Germania Slavica

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Germania Slavica describes, on the one hand, as a research term of the 20th century, a historical landscape east of the early medieval German-Slavic language border (roughly east of the Elbe - Saale line) and, on the other hand, a scientific working group to research the conditions in this area during the High Middle Ages (" Deutsche Ostsiedlung ") ). The article also deals with outdated views on Germania Slavica (e.g. historical picture of the Mark Brandenburg ) and provides information on the more recent research status .

Expansion of the German settlement in the east into the Slavic areas

The Germania Slavica as historical landscape

German-speaking area around 1910

The Germania Slavica is a spatial designation that was introduced into Medieval terminology by Wolfgang H. Fritze as a research term on the occasion of the establishment of his interdisciplinary working group (IAG) of the same name in 1976. This term was first used by Walter Schlesinger in 1961, as an analogy to 1932 Research term Germania Romana coined by Theodor Frings . According to Frings, the Germania Romana (in contrast to the Germania Libera ) referred to the areas "in which the development of German language [...] has been determined by the influence of Romance substrates ", essentially the areas west of the Rhine and Neckar and south of the Altmühl and the Danube ( Limes ).

Fritze formulated accordingly in 1980: As Germania Slavica we designate “the area of ​​medieval German eastern settlement in the Slavic areas east of the Elbe and Saale, insofar as it has been linguistically Germanised”. Walter Lammers defined: “The space between the western border of the more or less permanent Slavic settlement and the eastern border of the German new tribes , as they were in the 19th and 20th centuries. The western border was marked by Wagrien , Wendland and Altmark , then by the Elbe and Saale and the southern border by Upper Franconia and the Upper Palatinate ( Bavaria Slavica ).

With regard to the eastern extension, Polish research has put the opposite term Slavia Germanica up for discussion, so that interlocking results in the area of Pomerania , Lusatia and Silesia .

The western and eastern borders of the medieval Germania Slavica (defined by language spread) are not identical with modern state borders. Due to the different accessibility to research bases, however, at the suggestion of Klaus Zernack, for pragmatic reasons, a distinction is made between Germania Slavica 1 and Germania Slavica 2 , separated by the Oder as a state border since 1945, although the historic landscapes of Pomerania and Lebus are intersected by the Oder. Recently, the Germania Slavica 1 has been divided into a "northern" ( Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and Brandenburg ) and a "southern" ( Saxony ).

Ultimately, however, Germania Slavica as a German-Slavic contact zone is not primarily about a space, but about the location of historical processes . So it is not about the (one-sided) representation of the German Ostsiedlung , but about the shaping of the area with the involvement of the Slavic population, (especially the Elbe Slavs ), both in the period before the German immigration and during the high medieval development of the country .

Germania Slavica as an interdisciplinary research group at the Free University of Berlin (1976–1991)

Foundation and people

Wolfgang H. Fritze founded the research group in the 1976 summer semester at the Friedrich Meinecke Institute of the Free University of Berlin . In 1978 it was recognized by the university committees as an interdisciplinary working group (IAG). At the beginning of 1979 it had 22 members: 15 active and 7 advisory. In addition to Fritze, she included Professors Heinz Quirin and Wolfgang Ribbe as well as the then research assistants Eberhard Bohm, Felix Escher , Christian Gahlbeck, Hans-Ulrich Kamke, Barbara Sasse, Winfried Schich and Wolfgang Wippermann (all lists in alphabetical order). The intellectual fathers and like-minded colleagues included Helmut Beumann , František Graus , Gerd Heinrich , Herbert Jankuhn , Hans-Dietrich Kahl , Herbert Ludat and Walter Schlesinger .

The IAG Germania Slavica attached great importance to cooperation with researchers from neighboring Slavic countries. For political reasons, meetings with colleagues from the VR Poland and the ČSSR were easier than with those from the GDR, although the IAG used important basic works that had been created by the Academy of Sciences of the GDR : above all the corpus of archaeological sources on early history the area of ​​the GDR (edited by Peter Donat and Joachim Herrmann ), the historical local dictionary for Brandenburg, edited primarily by Lieselott Enders , and the Brandenburg name book (both 11 volumes each). Nevertheless, there were unofficial contacts with scientists from the GDR, and the members of the IAG used the entry opportunities offered by the local border traffic to visit the historical sites.

