Culture of the
Sorbs (Wends)

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I collected some informations about the Sorbs and arranged them here.

Additionally some more interesting links to internet pages about the Sorbs:

The Sorbian culture today

In the state of Brandenburg live about 20.000 Sorbs (Wends), part of the west slavonic people of the Sorbs, which covers about 60.000 persons altogether and settles in all other respects in the Upper Lausitz in the Free State Saxonia (40.000 Sorben).
The Sorbs live in the Lausitz since the sixth Century. They do not have a "motherland" in contrary to other national minorities (e.g. Danes in Schleswig-Holstein) outside of the German boundaries.
The sorbian people could keep its own identity through the history and was able to resit the diversest attempts of assimilation. Particularly in the NS time it was threatened in its existence. In the GDR time the sorbian people experienced a special national allowance, however this occurred at the price of large subordination of sorbian organizations under the supremacy of the SED. Thus was combined with the loss of political, cultural and confessional plurality.
Today the Sorbs of the Lower Lausitz, which call themselves also as Wends, are under the special protection of the constitution of the state of Brandenburg.
Today's Sorbian national culture is based on the traditional Sorbian national culture of Upper and Lower Lausitz. Sorbs and Germans are particularly dedicated to preserving Sorbian national culture in the genres of music, dance, literature and the fine arts, and Sorbian and German amateur artists have worked closely together to develop this culture.
There are:
  • Choirs and choral societies
  • traditional costume societies
  • dance groups
  • ensembles (vocal, dance and instrumental groups)
  • amateur theatrical societies
  • an amateur writers' association
  • textiles, painting and ceramics associations
Competitions and workshops, continual commissions by the Institute for Sorbian National Culture and a supporting role by the Sorbian National Ensemble continue to preserve and promote Sorbian national Culture. The results of these efforts are outstanding achievements such as the competition organised each year by the Institute for Sorbian National Culture for the most beautiful Sorbian Easter egg, or the diverse range of works by individual artists in the field of national art, which bear comparison with the works of professional artists. An important vehicle for preserving Sorbian national culture for subsequent generations is provided by the festival of Sorbian children's theatre and young reciters and the festival of Sorbian children's songs and Sorbian music, which are traditionally organised by the Institute for Sorbian National Culture each year on an alternating basis. Dance performances, amateur theatrical productions, choral concerts, exhibitions of Sorbian national art and presentation of the customs and traditions of Sorbian ethnic regions by village communities provide groups and individuals alike with excellent opportunities to present their ethnic work.

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Region of the catholic Sorbs

The region of the Catholic Sorbs comprises 85 parishes and districts in the areas of Bautzen/Budysin, Kamenz/Kamjenc and Hoyerswerda/Wojerecy. The dominions of Marienstern monastery near Kamenz and the cathedral chapter of St. Petri in Bautzen have been the mainstays for the survival of Catholicism in the region beyond the age of the Reformation and up to the present day. The Sorbs account for well over half the current population of the region. Originally, they lived primarily from agriculture and, to a lesser extent, from pond fish farming. In the small town of Wittichenau/Kulow, which was populated by townsmen who farmed smallholdings, the manufacturing sector then started to intensify, alongside handicrafts. Today, the population lives from agriculture, the surrounding industry and the service sector.

Special ethnic features include:
- Upper Sorbian language region with Sorbian schools,
- independent traditional costume (varies for different purposes), still worn by some children and young people today; apart from preserving customs, the traditional costumes are also worn above all for church festivals and events such as first communion, confirmation, Corpus Christi and pilgrimages; this is the only Sorbian costume region in which mamages still take place in traditional costume, observing the appropriate customs; typical features of the Catholic Sorbs' costume are beadwork for festive costumes and flat stitch embroidery,
- customs throughout the year (still practised today): Marriage of the birds / Vogelhochzeit (25th January) [Children's custom depicting the birds' thank-you for having been fed through the winter months], Easter riding on Easter Sunday, witch burning (30th April), maypole dancing and hurling, singing on St. Martin's and St. Nicholas' Day, fairs or procession around the "Borborka" (Sollschwitz/Sulsecy near Wittichenau/Kulow) and the "Miklaws" at Christmas time.

