was not smaller than elsewhere. The duchies were part of the Empire, and no doubt, the more sophisticated Germans made a great impression on the Slavic elite. In the situation where ethnicity was not a major issue, clear class distinction, privileges and feudal order was an attractive option. So, the dukes and nobility acted like Germans, and modelled their principalities and estates on the western examples. Over the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, many German knights joined their retinues, and many of them were granted land. Through intermarriages, in a relatively short time the Slavic upper class was absorbed by Germans, practicaly by the fourteenth century. [061] Ironically many of those nobles of Slavic origin in following centuries became a backbone of Prussian imperialism, infamous for their anti-Slavic attitudes and militarism. Possibly, the origins of the German chauvinism, so apparent in Prussia, could be attributed to subconscious denial of the partially Slavic background of many eastern Germans.

    There are numerous examples of Polabian Slavs who accepted their defeat and tried to find themselves in the new situation. The best known are germanized descendants of prince Niklot, in Mecklenburgia, who became dukes and princes of the Empire. Until the twentieth century they were one of the leading and oldest German and European houses. And the last Mecklenburgian duke abdicated formally in 1918. [062]

    On the Rьgen island, descendants of prince Jaromir retained power as Danish vassals for a long time after conquest. Prince Witysіaw I was mentioned in some documents from 1225 and Witysіaw II in 1276, in relation to some estates donated to bishopric of Ratzeburg. In 1296 he founded a Cisterian convent of St Nicholas at Kloster on Hiddensee Island, north-west of Rьgen. [063] His successor Witysіaw III was renowned for his poetic ambitions and support for the poets and wandering minstrels at his court. [064]

    In other areas, where land grants were made to the German nobles and the German settlers were brought in, there is evidence that numerous Slavic landlords retained their privileged social position. In the middle of the twelfth century, in already conquered Wagrien, an Obodrite prince Rochel was still called by Helmold: "The prince of that land". [065] In 1156, bishop Gerold of Oldenburg, accompanied by Helmold of Bossau, visited, dined with, and slept in the residence of Przybysіaw of Lьbeck, near Oldenburg. [066] By that time the Eastern Obodrite lands were incorporated into Saxony, and seventeen years after Przybysіaw was deposed. On the same trip, they also accepted the invitation of another Obodrite nobleman, named Cieszymir. He must have been a respectable person as Helmold of Bossau, called him an "influential man", and worthy to receive a bishop. [067]

    The Thietmar's "Chronicon" described an incident in 971 when a respected imperial knight Kuchawica, a Sorb, was called to Mersenburg for ordeal with another German nobleman. [068] In another passage, a Slavic knight ¬elenta was mentioned. He saved the life of emperor Otto II after his defeat in Calabria during his abortive Italian campaign of 982. ¬elenta was most likely one of the Emperor's Sorbian subjects. He was definetely a Christian as he was also called Henry. [069] Another two Slavic knights in imperial service, Boris and Wyszomir, who were tried at Werben, were called "optimos". This clearly indicates their privileged social status and recognition. [070] Another good example, is a knight Scich, a commander of German garrison in Lebus retaken by Bolesіaw the Brave in 1012, who fought bravely and to the end remained loyal to the Empire. [071] Another knight Budisіaw from the Rochlitz on Mulde river, was mentioned in 1017 in relation to some property disagreement between a local margrave and Merseburg bishopric. [072] It is worth notting that king Henry II used to hold regular meetings with the Slavic magnates in Werben, located on the left bank of the Elbe river. [073] The records from the bishopric of Meissen show that in 1071 a Sorbian nobleman and landlord, named Bor, gave five villages in the Dresden district to this bishopric. In return he received five church owned villages in other areas. The signatures on document shows that some other nobles in the March of Meissen were also of Slavic origin. [074] Another church record from the early thirteenth century mentioned a wealthy Sorbian landlord named Mojko in Bautzen region. [075] In late twelfth century when Bohemia took control of Lusatia a German noble, Wyprecht of Groitzsch, married the daughter of Czech king Vratislav II.He received as a dowry teritories of Milchane and Nizhane and became a governor of this region. [076] Wiprecht himself had some Polabian background, as his mother was from a noble Sorbian family. [077] There is also more evidence for inter-marriage between the German and Slavic upper class. The descendants of Albrecht the Bear, a founder of the Brandenburgian March, married freely with local Slavic nobility.Between the twelfth and fourteenth centuries, out of sixteen females that married into the Ascanian dynasty, eight were of Slavic ancestry. [078] The already cited marriage of Henry the Lion dauther with son of an Obodrite prince is another example.The Saxon duke, Henry the Fowler, was married to a Slavic woman named Haithaburg, before marriage to Matilda, the daughter of the count of Westphalia.They had at least one child, a son named Thankmar.Henry's marriage with Haithaburg was dissolved, most likely for political reasons.An official excuse was that shemade a vow not to remarry and become a nun after her first husband's death.Nothing is known about Haithaburg's background and her first marriage.Only her Germanic and Christian name is known and what she was called in Slavic.Nevertheless, it is certain that Henry the Fowler, the duke of Saxony, would not marry a commoner, and she must have been from the Slavic upper class, if not from a princely family.Being most likely from an Obodrite ruling house.Thankmar, who on the annulment of his parents' marriage suddenly become illegitimate, lost the rights to the throne. [079] Finally it is worthwhile to mention Wilhelm an archbishop of Mainz between 954 and 968.He was an illegitimate son of Otto I and a Slavic captive woman. [080] The archbishopric of Mainz was the most important among all five archdioceses existing on German territory at that time.German kings were crowned there and this shows Wilhelm was not neglected by his father. According to Thietmar, his mother was of princely origin but it can not be really confirmed.It is possible that the chronicler tried to make archbishop Wilhelm of noble origin on his mother side as well.

