In December of 1854, an English sailing vessel, the Ben Nevis, docked in Galveston harbor loaded with some 500 immigrants from Lusatia, an area in Germany comprising parts of Saxony and Prussia. These immigrants were not the typical lot of Germans, Swedes, Czechs, and Poles who flocked to Texas in the 1850's seeking cheap land and economic opportunity. This group was different. The group brought a strange new language to the frontier state-the Wendish language. And even more striking, these Slavic pioneers who were to settle in Lee County made the journey from their homeland, not in search of prosperity, but rather in search of religious liberty and the right to speak their Wendish tongue.
The Wends were descended from a group of Slavic tribes that had developed a common language and, in the 10th Century, occupied much of central Europe. By the 19th Century, the Wends had been decimated by conquest and assimilation with other cultures until only a small area along the River Spree was inhabited by true Wends.
The Wendish migration to Texas was impelled, in part, by the Prussian insistence that the Wends (or Sorbs, as they called themselves) speak and use the German language, even to the extent of Germanizing their names. The oppression of the Wendish minority extended to working conditions, with Wends being denied the right to do the skilled labor for which they were trained. If they were hired at all, they received less pay than their German counterparts. Prussian agrarian reform laws of 1832 dispossessed the Wends of their real property so they were, in effect, vassals to their Prussian lords.
But most intolerable was the requirement that the Lutheran Wends join the Evangelical Reform churches in one state-regulated Protestant body. The Wends believed this action would dilute their pure Lutheran faith and, rather than accept this decree, they made plans to immigrate to the New World.
The Wends organized the journey under the leadership of their Pastor, The Reverend Jan Kilian. Rev. Kilian was a scholar and prolific writer who translated from German into Wendish many books, such as Luther's Large Catechism and the Augsburg Confession. He also wrote Wendish prayer books, sermons, and tracts, as well as hymns and poems. Years later, Rev. Kilian was known to preach the same sermon in Wendish, German, and English on a Sunday morning. Kilian, a graduate of Leipzig University, was a strong leader and a logical choice to be the Moses of this 19th Century Exodus.
On March 25, 1854, a new Lutheran congregation was organized at Dauban, to become the cornerstone of a large Wendish emigration. Rev. Kilian was called as Pastor. Most likely, the group chose Texas as its destination because of glowing reports returned by several families of Wends who had previously settled in Central Texas. Other smaller groups of Wends also departed during this period to find new homes in Australia.
Knowing that the odds favored many losing their lives on the journey, 558 Wends left their homes and loved ones in the first week of September, 1854, bound for Texas. The group traveled to Liverpool, England, where they boarded the three-masted Ben Nevis. They soon encountered their first tragedy as the dreaded cholera epidemic struck. Fifteen died before the ship reached Ireland. At Queenstown, Ireland, the ship was quarantined for three weeks and thoroughly fumigated. Twenty-three more succumbed to cholera during this time. At last, on October 22, 1854, the Wends again boarded the Ben Nevis bound for Galveston. Although the cholera had somewhat abated, another eighteen died at sea during the Atlantic crossing.
The decimated congregation arrived at Galveston in early December, only to be faced with another scourge, yellow fever. Many contracted the disease, but only one died before the Wends could flee inland to Houston. From Houston, the Wends journeyed further inland by oxcart in early January 1855. Two men had been sent ahead to find a place where they could settle. The epic migration to a new homeland ended on the banks of Rabbs Creek in what is today Lee County, near Giddings. Here, the Wends purchased a league of land for $1.00 per acre. The first winter was hard and food was scarce. Many Wends lived in dugouts and log cabins until proper homes could be built.
The newcomers set aside 95 acres of the land for the Lutheran church and school. About one mile northwest of the church property, the colonists began work on their town, which they named Serbin. This was to be the capital of their "Wendenland" in Texas, where they could continue forever their Wendish language and cultural traditions.
