Ostsiedlung (German pronunciation: [ˈɔstˌziːdlʊŋ], literally east settling), in English called the German eastward expansion, was the medieval eastward migration and settlement of Germanic-speaking peoples from the Holy Roman Empire, especially its southern and western portions, into less-populated regions of Central Europe, parts of west Eastern Europe, and the Baltics. The affected area roughly stretched from Estonia in the north all the way to Slovenia in the south and extended into Transylvania, modern-day Romania in the east. In part, Ostsiedlung followed the territorial expansion of the Empire and the Teutonic Order.

According to Jedlicki (1950), in many cases the term "German colonization" does not refer to an actual migration of Germans, but rather to the internal migration of native populations (Poles, Hungarians, etc.) from the countryside to the cities, which then adopted laws modeled on those of the German towns of Magdeburg and Lübeck.

Before and during the time of German settlement, late medieval Central and Eastern European societies underwent deep cultural changes in demography, religion, law and administration, agriculture, settlement numbers and structures. Thus Ostsiedlung is part of a process termed Ostkolonisation ("east colonization") or Hochmittelalterlicher Landesausbau ("high medieval land consolidation"), although these terms are sometimes used synonymously.

Ethnic conflicts erupted between the newly arrived settlers and local populations and expulsions of native populations are also known.[1] In several areas subject to the Ostsiedlung, the existing population was later discriminated against and pushed away from administration.[2][3]

In the 20th century, the Ostsiedlung was heavily exploited by German nationalists, including the Nazis, to press the territorial claims of Germany and to demonstrate supposed German superiority over non-Germanic peoples, whose cultural, urban and scientific achievements in that era were undermined, rejected, or presented as German.[4][5][6]


Central Europe before the eastern expansion

Central Europe underwent dramatic changes after the Migration Period of 300 to 700 CE. The Roman Empire had lost its dominant position. The Franks had created an empire that, besides former Roman Gaul, had united the former West Germanic-speaking peoples and adopted Christianity. East Francia, an early predecessor of Germany, aimed to be the successor to the Christian Western Roman Empire, and developed into the Holy Roman Empire. In Scandinavia, the former North Germanic-speaking peoples entered the Viking Age, affecting the whole of Europe through trade and raids. Some former East Germanic-speaking peoples had entered and merged into Rome, their own culture ceasing to exist. At the same time Slav states arose and became dominant in Eastern Europe and large parts of Central Europe; in 833 Great Moravia was formed, in 882 Kievan Rus', and in 966 Poland, all of which adopted Christianity.

Deutsche Ostsiedlung
Phases of German eastward expansion adapted from Walter Kuhn

Eastern Marches of the Frankish and Holy Roman Empires

The Slavs living within the reach of Francia (later the Holy Roman Empire) were collectively called Wends or "Elbe Slavs". They seldom formed larger political entities, but rather constituted various small tribes, dwelling as far west as to a line from the Eastern Alps and Bohemia to the Saale and Elbe rivers. As the Frankish Empire expanded, various Wendish tribes were conquered or allied with the Franks, such as the Obotrites, who aided the Franks in defeating the West Germanic Saxons. The conquered Wendish areas were organized by the Franks into marches (German: Marken, meaning "border" or "border lands" in German), which were administered by an entrusted noble who collected the tribute, reinforced by military units. The establishing of marches was also accompanied by missionary efforts.

Marches set up by Charlemagne in the territory where the Ostsiedlung would later take place included, from north to south:

In most cases, the tribes of the marches were not stable allies of the empire. Frankish kings initiated numerous, yet not always successful, military campaigns to maintain their authority.

The Limes Saxoniae border between the Saxons and the Slavic Obotrites, established about 810.

Later kings and emperors such as Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, restructured and expanded the marches, creating (from north to south):

Under the rule of King Louis the German of East Francia and of Arnulf of Carinthia, the first waves of settlement were led by Franks and Bavarii, and reached the area of what is today Slovakia and what was then Pannonia (present-day Burgenland, Hungary, and Slovenia). The pioneers were Catholics.

Although the first settlements led by the Franks and Bavarii followed the conquest of the Sorbs and other Wends in the early 10th century, and other campaigns by Holy Roman Emperors made migration possible, the beginning of a continuous Ostsiedlung is usually dated to around the 12th century.

Slavic uprising of 983

In 983, the Polabian Slavs in the Billung and Northern Marches stretching from the Elbe to the Baltic Sea succeeded in a rebellion against the political rule and Christian mission of the Empire. In spite of their new-won independence, the Obotrites, Rani, Liutizian and Hevelli tribes were soon faced with internal struggles and warfare as well as raids from the newly constituted and expanding Piast dynasty (early Polish) state from the east, Denmark from the north and the Empire from the west, eager to reestablish her marches.

Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and Brandenburg

West-Slavic peoples until 1125
West-Slavic peoples in Europe until 1125 (yellow borders). Prussia (identified as Pruzzia) has not been a Slavic, but Baltic land.

Weakened by ongoing internal conflicts and constant warfare, the independent Wendish territories finally lost the capacity to provide effective military resistance. From 1119 to 1123, Pomerania invaded and subdued the northeastern parts of the Liutizian lands. In 1124 and 1128, Wartislaw I, Duke of Pomerania, at that time a vassal of Poland, invited bishop Otto of Bamberg to Christianize the Pomeranians and Liutizians of his duchy. In 1147, as a campaign of the Northern Crusades, the Wendish Crusade was mounted in the Duchy of Saxony to retake the marches lost in 983. The crusaders also headed for Pomeranian Demmin and Szczecin (Stettin), despite these areas having already been successfully Christianized.

After the Wendish crusade, Albert the Bear was able to establish the Brandenburg march on approximately the territory of former Northern March, which since 983 had been controlled by the Hevelli and Liutizian tribes, and to expand it. The Havelberg bishopric was set up again to Christianize the Wends.

In 1164, after Saxon duke Henry the Lion finally defeated rebellious Obotrites and Pomeranian dukes in the Battle of Verchen, the Pomeranian duchies of Demmin and Stettin became Saxon fiefs, as did the Obodrite territory, which became known as Mecklenburg after its main burgh. After Henry the Lion lost an internal struggle with Emperor Frederick I, Mecklenburg and Pomerania became part of the Holy Roman Empire in 1181.

Terra Mariana (Livonian Confederation)

Terra Mariana (Land of Mary) was the official name[7] for Medieval Livonia[8] or Old Livonia [9] (German: Alt-Livland) which was formed in the aftermath of the Livonian Crusade in the territories comprising present day Estonia and Latvia. It was established on February 2, 1207 [10] as a principality of the Holy Roman Empire[11] and proclaimed by Pope Innocent III in 1215 as a subject to the Holy See.[12]

Medieval Livonia was intermittently ruled first by the Livonian Brothers of the Sword, since 1237 by the semi-autonomous Teutonic Order called the Livonian Order and the Catholic Church. The nominal head of Terra Mariana as well as the city of Riga was the Archbishop of Riga as the apex of the ecclesiastical hierarchy.[13]

In 1561, during the Livonian War, Terra Mariana ceased to exist.[7] Its northern parts were ceded to the Swedish Empire and formed into the Duchy of Estonia, its southern territories became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania — and thus eventually of the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth as the Duchy of Livonia and Duchy of Courland and Semigallia. The island of Saaremaa became part of Denmark.

State of the Teutonic Order

Teutonic Order 1466
Teutonic state in 1466

From 997, the newly established Piast state in Poland had made attempts to conquer the lands of her northeastern neighbours, the Baltic Old Prussians and Yotvingians. In the early 13th century Konrad of Masovia and Daniel of Halych invited the Teutonic Order to join in Christianizing the Baltic Prussians, who were threatening their lands. During the Northern Crusades the Teutonic Knights conquered the Baltic Prussians and granted themselves the region of Prussia (Altpreussenland) establishing the monastic state there in 1224. With the merger of Livonian Brothers of the Sword in 1237 the Livonian territories were incorporated with the Teutonic Order. In 1308, with the takeover of Danzig (Gdańsk), this state expanded into Pomerelia. In 1346, the Duchy of Estonia was sold by king of Denmark to the Teutonic Order.[14]

Though settlement had to a lower degree occurred in the Frankish marches already, massive settlement did not start until the 12th century (e.g. in East Holstein, West Mecklenburg, Central and Southeastern marches), and in the early 13th century (e.g. in Pomerania, Rügen), following the reassertion of Saxon authority over Wendish areas (the Holstein area by Holstein Count Adolf II, Brandenburg by Albert the Bear, Mecklenburg and Pomerania by Henry the Lion) in the 1150s). The Teutonic monastic state of the Teutonic Order encouraged German settlement of the largely depopulated Prussian lands.

