Photo by Vova Pomortzeff Новая страница 1
 

The Smallest Slavic Nation

Photographs by Vova Pomortzeff

Lusatian Sorbs were able to keep their language and cultural traditions, despite of the centuries under the German rules and without their own statehood. At the present time, these Western Slavic people inhabit just few villages along the German-Polish border in Eastern Germany. The Lusatian lands are split now between two German states, Brandenburg and Saxony. The Saxon part is called Upper Lusatia. Its inhabitants speak the Upper Sorbian language, very similar to the Czech language. The part belonged to Brandenburg is called Lower Lusatia. The local Slavic minority speaks the Lower Sorbian language, more similar to the Polish language.

1. Shrovetide ceremonial door-to-door procession in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

The Shrovetide, called 'zapust' in the Sorbian language, is one of the most favourite Lusatian festivities. Some weekend before the Lent all unmarried guys and girls wear Lusatian national costumes and march on the round through the village. One by one, the young people visit all the village households. The procession is accompanied by merry Shrovetide dancing in every courtyard and by immoderate consumption of alcohol.

 

2. Shrovetide festivity in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

3. Shrovetide dancing during the festive procession in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

4. Shrovetide ceremonial door-to-door procession in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

5. Shrovetide festivity in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

6. Shrovetide ceremonial door-to-door procession in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

7. Shrovetide festivity in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

8. Shrovetide festivity in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

It's almost impossible to drink so much and dance after it. But the Lusatian Sorbs do it, even though they drink some headache-guaranteed mix of alcohol. They taste some cherry liqueur at first, some mint liqueur after that, some beer next, then some white wine and some egg liqueur, some schnapps for the best result after that and then again from the beginning of the list. This is not a complete list at all. They test also, for example, such exotic drinks as cappuccino flavoured liqueur (17% alcohol) or mysterious dink called 'Baba Yaga' (30% alcohol).

 

9. Shrovetide ceremonial door-to-door procession in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

10. Shrovetide dancing during the festive procession in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

11. Shrovetide ceremonial door-to-door procession in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

12. Shrovetide dancing during the festive procession in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

13. Shrovetide festivity in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

14. Shrovetide festivity in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

15. Shrovetide festivity in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

 

16. Traditional Shrovetide carnival in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

The Lusatian carnival, called 'camprovanje' in the Sorbian language, is usually held the day before the Shrovetide procession. Young people wearing fancy dresses visit all the village households with dancing and singing. Originally there was a strict hierarchy of the characters of the Lusatian carnival. For example, a Stork, as a symbol of spring, a Bear, as a symbol of departing winter, or a Rider on a White Horse attend the carnival procession. Now this tradition has been lost, and everyone dresses up in his own way.

 

17. Traditional Shrovetide carnival in the village of Turnow in Lower Lusatia.

During the carnival the young people collect eggs, alcoholic drinks and money from each householder as the Shrovetide donation. Only houses holding mourning for the deceased are bypassed by the carnival procession. However the importance of the Shrovetide donation is so strong among the Lusatian Sorbs, that even those people left a box with some eggs and money outside the house. Collected eggs are turned into omelette or scrambled eggs in the evening of the same day. Alcoholic donations are used during the carnival and the donated money goes for the organization of the Shrovetide procession next day.

 

18. Traditional Easter equestrian procession heads through the blossoming rapeseed field from the village of Crostwitz (Sorbian: Chrósćicy) to the nearby village of Panschwitz (Pančicy) in Upper Lusatia.

The tradition of Easter processions goes back to the pagan times, when the ancestors of the modern Lusatian Sorbs began to go round all their fields in the spring. It believed that these spring rides protect the harvest from the evil spirits. As the Slavs were converted to Christianity, the equestrian processions were devoted to the Easter. At the present time, every procession is organized under the direction of the local parish priest only.

 

19. Easter rider prepares for the traditional Easter procession in the village of Ralbitz (Ralbicy) in Upper Lusatia.

The Easter procession from Ralbitz to the nearby town of Wittichenau (Kulow) is the biggest and also the longest one. More than two hundreds Easter riders attend it every year. At the dawn, the Easter riders dressed up festive costumes come to the parish church where the priest gives them two church banners. First of all, the procession goes round the church and the village cemetery three times, and then heads to Wittichenau. At the same time, another Easter procession starts from Wittichenau to Ralbitz. The routes of the Easter processions haven't been changed for centuries and they never intersect.

 

20. Easter procession in front of the crucifixion in the village of Ralbitz (Ralbicy) in Upper Lusatia.

 

21. Easter procession leaves the village of Crostwitz (Chrósćicy) in Upper Lusatia.

 

22. Easter procession leaves the village of Ralbitz (Ralbicy) in Upper Lusatia.

 

23. Easter procession in the village of Crostwitz (Chrósćicy) in Upper Lusatia.

 

24. Easter procession in the village of Crostwitz (Chrósćicy) in Upper Lusatia.

In 1790 a local parish priest tried to ban the Easter processions, and refused to give the church banners to the riders. The villagers did not obey and made a second set of banners. Since that the Easter procession from Crostwitz to the nearby village of Panschwitz (Pančicy) goes traditionally with two completes of the banners.

