East Prussia, 1931: Typical Masurian farmhouse near a lake.

The Masurians or Mazurs or Masurs (Polish: Mazurzy, German: Masuren) are a Lechitic sub-ethnic group in the Masovian and Warmian-Masurian Voivodeships in Poland. They are descended from Masovians (Polish: Mazowszanie; German: Masowier), Polish settlers from Masovia who moved to Prussia especially during and after the Protestant Reformation and were primarily Protestant. In the 19th century the Masuria region of East Prussia was named after the Masurians.



In the Middle Ages, the inhabitants of the northern Duchy of Masovia were called Mazury in Polish. Between the 14th and 17th centuries,[1] Polish settlers from northern Masovia moved to the southern territories of the Monastic State of the Teutonic Knights that was previously the land of the Baltic Old Prussians who were conquered by the Teutonic Knights in the 13th and 14th centuries. The northern part of this state was soon settled by settlers from Germany and was therefore Germanised. On the other hand the southern part - Masuria - was Polonised by the incoming Masovians approximately in the same period. In 1466 those territories became a fief of Poland.

Masurian farmhouse

Because of the influx of Masovians into the southern lakeland, the area started to be known as "Masuria" from the 18th century. During the Protestant Reformation, Masurians, like most inhabitants of Ducal Prussia, became Lutheran Protestants, while the neighboring Masovians remained Roman Catholic. In 1525 the Duchy of Prussia, a Polish fief until 1657, was founded from the secularized order's territory and became the first Protestant state ever existing. The small minority of Protestant Masovians in southern Catholic Masovia inside Poland emigrated later to Prussian Masuria. Masuria became part of the Kingdom of Prussia in 1701 and the Prussian-led German Empire in 1871.

During the 1840s, the folklorist Gustaw Gizewiusz collected Masurian folk songs which were later included in Oskar Kolberg's compilation Dzieła Wszystkie.[2]

Beginning in the 1870s, Imperial German officials restricted the usage of languages other than German in Prussia's eastern provinces, due to increasing Slavic nationalist tensions in the region.[3] The German authorities undertook several measures to Germanise the Masurians or separate them culturally from neighboring Poles by creating a separate identity.[4] Many Masurians emigrated to the Ruhr Area, especially to Gelsenkirchen. Despite those official efforts German scholars usually considered Masurians as a group of Poles. In all German geographical atlases published at the beginning of the 20th century, the southern part of East Prussia was marked as an ethnically Polish area with a number of Poles estimated at 300,000.[5]

Support for Germany was strong amongst the Masurians during World War I.[6] In 1920, the East Prussian plebiscite was held under the supervision of the League of Nations, with British, French and Italian troops stationed in Masuria, to determine the new border between the Second Polish Republic and German East Prussia. Although a small group of Masurians did vote for Poland, the vast majority (99.32% in Masuria proper) opted to remain in Prussia.[7][8] However, the contemporary Polish ethnographer Adam Chętnik accused the German authorities of abuses and falsifications during the plebiscite.[9]

Support for the Nazi Party was high in Masuria, especially in elections in 1932 and 1933.[10] Nazi political rallies were organized in the Masurian dialect during the campaigning.[10] Several Masurian towns and villages had their original Slavic or Baltic Prussian names changed to new German names by Nazi Germany in 1938. During World War Two, Polish speakers were persecuted and killed by the Nazis in Masuria.[11] Along with the majority of ethnic German East Prussians, many Masurians fled to western Germany as the Soviet Red Army approached East Prussia in 1945 during World War II. The post-war Potsdam Conference placed Masuria - and the rest of southern East Prussia - under Polish administration. Many Masurians who were classified as Germans were expelled with military force. After 1956 many who had remained in Poland emigrated to West Germany, today approximately 5,000 Masurians still live in the area, many of them as members of the German minority.[5] Speculations about the reasons of this emigration vary from the economical situation and the undemocratic - communist system in Poland[5] to the shrinking perspective of a return of Masuria to Germany.[12]

Mazur remains the 14th most common surname in Poland with almost 67,000 people bearing the name.[13] According to the ethnographer Adam Chętnik, the Masurians were most closely related to the Kurpie branch of the Poles.[9] The Masurians have also been studied by the sociologist Andrzej Sakson.

See also


  1. ^ Jerzy Jan Lerski, Piotr Wróbel, Richard J. Kozicki, Historical dictionary of Poland, 966-1945, Greenwood Publishing Group, 1996, p. 346, ISBN 0313260079 Google Books
  2. ^ Kolberg, Oskar. Dzieła Wszystkie
  3. ^ Clark, p. 580
  4. ^ Becoming German: Lessons from the Past for the Present Brian McCook in Leitkultur and Nationalstolz-Tabu -German Phenomena? Bonn, April 2002 Alexander von Humboldt Foundation pages 33-42
  5. ^ a b c Piotr Eberhardt, Jan Owsinski, Ethnic groups and population changes in twentieth-century Central-Eastern Europe: history, data, analysis, M.E. Sharpe, 2003, p. 166, ISBN 0765606658 Google Books
  6. ^ Clark, p. 608
  7. ^ Andreas Kossert: "Grenzlandpolitik" und Ostforschung an der Peripherie des Reiches, p. 124
  8. ^ Rocznik statystyki Rzczypospolitej Polskiej/Annuaire statistique de la République Polonaise 1 (1920/22), Teil 2, Warszawa 1923, S. 358.
  9. ^ a b Związek Kurpiów - Adam Chętnik
  10. ^ a b Clark, p. 640
  11. ^ Q. Edward Wang, Franz L. Fillafer, Georg G. Iggers, "The many faces of Clio: cross-cultural approaches to historiography, essays in honor of Georg G. Iggers", Berghahn Books, 2007 [1]
  12. ^ Dr. Joachim Rogall, Die Deutschen in Polen (German)
  13. ^ Frequency and geographic distribution of the surname Mazur in Poland


  • Clark, Christopher (2006). Iron Kingdom: The Rise and Downfall of Prussia 1600–1947. Cambridge: Belknap Press of Harvard. pp. 776. ISBN 067402385-4. 
This article incorporates information from the revision as of 11 September 2006 of the equivalent article on the German Wikipedia.

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