During the Ostsiedlung, German speakers settled east of the Elbe and Saale rivers, regions largely inhabited by Polabian Slavs. Likewise, in Styria and Carinthia, German-speaking communities took form in areas inhabited by Slovenes.

The emigration of inhabitants of the Valais valley in Switzerland to areas that had been settled before by the Romans had to some extent the same preconditions as the colonisation of the East. These so-called Wallisser founded villages in the upper zones of Alp valleys, departing from their valley of origin, throughout the north of Italy, Graubünden (Grisons) and Tyrol.

Rural development

Medieval West European agriculture saw some advances that were carried eastward in the course of the Ostsiedlung.[15] These included:

  • the three-field crop rotation, which replaced the ley farming previously common in East Central Europe.[15] According to estimates by Henryk Łowmiański, as cited by Jan Maria Piskorski, this reduced the area of cultivated land needed to feed a family from 35 to 100 hectares (86 to 247 acres) (lay farming) to 4 to 8 hectares (9.9 to 19.8 acres) (three-field system); furthermore the growth of both warm- and cool-season grain increased the likelihood of a good harvest.[15]
  • the mouldboard plough with an iron blade, which replaced the scratch plough.[15] While this is stated by Jan Maria Piskorski in a 1997 essay summarizing the state of research, Paweł Zaremba in 1961 said that the mouldboard plough existed already on these territories before the German arrival.[16] However, scratch ploughs remained in use in Livonia until the 19th century and were used in France until that century as well.
  • iron spades, scythes and axes[15]
  • increased use of horses[15]
  • land amelioration techniques such as drainage and dike or levee construction. Sporadic use of fertilizers was likewise introduced.[15]

With the introduction of these techniques, cereals became the primary nutrition, making up for an average 70% of the peoples' calorie intake.[15] As a consequence, an abundance of barns and mills were built.[17] Channels dug for the numerous new watermills marked the first large-scale human interference with the previously untouched water bodies in this area.[17]

The amount of cultivated land also increased, especially through the clearance of forests.[18] The extent of this increase differed by region: while for example in Poland, the area of arable land had doubled (16% of the total area by the beginning of the 11th century and 30% in the 16th century, with the highest increase rates in the 14th century), the area of arable land increased 7- to 20-fold in many Silesian regions during the Ostsiedlung.[18]

The changes in agriculture went along with changes in farm layout and settlement structure based on the Hufenverfassung, a system to divide and classify land.[19] Farmland was divided into Hufen (also Huben, mansi), much like English hides, with one Hufe (25 to 40 hectares depending on the region) plentifully supplying one farm. This led to new types of larger villages, replacing the previously dominant type of small villages consisting of four to eight farms.[17] According to Piskorski (1999), this led to "a complete transformation of the previous settlement structure. The cultural landscape of East Central Europe formed by the medieval settlement processes essentially prevails until today."[17]

Ostsiedlung also led to a rapid population growth throughout East Central Europe.[18] During the 12th and 13th centuries, the population density in persons per square kilometre increased, for example, from two to 20–25 in the area of present-day Saxony, from 6 to 14 in Bohemia, and from 5 to 8.5 in Poland (30 in the Cracow region).[18] In his 1999 essay summarizing the state of research, Piskorski said that the increase was due to the influx of settlers on the one hand and an increase in indigenous populations after the colonization on the other hand: settlement was the primary reason for the increase e.g. in the areas east of the Oder, the Duchy of Pomerania, western Greater Poland, Silesia, Austria, Moravia, Prussia and Transylvania (Siebenbürgen), while in the larger part of Central and Eastern Europe indigenous populations were responsible for the growth.[18] In an essay of 2007, the same Piskorski said that "insofar as it is possible to draw conclusions from the less than rich medieval source material, it appears that at least in some East Central European territories the population increased significantly. It is however possible to contest to what extent this was a direct result of migration and how far it was due to increased agricultural productivity and the gathering pace of urbanization."[20] In contrast to Western Europe, this increased population was largely spared by the 14th-century Black Death pandemic.[18]

With the speakers of a variety of different German dialects also came new systems of taxation. While the Wendish tithe was a fixed tax depending on village size, the German tithe depended on the actual crop, leading to higher taxes being collected from settlers than from the Wends, even though settlers were at least in part exempted from taxes in the first years after the settlement was established. This was a major reason for local rulers' keenness to invite settlers.

Urban development

Poznan Braun Hohenberg
Poznań (Posen) as an example of an Ostsiedlung town attached to a pre-existing castrum (castle with a suburbium). The castrum was located on the island with the cathedral, the Ostsiedlung town with its rectilinear streets was built on the river's bank.[21]
Greifswald im Mittelalter (Rekonstruktion Theodor Pyl)
Greifswald in medieval Pomerania is an example of an Ostsiedlung town built in a previously unsettled area.[22] Locators set up rectangular blocks in an area resembling an oval with a central market, and organized the settlement.

In the Slavic areas, cities already existed before the Ostsiedlung. Initially craftsmen and merchants formed suburbs of fortified strongholds (grads) or the Wendish-Scandinavian merchants' settlements (emporia) of the Baltic coast. Large cities included Szczecin which reached 9,000 inhabitants and had several temples, Kraków which was the capital of the state of Piast Poland), or Wrocław which already existed with an extensive state administration and church presence. In Poland, the largest cities like Kraków, Gniezno, Wrocław, Wolin counted on average 4,000-5,000 inhabitants each in the beginning of the 12th century.[23] Previous theories that urban development was brought to areas such as Pomerania, Mecklenburg or Poland by Germans during the Ostsiedlung are now discarded, and studies show that towns existed long before arrival of any German colonists, housing Poles and other numerous nationalities.[24][25] Ostsiedlung narrowed the meaning of *gordъ to denote castles only, while towns were thence termed *město (originally "site", compare Polish miast; in areas not affected by Ostsiedlung, the term for town remained a variant of *gordъ, compare Russian город).[26]

The type of town introduced during the Ostsiedlung was called "free town" (civitates liberae) or "new town" by its contemporaries.[17] The rapid increase in the number of towns led, per Piskorski, to an "urbanization of East Central Europe."[17] The new towns differed from their predecessors in:

  • the introduction of German town law, resulting in far-reaching administrative and judicial rights for the towns. The townspeople were personally free, enjoyed far-reaching property rights and were subject to the town's own jurisdiction.[17] The privileges granted to the towns were copied, sometimes with minor changes, from the legal charters of Lübeck (Lübeck Law in 33 towns[27] at the southern coast of the Baltic Sea): Magdeburg Law in Brandenburg, areas of modern Saxony, Lusatia, Silesia, northern Bohemia, northern Moravia, Teutonic Order state; Nuremberg Law in southwestern Bohemia; Brünn Law in Moravia, based on the charter of Vienna); and Iglau Law in Bohemian and Moravian mining areas.[28] Besides these basic town laws, several adapted town charters.[28]
  • the introduction of permanent markets.[17] While previously, markets were held only periodically, townspeople were now permanently free to trade[17] and marketplaces were a central feature of the new towns.
  • layout. The new towns were planned towns, with their layout often resembling a checkerboard.
  • location. Where towns were not founded on previously empty soil (ex cruda radice, ex nihilo, e.g. Neubrandenburg,[22]), they were—with few exceptions—built a certain distance from a pre-existing castle or early town.[17] Sometimes, as in the case of Brandenburg, the nuclei of the new towns were merchant settlements (usually with a St. Nicholas church) adjacent to Slavic settlements;[28] in other cases, such as Kolberg (now Kołobrzeg), the new town was founded several kilometers away from its predecessor.[17] Where new towns were built in the vicinity of Slavic settlements, the latter continued to exist—its inhabitants usually remained there, or sometimes lived in the new town where they were kept under the force and law of the prince or bishop (both were true for Posen, now Poznań).[29] That way, the princes and bishops kept the services and taxes from the older settlements' inhabitants and did not have to put up with the intricate property rights there.[29] In the few cases where an older settlement was included in the new town, it was, per Piskorski, "surveyed again and built anew" (e.g. Stettin (now Szczecin)).[29]

The corresponding acts of locatio were defined for Poland by Benedykt Zientara as either the actual foundation of a new town, the regularization of a town's layout, and/or the chartering with German town law.[30] Like its rural equivalent, the urban locatio was usually realized by immigrant contractors.[31] These locatores marked out and divided the settlement area, recruited the settlers and assigned them their plots.[31]

Soon after town law was granted and the town area settled, many towns came to care for their own interests much more than for those of the local ruler, and gained partial or full economic and military independence. Many of them joined the Hanseatic League.