General task

Wolfgang Fritze has repeatedly addressed a broader public who he wanted to make aware that there is a Slavic part of German history and that this should preferably be located in the east of historical Germany, as well as the already well-known Roman part in the west . Wolfgang Fritze (like Schlesinger) wanted the Slavic element to be recognized as part of the East German “ identity ”: “We Central and East Germans [have ourselves the Slavs] are not ashamed of this brave, conservative, and also a little backwoods peasant people , who we count among our ancestors. ”After the Second World War and the terrible events of the Nazi era in the East, Wolfgang Fritze and his companions wanted to reassess the German-Slavic relationship in German history.

At the center of the work was the thesis: In the countries of historical East Germany , but also in Poland and Czechoslovakia, the German eastern settlement of the high Middle Ages led to a mutual penetration of Slavic and German populations, Slavic and German economies, settlements, societies, legal education and Constitution led. This thesis implies that cultural and structural formations of great diversity have collided and have been forced into a long-lasting discussion.

To this end, the working group wanted to investigate:

  • the development of spatial and quantitative relationships between Slavic and German agricultural and urban settlements in their regional differentiation;
  • under what legal and social conditions, with what political and economic functions and in what structural forms the Slavic population in its various social classes participated in the high medieval development of the country.

In particular, the working group wanted to determine “what of the language, law, customs, political institutions, economic forms of the long-established Slavic population survived and how it affected the immigrant German population”. This investigation should be made possible by an interdisciplinary cooperation of medieval history , legal history , settlement geography , onomatology , medieval archeology , ethnography and art history .

Starting point research history

Regarding the history of research, which began in the first half of the 19th century, Fritze explained that at the beginning there was a question of folk history: At that time it was necessary “to work out the cultural achievement of the German people in the Ostsiedlung and as the fulfillment of one of Germanness in Eastern Central Europe to record the historical mission that has become and to demonstrate the complete integration of the once Slavic countries of East Germany into the German national body brought about by the eastern settlement ”. Even one of the earliest summarizing representations of the Ostsiedlung sees it as part of a secular cultural and political conflict between Germans and Slavs: The World Battle of the Germans and Slavs by MW Heffter, Hamburg 1847. In the 1920s and 1930s, the medieval German Ostsiedlung finally became part of the The historical context of a "German East Movement" (catchphrase: "the German urge to the East ") that encompasses all of German history in all its periods and encompasses the German people in its entirety ( Hermann Aubin , 1939). The research history of that time was determined on the one hand by ideological motives, on the other hand by the development of new source groups beyond the written sources, e.g. B. by land maps of the 18th and 19th centuries. Through the combination of written sources and cartographic analysis , the settlement of large areas by ecclesiastical and secular rulers could be made accessible.

Research status 1980 and research questions

The research status of 1980 presented by Fritze and the research questions to be dealt with can be summarized as follows. The geography of the settlement, based on written sources and cartographic analysis, made the special importance of the Cistercians for the process of land development easier to see. It was also evident that not all the settlements were developed by the Cistercians themselves, but had come into their possession to a large extent through donations. As early as the 12th century, the Cistercians no longer limited themselves to self- sufficiency through agriculture . They also wanted to use the profit opportunities of trading . To do this, they took over existing markets and jugs and soon built more.

Schich summarized in 1979:

“Based on the references to the establishment of monasteries in the wilderness, which were widespread in the religious tradition, the doctrine of the outstanding achievements of the Cistercians in the cultivation of undeveloped or poorly developed areas emerged in the 19th century. This was linked, especially in German research, to the view of the cultural backwardness of all Slavic regions in the time before the onset of the so-called German colonization of the East in the high Middle Ages . Crowds of monks and conversations , as pioneers of civilization and Germanness, would have settled in the Slavic wastelands and, in collaboration with the summoned German farmers, in the 12th and 13th centuries east of the Elbe 'terras desertas' [desert lands] in flourishing Transformed cultural landscapes. Even if one had to infer from the sources that the Cistercians were left with existing villages here, Franz Winter , the author of the three-volume work on the 'Cistercians of northeastern Germany' published between 1869 and 1871, held on for a long time that the 'actual cultivation' of the countries inhabited only by the incompetent Slavs or 'by poor and lazy Poles' had to be done by the Cistercians. "

At this point, the collaboration with the Cistercian research also carried out at the Friedrich Meinecke Institute within the framework of comparative research on religious orders ( Kaspar Elm , Dietrich kurz , Lorenz Weinrich ) became particularly noticeable .

Regarding the position and functions of the surviving Slavic population and the importance of their institutions for the structural development of the East German territories, reference was made to the refuted “extermination” or “expulsion theory”. Although it had been scientifically refuted since 1900, at the same time there was a tendency to assess the importance of the Slavic ethnicity for the general historical development of the East German states as little as possible. - Since then (around 1970) archeology had shown that, due to strong regional differences, generalized statements about the alleged low settlement density were hardly possible.