One of the first acts accomplished by Rev. Kilian was to apply for membership in the fledgling Missouri Synod Lutheran Church. St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Serbin became the first of many Missouri Synod churches in Texas, and it had the only Wendish school in America. The present St. Paul's Lutheran Church in Serbin was completed in 1871. It is a beautiful, yet simple, structure, the obvious product of pioneer craftsmanship. The unique interior includes a balcony extending around the interior with a pulpit nearly 20 feet above the lower floor. Originally, the men sat in the balcony, while the women and children occupied the floor level pews. St. Paul's is one of the oldest churches in America in continual use since its construction.
Many groups of Wendish colonists struck out for other parts of Texas in the latter 1800's. Wends formed sub-colonies in such places as Austin, Houston, Warda, Fedor, Swiss Alp, Giddings, Port Arthur, Mannheim, Copperas Cove, Vernon, Walburg, The Grove, Bishop, and the Rio Grande Valley. In each case, the Wends built a new church and affiliated with the Missouri Synod, thus helping spread Missouri Synod congregations throughout Texas. In the new congregations, the Wendish language and culture soon died out. Only in Serbin did it survive, where Wendish services continued to be held until 1921. Today, only a few elderly Wends still know the language. The great irony of the Wendish emigration was that in the effort to establish a pure Wendish colony where the language and culture could be preserved, these very things were lost due to the economic and social realities of the frontier.
Throughout Texas, particularly on the church rolls of Missouri Synod Lutheran Churches, can be found Wendish names from the passenger list of the Ben Nevis-names like Lehman, Moerbe, Schatte, Fritsche, Becker, Schubert, Dube, Teinert, Wukasch, Kiesling, Prellop, Kasper, Zoch, Miertschin, Urban, Wenke, Knippa, Noack, Groeschel, Wuensche, Melde, and many more. Strong emphasis on biblical religious faith and basic education is evident today in families descendant from the Wendish pioneers. Today, thousands of Texans and other Americans, many unaware of their background, can lay claim to the courageous and fascinating heritage of the Wends.
One half egg shell of water (about 3 tablespoons)
One and one-half to two cups of flour
Beat egg and water together. Add a sprinkle of salt and enough flour to form a stiff dough. Roll out thin on a pastry cloth. Let stand to dry, turning over occasionally. Cut into thin strips when dry but still pliable. Cook in a rich chicken broth until tender. Chopped parsley, chopped green onion tops, and a dash of nutmeg may be added for flavor, if desired.
Wendish Easter Eggs
The Wends are Slavic-Germans who have four techniques of decorating eggs: Wax Batik, Acid, Scratch, and Embossed.
The most commonly used technique in Texas is the Wax Batik. In this method, the wax design is applied to the egg with a tip of a goose feather cut into geometrical shapes, or the head of a straight pin. The wax protects the egg from taking the dye. Multicolored eggs are created by applying the design in stages, dipping the egg in a different color dye after each wax application. When the egg is completely decorated, the wax is removed and the egg oiled.
The Embossed technique uses the same instruments and designs as the Wax Batik, but with colored wax on a white egg. In the Acid and Scratch techniques, the egg is dyed first and the design is etched with acid or scratched with a sharp instrument.
For more information about Wendish Easter eggs, see:
The Art of Decorating Wendish Easter Eggs
by Daphne Dalton Garrett.
Ms. Garrett can be contacted at:
P.O. Box 35, Warda, Texas, 78960,
This instruction booklet can be ordered from the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum. The cost is $5.30, tax included. Egg decorating supplies are also available at the Museum, including egg-blowers, bees wax, and dyes.
For more information, please contact:
Texas Wendish Heritage Museum
1011 County Road 212
Giddings, Texas 78942
Executive Director, Barbara Hielscher
Tel: (979) 366-2441
Fax: (979) 366-2805
The Sorbian Institute in Bautzen carries out research into the past and present situation of the Sorbs (otherwise known as the Wends) in Upper and Lower Lusatia, concentrating on their language, history and culture.
