The Sorbs in Germany
Serby / Serbja / Sorbs
The Sorbs are the smallest Slavic people – they number around 60,000. Their ancestors are Slavic tribes who, in the course of the migration of peoples, settled the land between the Oder and Elbe/Saale, between the Baltic Sea and the German low mountain ranges more than 1400 years ago. After the loss of political independence in the 10th century, the Sorbs’ settlement area decreased through assimilation and targeted Germanization. Only the descendants of the Upper Lusatia Milzener and the Lower Lusatia Lusizer have managed to preserve their language and culture to the present day. The Sorbs/Wends are one of the four autochthonous minorities in Germany.
Serbska rěc / The Sorbian language
The Sorbian/Wendish language is one of the West Slavic languages and has retained some of the characteristics of Old Slavic. After the Reformation, several written forms of Sorbian emerged on different dialectal bases. By the middle of the 19th century, two of these languages had finally established themselves: the Upper Sorbian written language based on the dialect spoken around Bautzen as the binding norm in Sorbian-speaking public transport in Upper Lusatia, and Lower Sorbian based on the Cottbus dialect in Lower Lusatia. In the border area of Upper and Lower Sorbian, transitional dialects have emerged that combine elements of both Sorbian languages.
Serbska kultura – The Sorbian culture
began to flourish as a bourgeois culture in the mid-19th century. The Young Sorbian movement brought about an independent national consciousness, the Sorbian national rebirth. Like hardly any other people of comparable size, the Sorbs achieved remarkable achievements in art, culture and science.
Narodna drasta / The Sorbian costume
The traditional costume area in Sorbian Lusatia is one of the largest in Germany. Four of the former eleven regional forms are still alive today: in the north near Cottbus, in the central part of Lusatia around Hoyerswerda and Schleife and in the south in the Catholic villages west of Bautzen.
For a very few older women (today in 2022 they might be only 10 left) the traditional costume is still everyday clothing, but for many younger women and girls it is primarily festive clothing and a visible expression of their identity, e.g. B. to religious festivals. After the political change, the costumes of the Sorbs in Lusatia experienced a kind of renaissance. In many places, homeland and traditional costume associations were established.
Serbske nałogi / Serbske nałožki – The Sorbian customs & traditions
The Sorbian customs, like many Slavic customs, are of pagan origin and are still very popular with the Sorbs in a modified form, although there are territorial differences. Many customs and customs are grouped around main Christian festivals (Christmas and Easter) or are part of the farmer’s working year. Widespread are winter and spring customs such as bird weddings, Wendish carnival, Easter bonfires and witch burnings, erecting and throwing the maypole, or harvest customs such as rooster plucking, rooster beating, stubble riding and wreath-making.
On these occasions, the young girls often wear their festive costumes.
You can download the brochure “Sorbian Customs in the Annual Circle” as a PDF here.
Source: „Die Sorben in Deutschland“, herausgegeben von der Stiftung für das sorbische Volk, 1999