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They are the direct descendants of an early Slavic tribe of Pomeranians, who took their name from the fact that they settled down in Pomerania (from Slavic: Pomor'e - the land along the sea). It is believed that the ancestors of the Kashubians came into the region between the Oder and Vistula rivers over 1500 years ago. The oldest known mention of the name dates from the 13th century (a seal of prince Barnim I of Pomerania ), when they ruled areas around Szczecin (Kashubian: Szczecëno).
Kashubians living in the territories of the former Duchy of Pomerania, among them Slovincians, were almost entirely Germanised between the 14th and 20th centuries and lost their ethnic identity. Some of those living in Eastern Pomerania have survived and today regard themselves as Kashubians in the modern Poland.
The number of Kashubians depends in fact on definitions. A common estimate is that over 300,000 people in Poland are of the Kashubian ethnicity. The most extreme estimates are as low as 50,000 or as high as 500,000.
In the Polish census of 2002, only 5,100 people declared Kashubian nationality, although 51,000 declared Kashubian as their native language. Most Kashubians prefer to declare Polish nationality and Kashubian ethnicity, i.e. considering themselves both Poles and Kashubians. However, there was no option to declare different nationality and ethnicity or more than one nationality. Some claim that the census was falsified and many people were not allowed to declare their Kashubian nationality. However, barely a few such cases have been confirmed.
Their 'capital' city is Gdansk (Gdunsk) (German:Danzig) in Pomerania. Among the larger towns, Gdynia (Gdiniô) contains the biggest percentage of people of Kashubian origins. The main occupation of the Kashubians was fishing in the past and now it's mainly tourism.
In modern times around 50,000 Kashubians still speak Kashubian, a West Slavic language belonging to the Lekhitic group of languages in northern Poland. Many Polish linguists consider Kashubian to be a Polish dialect. In some towns and villages Kashubian is the second spoken language after Polish. Kashubian enjoys legal protection in Poland as a minority language, and appears on some streets signs and is also taught at schools.
The main organization that maintains the Kashubian identity is the Kashubian-Pomeranian Association. A young group called "Odroda" is a fervent supporter of a renewal of Kashubian culture.
There are other traditional Slavic ethnic groups inhabiting Pomerania i.e. Kociewiacy, Borowiacy, Krajniacy and others. The dialects spoken by these are between Kashubian and the Polish dialects of Greater Poland and Mazovia. It might indicate that they are not only descendants of ancient Pomeranians but also settlers who arived to Pomerania from Greater Poland and Masovia in the Middle Ages. However this is only one possible explanation.
An early mention of the Kashubians is in the 13th century, when the Dukes of Pomerania included "Duke of Kashubia" in their titles. From the peace treaty of Westphalia in 1648, after the Thirty years war, parts of West Pomerania became Swedish, and the Swedish kings titled themselves "Dukes of Kashubia" from 1648 to the 1720s.
The parliament (Landtag) of Prussia in Königsberg in 1843 decided to change the official church language from Polish to German, but this decision was soon repealed, and, starting in 1852, Kashubian was taught at the Gymnasium (high school) of Wejherowo. In the 1830s, several hundred Kashubians emigrated to Upper Canada and created a settlement named Wilno, in Renfrew County, Ontario, which still exists today.
The earliest writing in Kashubian is Luther's catechism in 1643 (new editions in 1752 and 1828). Scientific interest in the Kashubian language was sparked by Mrongovius (publications in 1823, 1828) and the Russian linguist Hilferding (1859, 1862), later followed by Biskupski (1883, 1891), Bronisch (1896, 1898), Mikkola (1897), Nitsch (1903). Important works are S. Ramult's, Slownik jezyka pomorskiego, czyli kaszubskiego, 1893, and F. Lorentz, Slovinzische Grammatik, 1903, Slovinzische Texte, 1905, and Slovinzisches Wörterbuch, 1908.
The first activist of the Kashubian/ Pomeranian national movement was Florian Ceynowa after 1846. He devised a Kashubian alphabet, wrote a Kashubian grammar (1879), published a collection of ethnographic-historic stories of the life of the Kashubians (Skórb kaszébsko-slovjnckjé mňvé, 1866-1868), and wrote several smaller works. Another early writer in Kashubian was Hieronim Derdowski . The next stages were: the Young Kashubian movement led by Aleksander Majkowski and the authors publishing in the nationalist "Zrzësz Kaszëbskô" (the so called "Zrzëszincë" group) who contributed significantly to the development of the Kashubian literary language.
- Günter Grass - Kashubian-German author
- Aleksander Majkowski
- Donald Tusk - politician, leader of Platforma Obywatelska
- Danuta Stenka - famous actress
- Gerard Labuda - (1916-) historian.
- http://www.zk-p.pl (Polish, Kashubian, English)
- http://www.kaszubia.com (Kashubian, Polish, German)
- http://www.republika.pl/modraglina/kaszlink.html (Polish, English, German)
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