THE SORBIAN INSTITUTE
Tel: (03591) 49 72 0
Fax: (03591) 49 72 14 http://www.serbski-institut.de
Department Cottbus/WotnoÅ¾ka ChoÅ›ebuz
August-Bebel-StraÃŸe/Droga Augusta Bebela 82
Tel: (0355) 38 09 00
Fax: (0355) 79 37 97
Sorbian Central Library / Sorbian Cultural Archives (Bautzen)
Opening Times: Monday to Friday 8.00 â€“ 15.30
Welcome to St. Paul Lutheran Church
Welcome to St. Paul Lutheran, in Serbin Texas. We are celebrating the 150th anniversary of our congregation since the time our ancestors made the voyage from Germany aboard the Ben Nevis.
Visit our 150th Anniversary History and Events page for more information about the history of our church and the anniversary events we have planned.
150 YEARS OF GOD'S BLESSINGS
ST. PAUL LUTHERAN CHURCH
1854 - 2004
Men in suspenders and beards, ladies in long dresses and bonnets, horses and wagons hitched outside under the treesâ€¦ this is a scene from the 1800's that was recreated at a little white stone church set among cedars and postoaks on a slight knoll of rocky, red soil seven miles south of Giddings, Texas, as St. Paul Lutheran, Serbin, began a year of celebration in honor of the 150th Church Anniversary.
The site as identified by a gray granite historical marker reads: "SERBIN", "Here in 1854 under the leadership of Rev. John Kilian, Ev. Lutheran Pastor, about 600 Wends, seeking religious liberty, established the first Wendish settlement in Texasâ€¦. Erected by the State of Texas 1936." The Wendish group was reduced in numbers by illness and hardships of the journey. Visitors to the property are able to listen to a historical recording of the Wends' immigration to America and their settlement in Lee County, Texas, where they acquired land and set aside 95 acres for the first Missouri Synod Lutheran congregation in Texas. The land is said to have been purchased for 25 - 50 cents an acre. By converting post oaks into crude lumber, a frame church was built with a parsonage on one side. Services were held in the other side and there was a dog-run or breezeway in between. A Christian day school was also established and after the membership outgrew the original building it became the St. Paul Lutheran School. This historic structure, the first to be built by the Wends, still stands today and in the same spirit as it was constructed, members of St. Paul preserve it's existence.
A small white frame church, built in 1859 was the immediate successor of the original log structure. Then in 1867 the present St. Paul Lutheran Church was begun. Native rock- red sandstone - was used for the 24 foot high, 30 inch thick walls and also went into the flagstone floor. Church members hauled the sandstone by mule & wagon from a source several miles away. Four years later, the stone church was completed. Estimated cost for materials was $3,000 with congregational members donating all the labor for the 70' long x 40' wide building. The structure as a historical site is preserved according to it's original construction and dÃ©cor. Thousands of visitors come to the Church to view it's beauty and experience the rich heritage of it's congregation.
The church still stands today, serenely poised with its' prim white bell tower of tin siding with a soaring weathervane placed there by the original congregation because it will always be pointing to God. The steeple bears the date of 1868 and sports a bronze globe containing a history of Serbin, written by Rev. Kilian. Stepping through the white double doors of the entrance (which are never locked) visitors are immediately in awe of the beauty of the interior. Three dominant colors impact the effect of the sanctuary: the brilliant blue (Wendish Blue) and white with gold decoration. This theme accentuates the pulpit upstairs, the pipe organ on the opposite end, the plaster ceiling and walls, and the lecturn and altar on the ground floor in the church. The pulpit in the balcony, which due to its' height can be intimidating to guest speakers, rises high above the lower sanctuary. Two intricate kerosene chandeliers made of brass drop down from the lofty ceiling. These have been converted to electricity and air conditioning was installed but little else has changed. The two-story high ceiling and full length stained glass windows further illuminate the interior beauty with sunlight. Pillars support the balcony and roof and are adorned with feather-painted designs. The ceiling is also embellished with hand-painted designs. The lecturn, altar and carved wooden baptismal font (made by the early Wends) are complimented by historical framed religious scenes above and to each side of the altar.