The settlers

Sachsenspiegel depicting the Ostsiedlung. The Lokator (with a special hat) receives the foundation charter from the landlord. Settlers clear the forest and build houses. The locator acts as the judge in the village.

The vast majority of the settlers were speakers of a variety of German dialects. In the northern zones Low German, at that time varieties of Lower-Saxonian, but also of early Netherlandish, that is to say, in modern terms, Dutch and Flemish. Next to these also Frisian. In the central zones speakers of Thuringian en Upper-Saxonian participated. In the southern zones speakers of East Frankish and Bavarian tongues were dominant. Significant numbers of Dutch as well as (though to a lesser extent) Danes, Scots or local Wends and (French speaking) Walloons also participated. The settlers were mostly landless younger children of noble families who could not inherit property. Entrepreneur-adventurers, often from lower-noble descent, called locators, played a recruiting, negotiating and co-ordinating role and established new villages, juridically and geo-physically. Of course, outlaws took the opportunity to escape but they were not appreciated because success depended upon discipline and solidarity.[32]

The settlers migrated in nearly straight West-to-East lines. As a result, the Southeast was settled by South Germans (Bavarians, Swabians), the Northeast by Saxons (in particular those from Westphalia, Flanders, Holland, and Frisia, while central regions were settled by Franks. As a result, the different German dialect groups expanded eastward along with their bearers, the "new" Eastern forms only slightly differing from their Western counterparts.

Settlers were invited by local secular rulers, such as dukes, counts, margraves, princes and (only in a few cases due to the weakening central power) the king. Also, settlers were invited by religious institutions such as monasteries and bishops, who had become mighty land-owners in the course of Christian mission. Often, a local secular ruler would grant vast woodlands and wilderness and a few villages to an order like the Cistercian monks, who would erect an abbey, call in settlers and cultivate the land.

The settlers were granted estates and privileges. Settlement was usually organised by a so-called Lokator (allocator of land), who was granted an important position such as the inheritable position of the village elder (Schulte or Schulze). Towns were founded and granted German town law. The agricultural, legal, administrative, and technical methods of the immigrants, as well as their successful proselytising of the native inhabitants, led to a gradual transformation of the settlement areas, as former linguistically and culturally Slavic areas became Germanised.

Besides the marches, which were adjacent to the Empire, German settlement occurred in areas farther away, such as the Carpathians, Transylvania, and along the Gulf of Riga. German cultural and linguistic influence lasted in some of these areas right up to the present day. The rulers of Hungary, Bohemia, Silesia, Pomerania, Mecklenburg, and Poland encouraged German settlement in order to promote the development of the less populated portions of their realms. To provide an incentive to immigrate, the Transylvanian Saxons and Baltic Germans were corporately combined and privileged.

In the middle of the 14th century, the settling progress slowed as a result of the Black Death. Probably the population halved by that time and in addition economically marginal settlements were left, in particular on the sandy soil of Pomerania and Western Prussia. Only after more than a century, local Slavic leaders in late Medieval Pomerania, Western Prussia and Silesia continued inviting German settlers to their territories.

The Thirty Years' War reduced the population of some largely German-speaking lands by a third; e.g., prior to the war, 2.6 million people inhabited the Kingdom of Bohemia; afterwards, there remained only approximately 1.55 million in the kingdom. Nevertheless, as late as the 18th century, some Germans accepted invitations to settle as far away as the southern Ukraine and the slopes of the Volga River. When, in the 17th and 18th centuries, the eastern and southern parts of East Prussia were depopulated by wars and epidemics, colonizers from Germany were no longer available and the Prussian dukes, later on kings, invited Lutheran Austrians, Poles (Mazurians) and Lithuanians to settle in the empty regions. These colonizers largely adopted German customs and language in the 19th and the first half of the 20th century and in this way became associated with the Ostsiedlung.


Colonization was the pretext for assimilation processes that went on for centuries. Assimilation occurred in both directions - depending on the region, either the German speakers, or the local non-Germanic population, was assimilated.

Assimilation of Germans

Subcarpathian (Małopolska) Germans in the 15th century.

The Polonization process of Germans who had settled since the 13th century in Poland, in towns like Kraków (Krakau, Cracow) and Poznań (Posen) in the midst of Polish lands, lasted about two centuries. They constituted a patriciate which was not able to continue its isolated position without a continuation of newcomers from German lands. The Sorbs over time also assimilated German settlers in their midst, yet at the same time other Sorbs were themselves assimilated by the surrounding German-speaking population. Many Central and Eastern European towns remained for some centuries multi-ethnic melting pots.[33]

Assimilation, treatment, involvement and traces of the Wends

Although in many areas Slavic population density was not very high compared to the Empire and had even further declined as a result of the extensive warfare during the 10th to 12th centuries, some of the densely settled areas kept their Wendish populations to a varying degree, resisting germanization for a long time.

In the territories of Pomerania and Silesia, German settlers left aside old Wendish villages and built their own new ones on grounds allotted to them by the Slavic nobility and the monasteries. But in the regions west of the Oder, conquered by German nobility or dominated by Slavic nobles who made themselves dependent upon German (Saxon) dukes, there are also documented cases where the Wends were driven out in order to rebuild the village with settlers. In such a case, the new village would nevertheless keep its former Slavic name. As an example, in the case of the village Böbelin in Mecklenburg it is documented that driven-out Wendish inhabitants repeatedly invaded their former village, hindering a resettlement.

In today's Saxony (not to be confused with the old Saxons), the situation was again different as the area and in particular Upper Lusatia was geographically close to Bohemia which itself was ruled by a Slavic dynasty who was a loyal and powerful member of the Roman-German Empire. In this environment, German feudal lords often cooperated with the Slavic inhabitants. A leading figure in early German eastward-migration, Wibrecht of Groitzsch, e.g., only rose to local power by the backing of the Bohemian king and by marriage into Slavic nobility. Thus, the German-Slavic relations there remained largely peaceful. On the other hand, the relation between Slavic-governed Bohemia and Slavic-governed Poland remained one of constant struggle.

Thus, discrimination against the Wends should not be mistaken as part of the general concept of Ostsiedlung. Rather, local Wends were subject to a different taxation level and thus not as profitable as new settlers. This was i.a. the result of the local migration policy which granted tax exemptions as an incentive to those who made land arable and founded new settlements. After such a village had become established, however, standardised German taxes were levied. (See above.) Wends also participated in the development of the area along with German settlers, for new settlers were not sought out just because of their ethnicity, a concept unknown in the Middle Ages, but because of their manpower and agricultural and technical know-how. Thus, they could profit from privileges just the same way as German settlers could do. Even though the majority of the settlers were Germans (Franks and Bavarians in the South, and Saxons and Flemings in the North), Wends and others also participated in the settlement.

Over time, most of the Wends (the general German term for Slavs) were gradually Germanized. However, in isolated rural areas where Wends formed a substantial part of the population, they continued to use Slavic tongues and kept elements of local Wendish culture despite a strong Germanic influx. These were the Drawehnopolaben of the Wendland east of the Lüneburg Heath, the Jabelheide of southern Mecklenburg, the Slovincians and Kashubs of Eastern Pomerania, and the Sorbs of Lusatia. Lusatia was inhabited, from Berlin to Görlitz, by a compact mass of Sorbs until the end of the 19th century. Linguistic assimilation went on in a relatively short time; starting from some 200,000 only a few thousands have remained until today.


Where Germans settled and expanded an already existing Slavic settlement, they either kept the Slavic name, translated it, renamed it or assigned a mixed German-Slavic name.[34] In most cases, the Slavic name was kept.[34] Sometimes, the Wends continued to live in a distinct small portion of the village, the Kiez. Where Germans founded a village in the vicinity of an existing Slavic settlement, which decayed afterwards, the new settlement was often named after the nearby Slavic one; seldom was a new name assigned.[34] If the Slavic settlement in the vicinity of the new German one did not decay, the German and Slavic settlements were distinguished by the attributes Deutsch- for the German and Wendisch- for the Slavic one,[34] or Klein- ("little") for the old settlement and Groß- ("large") for the new one. If the German settlement was founded with no Slavic settlement in the vicinity (aus wilder Wurzel, literally "wild rooted"), the name could either be German, the Slavic toponym for the area, or mixed.[34] Slavic-rooted German placenames are not an indicator of preceding Slavic settlements.[35] In some cases, as was shown for some Sudetenland villages, a German and a Slavic placename describing the same settlement co-existed for several centuries.[35]

Where German names were introduced, they usually ended with -dorf or -hagen in the North, and -rode or -hain in the South.[36] Often, the Lokator's name or the region where the settlers originated was made part of the name, too.

