Slovincian is an extinct dialect of the
Pomeranian language, spoken between the lakes Gardno (Gardersee) and Łebsko (Lebasee) in Pomerania, an area since 1945 in Poland. Slovincian died out as the everyday language of the community and had been replaced by Low Germanby the start of the 20th century. However, individual words and expressions survived until after World War II, when the region became Polish. At that time there were also reports of elderly people who were able to hold simple conversations in the dialect. Most remaining Slovincians were expelled by the Poles or left for Germany during the following years.
Slovincian was so closely related to Kashubian that it could be regarded as a dialect of that language. It is disputed whether Slovincians actually used that name, given to them by the Russian academic
Aleksander Hilferding, for themselves. "Lebakaschuben" is a synonymously used term.
Some scholars believe that Slovincians regarded themselves only as Lutheran Kashubians and their language as Kashubian. Nevertheless, the name "Slovincian" prevails in literature and is also used officially, for example in "Słowiński Park Narodowy" (
Slovincian National Park), a protected area on the Polish Pomeranian coast.
The ancestors of the Slovincians, the West Slavic
Pomeranians, moved in after the Migration Period. Following the Ostsiedlung, the Slovincians like most of the other Wendsgradually became Germanized. The adoption of Lutheranism in 1525 and 1538 broke most of their links with the Kashubes, who remained Roman Catholic. Moreover, it was decided that German would be used in the Church in Pomerania, instead of the native language of the people.
The relative isolation of the Slovincian settlements from major cities delayed this process until the late 19th century. In the 16th and 17th century
Michael Brüggemann(also known as Pontanus or Michał Mostnik) and Szimon Krofejattempted to introduce Slovincian into the Lutheran Church. They translated several religious works into Slovincian and published them. However, their efforts did not stop the slow process of Germanization of the Slavic population in Pomerania.
After the unification of Germany in 1871, the
Prussian province of Pomeraniabecame part of the new German nation state. At that point of time any language except German was strongly discouraged in ecclesiastical, educational and administrative use. The Slavic Pomeranian language declined further and was gradually replaced by Low German. The same process, though much slower, took place for Catholic Kashubians in the Prussian province of Western Prussia. The Slovincian area remained within the borders of Germany until becoming part of Poland after World War IIended in 1945.
The newly arrived Polish settlers from Eastern Poland treated the Slovincians as unwanted Germans. The property ownership rights of all German citizens had been taken over by the Communist state, unless they could prove a right to naturalisation as Poles. Slovincians weren't given the option of applying for Polish citizenship. Some Polish intellectuals wrote protest letters to the Communist authorities against such treatment of Pomerania's indigenous population, but that changed little.
Slovincians began to ask for the right to emigrate to West Germany, and virtually all of the remaining Slovincian families had emigrated there by the 1980s, if they had not already been expelled there by the Polish authorities between 1945 and 1950.
Old Prussian language
[http://www.dpg-brandenburg.de/nr_18/slovinz.htm Two articles about the Slovincians after 1945, in German]
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