The Sorbs

Anyone travelling through Lusatia is instantly made aware of the uniqueness of this area by the bilingual signs for places, train stations, streets and even maps. This part of Germany is home to a Slavic nation – the Sorbs. They are German citizens whose mother tongue is Sorbian. It belongs to the family of Slavic languages. Sorbian is spoken alongside German and is taught at over 50 schools in Saxony and Brandenburg.


Towards the end of the Migration Period, Germanic nations left the area east of the Elbe and Saale rivers. From about 600 onwards, Slavs moved in from the east, having left their original homeland north of the Carpathians, presumably between the Vistula and the Dnieper. Since their area of origin cannot be clearly localised to this day, the original Slavic community is most likely to be visible in an Uroslavic language, reconstructed by linguists.
The clans migrated in different directions, east, south and west. About 20 tribes, which formed the Sorbian group, settled between Oder / Bober / Queis in the east and the Main area. The common proper name of these tribes was Sorb / Sarb / Serb, derived from “srebac” (to sup). In the course of the German colonization of the East in the 12th/13th century, the areas furthest to the west were rapidly germanized. Only the place names in the so-called Germania Slavica, which extend as far as Bamberg and Bayreuth, still bear witness to the former existence of Slavic settlers. Only the Sorbs in both Lusatia were able to preserve their language, culture and tradition. The “Lower Sorbs”, descendants of the former Lusatian Serbs, brought the name “Lausitz” (= swampy land) with them. From the 15th century it was also used for the settlement area of the Upper Sorbs (until then Land Budissin or Land Görlitz), who are considered to be descendants of the Milceni. The different languages, Upper and Lower Sorbian, were due to the different immigration routes of the two large tribes.


Approx. 60,000 Sorbs still live in Lusatia today. They have their own living language and culture, whose traditions include, for example, the annual Easter horse ride in Upper Lusatia or wreath-making in Lower Lusatia. The traditional dances and costumes are cultivated and preserved in numerous associations.