• Stuart Cunningham

Student thesis: Phd


To what extent was German unification (1989-90) a turning point (Wende) for the Sorbian national minority? Although a majority of scholars and commentators understand the period as one of 'revolution', there are grounds to query how radical or widespread were the changes which the collapse of communism promised to bring. In the case of the Sorbs - a national minority in Germany which was persecuted under the National Socialist regime, which became a protected minority under the German Democratic Republic, and which remains a protected minority under the Federal Republic of Germany - many difficulties persist in the relationship between the Sorbs, the German government, and wider German society, as well as amongst the Sorbs themselves.There have been extensive policy, legal, and constitutional changes since unification, but these have often led to similar outcomes as would have been expected under the GDR. The economy is one of the biggest challenges in the post-unification era, as the government and broader society seek to balance the legally recognised rights of national minorities with the economic interests of the state and society at large. This conflict is most evident in the continuation of brown coal mining in the Sorbian area of settlement, as well as in the privatisation of the GDR's agricultural collectives after unification. Sorbian cultural institutions and organisations have remained relatively unreformed, which means that traditionalists have retained the upper hand in successive institutional debates. The case study of Horno, a village in south Brandenburg, illustrates these issues well, as it was destroyed in 2004 to make way for brown coal mining, and was the first village after unification to be relocated in this manner.These factors lead to the conclusion that German unification was not quite the turning point that it is commonly believed to be, as in many areas of Sorbian life, the continuities seem to outweigh the changes.
Date of Award31 Dec 2013
Original languageEnglish
Awarding Institution
  • The University of Manchester
SupervisorMatthew Jefferies (Supervisor) & Ewa Ochman (Supervisor)


  • cold war
  • wends
  • history
  • german
  • sorbs
  • germany
  • unification
  • sorbian

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