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Map of the Billunger Mark (c. 1000) showing different tribes of the Obotritic confederation

The Obotrites (Latin: Obotriti) or Obodrites (Polish: Obodrzyci, Serbian: Bodrići/Бодрићи), also spelled Abodrites (German: Abodriten), were a confederation of medieval West Slavic tribes within the territory of modern Mecklenburg and Holstein in northern Germany (see Polabian Slavs).[1] For decades they were allies of Charlemagne in his wars against the Germanic Saxons and the Slavic Veleti. The Obotrites under prince Thrasco defeated the Saxons in the Battle of Bornhöved (798). The still heathen Saxons were dispersed by the emperor, and the part of their former land in Holstein north of Elbe was awarded to the Obotrites in 804, as a reward for their victory. This however was soon reverted through an invasion of the Danes.

Obotrite confederation

The Bavarian Geographer, an anonymous medieval document compiled in Regensburg in 830, contains a list of the tribes in Central Eastern Europe to the east of the Elbe. The list includes the Nortabtrezi (Obotrites) - with 53 civitates. Adam of Bremen referred to them as the Reregi because of their lucrative trade emporium Reric. In common with other Slavic groups, they were often described by Germanic sources as Wends.

The main tribes of the Obotritic confederation were:[2]

Other tribes associated with the confederation include:[2]


As allies of the Carolingian kings and the empire of their Ottonian successors, the Obotrites fought from 808 to 1200 against the kings of Denmark, who wished to rule the Baltic region independently of the empire. When opportunities arose, for instance upon the death of an emperor, they would seek to seize power; and in 983 Hamburg was destroyed by the Obotrites under their king, Mstivoj. At times they levied tribute from the Danes and Saxons. Under the leadership of Niklot, they resisted a Christian assault during the Wendish Crusade.

The Limes Saxoniae forming the border between the Saxons to the west and the Obotrites to the east

German missionaries such as Vicelinus converted the Obotrites to Christianity. In 1170 they acknowledged the suzerainty of the Holy Roman Empire, leading to Germanisation and assimilation over the following centuries. However up to the late 15th century most villagers in the Obotritic area were still speaking Slavic dialects (Polabian language), although subsequently their language was displaced by German. The Polabian language survived until the beginning of the 19th century in what is now the German state of Lower Saxony.[3]

The ruling clan of the Obotrites kept its power throughout the Germanisation and ruled their country (except of a short interruption in Thirty Years' War) as House of Mecklenburg until the end of monarchies in Germany in November Revolution 1918.

Pannonian Obotrites

Some of the Obotrites also migrated to the south and settled in the Pannonian Plain and intermixed with South Slavs and became assimilated by the Serbs. The historical town of Bodrog (now Bački Monoštor, Serbia) was named after them; in turn the Bács-Bodrog County of the Kingdom of Hungary was named after the town.

List of Obotrite leaders

Niklot (1090 – 1160) chief of the Obotrite confederacy
Ruler Reign Notes
Aribert ?–ca. 724
Witzlaus ?–ca. 795
Thrasco ?–ca. 795-810
Slavomir ?–810-819 Ally of the Frankish Empire. In 816, he joined the rebellion of the Sorbs. Eventually captured and abandoned by his own people, being replaced by Ceadrag in 818.
Ceadrag 819 - after 826 Ally of the Frankish Empire. He rebelled against the Franks with alliance with the Danes, but later was reconciled with Franks.
Nako 954-966 Nako and his brother Stoigniew were defeated at the Raxa river (955) by Otto I, after which Stoigniew was beheaded and Nako accepted Christianity, resulting in thirty years of peace.
Mstivoj and Mstidrag 966 - 995 Sons of Nako. They abandoned Christianity and revolted against the Germans (Great Slav Rising).
Mieceslas III 919 - 999 in 995 defeated by Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor.
Mstislav 996 - 1018
Udo or Przybigniew 1018 - 1028
Ratibor 1028 - 1043
Gottschalk 1043 to 1066
Budivoj 1066 and 1069
Kruto 1066-1069 and 1069-1093
Henry 1093 - 1127
Canute Lavard 1128 - 1131
Niklot 1131–1160 Born around 1090. Also ruled the subdued Polabian Slav tribes of Kessinians and Circipanians.

The rulers of Obotrite lands were later the Dukes and Grand Dukes of Mecklenburg.

See also


  1. ^ Jensen, Carsten Selch (2006). "Abodrites". In Alan V. Murray. The Crusades: An Encyclopedia 1.  
  2. ^ a b Herrmann 1970, pp. 7–8
  3. ^ Polabian language


  • Herrmann, Joachim (1970). Die Slawen in Deutschland (in Deutsch). Berlin: Akademie-Verlag GmbH. 
  • Turasiewicz A., Dzieje polityczne Obodrzyców od IX wieku do utraty niepodległości w latach 1160 - 1164, Warszawa 2004, ISBN 83-88508-65-2 (Polish)

External links

Works related to Geographus Bavarus at Wikisource

  • Emperor Charles the Great in 804 gave Saxon land to Obodrites, dispersed Saxons
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