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Welcome to the Wendish Research Exchange's WendBlogs section. Here you will read the musings and advice from one of several Wendish Blogmeisters whom have generously volunteered their time to participate. Please recognize that responses to your comments may or may not be forthcoming, but you are certainly encouraged to comment.

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Who is Dr. Peter Barker?

Monday 23 March 2099 at 5:21 pm

Dr Peter Barker does not have any family links to the Wends. He read German and Russian at Cambridge University in the 1960s and developed an interest in German-Slav relations. He also specialized in the German Democratic Republic and it is in this context that he came across the Wends/Sorbs. He completed a PhD thesis on GDR cultural policy and the novel, and one of the writers he discussed was Erwin Strittmatter, who, as you may or may not know, had a Sorbian family background in Lower Lusatia. When he started teaching at Reading University, he developed a course on the history of the GDR and included material on the nationalities policy in the GDR. He visited Lusatia in 1987 and invited two Sorbian writers to the United Kingdom, Jurij Koch in 1988 and Kito Lorenc in 1991. When the SED and Stasi archives were opened in the 1990s he found a lot of material on the Sorbs and this lead to the book he published in 2000 on policy towards the Sorbian minority in the GDR and after reunification, Slavs in Germany: The Sorbian Minority and he German State Since 1945. He also attended two intensive courses in Upper Sorbian in the 1990s. He retired 8 years ago but continues to take an interest in Lusatia. He did do a lot of archival research on the churches, Lutheran and Catholic, after 2000 and was intending to write a book. But after he retired full-time in 2004, it was difficult to get funding for research visits and publication costs, although the Sorbian Institute did part-fund some of his visits. As a result, he only published several articles on the churches, which appeared in Lětopis and elsewhere, based on a large amount of material he collected from Church archives in Lusatia.

Dr. Barker has have been translating the abstracts for Lětopis since 2008. He is happy for any material he sends to be put on a blog, but like Gerald Stone he doesn’t really go in for blogging.  He is, however, happy to answer any questions. A bibliography of his publications on the Sorbs is listed below. He is of course familiar with the continuing interest in Wendish matters in Texas, especially since he translated a number of chapters for Trudla Malinkowa’s book on Jan Kilian.

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Dislocation and Reorientation in the Sorbian Community (1945-2008) by Peter Barker

Monday 17 October 2016 at 12:54 pm

This article by Dr. Peter Barker first appeared in: Dislocation and Reorientation. Exile, Division and the End of Communism in German Culture and Politics, ed. Axel Goodbody, Pól Ó Dochartaigh Denis Tate, German Monitor No. 71, Rodopi, Amsterdam/New York, 2009, pp. 179-195.

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This chapter will highlight three particular points in the post-war social development of Sorbian communities in Lusatia after the Second World War. It will firstly highlight the demographic and social changes which took place in Sorbian villages in both Upper and Lower Lusatia as a result of post-war migration into Lusatia in 1945-47. Secondly it will examine the effect of the industrialisation of Middle Lusatia from 1955 on Sorbian identity and culture. Many Sorbian villages were destroyed to make way for open-cast mining and its inhabitants relocated to nearby towns such as Weiß­wasser and Hoyerswerda. Sorbian identity suffered a dramatic decline as a result of resettlement into urban German-dominated environments. Finally it will look at the latest phase in the erosion of Sorbian identity post-1990 caused by the reduction in employment prospects in eastern Saxony and south-east Brandenburg. The last two points will be discussed in the context of ‘modernisation’ theory and the policy of the Catholic and Protestant Churches.

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Re-writing My Life and Work: Jurij Brězan’s Autobiographical Writings by Peter Barker

Monday 17 October 2016 at 12:39 pm

This article by Dr. Peter Barker first appeared in Editions Rodopi, German Monitor, no. 75 in 2012.

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Jurij Brězan was the major Sorbian writer of the 20th Century, who was known above all for his novels, a genre which before 1945 hardly existed in Sorbian literature. Despite his view that his most important task was the protection of the Sorbian language and identity, he was a significant literary figure at national level in the GDR. His two major autobiographical works, Mein Stück Zeit (1989) and Ohne Pass und Zoll (1999), illustrate the dilemmas of a socialist writer caught between politics and writing in the GDR who in the end gave up his belief in the power of literature to have a direct influence on politics.

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