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The Sorbs in the region Schleife (Slepo)

The Schleife/Slepo region is comprised of 7 towns and villages, with Sorbs accounting for around one third of the population. Formerly part of the mediatised princedom of Muskau/Muzakow, the Schleife/Slepo area, which is situated to the north-west of Weisswasser/Bela Woda, is similar to Lower Lausitz in terms of language, customs, and indeed the overall character of its national culture. The people of this region traditionally lived from forestry and agricultural work, but today's main employer is the coal mining industry, which has made considerable inroads into the Schleife/Slepo folklore region, and remnants of the glass industry.

Special ethnic features include:
- special ethnic architecture (log construction, clinker construction),
- independent Schleife dialect,
- independent traditional costume region (diverse variations for different purposes and from village to village, still worn by some older women); the embroidery on the Schleife costumes largely preserves the character of traditional ethnic work, and is to be found primanly in the form of hemstitching, white eyelet embroidery and black cross-stitch work on tuckers, headscarves and chin straps,
- traditional ethnic music with the Sorbian bagpipes, the small and large Sorbian fiddle (e.g. in the Schleife Sorbian folklore ensemble),
- customs throughout the year (some still practised) include: Zampern [a traditional Carnival custom depicting the driving out of winter], Easter fire, Easter singing, Easter egg decoration according to family tradition, maypole dancing, cock-beating, cock-plucking, Spinte (the "Spinte", or spinning room, was an important place of singing for the Sorbian people) or procession around the "dzecetko" in the season of Advent (present-giving ceremony; vanes from village to village).

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The Sorbs in the region Hoyerswerda (Wojerecy)

The Hoyerswerda/Wojerecy region today comprises 25 towns and villages, of which Sorbs account for around one quarter of the population. In 1880 the region was still populated almost exclusively by Sorbian villagers. The King- dom of Saxony lost the region to Prussia at the Congress of Vienna, and today it belongs to the north-eastern part of the Free State of Saxony. The special features of this region characterise Sorbian middle Lausitz. In former times, the population lived from agriculture and village handicrafts. Today, life in the region around Hoyerswerda/Wojerecy is dominated by coal mining.

Special ethnic features include:
- Intermediate dialect between Upper and Lower Lausitz,
- independent traditional costume region (varies for different purposes and from village to village, still worn by some old women today); embroidery work on the traditional Hoyerswerder costumes worn by the Sorbian peasant population primarily takes the form of cross-stitch work, eyelet embroidery, embroidered tulle and flat stitch embroidery,
- village traditions have been preserved (for decades, by the most diverse generations, e.g. in Bröthen/Michalken-Bretnjo/Michalki),
- customs throughout the year (some still practised) include: fasting night (to drive out the winter), Good Friday and Easter singing, decoration of Easter eggs, maypole dancing and hurling, harvest-time customs, such as, stollen riding stubble riding or potato ball, "Spinte"/"Spinteball", procession around the dzecatko (present-giving) at Christmas time or Christmas singing.

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The Sorbs in the Lower Lausitz (Dolna Luzyca)

The Lower Sorbian region is comprised of over 60 towns and villages, and only a minority of the Sorbs/Wends living in this area are able to speak the Sorbian language. The Lower Sorbian population originally lived primarily from agriculture and fish farming. In Spreewald, part of Lower Lausitz, tourism continues to be an important source of income to this day. Concentrated coal mining operations are today destroying the Lower Sorbians' village communities.

Special ethnic features include:
- Lower Sorbian language region (now spoken almost exclusively by the older generation), a Lower Sorbian high school and Lower Sorbian language school serve to preserve the traditional language,
- independent traditional costume area (varies for different purposes and from village to village, still worn by some older people, and by the young generation to preserve old customs, traditional costumes are decorated with flat stitch embroidery, which is to be found primarily on skirt ribbons, aprons, neck scarves and parts of the large head scarves; white embroidery is also to be found in charming motifs; a characteristic feature of the Lower Sorbs' traditional costume is the "lapa" (hood or tucked-in head scarf), which varies in size and shape from village to village,
- customs throughout the year (some still practised) include: Zapust [traditional fasting night when traditional costume is worn], Easter fire, harvest-time customs, such as cock-beating, cock-plucking, stubble riding and frog-carting or at Christmas time,"Jansojski bog" visits the children in Jänschwalde/Jansojce near Cottbus/Chosebuz.

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