Obotrites

Obotrites

The Obotrites (Abodriten), also commonly known as the Obodrites, Abotrites, or Abodrites, were a confederation of medieval West Slavic tribes within the territory of modern Mecklenburg and Holstein in northern Germany (see Polabian Slavs). For decades they were allies of Charlemagne in his wars against Germanic Saxons and Slavic Veleti. In 798 Obodrites ruled by prince Drożko defeated Saxons in the battle under Święciana. Still heathen Saxons were dispersed by the emperor and part of their former land in Holstein, including Hamburg, was awarded to Obotrites in 804, as a prize for their victory.

Adam of Bremen referred to them as the Reregi because of their lucrative trade emporium Reric. In common with other Slavic groups, they were often described by Germanic sources as Wends.

The main tribes of the Obotritic confederation were:

Other tribes associated with the confederation include:

As allies of the Carolingian kings and their Ottonian successors' empire the Obotrites battled the kings of Denmark from 808- 1200, who wished to rule in the Baltic region independent from the empire. Often upon death of an emperor or other difficulties, they sought to seize power and in 983 Hamburg was destroyed by the Obotrites under their king, Mstivoj. At times they collected tributes from the Danes and Saxons. Under the leadership of Niklot, they resisted a Christian assault during the Wendish Crusade.

German missionaries, such as Saint Vicelinus, converted the Obotrites to Christianity. In 1170 they acknowledged the suzerainty of the Holy Roman Empire, leading to Germanization and assimilation over the following centuries. However, up to the late 15th century, most villagers in the Obotritic area were still speaking Slavic dialects (Polabian language); but some time after that their language changed to German. The Polabian language survived until the beginning of the 19th century in what is now the German state of Lower Saxony.

Some of the Obotrites also migrated to the south and settled in the Pannonian Plain, where the Bodrogiensis county of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary was named after them.

The German poet Johann Heinrich Voss (1751-1826), born in Mecklenburg-Strelitz, liked to identify himself as an Obotrite to emphasize his Slavic heritage. Obotrites were sufficiently remote and obscure to appeal to the nascent ethnic identifications of romanticism.

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