Lusatia: Wikis


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Geograhic location of Lusatia

Lusatia (German: Lausitz, Upper Sorbian: Łužica, Lower Sorbian: Łužyca, Polish: Łużyce, Czech: Lužice) is a historical region between the Bóbr and Kwisa rivers and the Elbe river in the eastern German states of Saxony and Brandenburg and south-western Poland (Lower Silesian Voivodeship).

The name derives from a Sorbian word meaning "swamps" or "water-hole".



Upper Lusatia

Upper Lusatia (Oberlausitz or Hornja Łužica) is today part of the German state of Saxony, except for a small part east of the Neisse River, which is now Polish. It consists of hilly countryside rising in the South to the Lausitzer Bergland (Lusatian hills) near the Czech border, and then even higher to form the Zittau Mountains, the small northern part of the Lusatian Mountains (Lužické hory/Lausitzer Gebirge) in the Czech Republic.

Upper Lusatia is characterised by fertile soil and undulating hills as well as by historic towns and cities such as Bautzen, Görlitz, Zittau, Löbau, Kamenz, Lubań, Bischofswerda, Herrnhut, Hoyerswerda, Bad Muskau. Many villages in the very south of Upper Lusatia contain a typical attraction of the region, the so-called Umgebindehäuser, half-timbered-houses representing a combination of Franconian and Slavic style. Among those villages are Niedercunnersdorf, Obercunnersdorf, Wehrsdorf, Jonsdorf, Sohland an der Spree, Taubenheim, Oppach, Varnsdorf or Ebersbach.

Lower Lusatia

Most of the area belonging to the German state of Brandenburg today is called Lower Lusatia (Niederlausitz or Dolna Łužyca) and is characterised by forests and meadows. In the course of much of the 19th and the entire 20th century, it was shaped by the lignite industry and extensive open-pit mining. Important towns include Cottbus, Lübben, Lübbenau, Spremberg, Finsterwalde, and Senftenberg - Zły Komorow.

Between Upper and Lower Lusatia is a region called Grenzwall, meaning 'border-wall'. In the Middle Ages this area had dense forests, so it represented a major obstacle to civilian and military traffic. Some of the region's villages were damaged or destroyed by the open-pit lignite mining industry managed by Communist East Germany. Some, now exhausted, former open-pit mines are now being converted into artificial lakes, with much hope to attract vacationers, and the area is now being referred to as Lausitzer Seenland ('Lusatian Lakeland').

Recultivation and flooding of a former lignite mine north of Klinge, near Cottbus

Lusatian capitals

Lusatia is not and was never a single administrative unit. Upper and Lower Lusatia have different but in some aspects similar histories. The city of Cottbus is the largest in the region. Historically, Luckau was the capital of Lower Lusatia. Bautzen is the historical capital of Upper Lusatia.

Sorbian-Lusatian people

The bilingual part of Lusatia, where the Sorbs make more than 10% of the population)

More than 60,000 of the Sorbian Slavic minority continue to live in the region. Historically their ancestors are the Milceni and the Lusitzer, and not the Sorbs, that settled in the region between Elbe and Saale. Many still speak their language (though numbers are dwindling and Lower Sorbian especially is considered endangered), and road signs are usually bilingual. However, note that the number of all the inhabitants of this part of eastern Saxony is fast declining, 20% in the last 10 to 15 years. Sorbians try to protect their typical culture shown in traditional clothes and the style of village houses. The coal industry in the region, needing vast areas of land, destroyed dozens of Lusatian villages in the past and threatens some of them even now. The Sorbian language is taught in many primary and some secondary schools and at two universities (Leipzig and Prague). Project "Witaj" ("welcome!") is a project of eight preschools where Sorbian is currently the main language for a few hundred Lusatian children.

There is a daily newspaper in the Sorbian language (Serbske Nowiny); a Sorbian radio station (Serbski Rozhłós) uses local frequencies of two otherwise German speaking radio stations for several hours a day. There are very limited programs on television (once a month) in Sorbian on two regional television stations (RBB and MDR tv).


According to the earliest records, the area was settled by Celtic tribes. Later, around 100 BC, the Germanic tribe of the Semnones settled in that area. Around AD 600 a Slavic people known as the Milceni settled permanently in the region.

As part of the Frankish Empire under Charlemagne the territory was administered as Gaus.

With the first Poles in about 928, Germans and Poles began struggling for administration of the region, but Lusatia fell to several Czech states instead: Samo's Empire, Great Moravia, and the Kingdom of Bohemia.