To the left of the stone church the original cemetery, established quickly and by necessity due to the death of Rev. Kilian's infant daughter, is the resting place for many generations of St. Paul Lutheran members and is carefully cared for in their honor and inn preparation for future generations. It rests among cedar trees, traditionally close-cropped like those in the Old Country, and abounds with roses and wild flowers. Here a bronze marker will be mounted on a large native red sandstone rock as a monument to honor the Wendish immigrants who died before reaching their destination. Near the cemetery is the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum which preserves the story of the Wends through permanent displays of relics, artifacts, and original buildings used by the early settlers. An on site research library specializes in their history and genealogy and the Archives include a collection of rare books in Wendish and German, unique manuscripts, personal papers, and a photographic collection. The old St. Paul Lutheran school building was moved to the museum site housing displays and on site demonstration of the unique customs of the Wendish culture. The current St. Paul Lutheran School building is nearby which offers a Christian education for daycare, preschool and K - 8th grades. Currently the enrollment nears 100 and represents children of six generations of the original settlers. The school being between the stone church and the museum offers many opportunities to reinforce the rich heritage of the St. Paul congregation and Texas Lutherans.
150 years later the bells still peal a welcome for congregation members and visitors to worship in the original stone structure of St. Paul Lutheran Church, Serbin, Texas. To give thanks and commemorate their rich heritage the membership of St. Paul is hosting a year of special events. The anniversary theme of "GOD OUR HELP IN AGES PAST, OUR HOPE FOR YEARS TO COME" guides Christians forward to the future while commemorating the past 150 years of God's blessings.
An "Olde Tyme" service was hosted on Reformation Sunday, October 26, 2003, to recall the Christian spirit of the early Wends as they organized an ordained congregation of Lutherans to immigrate from Germany to Texas in pursuit of religious freedom. Worshippers attended the special "Olde Tyme" service in 1800's era dress and observed church customs of that time which included special seating arrangements. In the middle 1800's gender segregated seating was a common custom in Lutheran Churches. This was observed in the "Olde Tyme" service with men upstairs, women downstairs, young girls on the left front pews and young boys on the right front pews. Elderly gentlemen unable to climb the stairs were seated on the back pew of the sanctuary. Original altar furnishings, music, scripture and even pastoral vestments were those used in the 1800's. The St. Paul Church was filled to capacity for this special service. Following the service a BBQue plate lunch was served at the church picnic grounds and special Anniversary displays and collectibles were available. The main 150th Anniversary event will be celebrated in conjunction with the St. Paul Lutheran annual church picnic on May 30, 2004. Guest speaker for the Service will be Synodical President Gerald Kieschnick.
The St. Paul Lutheran membership cordially extends an invitation to fellow Lutherans and visitors to join in this special time of thanksgiving and praise to God for the many blessings of 150 years past and the hope for continued blessings to come!
150th Anniversary Events
05/30/2004--Main 150th Anniversary Celebration in conjunction with Homecoming Picnic at St. Paul to commemorate the call extended to Pastor Johann Kilian (May 23, 1854). Guest speaker will be Synodical President Gerald Kieschnick. Special Anniversary activities will be hosted with regular picnic festivities.
07/25/2004--A service of music will be held to commemorate the dedication of the pipe organ (July 24, 1904) which still provides accompaniment today.
09/26/2004--Celebration in conjunction with Wendish Fest to commemorate the beginning of the Wends' journey to Hamburg (September 1854). Guest speakers are Rev. Ken Klaus, Lutheran Hour Speaker, and the Pastors of congregations at Klitten and Weigersdorf, Germany from which many of the immigrants departed.
10/10/2004--Special Evening Mission Festival Service with emphasis on daughter churches that grew from St. Paul Lutheran, Serbin.
11/07/2004--Special All Saints Day Service with dedication of monument in honor of those who died before reaching their destination.