The immigration of German settlers has multiplied the population density, but was nowhere near as large as older research had assumed. The "falling silent of the Slavic language" occurred regionally at very different times, and in 1980 little was known how long Slavic law had survived.

Objective data from the source material contributed to the negative assessment of the Slavic share in the development of the country: the small size of Slavic settlements, e. Sometimes with a very depressed legal and social position ( Kietze ). There were also Slavs among the Kossatians , but Kossatism has no roots in Slavic institutions, but in the North German agricultural constitution. Likewise, rounds are not originally Slavic village forms, but only emerged through restructuring as part of the country's expansion. Krenzlin was able to show that it was not the ethnic factor, but the geomorphological in connection with the economic factor that determined the development of the Slavic settlement in the Mark. The question of whether the legally poorer position of the Slavs in some places contributed to the expansion of the manor (often as a result of the abandonment of village communities due to late medieval desertification ) was and is one of the unsolved questions. On the other hand, it could be shown that a significant number of Pomeranian and Mecklenburg noble families go back to Slavic nobility .

In the area of ​​urban settlements, the " colonization theory " advocated in Germany and the " evolution theory " advocated by Polish scholars have long stood in sharp contrast to one another: Did the cities under German law arise "from wild roots" or in connection with Slavic "pre-urban" settlement cores? Since Schlesinger and Ludat were able to prove the latter in many cases, the old colonization theory was considered obsolete by 1980 at the latest. The Polish theory of evolution was not accepted without reservation, but the positions of both sides had clearly converged. The proportion of the Slavs in urban citizenship apparently varied regionally.

When asked about the continued operation of Slavic institutions, it was found that the Bailiwick constitution in the north-eastern territories was apparently linked to Slavic castle districts, as was the canonical organization of the large-scale “ original parishes ” (in Brandenburg, however, the principle of the village parish prevailed very quickly).

An elementary question was the socio-psychological relationship between the two ethnic groups , which has so far been little discussed , both in small parts in the medieval settlements and in general in the national relationship during the 19th and 20th centuries. For this reason, historiographical and ideology-critical studies were the priority for the IAG. Under the impression of the growing Pan-Slav movement among the Czechs, Poles and Russians and the experience of the national awakening among Poles and Czechs in the middle of the 19th century, an image of history that the German people considered to be increasingly prevalent in German journalism and historiography assigned the bearer of an allegedly superior culture a historical task, a political and cultural mission towards its Slavic neighboring peoples. Throughout the centuries, the German people had to fight with “Slavism” in order to raise it culturally and politically to a higher level and thus align it with the Western West. The German settlement in the east played a central role.

This “ culture carrier theory ” is ideologically closely linked to the catchwords of the “German urge to the east ”, the “Polish economy” and the “Slavic danger”. As one of the first results of the IAG Germania Slavica, Wippermann has presented several articles on this.

As far as the coexistence and coexistence of the Slavic and German populations in the Middle Ages is concerned, we should warn against a harmonizing image of an exclusively peaceful coexistence. Such far-reaching economic and legal changes cannot have taken place without considerable hardship for larger population groups; In some cases, discrimination against Slavs is also likely. Often cited examples are the “ expulsion ” of the inhabitants from the Slavic village of Ragösen by the Cistercians in Chorin and the guild restrictions through the “Wende paragraph”. A closer examination shows, however, that these are rather isolated cases and that ethnicity was not the primary reason for discrimination; The Cistercians also resettled village populations in western Europe when they took over property.

With this research project, Fritzes working group, like Schlesinger before, wanted to revise old prejudices. Much of the state of research presented had not yet found acceptance into the public historical awareness of the German-Slavic relationship , although it had been available for decades . This was exemplified by the simultaneous hikes and journeys in the Mark Brandenburg (10 volumes, 1974–1983) by Hans Scholz , at that time the head of the feature section of the Tagesspiegel , who uncritically repeated much of what Theodor Fontane had done a century before the start of more intensive historical research had read a lot about the Wends and the Cistercians. This uncritical repetition had to have a cementing effect on the “culture carrier theory”.

In order to get away from sweeping judgments, it was necessary to examine differentiated smaller areas in detail. For pragmatic reasons (before the fall of the Berlin Wall ), Havelland was chosen as the first region , to which Berlin-Spandau with its archaeologically well-researched Slavic castle wall as well as the neighboring German founding city belong .

