University of Tasmania
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Qualitative changes in ethno-linguistic status : a case study of the Sorbs in Germany

posted on 2023-05-26, 22:10 authored by Cichon, Ted
The progress of European history in the latter centuries witnessed the emergence of a number of state powers. Some of these states became colonial powers and remained so until the end of the twentieth-century's two World Wars. After the end of the Second World War, the world, but particularly Europe, became divided into two conflicting ideological spheres, East and West. Western Europe, particularly a divided and occupied Germany came under an Anglo-American influence on the one hand, while East Germany (GDR or DDR) and other Eastern Bloc countries came under the control of a communist Soviet Union. It is safe to say that there existed homogenising influences on both sides. In broad terms, while borders were redefined and new states emerged, for the first time ever, a Slavonic minority group in the region of Lusatia known as the Sorbs saw the possibility of their fate being determined by fellow Slays. Although the circumstances seemed to be favourable to claim a separate Sorbian state, the Sorbs found themselves under the control of the Marxist-Leninist GDR. However, on the surface at least, the Sorbs of Lusatia were constitutionally protected under this regime. In other words, they were protected under a nationalities policy, which claimed to protect and promote the Sorbian language and culture. Such measures raise certain questions concerning the ulterior motive for what would seem a reversal in attitude towards a previously considered inferior (racial) group. Was it a way of rehabilitating the past, or were the Sorbs used for ideological reasons during the years 1949 to 1989? After the fall of the Berlin Wall in late 1989, German re-unification followed, which changed the political circumstances for the Germans and the Sorbs. This study examines the changes in the ethnic status of the Sorbs, which in turn changed the status of their language and culture. At the same time however, it is considered that it was among the first Slavonic nations to become a member of the European Union. Moreover, Europe instituted a number of measures to maintain its cultural diversity and heterogeneity, which includes ethnic or national minorities. By using a predominantly comparative approach to analyse the ethno-linguistic status of the Sorbs, past and present, this study incorporates a wide-ranging examination in the contexts of other minorities in Germany, federal and state constitutions, European law and global influences. The study concludes that the ethno-linguistic status of the Sorbs has qualitatively changed from that of a more or less protected minority in Germany to that of just another European minority, subject to the same assimilatory pressures of globalisation, and therefore the same challenge of survival.


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Copyright 2004 the Author - The University is continuing to endeavour to trace the copyright owner(s) and in the meantime this item has been reproduced here in good faith. We would be pleased to hear from the copyright owner(s). Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2004. Includes bibliographical references

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