    Besides the formal alliances, like the Germano-Veletian in the early eleventh century, there is evidence of Polabian troops forming a part of the Imperial or Saxon armies on many occasions. For, example, according to Widukind, at the battle of Lechfeld, Slavic troops served in Otto's army. [081] They were not from Bohemia, as Czechs were mentioned by chronicler separately, hence they must have been Polabians, most likely Sorbs.During the Polish-German war of 1002-1018, some Sorbs were supporting Germans against the Poles, although many fought also on the Polish side. [082] In 1164, during the expedition of Henry the Lion against the Obodrite prince Przybysіaw, son of Niklot, some of the Western Obodrites from Oldenburg district were in the Saxon army.As Saxon subjects they were obliged to participate in the campaign.AlthoughtHelmold of Bossau stated they were not really trusted, the majority remained loyal to the duke of Saxony. [083] This again shows that they were treated as every other subject, provided they fullfilled their obligations.All this clearly indicates that the Slavs did not vanish into thin air, soon after conquest.

    Another way to enter the mainstream of German life, was probably open through particular service to the landlords.From the first half of the eleventh century many German landlords employed administrative and military servicemen called ministeriales.It is alos known, that those people often came from the unfree population.In the course of time many of them must have joined the ranks of the lower nobility. [084] It is very likely, that in the eastern provinces, some ministeriales who formed feudal retinues, were of Slavic descent. Such as Burchardus Slavi, a ministerialis of von Arnstein family, at Arnstein, who appeared on a documents from 1248 and 1264. [085] A similar, but distinct form of service by Slavic warriors known as "vitezi", to German lords or margraves, was reported during Polish-German conflict, in the early eleventh century. [086] They usually served under the German command in garrisons and strongholds of Eastern March.Sorbian vitezi were mentioned as defenders of Meissen in 1015, against Polish siege. [087] Vitezi called"Slavonici milites" were reported in estates of Corvey monastery, in the early twelfth century, most likely in the Altmark region. [088] As a distinct social group, they were still reported in some German documents as late as the early fifteenth century.Although, by that time they were reduced to peasantry, they still remained free. [089] Taking into consideration, that in the eleventh and twelfth century Empire, social boundaries were not clearly defined [090] , some vitezi must have been absorbed into German lower nobility.The rest, probably a majority of them, joined the townsfolk in growing cities or were reduced to dependent peasantry.