Insofar as the IAG spoke of “pre-colonial times” in its results, it does not refer to the (non-European) colony term of the 19th century, but rather the internal cultivation of the country according to its Latin origin ( colere = to cultivate, cultivate) . The same must be taken into account when art history describes the East Elbe churches of the 13th century as “architecture from the period of colonization”.

Fritze († 1991) drew the preliminary conclusion in 1984 (based on the 4th volume in the Germania Slavica series ): “In future, it will hardly be possible to write a history of 'East German colonization'. It must be replaced by a history of the high medieval development of the country in eastern Germany, in which the Germans and Slavs worked alongside and with one another in a variety of ways. "

Germania Slavica as a working area of ​​the GWZO in Leipzig (1995-2007)

Of the four areas of work of the Humanities Center for the History and Culture of East Central Europe (GWZO) in Leipzig , the first is called “Germania Slavica” as the western edge of East Central Europe and the medieval regional development under German law in East Central Europe . The GWZO was created in 1995 from institutes of the Academy of Sciences of the GDR, which was dissolved in 1991. The transition of the working group on interim solutions took place on the initiative of Klaus Zernack (FU Berlin). The working group has taken on the disciplines of archeology and onomatology from the academy, and the title and greater involvement of the historical sciences and the attempt to merge the results from the FU Berlin.

The founding director Winfried Eberhard was followed in 1997 by Christian Lübke (University of Greifswald); Matthias Hardt had been responsible for coordinating up to 15 employees from the disciplines of medieval history, archeology, onomatology and art history on site since 2000. The working group initially concentrated on Mecklenburg : the project was completed in 2007. The GWZO continues to work on related issues.


Researchers like the archaeologist Sebastian Brather explicitly refer to the Germania Slavica project in their work. It goes z. B. the refutation of the " primitive German theory ", which claims an uninterrupted Germanic (-deutsche) settlement even in the Middle Ages. The Germanic peoples, who were only temporarily withdrawn during the migration, returned to “primitive German soil” during the High Middle Ages (as now Germans) in order to complete their “cultural mission”. By the late 19th century, the “primitive material culture” of the Slavs had become a stereotype in archeology. The Slavs were formerly largely a "fishing population"; So they would have neglected agriculture as opposed to livestock and hunting. Albert Kiekebusch (1870–1935): “Poorness”, “Crash from the Germanic culture of the migration to the Wendish down”; Gustaf Kossinna (1858–1931): “poverty full of monotony”; Wilhelm Unverzagt (1892–1971): "Slavic primitivity".

The references to the primitiveness of Slavic material culture, which increased in the interwar period (1918–1939), are an indirect reflection of politics. They did not only refer to the Slavic pre-population, but were also partially applied to the part of the Germania Slavica, the Sorbs , which still exists today . The “culturelessness of the Slavs” and their “inability to form their own states” seemed to be strong historical arguments for German territorial claims in East Central Europe. In Germany, the eastern territories lost in 1918 quickly became "the German East" and finally the "Eastern Dream", both clearly political battle concepts. From there it was only a short step until the claim to far-reaching conquest, for which the "Slavic subhumans" could be exterminated without hesitation.

Prehistoric (not ancient) archeology was only able to establish itself as a university subject between 1920 and 1950. Carl Schuchhardt (1859–1943) recognized that wooden buildings can be recognized by the holes in the posts and beam marks in the floor. After 1945 scientific analysis and dating methods were added ( C14 dating , archeobotany, archeozoology, mineralogy, geology, climatology, phosphate analyzes), of which dendrochronology represents the last and most significant innovation boost for archeology in Germania Slavica. The current state of research is presented by Sebastian Brather: Archeology of the Western Slavs: Settlement, Economy and Society in Early and High Medieval Eastern Central Europe , Berlin 2001.

Publications of the Germania Slavica working group of the Free University of Berlin

  • Germania Slavica I, ed. v. Wolfgang H. Fritze, Berlin 1980.
  • Germania Slavica II, ed. v. Wolfgang H. Fritze, Berlin 1981.
  • Germania Slavica III (Early Period between the Baltic Sea and the Danube. Selected contributions by Wolfgang H. Fritze on the historical development in Eastern Central Europe from the 6th to the 13th century), ed. by Ludolf Kuchenbuch and Winfried Schich, Berlin 1982.
  • Germania Slavica IV (Barbara Sasse: The social history of Bohemia in the early days. Historical-archaeological studies on the 9th – 12th centuries), ed. v. Wolfgang H. Fritze, Berlin 1982.
  • Germania Slavica V (The Havelland in the Middle Ages. Investigations into the structural history of an East Elbe landscape in Slavic and German times), ed. by Wolfgang Ribbe, Berlin 1987.
  • Germania Slavica VI (Gertraud Schrage: Slavs and Germans in Lower Lusatia: Studies on the Settlement History in the Middle Ages), Berlin 1990.

