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.
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.