Margrave of Lausitz Gero II, lost Lusatia in 1002, the year the Emperor Otto III died, and the Polish Duke Boleslaw I took the region in his conquests. Lusatia became part of his territory in 1018 until it was regained by the Saxon German rulers and the principalities of Meissen and Brandenburg less than twenty years later.

In 1076 Emperor Henry IV of the Holy Roman Empire awarded Lusatia as a fief to the Bohemian duke Vratislav II. Around 1200 large numbers of German settlers came to Lusatia, settling in the forested areas yet not settled by the Slavs.

Following the Lutheran Reformation, Lusatia became Protestant but especially the Sorbs stayed mainly Catholic till today.

Upper Lusatia remained under Bohemian rule until the Thirty Years' War when it became part of Saxony.

Saxon rule

In 1635 most of Lusatia became a province of Saxony, except for a region around Cottbus possessed since 1462 by Brandenburg. After the Elector of Saxony was elected king of Poland in 1697, Lusatia became strategically important as the electors-kings sought to create a land connection between their Polish and Saxon realms.

Herrnhut, between Löbau and Zittau, founded in 1722 by religious refugees from Moravia on the estate of Count von Zinzendorf became the starting point of the organized Protestant missionary movement in 1732 and missionaries went out from the Moravian Church in Herrnhut to all corners of the world to share the Gospel.

In 1815 Upper Lusatia was divided, with the eastern part around Görlitz now belonging to Prussia. The Congress of Vienna in 1815, awarded most of Lusatia to the Kingdom of Prussia, except for the southern part that included Löbau, Kamenz, Bautzen and Zittau, all of which remained part of Saxony. The Lusatians in Prussia demanded that their land become a distinct administrative unit (province or region/Bezirk), but it was divided between several Prussian provinces instead.

Prussian rule

The 19th and early 20th centuries, under Prussian rule, witnessed an era of cultural revival for Slavic Lusatians. The modern languages of Upper and Lower Lusatian (or Sorbian) emerged, national literature flourished, and many national organizations like Maćica Serbska and Domowina were founded.

Third Reich

This era came to an end during the Nazi regime in Germany, when all Sorbian-Lusatian organizations were abolished and forbidden, the newspapers and magazines closed, and any use of the Sorbian-Lusatian languages was prohibited. During World War II, most Lusatian activists were arrested, executed, exiled or sent as political prisoners to concentration camps where most of them died. From 1942 to 1944 the underground Lusatian National Committee was formed and was active in Nazi-occupied Warsaw. After World War II, however, Lusatia was divided between East Germany and Poland along the Neisse River. Poland's communist government expelled all Germans and Sorbs from the area east of the Neisse River during 1945 and 1946.

Since 1945

There have been endeavours by Sorbs to create a Lusatian Free State in the past -- particularly after World War II, when the Sorbian National Committee demanded the attachment of Lusatia to Czechoslovakia and the Expulsion of the German majority. The Domowina however opposed this idea and favoured a future inside Germany.

In 1945, the eastern part of Lusatia rejoined Saxony and in 1952, when the state of Saxony was divided into three administrative areas, Upper Lusatia became part of the Dresden administrative region. In 1990, the state of Saxony was reestablished.

In 1950, the Sorbs obtained language and cultural autonomy within the then East German state of Saxony. Lusatian schools and magazines were launched and the Domowina association was revived, although under increasing political control of the ruling Communist Party. The local institutions supported the revival of regional Sorbian-Lusatian arts and culture. At the same time, the large German-speaking majority of the Upper Lusatian population kept up a considerable degree of local, 'Upper Lusatian' patriotism of its own. An attempt to establish a Upper Lusatian land within the Federal Republic of Germany failed after the German reunification in 1990. The constitutions of Saxony and Brandenburg guarantee cultural autonomy to the Slavic speaking communities. In 2005 Sorbian activists founded the Sorbian People's Party (Serbska Ludowa Strona - SLS).

Demographics according to the 1900 census

Share of Sorbs:

Total number: 93,032

The number of Sorbs in Lusatia has decreased since the 1900 census due to intermarriage, cultural assimilation related to industrialization and urbanization, Nazi suppression and discrimination, and the settlement of expelled Germans after World War II, mainly from Lower Silesia and Northern Bohemia.

See also

External links

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

LUSATIA (Ger. Lausitz), a name applied to two neighbouring districts in Germany, Upper and Lower Lusatia, belonging now xvIl. 5 mainly to Prussia, but partly to Saxony. The name is taken from the Lusitzi, a Slav tribe, who inhabited Lower Lusatia in the 9th and 10th centuries.

