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Total population
several million[1] (about 0.2 million official declared Silesian nationality in national census in Poland and Czech. However, these data are incomplete. The frauds existed during the census in Poland. Addition, in the census did not take all persons and national census in Germany did not take place)
Regions with significant populations
Germany: 3,600,000 Silesians (1950), about 2.4 million Silesians in West Germany in 1970[2]
Poland: 173,200[3] Silesian nationality declarations (2002), under 2 million if other nationality declarations are included
Czech Republic: 10,878[4] Silesian nationality declarations (2001), several hundred thousand if other nationality declarations are included
Germany: unknown (but minimum 1 million)

Silesian, Polish, German, Czech.


Roman Catholicism, Lutheran Protestantism

Related ethnic groups

Poles, Czechs, Sorbs, Other West Slavs, Germans, Austrians

Woman in Silesian dress from Cieszyn Silesia, 1914
Folk outfits from Lower Silesia
"Ślůnsko nacyjo bůła, je i bydzie", it means "Silesian Nation was, is, and will be" - IIIrd Authonomy March, Katowice, 18.07.2009

Silesians (Silesian: Ślůnzoki; Polish: Ślązacy; Czech: Slezané; German: Schlesier, Silesian German: Schläsinger), are the inhabitants of Silesia in Poland, Germany and the Czech Republic.

There has been some debate over whether or not the Silesians (historically Upper Silesians) constitute a distinct nation. In modern history, they have been often pressured to declare themselves to be either German or Polish and embrace the language of the current governing nation. Nevertheless, more than 170,000 people declared Silesian nationality in the Polish national census in 2002[5], making them the largest minority group in Poland alongside the German minority (93% of Germans in Poland live in the Polish part of Silesia), while more than 10,000 people declared Silesian nationality in the Czech national census in 2001[6].

The term Silesian can also be applied in a more general manner to describe an inhabitant of Silesia, regardless of ethnicity.



Inhabited from time immemorial and exceptionally rich in natural resources, Silesia has been long contested by various peoples, states and principalities. The constant shifting of Silesia between (alphabetically) Austrian, Czech, German and Polish control over several centuries resulted in the Silesians developing a separate culture that borrowed heavily from (alphabetically) Czech, German and Polish (and vice versa).

In the Middle Ages, Silesia was a Piast duchy, which subsequently became a possession of the Bohemian crown under the Holy Roman Empire in the 14th century and passed with that crown to the Habsburg Monarchy of Austria in 1526. In 1742, most of Silesia was seized by King Frederick the Great of Prussia in the War of the Austrian Succession. This part of Silesia constituted the Province of Silesia (later the Prussian provinces of Upper and Lower Silesia) until 1945.

Following World War II, the vast majority of the region of Silesia was incorporated into Poland, with smaller regions remaining in the German Democrat Republic and Czechoslovakia. Millions of Germans inhabitants of Silesia were subsequently expelled, but those Silesians classified by the Polish authorities as "autochthons" or "ethnic Poles insufficiently aware of their Polishness" were allowed to remain, after being sifted out from the ethnic Germans by a process of "national verification".[7] In order to qualify, it was enough to speak some of the Upper Silesian dialect, or just to have a Slavic-sounding surname. Many such Silesians were allowed to remain in the city of Opole.

During the Communist era, nearly 600,000 Silesians emigrated to West Germany.

Since the end of Communist rule in Poland, there have been calls for greater political representation for the Silesian ethnic minority. In 1997, a Katowice law court registered the Union of People of Silesian Nationality (ZLNS) as the political representative organization of the Silesian ethnic minority, but after two months the registration was revoked by a regional court.


The Silesian language (or often Upper Silesian) is spoken by the Silesian ethnic group or nationality inside Upper Silesia. According to the last census in Poland (2002), some 60,000 people declared Silesian as their native language.

There is some contention over whether Silesian is a dialect or a language in its own right. Some Polish linguists consider Silesian to be merely a prominent regional dialect of Polish. However, many Silesians regard it as a separate language belonging to the West Slavic branch of Slavic languages, together with Polish and other Lechitic languages, as well as Upper and Lower Sorbian, Czech and Slovak. In July 2007 the Silesian language was recognized by the Library of Congress and SIL International. The language was attributed ISO code: SZL. The first official dictation contest of the Silesian language took place in August 2007.

Also, the German Language is spoken in Silesia, and has a sizable minority of speakers in the Opole Voivodship in Poland. Although the number of speakers of German in the region significantly decreased after the Second World War. The Silesian German dialect is a distinct variety of East Central German, with some West Slavic influence likely caused by centuries of contact between Germans and Slavs in the region. The Silesian German dialect is often referred to as Lower Silesian. The usage of this dialect appears to be decreasing, as most German Silesians prefer either Standard German or Polish.


  1. ^ About 0.2 million have declared Silesian nationality in census. The estimate of several million includes all indigenous inhabitants of Silesia regardless of which nationality they have chosen (Silesian, Polish, Czech, German). This figure also includes the diaspora, that is, people of Silesian origin around the world. (The Institute for European Studies, Ethnological institute of UW).
  2. ^ National census in West Germany in 1970. Last census with data about the origin of the Expellees in West Germany
  3. ^ These data are incomplete. The frauds existed during the census in Poland. Addition, in the census did not take all persons
  4. ^ These data are incomplete. In the census did not take all persons.
  5. ^ This data is incomplete, also allegations of fraud were asserted. In addition, the census did not cover the entire population
  6. ^ This census was not fully comprehensive.
  7. ^ Kamusella, Tomasz (November 2005). "Doing It Our Way". Transitions Online. Retrieved 2006-07-25. 

See also

External links



Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary




  1. Plural form of Silesian.



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