 

25. Easter procession in front of the crucifixion in the village of Ralbitz (Ralbicy) in Upper Lusatia.

 

26. Easter procession leaves the village of Ralbitz (Ralbicy) in Upper Lusatia.

 

27. Easter procession from the village of Panschwitz (Pančicy) enters to the village of Crostwitz (Chrósćicy) in Upper Lusatia.

All road signs in Lusatia are in two languages. The Sorbian language equally with the German is the second official language in the area inhabited by the Lusatian Sorbs. There are also several Sorbian primary schools for Lusatian children in some villages, include Crostwitz

 

28. Traditional Easter fire in the village of Burg (Borkowy) in the Spreewald Woods in Lower Lusatia.

The villagers start to collect firewood for the Easter fire long before the Easter. It's necessary to guard the collected firewood well, because young men from the neighbouring villages sometimes make attempts to light it before the proper time come. If this happened, the next year the Easter fire might not be burnt in the village.

 

29. Traditional Easter fire in the village of Burg (Borkowy) in the Spreewald Woods in Lower Lusatia.

 

30. Traditional Easter fire in the village of Burg (Borkowy) in the Spreewald Woods in Lower Lusatia.

 

31. Lusatian Sorbs transports cows with the traditional boats, typical for Lusatian villages in the Spreewald Woods, at the vintage photograph from the beginning of the 20th century in the Lehde Open-air Museum dedicated to Lusatian Sorbs in the village of Lehde (Ledy) in the Spreewald Woods in Lower Lusatia.

 

32. Traditional plucking the cock in the village of Jänschwalde (Janšojce) in Lower Lusatia.

Plucking the cock is a widespread Lusatian harvest festivity. A dead cock is hung on a huge archway decorated with oak leaves in the centre of the village. One by one, young men ride through the archway attempting, from the saddle, to snatch the head or wings of the dead cock. The young man who tears the head of the cock off becomes the king of the festivity. Other two, who get the wings, become the second and the third kings.

 

33. The girl wearing Lusatian national costume, typical for Lusatian villages in the Spreewald Woods, attends plucking the cock in the village of Burg (Borkowy) in Lower Lusatia. An elaborately tied headdress called 'lapa' was an integral part of Lusatian costumes for centuries. The shape of a headdress is always different and depends on the region. Unfortunately, in some Lusatian villages women do not wear headdresses anymore.

 

34. Lusatian girls attend the traditional contest in carrying frogs on wheelbarrows after plucking the cock in the village of Jänschwalde (Janšojce) in Lower Lusatia.

 

35. Plucking the cock in the village of Burg (Borkowy) in the Spreewald Woods in Lower Lusatia. When all the riders make one unsuccessful attempt to snatch the head of the dead cock, the cock is moved few inches down. Small bottles of alcohol and packs of cigarettes are hung beside the cock, for the pleasure of those riders, who were not able to reach the cook

 

36. Dancing after plucking the cock in the village of Jänschwalde (Janšojce) in Lower Lusatia.

 

37. The finale of the traditional plucking the cock in the village of Jänschwalde (Janšojce) in Lower Lusatia. 

 

38. Open-pit coal mining of the Swedish concern Vattenfall on the site of the village of Horno (Rogow) in Lower Lusatia.

Energetic open-pit coal mining was begun in Lower Lusatia half a century ago by the GDR authorities. Approximately two dozen of Lusatian villages were demolished in order to clear the space for huge open pits. At the present time, the Swedish state-owned concern Vattenfall continues the doubtful initiatives of the GDR communist rulers. Unfortunately, the Vattenfall's business activities in coal mining are accompanied by relocation and demolition of more and more Lusatian villages. The area where the Lusatian Sorbs lived for centuries is transforming into the giant open pits. The village of Horno (Rogow) was demolished as the last at this moment. The Lusatian Sorbs fought for their village for several years, but all authorities, including the Strasbourg Court, had took the side of the Swedish state-owned concern. As a result all the villagers were relocated to new houses in a new location, and the village itself was wiped from the face of the earth in 2007. The baroque church from the 17th century was demolished with the village too. The Jänschwalde Power Station seen in the background predominantly fires raw brown coal from surrounded open-pit mining.

 

39. Vintage photographs of the village of Lacoma (Lakoma) in Lower Lusatia. The village was demolished by the GDR authorities in 1989. The cemetery with all the graves was wiped too. The huge fully developed open-pit coal mining is now on the site of the village. There are planes to create an artificial lake from the open pit.

 

40. Open-pit coal mining of the Swedish concern Vattenfall on the site of the village of Lacoma (Lakoma) in Lower Lusatia.

 

41. The symbolic cemetery of the fallen Lusatian villages on the site of the demolished village of Lacoma (Lakoma) in Lower Lusatia.

The symbolic cemetery was opened next to the only surviving house of the demolished village. Right behind the house is a huge open pit. The last cross appeared in the cemetery is dedicated to the memory of the village of Horno (Rogow), demolished in 2007. However, there are plans to relocate several more Lusatian villages, under which there are large deposits of brown coal.

 

The photographs of this feature were shot from March 2011 to April 2012 in Eastern Germany.

Copyright © 2012 Vova Pomortzeff

   
Pilgrimage to the Great River   Czech Masopust Carnival   Kawah Ijen Sulphur Mines
         
909