12/26/2004--Special Service To Commemorate the Wends' arrival in Galveston, Texas (December, 1854) and dedication of the first frame church for St. Paul Lutheran (1859).
GOD OUR HELP IN AGES PAST OUR HOPE FOR YEARS TO COME
Welcome to St. Paul Lutheran Church of Serbin, Texas. St. Paul is the mother church of the Lutheran Church - Missouri Synod in Texas. It was founded in 1854 by a group of Wendish immigrants under the leadership of Rev. John Kilian.
Sunday at 8:30 a.m.
Communion on First and Third Sundays
Bible Class and Sunday School 9:30 a.m.
German Services are held on most major church festivals.
Email us at: firstname.lastname@example.org
or write us at:
Michael Buchhorn (Michael)
1572 CR 211
Giddings, Texas 78942
United States of America
Mar 2004) A New History Book: Our 150th Anniversary History book is now available. The book is entitled "A Collection of Histories of St. Paul Lutheran Church". This 164 page book contains a number of important documents from the life of our congregation. The book includes a translation of a newspaper report about the beginning of the trip to America. It also has a day by day diary of the Ben Nevis trip. There are three histories of the congregation: an illustrated history periodically updated by the congregation's pastors, a history prepared and delivered at the 100th anniversary celebration and a more scholarly reprint of a history from The Concordia Historical Institute Quarterly. The book also includes an entertaining collection of oral histories from present members of St. Paul and a musical history with a number of selections from Gerhard Kilian's Serbin Chorale Book. This is a book that helps to understand the struggles of our forefathers and to rejoice in what God has built here through the years. The book sells for $9.00 and is available through the church office. Proceeds from book sales go toward the publication of future collections of congregational records.
(Jan 2004) Confirmation Records Book: Now available, this book is 207 pages and contains a list of all those confirmed from 1856-2003 at St. Paul Lutheran Church. There is also an index of confirmands to aid in doing family research. Also there are pictures of the last 85 years of confirmation classes. The book is selling for $12 and can be purchased through the church office.
Nov 2003) Baptismal Record Book: The second book of Baptismal records for the period of 1884-1919 is now available. The book covers the pastorate of H.T.Kilian. The book is 162 pages with an extensive index. The book costs $10 and is available through the church office of St. Paul Lutheran Church. The first book of Baptismal Records for the Johann Kilian Pastorate (1854-1883) is still available through the Texas Wendish Heritage Museum. Both books are a great help in doing genealogical research.
The Wends of Texas represent a small Slavic group of people who have never had an independent nation and who have undergone a double assimilation in Texas.
Known as Sorbs or Lusatian Serbs, Wends have lived in Lusatia, Eastern Germany, as a recognizable group from the Middle Ages until today. Just before 1850 some Wendish families emigrated to Australia; then, hearing of German settlement in Texas, a few Wends came to Austin County. In 1853 about 35 Wends entered Galveston to settle in New Ulm and Industry.
The only larger group of Wends ever to leave Europe was a congregation of Lutherans led by Johann Kilian. This group, decimated by cholera in Liverpool and yellow fever in Galveston, eventually settled in present Lee County, where Johann Dube and Carl Lehmann had purchased a league of land. Johann Kilian's two-room house served as the church, and the settlers initially lived in dugouts. By 1860 a community named Serbin warranted a post office. The settlement grew until 1871, when a new railroad turned Giddings into the population center for the area.
Life for the first generation was hard, and the Wends were conservative. Dancing and secular music were considered inappropriate activities; the main job in life was making a living, not preserving tradition. Since they came from Germany, most Wends considered it natural to live among already-established Germans in Texas.
Even in Europe, the Wends were largely â€œGermanizedâ€ by the 19th century. In Texas they became more so; Wendish families living in German settlement areas were quickly assimilated. Those Wends who spoke only Sorbian learned German as their second language, then English. By World War I most of the Wends in the state had adopted German. The Giddings Deutsches Volksblatt contained a few columns of Wendish for a number of years, then shifted entirely to German.