    The process of germanisation and adoption of "German Ways" by Polabian upper class, could be observed by usage of German and Christian first names.Already since the eleventh century

    many Polabians had adopted double names, such as Udo-Przybigniew, Henry-Przybysіaw, Henry-Boriwoj and others.Initialy, those Polabians who became Christians added their Christian to the Slavonic names.It has to be remembered that in medieval times only the names of recognised saint could have been given on baptism.With time, purely Slavic names disappeared from the records.Most likely for a while double names were still in usage but only in private life. [091] Good example are the sons of previously mentioned knight Bor, who both bore Germanic names of Wichard and Lutiger. [092] The process of germanization and christianisation of first names has yet another implication.In the context of Polabian region, a non-Slavic name did not necessary indicate a person of Germanic origin.A fine example is Johannes Parum Schulze, one of the last speakers of Northern Polabian dialect, who lived in the late eighteenth century in the Hanowerian Wendland region.How much more German would the name be than Hans Schultze ?. [093] And today, German given names and surnames are very common among many modern Sorbs who still live in Lusatia, and do not identify themselves with Germans [094]

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    Post Re: Germanisation of the land between the Elbe-Saale and the Oder rivers

    TOWNSFOLK The next social group which became germanised after the nobility were people who lived in urban centres. There is no doubt that by the twelfth century the Germans were more advanced than Polabian Slavs in all aspects of civilisation.They had relatively sophisticated administration, sound agriculture supported by new technologies, skilled craftsmen and a well organised trade system.This, for example is reflected in High Sorbian language, with a number of words borrowed from German.Examples are: "hмbl", a plane ( tool ) from German "hebel"; " №mirgl", emery ( stone used for polishing) from "schmergel", " №rub", a screw, from "schraube", etc. [095]

    Since the middle of the twelfth century, Germanic speaking colonists such as merchants, artisans and clergy settled in the old Slavic strongholds and centres, andsome new towns were founded.In two centuries that followed, they experienced a rapid growth and turned into major German commercial, manufacturing and administrative centres. [096] An important development was that such towns were chartered according to the Magdeburg Law.A town charter was a set of regulations defining autonomy, privileges, municipal adminstration, town setting and planning of further development.In the following centuries Magdeburg Law became a cornerstone of urbanisation not only of German but also other Central and Eastern European states. [097] But it has to be stressed again, that the overhelming majority of newly chartered towns were old Slavic centres existing before the conquest, with predominantly Slavic population.Over time, an influx of Germanic settlers and germanization of the locals transformed a linguistic balance in the towns of the East.

    A good example is Brandenburg where new German settlement "Neustadt" was founded on the northern bank of the Havel river, opposite the old Slavic quarter of "Altstadt". [098] The new town of Lьbeck was founded in 1143 nearby the old Slavic settlement of the same name.From the thirteenth century the port became a center of political and mercantile union of northern German towns known as the Hanseatic League. [099] Also, at Meissen, Slav inhabitants, mainly craftsmen, formed a significant proportion of the population. [100]

    The chartered towns provided certain freedoms not available for ordinary people elsewhere, hence were attractive for many new settlers.However, they were attractive not only for Germanic people, but no doubt for the Slavs as well.And in many cases urbanisation of the region was carried out by Slavic princes or nobility.

    In 1218, Rostock was chartered and given Lьbeck Law, by the Mecklenburgian prince Henry-Boriwoj, a grandson of Obodrite ruler Niklot. [101] Lьbeck Law was a basis of urban foundation in the region.However, its variations, known as Schwerin and Parchim Laws, were also common. [102] Till the late thirteenth century as many as thirty towns were chartered in the principality. [103] It is also worth notting that in Mecklenburgia a certain peculiar pattern emerged.Only Rostock and Wismar grew into a large urban centres, while a relatively large number of much smaller towns appeared inland. [104] This phenomenon was never researched and fully explained. It may well be that an old network of Slavic strongholds, "vicinatus" centres, became nuclei for later town developments. Whatever the case, it would be a topic worthy of investigation.