Because former Slavic place names were used to name newly established or expanded settlements, many (in many areas even the majority) towns and villages in modern East Germany and the "Former eastern territories of Germany" carried, and in present-day Germany still carry, names with Slavic roots. Most obvious are those names ending with -ow, -vitz or -witz and in many cases -in, including Berlin itself. In the case of the former eastern territories of Germany, these names were Polonized or replaced by new Polish or Russian names after 1945. In Bohemia, Czechoslovakia (re)czechized the German geographical names in the Sudetenland.

In German-speaking areas most inherited surnames were formed only after the Ostsiedlung period, and many surnames derive from the home village or home town of an ancestor, but many German surnames are in fact Germanized Wendish placenames.

The former ethnic difference in German (Deutsch-) and Slavic (Wendisch-, Böhmisch-, Polnisch-) placenames disappeared in the after war Polish and Czech republics. Villages and towns got new or reconstructed Slavic names because the remembrance of the history of colonization and the historical presence of Germans was no longer appreciated by national correctness.

Marches and regions affected


The Nordalbingen March, the territory between Hedeby and the Danish fortress of Danevirke in the north and the Elbe river in the south, was part of the empire during the reign of Charlemagne. The border was later fixed at the Eider river.

Saxon Eastern March

While the Franks had already established a Sorbian March east of the Saale river in the 9th century, King Otto I designated a much-larger area the Saxon Eastern March in 937, roughly the territory between the Elbe, the Oder and the Peene rivers. Ruled by Margrave Gero I, it is also referred to as Marca Geronis. After Gero's death in 965, the march was divided in smaller districts: Northern March, Lusatian March, Meissen March, and Zeitz March.

The march was settled by various West Slavic tribes, the most important being Polabian Slavs tribes in the north and Sorbian tribes in the south.

March of the Billungs and the Northern March

The March of the Billungs was constituted simultaneously with the Saxon Eastern March by Otto I in 936. It covered the areas south of the Baltic Sea not in the Eastern March and was put under the rule of Hermann Billung.

The area was inhabited by Obodrites in the West, Rani in the Northeast and Polabian Slavs tribes in the South east.

Due to the great Slavic uprising in 983, both the Billung March and the Northern March were lost for the Empire except for a small area in the West. No substantial Saxon settlement had taken place in the short existence of the marches.

Various efforts were made to re-establish Saxon rule in the territories, the most prominent being the Rethra raiding in 1068 and the Wendish crusade in 1147. Also, there were campaigns of Piast Poland and Denmark into the eastern and northern parts of the area, respectively. Also, local rulers campaigned against each other. Until the final defeat of the Slavs in the 12th century, no Ostsiedlung could take place.

The Northern March was in part re-established as Brandenburg march during the next centuries.

In the 1164 Battle of Verchen the last Obotrite army was defeated by Saxon Henry the Lion. In 1168, the Rani were defeated by the Danes. Mecklenburg, Pomerania and Rügen from now on were under German and Danish overlordship, governed as fiefs by local dynasties of Slavic origin. These dukes called in many German gentry and settlers, adopted Salic law and the Low German language. This is also called the "Second Ostsiedlung", due to the break of some two centuries.

Mecklenburg, Principality of Rügen and Pomerania

After Henry the Lion's defeat, Mecklenburg and Pomerania were turned from Saxon fiefs into direct parts of the Holy Roman Empire by Kaiser Frederick I Barbarossa, while the duchy of Rügen still was Danish. During the next half century, the Empire and Denmark struggled for overlordship in Mecklenburg, Rügen and Pomerania. Most fell to Denmark. Also, the local gentry raised troops to expand their territories. When Denmark lost in the battle of Bornhöved in 1227, all Pomeranian and Mecklenburg areas were again controlled by the Holy Roman Empire.

Despite ongoing border conflicts between the dukes of Pomerania, Mecklenburg, Rügen and Brandenburg, the numbers of German-speaking settlers increased rapidly. Existing and deserted villages and farms were settled up, and new villages were founded, especially by turning the vast woodlands into farmland. Large new German speaking towns replaced the settlements around former Slavic castles, or were founded on unpopulated land.

Germans, especially Saxons and Flemings, were attracted by low taxes, cheap or free land, and other privileges. The settlements were organised by locators, often lower nobleman and merchants, who were assigned by the Slavic nobility to plan and settle sites, and in turn, were privileged by public authority as Schulze (burgomasters, aldermen and local judges).

The adoption of Salic law and Germanic culture and the large numbers of settlers as well as replacement or intermarriage of the former Slavic gentry resulted in a completely new organisation and administration of settlements and agriculture.

The local Slavic population only in part participated, other parts did not enjoy any benefits and were to settle in separate "Wendish villages", "Wendish streets" or "Wendish quarters". Most of these disappeared in course of the 15th century when these Wends (c.q. Poles and Czechs) were integrated in the (German) mass of the population.

Most of Mecklenburg and Western Pomerania, the northern parts of Farther Pomerania and the mainland section of the duchy of Rügen, were settled by German speakers in the 12th and the beginning of 13th centuries, the other regions of Rügen and Farther Pomerania were settled from 1220 on. In some enclaves, especially in the East of Pomerania, there was only a minor influx of German settlers, so Slavic populations such as the Slovincians, Kashubs persisted.

In Mecklenburg, Pomerania, and Rügen, Ostsiedlung started after the Saxon conquest of 1164. Yet there are only few records of Germans from the 1170s; a large influx of settlers occurred in Eastern Mecklenburg from 1210 on behalf of Duke Heinrich Borwin, in Pomerania after 1220 on behalf of the dukes Wartislaw III (Pomerania-Demmin) and Barnim I (Pomerania-Stettin) as well as the Bishop of Cammin Herrmann von der Gleichen. In the same period, massive settlement began in the mainland section of the Principality of Rügen. The island of Rügen, which was a Slavic stronghold, was settled only in the 14th century.[33]

Hohenkrug near Stettin is the first village clearly recorded as German (villa teutonicorum) in 1173. At the same time, there are records about Germans in the duke's court. Settlement in urban centers is likely to have occurred even earlier (since the 1150s). Stettin's German community had its own church (St. James') erected in 1187.[33]

In Mecklenburg, the first settlers from Holstein and Dithmarschen arrived on the isle of Poel. Since 1220, Ostsiedlung was coordinated by the German knights rather than the Slavic duke. German settlement in its early period focussed on the coastal region with its large woods and only few Slavic settlements. Especially towards the Southeast of Mecklenburg, settlements were established not only by Low German, but also Slavic locators. Here, local Slavs were heavily involved in the settlement process, Germans started to move in since the second half of the 13th century. The settlers originated in the areas west of Mecklenburg (Holstein, Friesland, Lower Saxony, Westphalia), except for the terra Land Stargard, that since 1236 was a part of the Margraviate of Brandenburg and settled by Germans from the Brandenburgian Altmark region.[33]

Pomerania was settled from two directions. The West and the North, including the Principality of Rügen, were settled by people primarily from Mecklenburg, Holstein and Friesland, whereas the South (Stettin area) and the East (parts of Farther Pomerania) were settled primarily by people from the Magdeburg area and Brandenburg. The origins of the Usedom settlers resemble this pattern: Most came from Mecklenburg, the Hanover region and Brandenburg, the others came from Westphalia, Holstein, Friesland, Rhineland, and even Prussia and Poland.[33]

Ostsiedlung in Pomerania and Rügen differed from other settlements by the high proportion of Scandinavians, especially Danes (incl. Scanians). The highest Danish influence was on the Ostsiedlung of the Rugian principality. In the possessions of the Rugian Eldena Abbey, settlers who opened a tavern would respectively be treated according to Danish, German and Wendish law.[33]

Wampen and Ladebow and other villages near Greifswald are of Danish origin.[37] Yet, many Scandinavian settlers in the Pomeranian towns were of German origin, moving from the German merchants' settlements in Sweden to the newly founded towns at the Southern Baltic shore.[38]

