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

Cichon, Ted 2004 , 'Qualitative changes in ethno-linguistic status : a case study of the Sorbs in Germany', PhD thesis, University of Tasmania.

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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.

Item Type: Thesis - PhD
Authors/Creators:Cichon, Ted
Keywords: Sorbs
Copyright Holders: The Author
Copyright Information:

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).

Additional Information:

Thesis (Ph.D.)--University of Tasmania, 2004. Includes bibliographical references

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