Has anyone heard about the Wends (also called the Sorbs)?
I've recently been trying to figure out some of my family history. I've always thought I was mostly German, but it turns out that I'm about a third German and a third Wendish. For anyone who is wondering, the Wends are a small Slavic people group living mainly in areas of Germany, Poland and Czech republic. Several Wends immigrated in the 1800's to Australia, and others (like my ancestors) to Texas.
Because of this I've been really curious about the Wendish people (also called the Sorbs) and their language. So far I've learned mainly the basic information, but I was wondering if there's anyone who would be willing to share some more in-depth facts. I'm especially interested in their language, but anything about the Wends, their language, or their culture is great.
Thanks so much!
Wends and Sorbs are actually not the same. Wends originally was the name that Greeks and Romans gave to some of the barbaric people - not necessarily Slavic - people in their North. It was then adopted by the Germanic people as name for their neighbours to the East.
Sorbs are a Slavic national minority in the very East of Germany (with main cities Cottbus/Chóśebuz and Bautzen/Budyšin). Sorbs have their own language, or rather two: Upper Sorbian resembles Polish and Lower Sorbian the Czech language. Sorbs are the last remainders of the West Slavic peoples who settled the area between the rivers Elbe and Oder/Neiße. They were exterminated, expelled or assimilated by the Germans roughly 1000 years ago in the time of Kings Henry I. and Otto I. to III.
Nowadays there are only some 60,000 people who still call themselves Slavs. Their most prominent representative is the prime minister of the German Federal State of Saxonia, Stanislaw (!) Tillich. The fact that this once was Slavic territory can still be seen by the fact that many German town in the East and North have the ending "-ow", which is the Slavic ending for genitive plural.
Do you mean "Nowadays there are only some 60,000 people who still call themselves Sorbs?"
Correct. It is a small group of people and they struggle a lot to keep their identity and language. They managed to survive up to now as part of the territory is swamp land ("Spreewald") which was secluded from the surroundings. And in GDR as well as now they go subsidies from the state for cultural events, publishing books in their language etc.
As one of those few Wends/Sorbs remaining, though the word "Wend" has been applied to other groups throughout history, its only lay connotation today is Sorbians. However, Wendish is considered pejorative or at least old-fashioned, so Sorbian is preferred now. Though when looking at diaspora heritage groups, Wendish is likely to still be used (like the Texas Wendish Heritage Society).
Hello! There is one small mistake in your great post - it's Lower Sorbian that is more similar to Polish and Upper Sorbian (this one has more speakers) that is similar to Czech.
I don't know much, but you might be interested in the German children's book author Otfried Preußler. He picks up a number of Sorbian myths and fairy tales in some of his books, for example in "Krabat", "Der kleine Wassermann" or "Pumphutt und die Bettelkinder". I see you're learning German, so it might also be some nice practice for you.
I had a Wendish friend while in university. He told a great story about calling the German Consulate in Montreal and demanding to be served in Sorbian (apparently, there is a German law conferring a right to receive government services in Sorbian on request). It seems the Consulate had no Sorbian speakers handy (go figure) and, after a lengthy delay, put someone on the phone who spoke Polish, hoping that would be "good enough". Suffice it to say it wasn't. :-)
I am more familiar with the Wends than the Sorbs but I never realized they were the same tribe.
The Danes undertook a Wendish Crusade in the 11th or 12th century. I read an online magazine called the Medievalist that had an article about the Wendish Crusade entitled something along the lines of "Now this is how you kill a god", referring to the Chronicle's story of how the Christians brutally disposed of the Wendish pagan idols.
Sorry, but honestly, how can one be a third German and a third Wendish?
If you were born in the USA (and if so, your grandparents too) and grew up there, then you are simply American, to be honest.
I see what you're getting at, and I'm sure you know what I'm saying as well. I'm not denying the fact that I'm American, but simply saying that I can trace my family history back to Wends and Germans.
I recognize that different people will have different opinions on the matter, but I personally find it very interesting to learn more about my family history :)
Ah. Thanks for the explanation. Yeah, although saying you can trace your family history back to Wends and Germans is another thing than to say you're 1/3rd Wend, 1/3rd German, and such. I thought you meant that, instead of saying 'I have 1/3rd Wend, 1/3rd German and another heritage'.
