Sorbs (Wends) in the Spreewald
The Sorbs/Wends form part of the Slavic tribes which settled in the Spreewald in the 6th century and remain inseparably linked to the region to this day.
Visitors to the Spreewald are often struck by the bilingual signs visible in many places. The Slavic settlers (Sorbs) put down roots here after the great migration in the 6th century. The Slavic fortifications still stand witness to this settlement.
Sorbs and Wends, what is the difference?
The name "Sorb" is borrowed from the Slavic word "Serby" and it designates one of the roughly 20 Slavic tribes that settled in the Spreewald. The term "Wends" stems from Roman times and it has survived till modern times, encompassing all Slavic tribes. Both terms are used synonymously nowadays.
Integration of the Sorbs into the German empire
As the Sorbs did not succeed in founding their own state after their migration, they were integrated into the German empire over the course of the centuries. Around 1200, German farmers, merchants and craftsmen also settled in the region and mixed with the Slavic tribe of the Sorbs.
Today's Sorbs in the Spreewald
At the beginning of the 18th century, a greater number of German-speaking teachers were employed in the schools with the result that the Sorbian language was increasingly suppressed. At present there are still 60,000 Sorbs in the Lausitz region of whom only a few still speak their Sorbian mother tongue. Only the older generations still cultivate the language in Sorbian customs and events in the Spreewald.
With the rising awareness of tradition, the Sorbian language is being reintroduced in schools as an optional subject.