Many Texas Wends simply consider themselves German, but in the Serbin area, considerable identity has been maintained through a revival of interest in earlier Wendish characteristics.
Some individuals today maintain that no intermarriage has taken place in their families since the main Wendish arrival in 1854. But for the most part, intermarriage and an acceptance of German, then Anglo, customs has meant a thorough acculturation for most families.
The Texas Wendish Heritage Society was founded in 1971, when the group began its annual participation in the Texas Folklife Festival of the Institute of Texan Cultures, and the membership maintains a Wendish museum at Serbin. The group has revived interest in European costume, foods, and crafts and is attempting to collect, translate, and publish early Wendish documents. Many were lost during the first years in Texas.
The community at Serbin holds an annual Wendish Fest and extends a welcome, WitajcÅ¾e K'nam, to visitors. During the affair church services are conducted in German and English, a Czech band may play, and corn-shucking contests are held. Some of the local descendants dress in European Wendish costume.
The Wends of Texas represent one of the strongest examples of cultural revival by later generations.
The University of Texas Institute of Texan Cultures at San Antonio
801 South Bowie Street
San Antonio, Texas 78205-3296
About Sorbian Language
The Sorbian language belongs to the Slavic family of languages and is closely related to Polish, Kashubian, Czech and Slovak. These languages, along with the extinct Pomeranian (for example, Slovincian) and Polabian (for example, Draveno-Polabian in the Hanoverian Wendland), compose the West Slavic language group. One common characteristic of Western Slavic languages and dialects is the development of the Indoeuropean "kt" to "c" (cf. in Latin noktis, or night, in West Slavic noc) in contrast to:
Once spoken between Bober River and QueiÃŸ River in the East, the Saale River in the West, the Erz and Lusatian Mountains in the South and approximately Frankfurt on the Oder-KÃ¶penick-JÃ¼terbog-Barby on the Elbe to the North, Sorbian is still used in Upper and Lower Lusatia, where the Old Sorbian tribes of the Milceni and Luzici settled. The steady decrease in size of the Sorbian language area was brought about by the following factors: the Old Sorbian tribes' loss of independence in the 10th century, the subsequent rural settlement of their territory by Franks, Thuringians, and Saxons, the expansion of German cities and trade, and the official ban of the Sorbian language that came into effect in the 13th century. The Sorbian language was completely driven out of territories outside Lusatia. Nevertheless, it left its mark on place and field names, as well as with individual relic words (for example, Gera from gora, or mountain; Leipzig from the Sorbian Lipsk originating from lipa, linden tree). The Reformation promoted the expansion of Christian teachings in the vernacular and, therefore promoted the written use of Sorbian. At this time the closed Sorbian language area reached the Bober and past Krossen in the North East, to Pleiske and the Northern bend of the Spree River (FÃ¼rstenwalde) to the North, nearing the Nuthe River in the West and Riesa on the Elbe River. The present Sorbian language area includes: the former Upper Lusatian counties WeiÃŸwasser, Hoyerswerda, and Bautzen, as well as neighboring parts of the counties Senftenberg, Kamenz, Bischofswerda, LÃ¶bau and Niesky, the Lower Lusatian counties Cottbus, Spremberg, with the bordering areas of the counties LÃ¼bben, Calau, Forst and Guben. (See map) The number of people in these Lusatian counties who have mastered the Sorbian language is estimated to be about 70,000.
The division of Sorbian language area in various political territories (the Margravates of Upper and Lower Lusatia, the Electorates of Saxony and Brandenburg, the Bishopric of Magdeburg, the Principality of Sagan) and the lack of a Sorbian economic and cultural center and the introduction of written Sorbian were the reasons for the development of various written forms of the Sorbian language after the Reformation. Two of these languages survived until the middle of the nineteenth century when they were finally accepted as standard languages: the Upper Lusatian standard language based on the dialect spoken in the area around Bautzen and the Lower Lusatian standard language based on the dialect spoken in the area around Cottbus. The development of the Upper and Lower Sorbian standard languages and their norms can clearly be seen in linguistic examples. They mirror the respective linguistical state at the time of their development and thereby make it possible to reconstruct this development. These early texts have a special value in the field of the Sorbian language because these linguistic examples are, in many cases, the only witnesses of the lingual characteristics of Sorbian dialects in modern germanisized territories.