The evolving large towns of the area—Lübeck, Wismar, Stralsund, Greifswald, Stettin—attracted settlers primarily from Westphalia, Eastphalia, the Low Countries and the Lower Rhine area.[33]

Assimilation and treatment of the Wends varied according to the region and differed between urban and rural areas. In the towns, Wends took part in the settlement, yet were administered separately. In Rostock, Stralsund and Friedland, the Wends were governed by their own Vogt. On the other hand, there are a few records of Wendish patricians, e.g. mentions of a Wendish Ratsherr in Ueckermünde (1284) and Gollnow (1328). The Wends were concentrated in the suburbs, that in some cases were pre-Ostsiedlung Slavic settlements (e.g. in Stettin, where the pre-German town evolved in a Wendish suburb, in which a Wendish public bath is recorded as late as 1350), in other cases newly built settlements (e.g. Greifenhagen-Wiek). In the towns, Wends were subsequently pushed into low-skill professions like dock workers, but there are also records about better situated Wends, who for example dominated pork-and-beef trade in Rostock or ran a bakery in Stettin.[33]

In most of Mecklenburg, Rügen and Pomerania, the Wends were assimilated by the beginning of the 15th century. In the Principality of Rügen, the last Wendish-speaking woman died in 1404 on the Jasmund peninsula. In rural parts of Mecklenburg and Farther Pomerania (east of Köslin) however, Wends are still recorded in the 16th century. Most of the Wends were fishermen, peasants or shepherds, also there were a few Wendish craftsmen.[33]

Brandenburg March

At the time of Albert I, Margrave of Brandenburg (Albrecht "the Bear" von Ballenstedt), the Northern March stretched from the territory of the Askanier (Ascanians, see also Anhalt) to the Markgrafschaft Brandenburg and therefore became part of the Empire. In 1147, Heinrich the Lion conquered the March of the Billungs, the later Mecklenburg as a seignory and in 1164 Pomerania, that lay further to the east of the Baltic Sea. In 1181, Mecklenburg and Pomerania officially became parts of the Holy Roman Empire.


Rather, the phenomenon involved internal colonization, associated with rural-urban migration by natives, in which many of the Polish cities adopted laws based on those of the German towns of Lubeck and Magdeburg. Some economic methods were likewise imported from Germany.[39][under discussion]

Since the beginning of the 14/15th centuries, the Polish-Silesian Piast dynasty – (Władysław Opolczyk), reinforced German settlers on the land, who in decades founded more than 150 towns and villages under German town law, particularly under the law of the town Magdeburg (Magdeburg law). Ethnic Germans, along with German-speaking Ashkenazi Jews from the Rhineland, also formed a large part of the town population of Kraków.

Concurrent with the change in the structure of the Polish State and sovereignty was an economic and social impoverishment of the country. Harassed by civil strife and foreign invasions, like the Mongol invasion in 1241, the small principalities became enfeebled and depopulated. The incomes of the Princes began to decrease materially. This led them to take steps toward encouraging immigration from foreign countries. A great number of German peasants, who, during the interregnum following the death of Frederick II, suffered great oppression at the hands of their lords, were induced to settle in Poland under very favorable conditions. German immigration into Poland had started spontaneously earlier, about the end of the 11th century, and was the result of overpopulation in the central provinces of the Empire. Advantage of the existing tendency had already been taken by the Polish Princes in the 12th century for the development of cities and crafts. Now the movement became intensified.

Some of studies of the development of the German settlements in Poland indicate that they sprang up along the wide belt which the Mongols laid waste in 1241. It was a stretch of land comprising present Galicia and southern Silesia. Before the Mongol invasion these two provinces were thickly settled and highly developed. Through them ran the commercial highways from the East and the Levant to the Baltic and the west of Europe. Kraków and Wrocław (Breslau) were large and prosperous towns. Some historians, mostly those stressing the scale of German settlements, claim that after the Mongol armies retired the country was in ruins and the population scattered or exterminated. The archaeologist Sebastian Brather claims that the majority of the citizens in Polish and Bohemian towns were of German origin.[40] The theory that newly arrived settlers can be named German has been disputed; for example, Norman Davies in his study on Wrocław, states that such term for people in that era is misleading, as German identity wasn't formed yet[41] Others, minimizing the effect of German colonisation, minimize the effect of the Mongol invasion, stressing that the destruction was limited mainly to Lesser Poland and mainly the third Mongol invasion. The refugees from this invasion went north and helped to colonize the sparsely inhabited areas and to clear the forests to the east of the Vistula in Mazovia.

The 1257 foundation decree issued by Bolesław V the Chaste for Kraków was unusual insofar that it explicitly separated the local Polish population that already lived in the city,[42] in order to avoid depopulation of already existing settlements that would lead to loss of taxes.[43] Often, the Ostsiedlung settlement was founded near a pre-existing fortress that was within the already existing town, as for example with Poznań (Posen) and Kraków.[44] in order to avoid depopulation of already existing settlements that would lead to loss of taxes.[45]


In Pomerelia, Ostsiedlung was started by the Pomerelian dukes[46] and focussed on the towns, whereas much of the countryside remained Slavic (Kashubians).[33] An exception was the German settled Vistula delta[33] (Vistula Germans), the coastal regions,[46] and the Vistula valley.[46]

Mestwin II in 1271 referred to the inhabitants of the civitas (town) of Danzig (now Gdańsk) as burgensibus theutonicis fidelibus (to the faithful German burghers).[47]

The settlers came from Low German areas like Holstein, the Low Countries, Flandres, Lower Saxony, Westphalia and Mecklenburg, but a few also from the Middle German Thuringia region.[33]


Germans first came to Silesia during the Late Medieval Ostsiedlung.[48] Duchy of Silesia was ruled by the local Piast dynasty. The country at this time was sparsely populated with small hamlets and altogether not more than 150,000 people. Castles with adjacent suburbias were the centre of commerce, administration, crafts and the church. The most important of these cities, most often the seat of a duke, were Wrocław, Legnica, Opole and Racibórz. The country was fortified by the so-called Preseka, a system of dense forests.

The Ostsiedlung in Silesia was initiated by Bolesław I, who spent a part of his life in Germany, and especially by his son Henry I and the latter's wife Hedwig in the late 12th century. They became the first Slavic sovereigns outside of the Holy Roman Empire to promote German settlements on a wide base. Both began to invite German settlers in order to develop their realm economically and to extend their rule. Already in 1175 Bolesław I founded Lubensis abbey and staffed the monastery with German monks from Pforta Abbey in Saxony. Before 1163, the abbey had been inhabited by German Benedictines. The Cistercian abbey, its domain and the German settlers were excluded from local legislation and subsequently the monks founded several German villages on their soil. During Henry I reign the systematic settlement began. In a complex system a network of towns was founded in the western and southwestern parts of Silesia. These towns, economic and judicial centers, were surrounded by standardized built villages which were often constructed on a cleared spot in the forests. The earliest German land clearing area in Silesia appeared from 1147 until 1200 in the area of Złotoryja (Goldberg) and Lwówek Śląski (Löwenberg), two settlements founded by German miners. Goldberg and Löwenberg were also the first Silesian cities to receive German town law in 1211 and 1217. This pattern of colonization was soon adopted in all other, already populated, parts of Silesia, were cities with German town law were often founded beside Slavic settlements.

In the early 14th century Silesia possessed around 150 towns and the population more than quintupled. The townspeople were Germans, which now formed the majority of the overall population, while the Slavs usually lived outside of the cities. In a process of peaceful assimilation Lower and Middle Silesia became organically Germanized on the West bank of Oder while Upper Silesia retained a Slavic majority, although also there German villages, German towns and increasing German agricultural cultivation of barren lands came into existence.

Drang nach Osten

In the 19th century, recognition of this complex phenomenon coupled with the rise of nationalism. This led to a largely unhistoric ethnically inspired nationalist reinterpretation of the medieval process. In Germany and some Slavic countries, most notably Poland, Ostsiedlung was perceived in nationalist circles as a prelude to contemporary expansionism and Germanisation efforts, the slogan used for this perception was Drang nach Osten.

The German settlement in Pomerania did, as the other migrations, not follow a certain ideology. In contrast, the settlement was characterized only by practical means. ... Only national historiography, elapsed in the mid-19th century, in retrospect added a constructed Slavic-German clash to the Ostsiedlung process of the High Middle Ages. But that was 19th century ideology, not the ideology of the Middle Ages. ... Called in were "cuiuscunque gentis et cuiuscunque artis homines" (people of any ethnicity and profession)." (Buchholz)[49]

20th century

Brockhaus 1894 Deutsche Mundarten
"German" dialects in central Europe, 1894 (here including other West Germanic languages: Low German and Dutch, but excluding Frisian)

Economic reasons led to a westward migration of Germans from eastern Prussia in the late 19th and early 20th centuries (Ostflucht).


