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Kashubian flag.svg
Kashubian flag
Total population
50,000 to 500,000
Regions with significant populations

Kashubian, Polish, among emigrés English, German


Catholicism (majority), Evangelical Lutheran (minority)

Related ethnic groups

Poles  · Slovincians  · Sorbs

Kashubians/Kaszubians (Kashubian: Kaszëbi, Polish: Kaszubi/ Kaszuby, German: Kaschuben), also called Kashubs, Kaszubians, Kassubians or Cassubians, are a West Slavic ethnic group in Pomerelia, north-central Poland. Their settlement area is referred to as Kashubia (Kashubian: Kaszëbë, Polish: Kaszuby, German: Kaschubei, Kaschubien).

They speak Kashubian, classified either as a language or a Polish dialect.[1][2] In analogy to the linguistic classification, Kashubians are considered either an ethnic or a linguistic group.[2]

Slovincians are grouped with the Kashubians as Pomeranians, similarly Slovincian and Kashubian are grouped as Pomeranian, with Slovincian being either a closely related language[3] or a Kashubian dialect.[4][5]


Modern Kashubia

Kashubian ethnic territory at the end of the twentieth century.

Among larger cities, Gdynia (Gdiniô) contains the largest proportion of people declaring Kashubian origin. However, the biggest city of the Kashubia region is Gdańsk (Gduńsk), the capital of the Pomeranian Voivodeship and the traditional capital of Kashubia. The traditional occupations of Kashubians were agriculture and fishing; today these are joined by the service and hospitality industry, and agrotourism especially in the so-called Kashubian Switzerland.

The main organization that maintains the Kashubian identity is the Kashubian-Pomeranian Association. The recently formed "Odroda" is also dedicated to the renewal of Kashubian culture.


Unofficial capital

The traditional capital was Gdańsk[6]. Today there are many cities which claim to be the capital: Kartuzy (Kartuzë)[7], Kościerzyna (Kòscérzëna)[8], Bytów (Bëtowò)[9] and Wejherowo (Wejrowò)[10].


Kashubian regional dress

The total number of Kashubians varies depending on one's definition. A common estimate is that over 300,000 people in Poland are of the Kashubian ethnicity. The most extreme estimates are as low as 50,000 or as high as 500,000.

In the Polish census of 2002, only 5,100 people declared Kashubian nationality, although 51,000 declared Kashubian as their native language. Most Kashubians declare Polish nationality and Kashubian ethnicity, and are considered both Polish and Kashubian. However, on the 2002 census there was no option to declare one nationality and a different ethnicity, or more than one nationality.


Coat of Arms


Kashubians are descendants of the Slavic Pomeranian tribes, who had settled between the Oder and Vistula Rivers after the Migration Period, and were at various times Polish and Danish vassals. While most Slavic Pomeranians were assimilated during the medieval German settlement of Pomerania (Ostsiedlung), especially in the Pomeranian Southeast (Pomerelia) some kept and developed their customs and became known as Kashubians or Wends. The oldest known mention of "Kashubia" dates from 19 March 1238 - Pope Gregor IX wrote about Bogislaw I dux Cassubie - the Duke of Kashubia. The old one dates from 13th century (a seal of Barnim I from the House of Pomerania, Duke of Pomerania-Stettin). The Dukes of Pomerania hence used "Duke of (the) Kashubia(ns)" in their titles, passing it to the Swedish Crown who succeeded in Swedish Pomerania when the House of Pomerania became extinct.

Administrative history of Kashubia

The westernmost (Slovincian) parts of Kashubia, located in the medieval Lands of Schlawe and Stolp and Lauenburg and Bütow Land, were integrated into the Duchy of Pomerania in 1317 and 1455, respectively, and stayed with its successors (Brandenburgian Pomerania and Prussian Pomerania) until 1945, when the area became Polish. The bulk of Kashubia since the 12th century was within the medieval Pomerelian duchies, since 1308 in the Monastic state of the Teutonic Knights, since 1466 within Royal Prussia, an autonomous territory of the Polish Crown, since 1772 within West Prussia, a Prussian province, since 1920 within the Polish Corridor of the Second Polish Republic, since 1939 within the Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia of Nazi Germany, and since 1945 within the People's Republic of Poland.