The first extensive written Sorbian texts came about as translations of religious literature in the sixteenth century with the Reformation. Important documents in the history of the written Sorbian language are: "Fragment of a Agenda" (1543) by Zossen, the translation of the New Testament (1548) by M. Jakubica from Laubnitz, a handwritten hymnal and the "WolfenbÃ¼ttel Psaltery". The latter both come from the area of Luckau and are from the sixteenth century. Most of the Sorbian texts from this time period, and even many from the seventeenth century including the first comprehensive Lower Sorbian grammar textbook (1650) by the LÃ¼bbenau Pastor J. Chojnan (1616-1664), remained in handwritten form. In this time period, written works had the best chances to be published if they fulfilled the demand for national education, even in a broader sense. The first printed book in the Sorbian language was the translation of the "Little Catechism" (Bautzen, 1574) by the Straupitz Pastor A. Moller (1541-1618) along with a collection of Lower Sorbian hymns.
In 1595, the first Upper Sorbian translation of the "Little Catechism" was published, along with "Teaching, How the Letters of the Wendian Language Are to Be Used and Pronounced" by W. Warichius (1564-1618).
Only a few Sorbian glosses preserved within Latin manuscript from pre-Reformation times (12th century) were found in Magdeburg. Numerous oaths of office in the Sorbian language, with which Sorbian underlings had to show allegiance, were believed to exist due to numerous oaths that survived from later times. The "Wendian Burgher's Oath" from Bautzen in the end of fifteenth century is one of these. Many Sorbian language texts from later times were lost due to violent or rash destruction. In 1667, the Elector of Brandenburg ordered that all Sorbian texts in Sorbian territories in the Brandenbrug electorate were to be confiscated and destroyed. This liquidation order was followed so thoroughly that the only proof of the existence of Sorbian literature from the Electoral area (Psaltery from 1653, Catechisms and Articles of Faith from 1654, Hymnals from 1654, Extracts from the Holy Bible from 1656) is the report of their destruction. Only a short time later in 1669, the LÃ¼bben Upper Konsistorium for Saxonian Lower Lusatia issued a similiar order of destruction. The newly published "Sorbian Primer" by School Director G. Ermelius in Kalau was also a victim of this destruction. Conflagration, the chaos of war and the deliberate destruction of Sorbian cultural assets, especially during the National Socialist period, led to even further destruction.
The existence of two Sorbian standard languages, and the areas in which they are used, was motivated more by history than linguistics. The unusual features of both these languages do not overlap in the same way as do the spoken dialects in Upper and Lower Lusatia. Individual linguistical features in the Upper Sorbian language are just as typical for many Lower Sorbian dialects - for example, the preservation of the consonant "r" after a "p" or "k" as in prawo, or law, and krawy, or bloody. The same is true vice versa -
This is also true for the following common differences between the Upper and Lower Sorbian languages. These differences have often been cited as proof of the territorially divided dichotomy of the Sorbian languages:
These and other features of the Upper and Lower Sorbian standard languages do not have congruent circulation in areas where Sorbian dialects are spoken. So, for example, the characteristic Supinum, verb forms ending in "t" used after motion verbs, of the Lower Sorbian language is only found in dialects north of Cottbus. An example is:
"I am going to sleep"
On the other hand, it is common in both Lower Sorbian and some Upper Sorbian dialects to use the same forms for dual accusative masculine for animals and dual genitive. An example is in Lower Sorbian, Mam dweju konjowu, or "I have two horses" and in Upper Sorbian (nominative dual), Mam dwaj konjej. This, however, is not common in dialects of Lower Sorbian from Horno in the county of Guben.