The 20th century wars and nationalist policies severely altered the ethnic and cultural composition of Central and Eastern Europe. After World War I, Germans in reconstituted Poland were set under pressure to leave the Polish Corridor, the eastern part of Upper Silesia and Poznań. Before World War II, the Nazis initiated the Nazi-Soviet population transfers, wiping out the old settlement areas of the Baltic Germans, the Germans in Bessarabia and others, to resettle them in occupied Poland. Room for them was made during World War II, in line with the Generalplan Ost by expulsion of Poles and enslaving these and other Slavs according to the Nazi's Lebensraum concept. While further realization of this mega plan, aiming at a total reconstitution of Central and Eastern Europe as a German colony, was prevented by the war's turn, the beginning of the expulsion of 2 million Poles and settlement of Volksdeutsche in the annexed territories yet was implied by 1944.

Kress Interfax
Viktor Kress is the governor of Tomsk Oblast, Russia. His parents were ethnic Germans.

The Potsdam Conference – the meeting between the leaders of the United States, Great Britain, and the Soviet Union – sanctioned the expulsion of Germans from Czechoslovakia, Poland and Hungary. With the Red Army's advance and Nazi Germany's defeat in 1945, the ethnic make-up of Central and Eastern and East Central Europe was radically changed, as nearly all Germans were expelled not only from all Soviet conquered German settlement areas across Central and Eastern Europe, but also from former territories of the Reich east of the Oder-Neisse line, mainly, the provinces of Silesia, East Prussia, East Brandenburg, and Pomerania. The Soviet-established People's Republic of Poland annexed the majority of the lands while the northern half of East Prussia was taken by the Soviets, becoming the Kaliningrad Oblast, an exclave of the Russian SFSR. The former German settlement areas were resettled by ethnic citizens of the respective succeeding state, (Czechs, Slovaks and Roma in the former Sudetenland and Poles, Lemkos, ethnic Ukrainians in Silesia and Pomerania). However, some areas settled and Germanised in the course of the Ostsiedlung still form the northeastern part of modern Germany, such as the Bundesländer of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Brandenburg, Saxony and east of the limes Saxoniae in Holstein (part of Schleswig-Holstein).

The mediaeval colonization areas, in modern times constituted as the eastern provinces of the German Empire and the Austrian Empire, were inhabited by some 30 million Germans by the beginning of the 20th century. The westward withdrawal of the political boundaries of Germany, partly in 1919, but substantially in 1945, was followed by the removal of some 15 million, to be concentrated within the borders of present-day Germany and Austria. Only the first 12th-century colonization area remained German in language and culture, and this concerns, in a modern political concept, the territory of the pre-1990 German Democratic Republic, and of the eastern part of Austria.

In recent times, dispersed spots and larger concentrations of German colonies throughout all Central and Eastern European states are largely removed by expulsion, assimilation, and emigration.

See also


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  47. ^ Howard B. Clarke, Anngret Simms, The Comparative History of Urban Origins in Non-Roman Europe: Ireland, Wales, Denmark, Germany, Poland, and Russia from the Ninth to the Thirteenth Century B.A.R., p.690, 1985
  48. ^ Weinhold, Karl (1887). Die Verbreitung und die Herkunft der Deutschen in Schlesien [The Spread and the Origin of Germans in Silesia] (in German). Stuttgart: J. Engelhorn.
  49. ^ Werner Buchholz (1999). Pommern. Siedler. p. 17. ISBN 3-88680-272-8. Die deutschen Siedlungsvorgänge in Pommern folgten ebensowenig wie die übrigen Wanderungsbewegungen einer wie auch immer gearteten Ideologie. Vielmehr war die deutsche Siedlung in Pommern ausschließlich von praktischen Erfordernissen geprägt. ... Erst die um die Mitte des 19. Jahrhunderts sich durchsetzende nationale Geschichtsschreibung konstruierte rückblickend einen slawisch-germanischen Gegensatz in die deutsche Ostsiedlung des Hochmittelalters hinein. Aber das war die Ideologie des 19. Jahrhunderts, nicht des Mittelalters. ... Angesiedelt werden sollten "cuiuscunque gentis et cuiuscunque artis homines" (Menschen welcher Herkunft und welchen Handwerks auch immer), so steht es in zahlreichen von pommerschen Herzögen und rügischen Fürsten ausgestellten Urkunden.


  • Kleineberg, A; Marx Chr.; Knobloch E.; Lelgemann D.: Germania und die Insel Thule. Die Entschlüsselung von Ptolemaios' "Atlas der Oikumene". WBG 2010. ISBN 978-3-534-23757-9.
  • Horst Gründer, Peter Johanek, Kolonialstädte, europäische Enklaven oder Schmelztiegel der Kulturen?: Europäische Enklaven oder Schmelztiegel der Kulturen?, 2001, ISBN 3-8258-3601-0, ISBN 978-3-8258-3601-6
  • Paul Reuber, Anke Strüver, Günter Wolkersdorfer, Politische Geographien Europas — Annäherungen an ein umstrittenes Konstrukt: Annäherungen an ein umstrittenes Konstrukt, 2005, ISBN 3-8258-6523-1, ISBN 978-3-8258-6523-8
  • Alain Demurger, Wolfgang Kaiser, Die Ritter des Herrn: Geschichte der Geistlichen Ritterorden, 2003, ISBN 3-406-50282-2, ISBN 978-3-406-50282-8
  • Herrmann, Die Slawen in Deutschland
  • Ulrich Knefelkamp, M. Stolpe, Zisterzienser: Norm, Kultur, Reform — 900 Jahre Zisterzienser, 2001, ISBN 3-540-64816-X, 9783540648161
  • Werner Rösener, Agrarwirtschaft, Agrarverfassung und ländliche Gesellschaft im Mittelalter, 1988, ISBN 3-486-55024-1, ISBN 978-3-486-55024-5
  • Wilhelm von Sommerfeld, Geschichte der Germanisierung des Herzogtums Pommern oder Slavien bis zum Ablauf des 13. Jahrhunderts, Adamant Media Corporation, U.S.A. (unabridged facsimile of the edition published by Duncker & Humblot, Leipzig 1896), 2005, ISBN 1-4212-3832-2

Further reading

Christianization of Pomerania

Medieval Pomerania was converted from Slavic paganism to Christianity by Otto von Bamberg in 1124 and 1128 (Duchy of Pomerania), and in 1168 by Absalon (Principality of Rügen).

Earlier attempts at Christianization, undertaken since the 10th century, failed or were short-lived. The new religion stabilized when the Pomeranian dukes founded several monasteries and called in Christian, primarily German settlers during the Ostsiedlung. The first Pomeranian abbey was founded in 1153 at the site where the first Christian duke of Pomerania, Wartislaw I, was slain by a pagan. The Duchy of Pomerania was organized by the Roman Catholic Church in the Bishopric of Cammin in 1140. Pomeranian areas not belonging to the duchy at this time were attached to the dioceses of Włocławek (East), Roskilde (Rügen) and Schwerin (West).


Circipania (German: Circipanien, Zirzipanien) was a medieval territory in what is now northeastern Germany. The name derives from Latin circum (around) and Pane (the Peene River). The region was enclosed roughly by the upper Recknitz, Trebel and Peene rivers, the western border ran east of Güstrow. The region developed in the 10th and 11th centuries, when it was the tribal territory of the Circipanes (German: Circipanen, Zirzipanen), a West Slavic tribe which along with the neighboring tribes was a part of the Lutici federation. The main burghs were Teterow, Malchin, and Demmin.

In 936, the Circipania was incorporated into the Billung March of the Holy Roman Empire. The Circipanes were one of the four constituent tribes of the Lutici federation centered on Rethra, which started a successful uprising in 983. Rid of the empire's overlordship, the Circipanes stayed with the Liutizians until the federation broke apart due to internal struggles in the 1050s, culminating dissolution in 1057. The Redarians and Tollensians opposed the Circipanes and Kessinians struggling for more influence within the federative administration, and allied with the Obodrites. The Obodrites successfully invaded Circipania and made it a province of their realm. The internal struggles had weakened the area, such that in the following year it became the target of numerous expeditions of an expansive Holy Roman Empire during their Wendish Crusade in 1147), then by Denmark in the raid of 1170, and finally by the Duchy of Pomerania which subdued and incorporated the area into Pomerania-Demmin in the late 12th century. The last of the territory was invaded by Mecklenburg and subdued in the early 1230s.

