History of Pomerania
The history of Pomerania, an area in
modern-day Germany and Poland, dates back more than 10,000 years. The
name Pomerania comes from Slavic po more, which means Land at the Sea.
Settlement in the area started by the end of the Vistula Glacial Stage, about 13,000 years ago. In the High Middle Ages, the area became Christian and was ruled by local dukes of the House of Pomerania and the Samborides, at various times vassals of Denmark, the Holy Roman Empire and Poland. From the late 12th century, the Griffin Duchy of Pomerania stayed with the Holy Roman Empire and the Principality of Rugia with Denmark, while Denmark, Brandenburg, Poland and the Teutonic Knights struggled for control in Samboride Pomerelia.
Throughout the High Middle Ages, a
large influx of German settlers and the introduction of German law,
custom, and Low German language turned the area west of the Oder into a
German one (Ostsiedlung). The Wends, who during the Early Middle
Ages had belonged to the Slavic Rani, Lutician and Pomeranian tribes,
were assimilated by the German Pomeranians. To the east of the Oder
these development occurred later; in the area from Szczecin eastward,
the number of German settlers in the 12th century was still
insignificant. The Kashubians descendants of Slavic Pomeranians,
dominated many rural areas in Pomerelia.
A conversion of Pomerania to Christianity was achieved primarily by the missionary efforts of Absalon and Otto von Bamberg, by the foundation of numerous monasteries, and by the assimilatory power of the Christian settlers. A Pomeranian diocese was set up in Wolin, the see was later moved to Cammin
The Teutonic Knights succeeded in annexing Pomerelia to their monastic state in the early 14th century. Meanwhile the Ostsiedlung started to turn Pomerania into a German-settled area;
the remaining Wends, who became known as Slovincians and Kashubians,
continued to settle within the rural East. In 1325 the line of the
princes of Rugia (Rügen) died out, and the principality was inherited by
House of Pomerania, themselves involved in the Brandenburg-Pomeranian
conflict about superiority in their often internally divided duchy.
In 1466, with the Teutonic Order's defeat, Pomerelia became subject to the Polish Crown as a part of Royal Prussia. While the Duchy of Pomerania adopted the Protestant Reformation in 1534, Kashubia remained with the Roman Catholic Church. The Thirty Years' and subsequent wars severely ravaged and depopulated most of Pomerania. With the extinction of the Griffin house during the same period, the Duchy of Pomerania was divided between the Swedish Empire and Brandenburg-Prussia in 1648.
Prussia gained the southern parts of
Swedish Pomerania in 1720. It gained the remainder of Swedish Pomerania
in 1815, when French occupation during the Napoleonic Wars was lifted.
The former Brandenburg-Prussian Pomerania and the former Swedish parts
were reorganized into the Prussian Province of Pomerania, while
Pomerelia in the partitions of Poland was made part of the Province of
West Prussia. With Prussia, both provinces joined the newly constituted
German Empire in 1871. Following the empire's defeat in World War I,
Pomerelia became part of the Second Polish Republic (Polish Corridor) and the Free City of Danzig was created. Germany's Province of Pomerania was expanded in 1938 to include northern parts of the former Province of Posen-West Prussia, and in 1939 the annexed Polish territories became the part of Nazi Germany known as Reichsgau Danzig-West Prussia.
the German Reichs's defeat in World War II, the German-Polish border
was shifted west to the Oder-Neisse line and all of Pomerania was placed
under Soviet military control. The area west of the line became part of East Germany, the other areas part of the People's Republic of Poland. The
German population of the areas east of the line was expelled, and the
area was resettled primarily with Poles (some themselves expellees from
former eastern Poland) and some Ukrainians (resettled under Operation
Vistula) and Jews. Most of Western Pomerania (Vorpommern) today forms
the eastern part of the state of Mecklenburg-Vorpommern in Federal
Republic of Germany, while the Polish part of the region is divided
between West Pomeranian Voivodeship and Pomeranian Voivodeship, with
their capitals in Szczecin and Gdańsk, respectively. During the late
1980s, the Solidarność and Die Wende movements overthrew the Communist
regimes implemented during the post-war era. Since then, Pomerania has
been democratically governed.