German and Polish impact

German Ostsiedlung in Kashubia was first initiated by the Pomerelian dukes[11] and focussed on the towns, whereas much of the countryside remained Kashubian.[12] An exception was the German settled Vistula delta[12] (Vistula Germans), the coastal regions,[11] and the Vistula valley.[11] Following the centuries of interaction between local German and Kashubian population, Aleksander Hilferding (1862) and Alfons Parczewski (1896) confirmed a progressive language shift in the Kashubian population from their Slavonic vernacular to the local German dialect (Low German Ostpommersch, Low German Low Prussian, or High German).[3]

On the other hand, Pomerelia since the Middle Ages was assigned to the Kuyavian Diocese of Leslau and thus retained Polish as the church language. Only the Slovincians in 1534 adopted Lutheranism after the Protestant Reformation had reached the Duchy of Pomerania,[13][14][15] while the Kashubes in Pomerelia remained Roman Catholic. The Prussian parliament (Landtag) in Königsberg changed the official church language from Polish to German in 1843, but this decision was soon repealed.

In the XIXth century the Kashubian activist Florian Ceynowa undertook efforts to identitfy Kashubian language, culture and traditions. He awakened Kashubian self-identity, thereby opposing both Germanisation and Prussian authority, and Polish nobility and clergy.[16] He believed in a separate Kashubian identity and strove for a Russian-led pan-Slavic federacy,[16] He considered Poles "born brothers"[17]. Ceynowa attempted to take the Prussian garrison in Preußisch Stargard (Starogard Gdański) during 1846[18], but the operation failed when his 100 combatants, armed only with scythes, decided to abandon the site before the attack was carried out.[19] Some later Kashubian activists rejected the idea of a separate Kashub nation and considered themselves a unique branch of the Polish nation, manifested in the words of Kashubian journalist and activist Hieronim Derdowski "There is no Cassubia without Poland, and no Poland without Cassubia" (Nie ma Kaszeb bez Polski a bez Kaszeb Polski")[17]. The Society of Young Kashubians has decided to follow in this way, and while they the sought to create a strong Kashubian identity, at the same time saw in Kashubs "One branch, of many, of the great Polish nation"[17]. The leader of the movement was Aleksander Majkowski, a doctor educated in Chełmno thanks to the Society of Educational Help in Chełmno. In 1912 he founded Towarzystwo Młodokaszubskie and started the newspaper "Gryf". Kashubs voted for Polish lists in elections, which strengthened the representation of Poles in the Pomerania region[17][20][21][22][23]). Due to their Catholic faith, the Kashubians were subject to Prussia's Kulturkampf in the late 19th century.[24] The Kashubians faced Germanization efforts, including those by Evangelic priests. Some German propagandist went as far to claim, that those who do not use German and only Polish are "half-human"[25]. Germanization efforts were successful in regions of the Lauenburg (Lębork) and Leba (Łeba), where the local population was influenced by Evangelic pastors and used the Gothic alphabet.[17] While resenting the disrespect shown by some Prussian officials and junkers, Kashubians lived in peaceful, multilingual coexistence with the local German population.[24] This peaceful coexistence lasted until World War II, although during the interbellum, the Kashubian ties to Poland were either overemphasized or neglected by Polish and German authors, respectively, in arguments regarding the Polish Corridor.[24]

During the Second World War, Kashubians were considered by the Nazis as being either of "German stock" or "extraction", or "inclined toward Germanness" and "capable of Germanisation", and thus classified third category of Deutsche Volksliste (German ethnic classification list) if possible ties to the Polish nation could be dissolved.[26] However, Kashubians who were suspected to support the Polish cause[24], particularly those with higher education,[24] were arrested and executed, the main place of executions being Piaśnica (Groß Plaßnitz),[27] where according 12,000 were executed.[28][29] The German administrator of the area Albert Forster considered Kashubians of "low value" and didn't support any attempts to create Kashubian nationality[30]. Some Kashubians organized anti-Nazi resistance groups, "Gryf Kaszubski" (later "Gryf Pomorski"), and the exiled "Zwiaziek Pomorski" in Great Britain.[24]

When integrated into Poland, those envisioning Kashubian autonomy faced a Communist regime striving for ethnic homogenity and presenting Kashubian culture as merely folklore.[24] Kashubians were sent to Silesian mines, where they met Silesians facing similar problems.[24] Lech Bądkowski from the Kashubian opposition became the first spokesperson of Solidarnosc.[24]


About 50,000 Kashubians speak Kashubian.