The 1230s marked the end of Circipania as a distinct territory as well as the end of the Circipanes. Pomerania-Demmin was in a miserable position and lost most of the territory to the Margrave of Brandenburg in the Treaty of Kremmen in 1236. Thus, Pomerania-Demmin could not counter the Mecklenburgian advance led by Borwin III of Rostock. Circipania would stay divided with Mecklenburg controlling the western bulk with Güstrow and Teterow, and Pomerania controlling the eastern smaller part around Demmin. Later the Mecklenburg part divided into Mecklenburg-Rostock and Mecklenburg-Werle, and the name Circipania dropped out of use.

Though Circipania vanished as a name from political maps, it was still visible on Roman Catholic ecclesiastic maps as the Pomeranian province of the Diocese of Cammin, because the borders of this province did not differ from that of Circipania and remained as they were before the conquest.

The Circipanes, whose numbers already dwindled due to the previous warfare, were assimilated by the German settlers called in by Wartislaw III, Duke of Pomerania before the Mecklenburg conquest, and by Mecklenburg knights during the Ostsiedlung.

Duchy of Pomerania

The Duchy of Pomerania (German: Herzogtum Pommern, Polish: Księstwo Pomorskie, 12th century – 1637) was a duchy in Pomerania on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, ruled by dukes of the House of Pomerania (Griffins).

The duchy originated from the realm of Wartislaw I, a Slavic Pomeranian duke, and was extended by the Lands of Schlawe and Stolp in 1317, the Principality of Rügen in 1325, and the Lauenburg and Bütow Land in 1455. During the High Middle Ages, it also comprised the northern Neumark and Uckermark areas as well as Circipania and Mecklenburg-Strelitz.

The Dukes of Pomerania were vassals (by conquest) of Poland from 1122 to 1138; of the Duchy of Saxony from 1164 to 1181, of the Holy Roman Empire from 1181 to 1185, of Denmark from 1185 to 1227 and the Holy Roman Empire again from 1227 to 1806 (including periods of vassalage to the Margraves of Brandenburg). Most of the time, the duchy was ruled by several "Griffin" dukes in common, resulting in various internal partitions. After the last Griffin duke had died during the Thirty Years' War in 1637, the duchy was partitioned between Brandenburg-Prussia and Sweden. The Kings of Sweden and the Margraves of Brandenburg, later Kings of Prussia, became members as Dukes of Pomerania in the List of Reichstag participants.

The name Pomerania comes from Slavic po more, which means Land by the Sea.

European Route of Brick Gothic

The European Route of Brick Gothic (EuRoB) is a tourist route connecting cities with Brick Gothic architecture in three countries along the Baltic Sea: Denmark, Germany and Poland.

Many of the cities also have a history as Hanseatic League city, and some are related to German Ostsiedlung or the Teutonic Order, consequently the route is managed by the German Association for Housing, Urban and Spatial Development.

Germania Slavica

Germania Slavica, a historiographic term used since the 1950s, denotes the medieval contact zone between Germans and Slavs in Central Europe.Historian Klaus Zernack divides Germania Slavica into:

Germania Slavica I between the Elbe and Saale rivers in the west and the Oder in the east, which had formed part of the Frankish and later Holy Roman Empires as marches

Germania Slavica II east of Germania Slavica I and west of the Kingdom of Poland, comprising the Silesian, Pomeranian, and Prussian duchies as well as the Neumark.From the late first millennium CE, Slavic tribes (collectively referred to as Wends) settled in Germania Slavica. The area underwent great social transformations associated with the influx of settlers from the West (primarily Germans) during the Ostsiedlung in the High Middle Ages.

By analogy, the term Bavaria Slavica denotes the medieval German-Slavic contact zone in northeastern Bavaria.


The Hevelli or Hevellians, also known as Stodorans (sometimes Havolane; German: Heveller or Stodoranen; Polish: Hawelanie or Stodoranie; Czech: Havolané or Stodorané) were a tribe of the Polabian Slavs, who settled around the middle Havel river in the present-day Havelland region of Brandenburg in eastern Germany from the 8th century onwards.

West Slavic tribes ("Wends") had settled in the Germania Slavica region from the 7th century onwards. The Hehfeldi as they were called by the Bavarian Geographer about 850 built their main fortification at Brenna (later to become Brandenburg an der Havel) and a large eastern outpost at the current site of Spandau. In 906 the Hevelli princess Drahomíra married the Přemyslid duke Vratislaus I of Bohemia. Baçlabič was the prince of Hevelli from 921-936.

Brenna was occupied by the German king Henry the Fowler in his 928/29 Slavic campaign and incorporated into the Marca Geronis. Henry's successor Otto I in 948 established the Bishopric of Brandenburg in order to Christianize the pagan population. These efforts were aborted in the course of the 983 Great Slav Rising in the Northern March, which again defied German control over the region. Together with the neighbouring Sprevane in the east, the Hevelli waged war against not only the German Saxon forces to the west, but also other Slavic tribes.

The baptized Hevelli prince Pribislav (died 1150) finally bequested his lands to the Ascanian count Albert the Bear. Albert until 1157 could re-conquer the territory of the former Northern March, whereafter he established the Margraviate of Brandenburg. The Slavic Hevelli were gradually assimilated by German settlers in the course of the Ostsiedlung.

History of German settlement in Central and Eastern Europe

The presence of German-speaking populations in Central and Eastern Europe is rooted in centuries of history, with the settling in northeastern Europe of Germanic peoples predating even the founding of the Roman Empire. The presence of the independent German states in the region (particularly Prussia), and later the German Empire and also in other multi-ethnic countries, such as Austria-Hungary, Poland, Imperial Russia, etc., demonstrates the extent and duration of German-speaking settlements.

In the German language the German populations in these parts of Europe are commonly referred to as Volksdeutsche. The number of ethnic Germans in Central and Eastern Europe dropped dramatically as the result of the post-1944 German flight and expulsion from Central and Eastern Europe.

There are still a substantial number of ethnic Germans in the countries that are now Germany and Austria's neighbors to the east—Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, and Slovenia. In addition, there are or have been significant populations in such areas as Estonia, Latvia, Romania, Moldova, Ukraine, Russia and Kazakhstan.


Jarmen is a town in the Vorpommern-Greifswald district, in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania, Germany. It is situated on the southern bank of the river Peene, 20 km south of Greifswald. Founded during the Ostsiedlung in the medieval terrae Miserez and Ploth, Jarmen remained a rural town at an important Peene crossing. Jarmen was in the Duchy of Pomerania from its foundation until the Thirty Years' War, in Swedish Pomerania until the Great Northern War, in Prussian Pomerania until World War II, in the East German state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and later Bezirk Neubrandenburg until the peaceful revolution in 1989 and in the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern within reunited Germany since 1990. The Autobahn 20 crosses the Peene at Jarmen.


The lokator (lat. locator: landlord, land allocator, from lat. (col)locare to allocate, rent, establish, settle or locate; also magister incolarum; in Mecklenburg and Pomerania also posessor or cultor, similar to the Reutemeister in South Germany) was a medieval sub-contractor, who was responsible to a territorial lord or landlord for the clearing, survey and apportionment of land that was to be settled. In addition, he hired settlers for this purpose, provided their means of subsistence during the transitional period (e.g. during the clearing of the land) and made materiel and implements available, such as seed, draught animals, iron ploughs, etc. He thus played a key role during the establishment of new towns and villages, as well as the clearing of uncultivated land during the phase of internal colonisation (Binnenkolonisation) in North German and the German Ostsiedlung and participated in its success.


Lüdershagen is a Baltic Sea municipality in the Vorpommern-Rügen district (Northwest Pomerania), in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. Located about 18 km southwest of Barth and (until 2005) part of Amt Barth, Lüdershagen is about 15 km east of Ribnitz-Damgarten. To the north of the town is Gäthkenhäger forest, and to the south is Highway 105 (Rostock-Stralsund). The population of Lüdershagen is about 580.The name Lüdershagen was first recorded in 1278 in the wake of the Ostsiedlung, the resettlement of Germans into Central and Eastern Europe associated with the expansion of the Holy Roman Empire, the defeat of Denmark at the Battle of Bornhöved (1227) and the conquest of the Prussians by the Teutonic Order.

