Polabian Slavs

Polabian Slavs (Lower Sorbian: Połobske słowjany, Polish: Słowianie połabscy, Czech: Polabští slované) is a collective term applied to a number of Lechitic (West Slavic) tribes who lived along the Elbe river in what is today eastern Germany. The approximate territory stretched from the Baltic Sea in the north, the Saale[1] and the Limes Saxoniae[2] in the west, the Ore Mountains and the Western Sudetes in the south, and Poland in the east. They have also been known as Elbe Slavs[3] (German: Elbslawen) or Wends. Their name derives from the Slavic po, meaning "by/next to/along", and the Slavic name for the Elbe (Labe in Czech and Łaba in Polish).

Map of West-Central Europe from 919 to 1125, by William R. Shepherd. The territory of the Polabian Slavs is outlined in purple near the top, with the Obotrite and Veleti groups in white and the Sorb groups colored purple.

The Polabian Slavs started settling in the territory of modern Germany in the 6th century. They were largely conquered by Saxons and Danes since the 9th century and were subsequently included and gradually assimilated within the Holy Roman Empire. The tribes were gradually Germanized and assimilated in the following centuries; the Sorbs are the only descendants of the Polabian Slavs to have retained their identity and culture.

The Polabian language is now extinct. However, the two Sorbian languages are spoken by approximately 22,000-30,000 inhabitants[4] of the region and the languages are regarded by the government of Germany as official languages of the region.


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