The classification as a language or dialect has been controversial.[2] From a diachronic point of view of historical linguistics, Kashubian like Slovincian, Polabian and Polish is a Lechitic West Slavic language, while from a synchronic point of view it is a group of Polish dialects.[2] Given the past nationalist interests of Germans and Poles in Kashubia, Barbour and Carmichel state: "As is always the case with the division of a dialect continuum into separate languages, there is scope here for manipulation".[2]

A "Standard" Kashubian language does not exist despite attempts to create one, rather a variety of dialects are spoken that differ significantly from each other.[2] The vocabulary is influenced by both German and Polish.[2]

There are other traditional Slavic ethnic groups inhabiting Pomerania, including the Kociewiacy, Borowiacy and Krajniacy. These dialects tend to fall between Kashubian and the Polish dialects of Greater Poland and Mazovia. This might indicate that they are not only descendants of ancient Pomeranians, but also of settlers who arrived in Pomerania from Greater Poland and Masovia in the Middle Ages. However, this is only one possible explanation.

In the 16th and 17th century Michael Brüggemann (also known as Pontanus or Michał Mostnik), Simon Krofey (Szimon Krofej) and J.M. Sporgius introduced Kashubian into the Lutheran Church.[31] Krofey, pastor in Bütow (Bytow), published a religious song book in 1586, written in Polish but also containing some Kashubian words.[31] Brüggemann, pastor in Schmolsin, published a Polish translation of some works of Martin Luther (catechism) and biblical texts, also containing Kashubian elements.[31] Other biblical texts were published in 1700 by Sporgius, pastor in Schmolsin.[31] His "Schmolsiner Perikopen", most of which is written in the same Polish-Kashubian style as Krofey's and Brüggemann's books, also contain small passages ("6th Sunday after Epiphany") written in pure Kashubian.[31] Scientific interest in the Kashubian language was sparked by Mrongovius (publications in 1823, 1828), Florian Ceynowa and the Russian linguist Aleksander Hilferding (1859, 1862), later followed by Biskupski (1883, 1891), G. Bronisch (1896, 1898), J. Mikkola (1897), Nitsch (1903). Important works are S. Ramult's, Słownik jezyka pomorskiego, czyli kaszubskiego, 1893, and Friedrich Lorentz, Slovinzische Grammatik, 1903, Slovinzische Texte, 1905, and Slovinzisches Wörterbuch, 1908.

The first activist of the Kashubian national movement was Florian Ceynowa. Among his accomplishments, he documented the Kashubian alphabet and grammar by 1879 and published a collection of ethnographic-historic stories of the life of the Kashubians (Skórb kaszébsko-slovjnckjé mòvé, 1866-1868). Another early writer in Kashubian was Hieronim Derdowski. The Young Kashubian movement followed, led by author Aleksander Majkowski, who wrote for the paper "Zrzësz Kaszëbskô" as part of the "Zrzëszincë" group. The group would contribute significantly to the development of the Kashubian literary language. Important writer in Kashubian was Bernard Sychta (1907-1982).


In 2005, Kashubian was for the first time made an official subject on the Polish matura exam (roughly equivalent to the English A-Level and French Baccalaureat). Despite an initial uptake of only 23 students,[citation needed] this development was seen as an important step in the official recognition and establishment of the language.

Today, in some towns and villages in northern Poland, Kashubian is the second language spoken after Polish, and it is taught in regional schools.

Since 2005 Kashubian enjoys legal protection in Poland as an official regional language. It is the only tongue in Poland with this status. It was granted by an act of the Polish Parliament on January 6, 2005.

Canadians wearing traditional Kashubian costumes in Wilno, Ontario, the oldest Polish settlement in Canada.

Old Kashubian culture has partially survived in architecture and folk crafts such as pottery, plaiting, embroidery, amber-working, sculpturing and glasspainting.


In 1858 Kashubians emigrated to Upper Canada and created the settlement of Wilno, in Renfrew County, Ontario, which still exists today. Kashub immigrants founded St. Josaphat parish in Chicago's Lincoln Park community in the late 19th century. In the 1870s a fishing village was established in Jones Island in Milwaukee, Wisconsin, by Kashubian immigrants. The settlers however did not hold deeds to the land, and the government of Milwaukee evicted them as squatters in the 1940s, with the area soon after turned into industrial park. The last trace of this Milwaukee fishing village that had been settled by Kaszubs on Jones Island is in the name of the smallest park in the city, Kaszube's Park.[32]

Kashubian Landscape Park, View from Tamowa Mountain, near Kartuzy and Lakes Kłodno, Białe, and Rekowo.