See also

supporting documents

  1. The four thick blue borders mark it in the sense of the Deutschlandlied : Maas, Memel, Etsch and Belt, i.e. in the geographical-historical context of 1841.
  2. The Polish miners in the Ruhr area are a phenomenon of the 19th century.
  3. Cf. very similar to Crantzius about his Wendish ancestors.
  4. ^ Winfried Schich: On the role of trade in the economy of the Cistercian monasteries in north-eastern Central Europe in the second half of the 12th and first half of the 13th century. In: Zisterzienser-Studien 4, Berlin 1979, p. 134.
  5. Werner Vogel: The whereabouts of the Wendish population in the Mark Brandenburg, Berlin 1960.
  6. Joachim Herrmann: Settlement, economy and social conditions of the Slavic tribes between or / Neisse and Elbe, Berlin 1968.
  7. Walther Kuhn: Ostsiedlung und population density, Munich 1960.
  8. Anneliese Krenzlin: Village, field and economy in the area of ​​the great plateaus and valleys east of the Elbe, Remagen 1952.
  9. ^ Eberhard Bohm: Teltow and Barnim. Studies on the constitutional history and state structure of Brandenburg landscapes in the Middle Ages, Cologne 1978.
  10. Wolfgang Wippermann: The Eastern Settlement in German Historiography and Journalism. Problems, methods and basic lines of development up to the First World War. In: Germania Slavica I, 1980, ed. v. Wolfgang H. Fritze, pp. 41-70; Wolfgang Wippermann: "We want to ride Gen Ostland!" Order state and eastern settlement in the historical fiction of Germany. In: Germania Slavica II, ed. v. Wolfgang H. Fritze, pp. 187-285.
  11. Winfried Schich: To the exclusion of the Wends in the guilds of North and East German cities in the late Middle Ages. In: Alexander Demandt (ed.): Living with strangers. A cultural history from antiquity to the present, Munich 1995, pp. 122-136.
  12. ^ Sebastian Brather: Teutons, Slavs, Germans. Topics, methods and concepts of prehistoric archeology since 1800. In: On the way to the Germania Slavica concept. Perspectives from historical studies, archeology, onomastics and art history since the 19th century, ed. v. Sebastian Brather and Christine Kratzke, Leipzig 2005, pp. 27–60.


  • Wolfgang H. Fritze : Germania Slavica. Objectives and work program of an interdisciplinary working group. In: Wolfgang H. Fritze (ed.): Germania Slavica (= Berlin historical studies. Vol. 1). Duncker & Humblot, Berlin 1980, ISBN 3-428-04713-3 , pp. 11-40.
  • Felix Biermann : Slavic settlement between the Elbe, Neisse and Lubsza. Archaeological studies on settlement and material culture in the early and high Middle Ages. Results and materials for the DFG project "Teutons - Slavs - Germans" (= university research on prehistoric archeology. Vol. 65 = writings on the archeology of Germanic and Slavic early history. Vol. 5). Habelt, Bonn 2000, ISBN 3-7749-2988-2 .
  • Winfried Schich : Germania Slavica. The former interdisciplinary working group at the Friedrich Meinecke Institute of the Free University of Berlin. In: Yearbook for the history of Central and Eastern Germany. Vol. 48, 2002, ISSN  0075-2614 , pp. 269-297.
  • Sebastian Brather , Christine Kratzke (eds.): On the way to the Germania Slavica concept. Perspectives on historical science, archeology, onomastics and art history since the 19th century (= GWZO working aids 3). Leipziger Universitäts-Verlag, Leipzig 2005, ISBN 3-86583-108-7 .
  • Winfried Schich: Slavs and Germans in the area of ​​the Germania Slavica. In: Wieser Encyclopedia of the European East. Volume 12: Karl Kaser, Dagmar Gramshammer-Hohl, Jan M. Piskorski , Elisabeth Vogel (eds.): Continuities and breaks: Lifestyles - Long-established residents - Immigrants from 500 to 1500. Wieser, Klagenfurt 2010, ISBN 978-3-85129-512 -2 , pp. 404-411, (PDF; 757 kB).
  • Stephan Theilig, Felix Escher (Ed.): Germania Slavica. The Slavic history of Brandenburg and Berlin. (Booklet accompanying the exhibition in Spandau Town Hall from May 26 to July 14, 2016) Rombach-Verlag, Freiburg i. Br. 2016, ISBN 978-3-7930-9853-9 .

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