The Sorbian language area is known for a relatively strong language differentiation by territorial and local dialects. This, in part, can be traced back to the inherited characteristics from Old Slavic in the tribal dialects spoken by the Milceni in Upper Lusatia and the Luzici in Lower Lusatia. It is mostly, though, due to the different expansion of lingustic developments, both earlier and present. Within this development there were also linguistic innovations that reached all Sorbian dialects and are only common to Sorbian. For example, the specific construction of the future tense using the verb
with help from the prefix "z-", as in
"I will have"
Upper Sorbian Lower Sorbian
Another example is the coincidence of the telt/tert and tolt/tort groups as seen in Upper and Lower Sorbian with mloko,
in comparison to Polish, mleko and brzeg. In this way, the Sorbian language area portrays itself as a continuum filled with a growing number of boundaries running progressively from South to North with different linguistic characteristics - as the distance increases, so do the number of dialectal differences. Such lingual boundaries occur increasingly at two points: first, south of the "line" between Hoyerswerda and WeiÃŸwasser, and North of Spremberg and Muskau. These occurances seperate the Sorbian language area into three dialectal areas: the original Upper Sorbian dialect area in the South (the old settlement area of the Milceni), the original Lower Sorbian dialect area (the old settlement area of the Luzici), and the area in the middle from Muskau in the East to Senftenberg in the West where transitional dialects are spoken. In this area, linguistic characteristics of Upper and Lower Sorbian are mixed. Individual dialects show different amounts of dialectal characteristics of both Upper and Lower Sorbian.
The original Upper Sorbian dialect area consists of: the Bautzen dialect which makes up the basis of the Upper Sorbian standard language; the Catholic dialect which is spoken in the Catholic parochials between Kamenz and Bautzen; the Wittichenau dialect which is close to the Catholic dialect; the Heide dialects in the parochials GroÃŸ SÃ¤rchen, Lohsa, Uhyst/Spree (the Northern Heide dialect), Klitten, Kreba, and Reichwalde (the Northeastern Heide dialect); as well as the Nochten dialect which is characterized by the accent on the second to last syllable.
The original Lower Sorbian dialect area consists of: the Northeastern Lower Sorbian dialect around Peitz; the Northwestern Lower Sorbian dialect around Burg/Spreewald, Schmogrow, and Fehrow; the Vetschau dialect; the Cottbus dialect which is divided into the Western dialect with the parochials Briesen, Werben, Papitz and Kolkwitz; the Central dialect with the parochials Dissen, Sielow, Gulben, and Cottbus; the Eastern dialect with the parochials Lieskow, HeinersbrÃ¼ck, including Neuendorf and Maust in the parochial Peitz; the Southern Cottbus dialect in the parochials Kahren and Komptendorf; the Spremberg dialect around Wadelsdorf and Sellessen; and the Horno dialect that stands out from other Lower Sorbian dialects due to specific characteristics.
The different distribution of Upper and Lower Sorbian linguistical characteristics in the transitional dialectal area, as well as particular characteristics of its own, divide it into: the Muskau dialect; the Schleife dialect; the Bluno-Sabrodt dialect; the Spreewitz dialect; the Hoyerswerda dialect; and the dialect from GroÃŸkoschen near Senftenberg. The Sorbian language is the language in which classes are conducted in Bautzen, Radibor, Crostwitz, Panschwitz-Kuckau, Ralbitz, and Cottbus as well as being a subject in all school districts with a Sorbian population. There are newspapers, magazine and written works of belletristic, journalistic, and scientific nature in the Sorbian language. The language is academically cultivated at the Sorbian Institute (Sorbisches Institut e.V.) in Bautzen, at the Institute for Sorbian Studies at the University of Leipzig, as well as at various Slavic Language departments around the world.
Translated into English by Heather Watson from Helmut FaÃŸke's "Sorbische Sprache" in:
Die Sorben in Deutschland. Macica Serbska, Bautzen 1991