Notable Kashubians

  • Antoni Abraham (1869-1923) Kashubian representative to the Versailles Treaty, political activist and proponent of Polish Kashubia
  • Lech Bądkowski (1920-1984) writer, journalist, translator, political, cultural, and social activist
  • Józef Borzyszkowski (1946- ) historian, politician, founder of the Kashubian Institute
  • Florian Ceynowa (1817-1881) political activist, writer, linguist, and revolutionary
  • Nathan Darga, urban planner
  • Hieronim Derdowski (1852-1902) poet, humorist, journalist
  • Konstantyn Dominik (1870-1942) bishop
  • Jan Drzeżdżon (1937-1992) novelist
  • Günter Grass (1927- ) Nobel Prize-winning German author of Kashubian descent
  • Franciszek Grucza (1911-1993) writer, translator
  • Teodora Gulgowska née Fethke (1860-1959) painter, ethnographer, co-founder of the first open-air museum in Poland
  • Izydor Gulgowski (1874-1925) poet, ethnographer, co-founder of the first open-air museum in Poland
  • Stanisław Janke (1956- ) poet, novelist, translator
  • Zbigniew Jankowski actor, translator
  • Marian Jelinski (1949- ) translator, writer
  • Zenon Kitowski (1962- ) clarinet player
  • Józef Kos (1900-2007) World War I veteran
  • Gerard Labuda (1916- ) historian
  • Aleksander Majkowski (1876-1938) author, publicist, play writer, cultural activist
  • Mestwin II (1220-1294) ruler of united Eastern Pomerania
  • Marian Mokwa (1889-1987) maritime painter, traveller, social activist
  • Alojzy Nagel (1930-1998) poet
  • Augustyn Necel (1902-1976) novelist
  • Jerzy Samp (1951- ) writer, publicist, historian, and social activist
  • Wawrzyniec Samp (1939- ) sculptor and graphic artist
  • Franziska Schanzkowska (1896-1984) Also known as Anna Anderson, an impostor who claimed to be the daughter of Tsar Nicholas II
  • David Shulist cultural activist
  • Jerzy Stachurski (1953- ) poet, composer
  • Danuta Stenka (1961- ) actress
  • Abdon Stryszak (1908 - 1995) professor of veterinary medicine
  • Swantopolk II (1195-1266) powerful ruler of Eastern Pomerania
  • Bernard Sychta (1907-1982) poet, song-writer, lexicographer
  • Brunon Synak is a professor of sociology and a Kashubian activist
  • Jerzy Treder (1942- ) professor - Kashubian language
  • Jan Trepczyk (1907-1989) poet, song-writer, lexicographer and creator of the Polish-Kashubian dictionary
  • Donald Tusk (1957- ) historian, politician, leader of Platforma Obywatelska, Prime Minister of Poland
  • Ludwig Yorck von Wartenburg (1759-1830) Prussian Field Marshal of the Napoleonic era