The town is known for Georgskirche (St. George's Church), a brick building in the Gothic style dating to the 13th and 14th centuries and maintained by the Pomeranian Evangelical Church. There is also an annual summer festival known as Tonnenabschlagen.

Pomerania during the High Middle Ages

Pomerania during the High Middle Ages covers the history of Pomerania in the 12th and 13th centuries.

The early 12th century Obodrite, Polish, Saxon, and Danish conquests resulted in vassalage and Christianization of the formerly pagan and independent Pomeranian tribes. Local dynasties ruled the Principality of Rügen (House of Wizlaw), the Duchy of Pomerania (House of Pomerania, "Griffins"), the Lands of Schlawe and Stolp (Ratiboride branch of the Griffins), and the duchies in Pomerelia (Samborides).The dukes of Pomerania expanded their realm into Circipania and Uckermark to the southwest, and competed with the Kingdom of Poland and the Margraviate of Brandenburg for territory and formal overlordship over their duchies. Pomerania-Demmin lost most of its territory and was integrated into Pomerania-Stettin in the mid-13th century. When the Ratiborides died out in 1223, competition arose for the Lands of Schlawe and Stolp, which changed hands numerous times.

Starting in the High Middle Ages, a large influx of German settlers and the introduction of German law, custom, and Low German language began the process of Germanisation (Ostsiedlung). Many of the people groups that had dominated the area during the Early Middle Ages, such as the Slavic Rani, Lutician and Pomeranian tribes, were assimilated into the new German Pomeranian culture. The Germanisation was not complete, as the Kashubians, descendants of Slavic Pomeranians, dominated many rural areas in Pomerelia. The arrival of German colonists and Germanization mostly affected both the central and local administration.The conversion of Pomerania to Christianity was achieved primarily by the missionary efforts of Absalon and Otto von Bamberg, by the foundation of numerous monasteries, and through the Christian clergy and settlers. A Pomeranian diocese was set up in Wolin, the see was later moved to Cammin (Kammin, Kamień Pomorski).

Pomeranians (German people)

The Pomeranians (German: Pommern) are a German people living in Pomerania. In the High Middle Ages, groups people migrated to Pomerania during the Ostsiedlung. These migrants, consisting of Germans from what is now Northwestern Germany, Danes, Dutch and Flemings gradually outnumbering and assimilating the West Slavic tribes of the Rani, Liutizians and Slavic Pomeranians. The evolving society (German: Neustamm) was speaking East Pomeranian, Central Pomeranian and Mecklenburgisch-Vorpommersch dialects of Low German. Mostly German immigration continued until the 20th century. The Thirty Years' War caused a severe population drop, only one-third of the pre-war Pomeranian population survived. In the late 19th and early 20th century, many Pomeranians emigrated to prospering West German industrial centers or overseas during the Ostflucht. Low German was gradually replaced by Standard German, though spoken with an accent. After World War II, most of the former Province of Pomerania became Polish, and nearly all Pomeranians living east of the Oder-Neisse line fled or were expelled to post-war Germany. Therefore, Pomeranians today live not only in Western Pomerania but are dispersed all over Germany and other countries.

Rani (Slavic tribe)

The Rani or Rujani (German: Ranen, Rujanen) were a West Slavic tribe based on the island of Rugia (Rügen) and the southwestern mainland across the Strelasund in what is today northeastern Germany.

The Rani tribe emerged after the Slavic settlement of the region in the 9th century, ranging among the most powerful of several small Slav tribes dwelling between the Elbe and lower Vistula rivers before the 13th century. They were one of the last to cling to their Slavic paganism, with the influence of their religious center at Arkona reaching far beyond the tribal borders.In 1168, the Rani were defeated by Danish king Valdemar I and his adviser Absalon, Bishop of Roskilde, resulting in the conversion of the region to Christianity. In the course of the 13th century in Pomerania, the tribe was assimilated by German and Danish settlers during the Ostsiedlung, resulting in a gradual Germanisation of the Rani. The Principality of Rugia remained Danish until 1325.

Silesian Przesieka

Silesian Przesieka, literally Silesian Cutting (Polish: Przesieka Śląska or Oseg, German: Schlesischer Grenzwald, Hag or Preseka, Latin: Indago) was a densely forested, uninhabited and unpassable strip of land in the middle of Silesia, spreading from Golden Mountains in the south, along the Nysa Kłodzka to the Odra, and then along the Stobrawa, reaching the towns of Namysłów and Byczyna in northern Silesia. Originally, the Silesian Cutting was a boundary, separating territories of two Western Slavic tribes, the Slezanie and the Opolanie. In the 12th century, along the Cutting a border of Lower Silesia and Upper Silesia was established.For a long time, the Silesian Cutting was used as a natural military obstacle, protecting the area of Opole from raids of the Moravian and Czech tribes. However, it did not prevent the Hussites from invading Silesia in 1420 (see also Hussite Wars).

Strasburg, Germany

Strasburg (officially: Strasburg (Uckermark)) is a town in the Vorpommern-Greifswald district of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. It is situated in the historic Uckermark region, about 16 kilometres (9.9 miles) west of Pasewalk, and 33 kilometres (21 miles) east of Neubrandenburg.

Straceburch was established in 1267 by Duke Barnim I of Pomerania at a strategically important site near the border with Mecklenburg in the west and the Margraviate of Brandenburg in the south. It was given town privileges and settled with Germans in the course of the Ostsiedlung. The region was affected by the enduring Brandenburg–Pomeranian conflict, and after the Hohenzollern elector Frederick II of Brandenburg had campaigned the territory, the Pomeranian dukes finally were forced to cede Strasburg to him according to the 1479 Treaty of Prenzlau.

The town remained a part of the Prussian Province of Brandenburg, until in 1952 the East German government established the Bezirk Neubrandenburg comprising the former Brandenburg towns of Prenzlau, Templin and Strasburg. Strasburg then was the capital of a district in its own right, which after the East German Peaceful Revolution of 1989 became part of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern.

Wolfgang Samuel's war memoir, German Boy, is partly set in Strasburg, where Samuel and his mother lived from March 1945 to December 1946.


Swabians (German: Schwaben, singular Schwabe) are an ethnic German people who are native to or have ancestral roots in the ethnocultural and linguistic region of Swabia, which is now mostly divided between the modern states of Baden-Württemberg and Bavaria, in southwestern Germany.The name is ultimately derived from the medieval Duchy of Swabia, one of the German stem duchies, representing the territory of Alemannia, whose inhabitants were interchangeably called Alemanni or Suebi. This territory would include all of the Alemannic German areal, but the modern concept of Swabia is more restricted, due to the collapse of the duchy of Swabia in the 13th century. Swabia as understood in modern ethnography roughly coincides with the Swabian Circle of the Holy Roman Empire as it stood during the Early Modern period.


Tempelhof is a locality of Berlin within the borough of Tempelhof-Schöneberg. It is the location of the former Tempelhof Airport, one of the earliest commercial airports in the world. It is now deserted and shows as a blank spot on maps of Berlin. Attempts are being made to save the still-existing buildings.

The Tempelhof locality is located in the south-central part of the city. Before Berlin's 2001 administrative reform, the area of Tempelhof, together with the localities of Mariendorf, Marienfelde, and Lichtenrade, constituted a borough of its own, also called Tempelhof. These localities grew from historic villages on the Teltow plateau founded in the early 13th century in the course of the German Ostsiedlung.

Transylvanian Saxons

The Transylvanian Saxons (German: Siebenbürger Sachsen; Transylvanian Saxon: Siweberjer Såksen; Romanian: Sași ardeleni, sași transilvăneni; Hungarian: Erdélyi szászok) are a people of German ethnicity who were settled in Transylvania (German: Siebenbürgen) in waves starting from the mid-12th century until the late Modern Age (specifically mid-19th century).

After 1918 and the dissolution of Austria-Hungary, in the wake of the Treaty of Trianon, Transylvania was joined to the Kingdom of Romania, Transylvanian Saxons, together with other German sub-groups in newly enlarged Romania (namely Banat Swabians, Sathmar Swabians, Bessarabia Germans, Bukovina Germans, and Zipser Germans), became part of that country's broader German minority.

Relatively few still live in Romania, where the last official census carried out in 2011 indicated around 36,000 Germans, out of which approximately 13,000 were of Transylvanian Saxon descent.


The Uckermark (German pronunciation ) is a historical region in northeastern Germany, currently straddles the Uckermark District of Brandenburg and the Vorpommern-Greifswald District of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern. Its traditional capital is Prenzlau.

See also


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