Repositioning the Lusatian Sorbs in Post-reunification Germany: Demands, Support, and Migration

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Monday, September 16th, 2019

Monday, September 16, 20194:00PM - 6:00PM108N, North House, Munk School of Global Affairs
1 Devonshire Place
M5S 3K7
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The Sorbs of Lusatia are a Slavic minority community which has traditionally lived in parts of present-day Saxony and Brandenburg in Germany. Their identity is primarily expressed through the use of Upper and Lower Sorbian, West Slavic languages currently spoken by approximately 20,000 people in total. It is also reflected in these individuals’ self-identification as Sorbs, as members of the Sorbian society, who cultivate and receive Sorbian culture, wear Sorbian costumes, attend Sorbian religious services or participate in the teaching of Sorbian.

In my talk, I will discuss a number of factors that play a role in the maintenance of the Sorbian identity. These include the political representation of Sorbian interests on the state level, education (from preschools to elementary and high schools), higher education and research, religion, media (magazines, newspapers, radio, television, internet) and cultural institutions (music ensembles, book publishers, museums, theaters).
I will also explore the conditions necessary for the maintenance of the Sorbian language, culture and identity. Above all, and as history has shown, the state must be able to create policies which promote a minority-friendly atmosphere. Every citizen living in a bilingual territory is deserving of support. However, from the more contemporary perspective, the efforts for the continued existence of the Sorbian people can only succeed if their own initiatives, the tolerance and support of these initiatives from all citizens, and initiatives favoring government intervention work in cooperation with one another.

The Sorbs’ own efforts will be able to develop only to the degree that they are accepted by the German population, as the minority is always dependent on the goodwill of the majority. The specific situation of the Sorbs as an ethnic group lacking a “home country” in which they would be the majority is accompanied by the fact that, to date, no adequate answers to many fundamental questions have been found.

This event is sponsored in part by the German Academic Exchange Service (DAAD) with funds from the German Federal Foreign Office (AA).


Timo Meškank
Institute for Sorbian Studies, University of Leipzig

Main Sponsor

Joint Initiative in German and European Studies


German Academic Exchange Service

Center for European, Russian, and Eurasian Studies

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