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Masurian (Polish: Mazurski; German: Masurisch) was a dialect of the Polish language, spoken by Masurians in East Prussia, today Poland, which were descendants of Masovians.

Since the 14th century, some settlers from Masovia started to settle in southern Prussia, which had been devastated by the crusades of the Teutonic Knights against the native Old Prussians. According to other sources, people from Masovia did not move to southern Prussia until the time of the Protestant Reformation, Prussia having become Lutheran in 1525. The Masurians were mostly of the Protestant faith, in contrast to the neighboring Roman Catholic people of the Duchy of Masovia, which was incorporated into the Polish kingdom in 1526. A new dialect developed in Prussia, isolated from the remaining Polish language area. The Masurian dialect has many German and Old Prussian words mixed in with Polish-language endings.

Beginning in the 1870s, Imperial German officials restricted the usage of languages other than German in Prussia's eastern provinces.[1] While in 1880 Masurians were still treated as Poles by German Empire, at the turn of century the German authorities undertook several measures to Germanise and separate them from the Polish nation by creating a separate identity.[2] After World War I the East Prussian plebiscite was held on July 11, 1920 according to the Treaty of Versailles, in which the Masurians had to decide whether they wanted to be part of the Second Polish Republic or remain in German East Prussia; about 98% voted for Germany.

By the early 20th century, most Masurians were at least bilingual and could speak German; in some areas about half of them still spoke Masurian, at least at home. In 1925, only 40,869 people gave Masurian as their native tongue, many considering German their first language, considering Masurian merely as their domestic dialect.

The replacement of Masurian in favor of German was not completed by the time the Soviet Red Army conquered Masurian East Prussia in January, 1945 during World War II. The territory was transferred to Poland according to the postwar Potsdam Conference. During the wartime fighting and post-war deportations in the subsequent decades, most Masurian-speakers left Masuria for western Germany, especially to post-war West Germany, where they were quickly assimilated into the German mainstream. As a result the Masurian dialect virtually died out.[3]

See also

References

  1. ^ Clark, Christopher (2006). Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600–1947. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard. pp. 776. ISBN 067402385-4.  
  2. ^ Becoming German: Lessons from the Past for the Present Brian McCook in Leitkultur and Nationalstolz-Tabu -German Phenomena? Bonn, April 2002 Alexander von Humboldt Foundation pages 33-42
  3. ^ Ulrich Mai (2005). "Masuren" (in German). http://books.google.de/books?id=ESojltnGn38C&pg=PA77&lpg=PA77&dq=evangelische+masuren&source=bl&ots=bVQLScdsAn&sig=fZyB53MZ9Du9-QaWXZ_fnzduHeQ&hl=de&ei=jTgaSpWuAoKS_QbYk_3gDA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10#PPA227,M1. Retrieved 2009-05-25.  
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