The term Wends ( _de. Wenden, Winden, _da. Vendere, _sv. Vender) is used in
Germanic languages for Slavsliving near or within Germanic (later German) settlement areas after the migration period. Therefore, this term does not describe a homogeneous people, but is rather applied to various peoples, tribes or groups depending on where and when it is (or was) used.
Today, the term "Wends" is used primarily in historical contexts, but may also refer to
Kashubs, Sorbsor people of Sorbian descent (e.g. Texas Wends).
People termed Wend in the course of history
It is believed that Germanic peoples originally adopted the ethnonym from the ancient Veneti and after the
migration periodtransferred it to their new easterly neighbours, the Slavs (see "Relation between Veneti and Slavs" for further details).
For the medieval
Scandinavians, a Wend ("Vender") was a Slav originating from the southern shore of the Baltic sea("Vendland"), the term was therefore used to refer to Polabian Slavslike Obotrites, Rugian Slavs, Veletiand Pomeranian tribes.
For people living in medieval Northern
Holy Roman Empireand its precursors, especially for the Saxons, a Wend ("Wende") was a Slav living west of the Oder Riverarea, an area entitled later as Germania Slavica, settled by the Polabian tribes mentioned above in the north and others, e.g. the Sorbsand the Milceni, in the south.
The Germans in the South used the term "Winde" instead of "Wende" and applied it, just as the Germans in the North, to Slavs they had contact with, e.g. Polabian people from
Bavaria Slavicaor the Slovenians(the names Windic marchand Windisch Feistritz are still testimony to this historical denomination).
Following the 8th century, nearly all wendish land was organized in
marchesby the Frankishkings and their successors. By the 12th century, all wendish lands had become part of the Holy Roman Empire. In the course of the Ostsiedlung, reaching its peak in the 12th to 14th centuries, this land was settled by Germansand in all meanings reorganized. The term "Wends" now referred to Slavic-speaking minorities within the empire, whereas the Slavs east of the new border were not termed "Wends", but Poles, Czechsetc.
Due to the process of assimilation following German settlement, many Slavs mixed with the Germans and/or adopted their culture and language. Only some rural communities that did not show strong admixture with Germans and continued to use
West Slavic languagestongues were still termed "Wends". With the gradual decline of the use of these local Slavic tongues, the term "Wends" slowly disappeared, too.
Today, only two groups of "Wends" still exist: the
Lusatian Sorbsin present-day eastern Germanyand the Pomeranian Kashubsin present-day northern Poland. Yet, today they are referred to as "Sorbs" and "Kashubs" rather than "Wends".
History of the Wends
In the third book of his "Geographia",
Ptolemymentions the "Ouenedai" among other dwellers on the Baltic shore in the middle of the 2nd century CE. Some early scholars suggested the Ouenedai are synonymous with the Wends, [ [http://books.google.com/books?id=4BxvGd3c9OYC&pg A History of Pagan Europe By Prudence Jones, Nigel Pennick; p. 195; ISBN 0415091365] ] however, based on linguistic facts, modern academic views now argue that the Ouenedai were ethnolinguistically different from Slavs and hence cannot be equated with Wends. [Schenker, Alexander M. (1996). "The Dawn of Slavic: an Introduction to Slavic Philology". New Haven: Yale University Press, 1996. ISBN 0-300-05846-2; p. 3-5; ]
Rise (500-1000 AD)
As a part of the Slavic migrations in the first millennium, splitting the just evolved Slav ethnicity into Southern, Eastern and Western groups, some
West Slavsmoved into the areas between the Elbe and Oder Rivers from east to west and from south to north. There, they assimilated the remaining Germanic population that had not left the area in the Migration period. Their German neighbors adapted the term they had been using for peoples east of the Elbe River before to the Slavs, calling them "Wends" as they called the "Venedi" before and probably the "Vandals" also.
While the Wends were arriving in so-called "Germania Slavica" as large homogeneous groups, they soon divided into a variety of small tribes, with large strips of woodland separating one tribal settlement area from another. Their tribal names were derived from local place names, sometimes adopting the Germanic tradition (e.g.
Hevellerfrom "Havel", Rujanes from Rugians). Settlements were secured by round "burghs" made of wood and clay, where either people could retreat in case of a raid from the neighboring tribe or used as military strongholds or outposts.
Some tribes unified to larger, duchy-like units. E.g., the
Obotritesevolved from the unification of the " Holstein" and Western " Mecklenburg" tribes led by mighty dukes known for their raids into German Saxony. The Pomeranians, the only "Wends" east of the Oder River (in contrast, the Polessouth of the WartheRiver are not called "Wends"), emerged from the tribes north of the Warthe River and around the mouth of the Oder River, and were led by a duke, too. The Liutizianswere an alliance of tribes living between Obotrites and Pomeranians. They did not unify under a duke, but remained independent and had their leaders meet and decide in the temple of Rethra.
The Wends of Pomerania are named by
Saxo Grammaticusas having taken part in the Battle of Bråvallaon the side of the Danes. [http://books.google.com/books?id=q5gCAAAAYAAJ&pg Pre- and Proto-historic Finns by John Abercromby p.141] ]
In 983, many Wend tribes participated in a great uprising against the
Holy Roman Empire, which before had established Christian missions, German colonies and German administrative institutions ("Marken" such as "Nordmark" and " Billungermark") in pagan Wendish territories. The uprising was successful and the Wends delayed Germanisation for about two centuries.
