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Sorbs in Saxony

The settlement area of the Sorbs (left) and pupils at the Sorb grammar school in Bautzen illustrating a wedding parade (right)

The settlement area of the Sorbs (left) and pupils at the Sorb grammar school in Bautzen illustrating a wedding parade (right)
(© Serbske Nowiny/Matthias Bulang)

If there were a Sorb state, it wouldn't be much larger than a typical German country town. Around 60,000 Sorbs live in Germany, of which about 20,000 (Lower Sorbs) are in the Brandenburg area of the Lower Lausitz, and 40,000 (Upper Sorbs) live in the Saxon region of Upper Lausitz, between Kamenz, Bautzen, Weißwasser, and Hoyerswerda. Their rights are protected specifically by the Saxon constitution. A lively club life, Sorb schools, theatre, and broadcasts in Sorb language ensure that the culture of this slavic people will survive. Many of the street signs are bilingual. After all, many of the Sorb families still use their language on an everyday basis. How very much alive this western Slavic language still is today, is underlined by the many dialects existing in the various regions.

Rights of the Sorbs in the Free State

Bautzen and the Sorb flag

Bautzen and the Sorb flag
(© fotolia)

Zakon wo prawach Serbow w Swobodnym stace Sakskeje: In March 1999, the Saxon Landtag ratified the law about the rights of the Sorbs in the Free State of Saxony. The Sorbs are of course German citizens with all associated rights and duties. In addition, the Saxon constitution protects the Sorbs with clearly defined basic rights. These include for example the right to an own emblem and own colours, as well as the protection of their language, culture, and heritage. Exactly these points are the area of responsibility of the Foundation for the Sorb People (Stiftung für das sorbische Volk), which is financed by the federal government and the states Saxony and Brandenburg.

Customs, Art & Traditions

Sorb Easter eggs and the traditional Easter ride

Sorb Easter eggs and the traditional Easter ride
(© fotolia)

Sorb art is mainly embodied and presented by the above named institutions, amateur groups, and associations. These base their productions on works of art from writers, dramatics, composers, and information gained from the study of the Sorb people.

The autonomously organised workgroups of Sorb authors, musicians, artists, and filmmakers have come together in December 1990 to form the Sorb Artists Association (Sorbischen Künstlerbund e.V.). Its objective is to develop initiatives for the creation and processing of Sorb literature, compositions, dance, films, theatre and works of art. The Artists Association organises readings by Sorb authors, concerts of new Sorb music, annual festivals for Sorb poetry, exhibitions of fine artists, and much more.

Sorb customs and popular art are a solid component of Sorb life. It is not only the many cultural groups and associations that look after the traditions of the Sorb people, but in particular the actual Sorb families, village youth groups and associations, and church groups, childcare centres and schools in the entire Sorb area in the Free State of Saxony, that take pride in their rich heritage. Many of their traditions are closely linked to the calendar of church holidays.

In the regions around Schleife, Hoyerswerda, and in the area of the catholic Sorbs, the regional traditional dress (regular costume) is worn by older Sorb women every day. Furthermore, the variations of Sorb traditional dresses from the area around Nochten and Muskau, as well as the dresses of the protestant Sorbs around Bautzen, which up to recently had already been considered to no longer exist, have experienced a revival, and are now produced and worn once again. At special cultural events, on particular church holidays, and sometimes also at family events (weddings, christenings, holy communion, confirmation, etc.) women and girls of all ages wear their festive Sorb dresses. Traditional dress is also often seen at presentations by cultural groups. There are only few tailors left, who can produce the cuts, embroidery, and fit festive traditional attire. Each regional dress has strict design rules. Wearing the traditional dresses at the above mentioned events is a mark of identity, which is not directly linked to the language.

Schools & Education

Pupils at the Sorb grammar school in Bautzen

Pupils at the Sorb grammar school in Bautzen
(© shutterstock / Sorb Grammar School Bautzen)

From the first grade right up to leaving cert level, all Sorb children and pupils at primary, middle and grammar schools in Bautzen are taught in Sorb language. All Sorb primary schools are bilingual. This method has proven successful for both languages, as children learn from each other. There are mothertongue curriculae provided for both languages, which ensure the relevant level of proficiency.

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Illustration

© Institution