The European concept of being X is quite different from the American one -- that is why I found your comment rather strange to say the least. There is a whole culture behind those terms.
This is very interesting to me. I am an American and I actually thought you were being rude to germanwannabee (which surprised me, given your reputation).
In the United States we can all tell you "where we came from", though it might not be accurate - you know how family stories can get warped and changed through the years. For example, all my life I was told I am Scots-Irish, Welsh, and Dutch. I've never been to any of those countries, but that is (supposedly) my heritage. I guess that's what comes from growing up in a country of immigrants.
That is true, yeah.
Most Europeans will go by the idea that if, for example, you say that you are Dutch, that then you have been born in the Netherlands, grew up there, know its culture, and speak its language. Similarly, a Hungarian would be someone born and grown up in Hungary, being familiar with its culture and able to speak its language, - Hungarian. This generally goes for the rest of the Old World as well; someone is X if he was born and grew up in X, has X's culture and speaks X's language (natively).
In the USA, that idea is different. Because people won't bother saying they 'have X-heritage' but instead directly say they 'are X'. Americans understand this, and it doesn't cause confusion between them both, because it is pretty much understood that way all over the US. That is logical, since they are a relatively recent country, built over the course of a few hundred years through immigration (and uh, some things better left unsaid for the controversy but that should be known). If it helps you understand each other, - that's good.
However, this idea of an ethnicity can cause confusion and anger to some Europeans, because it is - somewhat strangely worded - close to appropriation of a culture.
Let's take an interesting example: say that I clothe myself as an Indian, complete with feathers and boots and spears. Saying things like 'Ugh' and 'How'. Now, if I were to say I am an Indian, then I wouldn't be correct, because I do not know its culture wholly, nor speak one of their languages, or haven't grown up in it. I might be joking, though, and that is what I am, hehe. There can be more examples like what I just said, but it is to give an idea. It just comes off as extremely weird and sometimes slightly annoying to non-Americans.
Don't worry. Saying you're an Irish-Indian-Scottish-Native American American is fine, however weird it is. It can't always be true, however, and when you encounter non-Americans, be honest and perhaps add -heritage or something as a clarification. Don't view genetics as important - you determine who yourself you are. Have fun learning languages, that way you learn part of its culture too, and come closer to each other! :D
Osnakezz. I'd like to content your view. It my be true for your country, but in Germany we have now a lot of people, who were born here and yet have a main identity as Italians, Poles or Turks, where German is rather their citizenship or second identity. And there are many countries in Europe who have multiple identities, like your neighbours Belgium, where some people feel predominantly as Belgian, but many prefer to call themselves Flemish or Wallon, or Rumania with a strong Hungarian minority or Bulgaria, with a Turkish minority. In short, the question of identity is a very delicate one, often overshadowed by politics, and best left to the individual.
Yeah, when discussing my heritage, a lot of times I'll say something like "I am almost half German" when in reality most of my family has been in the USA for many generations.
I am interested too! Two of my great-grandparents emigrated from Czechoslovakia, (from what I think is now Slovakia, but I'm not sure) but they could have been from what is not the Czech Republic.
It depends when they emigrated. The very Eastern part of prewar Czechoslovakia was annexed by the Soviet Union ("Carpatho-Ukraine") and nowadays still belongs to the Ukraine. In that region there were Ukrainians, Huzul, Ruthenians, Jews, Germans, Romani, Slowak, Hungarians etc.. What a diversity of people.
If you are still looking, I'm actually working to preserve and reinvigorate Sorbian language, culture, and identity. I'd be happy to help teach you!
Hi I recently found out that some of my German ancestors that were born in Burg (Spreewald), Cottbus resided in Burg-Kauper a Lower Sorbian settlement. Quite interesting I found at least 3 generations born there between late 1700s and 1800s
Hi! I am Sorbian on my mother's side. You've probably already found the Wendish Heritage Societies in Texas and Australia, but they're certainly good jumping off points. If you do ever get a chance to visit the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum, it's worth the visit. And they hold a Wendish Festival the last Sunday? of September.