Decline (1000-1200 AD)
After that victory, Wends were under increasing pressure from
Germans, Danesand Poles. The Polish invaded Pomerania several times. The Danish often raided the Baltic shores (and, in turn, were often raided by the Wends). The Holy Roman Empire and its margraves tried to restore their marches.
In 1068/69, a German expedition took and destroyed
Rethra, one of the major pagan Wend temples. The Wendish religious centre shifted to Arkonathereafter. In 1124 and 1128, the Pomeranians and some Liutizians were baptised. In 1147, the "Wend crusade" took place.
In 1168 during the
Northern Crusades, Denmarkmounted a crusade lead by Bishop Absalonand King Valdemar the Great against the Wends of Rugia in order to convert them to Christianity. They captured and destroyed Arkona, the Wendish temple fortress, and tore down the statue of the Wendish god, Svantevit. With the capitulation of the Rugian Wends, the last independent pagan Wendish were defeated by the surrounding Christian feudal powers.
From 12th to 14th century, German colonists were called in the Wend lands and settled there in large numbers, changing the area from Slav to German. The settlers were called in by local dukes and monasteries to repopulate land devastated in the wars, to cultivate the large woodlands and heavy soils that have not been settled before, and to found cities as part of the "
Ostsiedlung" (German eastward expansion).
The German population assimilated most of the Wends, making them disappear as an ethnic minority except for parts of the
Kashubsand Sorbs. The Polabian languagesurvived until the beginning of the 19th century in what is now the German state of Lower Saxony. [ [http://www.britannica.com/eb/topic-466672/Polabian-language Polabian language] ] Yet, many place names and some family names in eastern Germany still are of Wendish origin today. Also, the Dukes of Mecklenburg, of Rügenand of Pomerania had Wendish ancestors.
Between 1540 and 1973, the kings of
Swedenwere officially called "king of the Swedes, the Geatsand the Wends (in Latin translation king of Suiones, Goths and Vandals)" ("Sw. Svears, Götes och Wendes Konung"). The current monarch, Carl XVI Gustafwould be able to use the same title,Fact|date=August 2007 but chose his royal title to be simply King of Sweden ("Sveriges Konung"), thereby changing an age-old tradition.
Since the Middle Age, the kings of
Denmarkand Denmark–Norwaycarried the titles "King of the Wends and Goths". The use of both titles was discontinued in 1972.
The term Wends was also used in history in the following meanings:
Franksreferred to most Slavsliving between the Oder and Elbe rivers as either Wends or Sorbs, while in Slavic literature these people are called Polabian Slavs.
#Until mid 19th Century, it used to be the most common German name for
Slovenians. With the diffusion of the term "slowenisch" for the Slovenian languageand "Slowenen" for Slovenes, the words windisch and "Winde" or "Wende" became a derogatory one. The same development could be seen in the case of the Hungarian Sloveneswhich used to be known under the name "Vends".
# In general, a German name for West Slavic people formerly inhabiting territories of pre-
World War II Pomeraniaand historical eastern Germany. The term Wends was used in connection to all Slavs west of Polandand north of Bohemia— Polabians, Pomeraniansand Sorbs. It was also used to denote the Slovaksin German texts before ca. 1400.
# German and English name for
Sorbs( White Serbs), a Slavic people who moved into Central Europeduring the great migration, most likely in response to pressure by the westward movement of warlike peoples such as the Hunsand Avars. Some of their descendants, also called Wends or Lusatian Sorbs("Łužyski Serby"), still live in Lusatiatoday, where the Sorbian languageis maintained in schools. Many Wends were driven out of the Kingdom of Prussiaduring the Revolutions of 1848. Many Lusatian Wends immigrated to countries that welcomed them as a source of cheap labor, including the United Statesand Australia. In the United States, the majority of Wends settled in Texas, where they became some of the earliest members of the Missouri Synod of the Lutheran church. A notable settlement of Wends in Texas is the town of Serbin, in Lee County, where a church, St. Paul's Lutheran Church, stands as a typical example of Wendish architecture. In St. Paul's, the pulpit is located in the balcony of the church.
# A Finnish historian, Matti Klinge, has speculated that the words Wends or Vandals used in
Scandinavian sources occasionally meant all peoples of the eastern coast of the Baltic Seafrom Pomerania to Finland, including some Finnicpeoples. The existence of these supposed Finnic Wends is far from clear. In the 13th century there was indeed a people called Wends or Vendsliving as far as northern Latviaaround the city of Wenden and it is not known if they were indeed Slavs as their name suggests. Some researchers think they were related to Finnic-speaking Votians.
# Some sources speculate that, after the late 8th Century Slav migrations following on the earlier Germanic migrations, Wendish settlements in the Adriatic coastal area of confluence between Italian Romans, Germans, and Slavs gave rise to the name: Venezia / Venise / Venedig (Venice).
* [http://www.sorben.com/ski/ Sorbian Cultural Information]
* [http://www.sorben-wenden.de/ Sorbian internet portal]
* [http://www.tsha.utexas.edu/handbook/online/articles/WW/plw1.html Wends — Handbook of Texas]
* [http://www.texancultures.utsa.edu/publications/texansoneandall/wendish.htm Texas Wends]
* [http://www.klru.org/paintedchurches/serbin.html The Painted Churches of Texas]
* [http://www.wendishheritage.org.au Australian Wends]
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