    Also the growth of towns can not be entirely attributed to Germanic immigration. It is reasonable to assume, that the freedoms and opportunities offered by towns must have appealed to many Polabian Slavs who wanted avoid feudal servitude.The following accounts suggest both internal and external immigration, at least in Mecklenburgia. First is a fragment of the foundation of Parchim in 1225/6, by prince Henry-Boriwoj II, a Niklot's great-grandson:



    "..we have commited the land of Parchim - aninhospitable, empty and trackless land- to Christiancolonists, inviting them from far and near". [105]



    Second, the foundation charter of Salzwedel in 1247:



    "we wish that whoever flocks to this new town, German peasants or Slavs, our tenants or those of anyone else, shall come before the judge of that town to answer..." [106]



    This evidence not only shows that the Polabian Slavs participated actively or passively in the process of economic and cultural transformation of the entire region, but also that in the case of the towns Kuhn's estimation has not much value at all.

    In towns across the Elbe and Saale, again the process of germanization was of a socio-economic nature.In growing towns of the east, the Germans formed a significant part of population and were a leading force of progress.For local Slavic craftsmen and merchants they were an example to follow.To advance and to be recognised by guilds in growing urban centres, Slavic townsfolk had to conduct their lives and work the German way.In the towns germanization pressure became more and more apparent from the late thirteenth century onward.The formalised discrimination appeared in the areas conquered first, that is western and central Sorbian lands.Special legislations were passed to speed up germanization and integration of the urban Slavs.The usage of the Slavic language in town courts was banned in Anhalt region in 1293, in Altenburg, Leipzig and Zwickau in 1327 and in Meissen in 1424. [107] Since the middle of the thirteenth century many guilds prohibited addmission of Slavs into their ranks.In Brandenburgia 28 out of 120 known guild statutes, from between the 13th and the middle of the seventeenth century, discriminated in such a way against the Polabians. [108] In the Lusatian town of Beeskow, since the fourteenth century, a cobbler guild was not admitting sons of barbers, linen-weavers, shepherds, Slavs, clergy or any person born out of wedlock. A baker guild, in the same town, required proof of Germanic descent. [109] A similar legislation was passed in Dresden in 1472 forbidding entry into trade guilds for non-Germans. [110] In reality such a law did not prevent Slavs from joining the guilds, as the examples from town of Bautzen show [111] ,but forced them to hide their Slavic background and this became a vital factor in the germanization process. By the fifteenth-sixteenth century, with exception of Lusatia (Sorbs), the urban Slavs in other towns ceased to be mentioned by historical sources and documents. This indicates that around that time they must have been assimilated by Germans. On the other hand, all those restrictive measures clearly indicate that the Slavic element formed a significant part of urban population long after the German conquest of the land.Otherwise such restrictive steps would not be necessary.

    It appears that there was no discriminatory policy on the imperial or ducal level.And not all lands and towns had discriminatory laws.For example, the weight of testiomony before the court of town of Wismar, in the thirteenth century, was dependent on wealth and status, not on the language spoken by the witness or accuser. [112] Sachsenspiegel, a compilation of customary Saxon laws from the thirteenth century, included provision for the non-German speaking people on the annexed Slavic lands. According to the document, a defendant, had to be accused in his or her own language.And the answer must be interpreted by accused representative, if it was not understood by judges. [113] For certain local cases there were two separate courts for the Saxons and Slavs, and in some legal cases the Slavs and Germans could not judge or testify against each other. [114] Such a dual lower jurisdiction in Saxony, was not necessarily a discrimination measure. To the contrary, it might have prevented the outcome of the case being affected by prejudice or interpretation mistakes.This duality, may appear strange for modern people, but in the Middle Ages, it existed not only in eastern Germany.In Castile and Aragon, in certain cases brought against Muslim person, Christians were not allowed to bear witness, but testimony of a respected Muslim was sought. [115]

    In some areas where the Germanic speaking population formed a small minority, some concessions to Slavic population were given in the religious sphere.In the early thirteenth century, in Szczecin, the Slavic speaking inhabitants of the city were assigned to St. Peter's, Germans to St. James Church.The division was not a strict rule and nearby villagers attended both churches. [116] In Upper Lusatia during the late thirteenth century in the Bautzen parish of St. Mary, it was prescribed that priest should be bi-lingual, or at least have a Slavic speaking cleric.Still the Church was German dominated, and the service, as elsewhere in Western Europe, conducted in Latin.The knowledge of Slavic was needed purely for sermons and for normal functioning of the parish, especially in contacts with parishioners. [117]




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