See also


  1. ^ Harry Hulst, Georg Bossong, Eurotyp, Walter de Gruyter, 1999, p.837, ISBN 3110157500
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Stephen Barbour, Cathie Carmichael, Language and Nationalism in Europe, Oxford University Press, 2000, p.199, ISBN 0198236719
  3. ^ a b Dicky Gilbers, John A. Nerbonne, J. Schaeken, Languages in Contact, Rodopi, 2000, p.329, ISBN 9042013222
  4. ^ Christina Yurkiw Bethin, Slavic Prosody: Language Change and Phonological Theory, pp.160ff, Cambridge University Press, 1998, ISBN 0521591481
  5. ^ Edward Stankiewicz, The Accentual Patterns of the Slavic Languages, Stanford University Press, 1993, p.291, ISBN 0804720290
  6. ^ [1]
  7. ^ [2]
  8. ^ [3]
  9. ^ [4]
  10. ^ [5]
  11. ^ a b c Hartmut Boockmann, Ostpreussen und Westpreussen, Siedler 2002, p. 161,ISBN 3-88680-212-4
  12. ^ a b Klaus Herbers, Nikolas Jaspert, Grenzräume und Grenzüberschreitungen im Vergleich: Der Osten und der Westen des mittelalterlichen Lateineuropa, 2007, pp. 76ff, ISBN 3050041552
  13. ^ Werner Buchholz, Pommern, Siedler, 1999, pp.205-212, ISBN 3886802728
  14. ^ Richard du Moulin Eckart, Geschichte der deutschen Universitäten, Georg Olms Verlag, 1976, pp.111,112, ISBN 3487060787
  15. ^ Gerhard Krause, Horst Robert Balz, Gerhard Müller, Theologische Realenzyklopädie, Walter de Gruyter, 1997, pp.43ff, ISBN 3110154358
  16. ^ a b Jerzy Jan Lerski, Piotr Wróbel, Richard J. Kozicki, Historical Dictionary of Poland, 966-1945, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996, p.62, ISBN 0313260079
  17. ^ a b c d e Historia Polski 1795-1918 Andrzej Chwalba page 439
  18. ^ The Lands of Partitioned Poland, 1795-1918 (History of East Central Europe) Piotr S. Wandycz page 135
  19. ^ Ireneus Lakowski, Das behinderten-bildungswesen im Preussischen Osten: Ost-west-gefälle, Germanisierung und das Wirken des Pädagogen, LIT Verlag Berlin-Hamburg-Münster, 2001, pp.25ff, ISBN 382585261
  20. ^ Gdańskie Zeszyty Humanistyczne: Seria pomorzoznawcza Page 17, Wyższa Szkoła Pedagogiczna (Gdańsk). Wydział Humanistyczny, Instytut Bałtycki, Instytut Bałtycki (Poland) - 1967
  21. ^ Położenie mniejszości niemieckiej w Polsce 1918-1938 Page 183, Stanisław Potocki - 1969
  22. ^ Rocznik gdański organ Towarzystwa Przyjaciół Nauki i Sztuki w Gdańsku - page 100, 1983
  23. ^ Do niepodległości 1918, 1944/45, 1989: wizje, drogi, spełnienie page 43, Wojciech Wrzesiński - 1998
  24. ^ a b c d e f g h i Jozef Borzyszkowski in Hans-Henning Hahn, Peter Kunze, Nationale Minderheiten und staatliche Minderheitenpolitik in Deutschland im 19. Jahrhundert, Akademie Verlag, 1999, p.96, ISBN 3050033436
  25. ^ Historia Polski 1795-1918 Andrzej Chwalba page 440
  26. ^ Diemut Majer, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, "Non-Germans" Under the Third Reich: The Nazi Judicial and Administrative System in Germany and Occupied Eastern Europe with Special Regard to Occupied Poland, 1939-1945 Von Diemut Majer, United States Holocaust Memorial Museum, JHU Press, 2003, p.240, ISBN 0801864933
  27. ^ Official Polish Senate (Senat) website
  28. ^
  29. ^ "Erika z Rumii" Piotr Szubarczyk, IPN Bulletin 5(40) May 2004
  30. ^,6.htm
  31. ^ a b c d e Peter Hauptmann, Günther Schulz, Kirche im Osten: Studien zur osteuropäischen Kirchengeschichte und Kirchenkunde, Vandenhoeck & Ruprecht, 2000, pp.44ff, ISBN 3525563930 [6]
  32. ^ A small patch of green where land and water meet

Further reading

  • Synak, Brunon (December 1997). "The Kashubes during the post-communist transformation in Poland". Nationalities Papers 25 (4): 715–728. doi:10.1080/00905999708408536. 
  • The Kashubian Polish Community of Southeastern Minnesota (MN) (Images of America). July 2001. 
  • Borzyszkowski J.: The Kashubs, Pomerania and Gdańsk; [transl. by Tomasz Wicherkiewicz] Gdańsk : Instytut Kaszubski : Uniwersytet Gdański ; Elbląg : Elbląska Uczelnia Humanistyczno-Ekonomiczna, 2005, ISBN 83-89079-35-6
  • Obracht-Prondzyński C.: The Kashubs today : culture, language, identity; [transl. by Tomasz Wicherkiewicz] Gdańsk : Instytut Kaszubski, 2007, ISBN 978-83-89079-78-7
  • Szulist W.: Kaszubi w Ameryce : Szkice i materiały, MPiMK-P Wejherowo 2005 (English summary).

External links


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