The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001
or Sorbs, Slavic people (numbering over 100,000) of E Germany, in Lusatia.
They speak Lusatian (also known as Sorbic or Wendish), a West Slavic language
with two main dialects: Upper Lusatian, nearer to Czech, and Lower Lusatian,
nearer to Polish. The towns of Bautzen (Upper Lusatia) and Cottbus (Lower Lusatia
in modern Silesia) are their chief cultural centers. In the Middle Ages the
term Wends was applied by the Germans to all the Slavs inhabiting the
area between the Oder River in the east and the Elbe River and the Saale River
in the west. German conquest of their land began in the 6th cent. and was completed
under Charlemagne (8th cent.). A coalition of Wendish tribes in the 10th cent.
and again in the early 12th cent. temporarily halted German expansion. A crusade
against the pagan Wends was launched in 1147 under the leadership of Henry the
Lion of Saxony and Albert the Bear of Brandenburg. The crusade itself was, on
the whole, a failure, but in subsequent years Henry the Lion, aided by Waldemar
I of Denmark, Albert the Bear, and other princes, carried out a systematic campaign
of conquest. By the end of the 12th cent. nearly all Germany except East Prussia
had been subjected to German rule and was Christianized. However, a group of
Slavic-speaking Wends has maintained itself to the present day in Lusatia. They
call themselves Srbi and hence are known also in English as Lusatian
Sorbs or Serbs.
See G. Stone, The Smallest Slavonic Nation: The Sorbs of