In the earliest times Lower Lusatia reached from the Black Elster to the Spree; its inhabitants, the Lusitzi, were conquered by the German king, Henry the Fowler, and by the margrave Gero in the 10th century. Their land was formed into a separate march, which for about three centuries was sometimes attached to, and sometimes independent of, the margraviate of Meissen, its rulers being occasionally called margraves of Lusatia. In 1303 it was purchased by the margrave of Brandenburg, and after other changes it fell in 1368 into the hands of the king of Bohemia, the emperor Charles IV., who already possessed Upper Lusatia. During the Hussite wars its people remained loyal to the Roman Catholic Church. In 1469 they recognized Matthias Corvinus, king of Hungary, as their sovereign, but in 1490 they came again under the rule of the Bohemian king.

The district now known as Upper Lusatia was occupied by a Slav tribe, the Milzeni, who like the Lusitzi, were subdued by Henry the Fowler early in the 10th century. For about three centuries it was called Baudissin (Bautzen), from the name of its principal fortress. In the 11th and 12th centuries it was connected at different periods with Meissen, Poland and Bohemia. Towards 1 r 60 the emperor Frederick I. granted it to Ladislas, king of Bohemia, and under this ruler and his immediate successors it was largely colonized by German immigrants. In 1253 it passed to the margrave of Brandenburg, and about the same time it was divided into an eastern and a western part, Baudissin proper and Gorlitz. In 1319 the former was restored to Bohemia, which also recovered Gorlitz in 1329. During the 14th century the nobles and the townsmen began to take part in the government, and about this time Upper Lusatia was known as the district of the six towns (Sechsstddtelandes), these being Bautzen, Gorlitz, Zittau, Lobau, Lauban and Kamenz. From 1377 to 1396 Gorlitz was a separate duchy ruled by John, a son of the emperor Charles IV., and, like Lower Lusatia, Upper Lusatia owned the authority of Matthias Corvinus from 1469 to 1490, both districts passing a little later with the kingdoms of Hungary and Bohemia to the German king, Ferdinand I. The "six towns" were severely punished for their share in the war of the league of Schmalkalden, and about this time the reformed teaching made very rapid progress in Lusatia, the majority of the inhabitants becoming Protestants. The name of Lusatia hitherto confined to Lower Lusatia, was soon applied to both districts, the adjectives Upper and Lower being used to distinguish them. In 1620, early in the Thirty Years' War, the two Lusatias were conquered by the elector of Saxony, John George I., who was allowed to keep them as the price of his assistance to the emperor Ferdinand I. In 1635 by the treaty of Prague they were definitely transferred from Bohemia to Saxony, although the emperor as king of Bohemia retained a certain supremacy for the purpose of guarding the rights and privileges of the Roman Catholics. They suffered much during the wars of the 18th century. By the peace of Vienna (1815) the whole of Lower Lusatia and part of Upper Lusatia were transferred from Saxony to Prussia.

The area of the part of Upper Lusatia retained by Saxony was slightly increased in 1845; it is now about 960 sq. m. In 1900 Lower Lusatia contained 461,973 inhabitants, of whom 34,837 were Wends; the portion of Upper Lusatia belonging to Prussia had 305,080 inhabitants, of whom 24,361 were Wends. There were 405,173 inhabitants, including 28,234 Wends, in Saxon Upper Lusatia. Laws relating to this district, after passing through the Saxon parliament must be submitted to the Lusatian diet at Bautzen. The chief towns of Upper Lusatia are Bautzen, Zittau, Lobau, Kamenz, Gorlitz, Rothenburg, Hoyerswerda and Lauban; in Lower Lusatia they are Guben, Kottbus, Forst, Lubben and Spremberg. The principal rivers are the Spree with its tributaries, the Black Elster and the Neisse. Upper Lusatia is generally mountainous and picturesque, Lower Lusatia is flat and sandy. The chief industries are linen weaving, cloth making and coal mining.

For the history of Lusatia see the collections, Scriptores rerum Lusaticarum antiqui et recentiores, edited by C. G. Hoffmann (4 vols., Leipzig and Bautzen, 1719); and Scriptores rerum Lusaticarum (4 vols., Gorlitz, 1839-1870). See also W. Lippert, Wettiner and Wittelsbacher sowie die Niederlausitz im 14 Jahrhundert (Dresden, 1894); T. Scheltz, Gesamtgeschichte der Oberand Niederlausitz, Band i. (Halle, 1847), Band ii. (Gorlitz, 1882); J. G. Worbs, Urkundenbuch zur Geschichte des Markgraftums Niederlausitz (Liibben, 1897); and J. A. E. Kohler, Die Geschichte der Oberlausitz (Gorlitz, 1867).

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Up to date as of January 15, 2010

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Proper noun




  1. A region in Central Europe, belonging to Germany and, to lesser extents, Poland and the Czech Republic.


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