The Obotrites (German: Abodriten, Polish: Obodrzyci), also commonly known as the Obodrites, Abotrites, or Abodrites, 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. In 798 the Obodrites, ruled by prince Drożko, or Draško (Thrasco, orig.), defeated the Saxons in the Battle of Bornhöved (or "battle on the Swentana river"). 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.


As allies of the Carolingian kings and the empire of their Ottonian successors, the Obotrites[2] 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.

German missionaries such as St 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 changed to 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 Serbs (who adopted the Serb name later as their own) where the Bodrogiensis county of the medieval Kingdom of Hungary was named after them.

Obotritic confederation tribes

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:[4]

Other tribes associated with the confederation include:

List of Obotrite leaders

  • Witzlaus of Obotrites ( ? - 795)
  • Drożko (795 - 808)
  • Slavomir of Obotrites (810 - 819) ally of Frankish Empire. In 816, he joined rebellion of the Sorbs. Eventually captured and abandoned by his own people, being replaced by Ceadrag in 818.
  • Ceadrag of Obodrites (Czedrag) (819 - after 826) ally of Frankish Empire. He rebelled against the Franks with alliance with the Danes, but later was reconciled with Franks.
  • Selibur
  • Nakon (954 - 966)
  • Mstivoj (966 - 995)
  • Mieceslas III of Obotrites (919 - 999) in 995 defeated by Otto III, Holy Roman Emperor.
  • Mstislav (996 - 1018)
  • Udo (Przybigniew) ( 1018 - 1028)
  • Ratibor (1028 - 1043)
  • Gottschalk (Obotrite prince) (1043 to 1066)
  • Budivoj (1066 and 1069)
  • Kruto (1066-1069 and 1069-1093)
  • Henry (Obotrite prince) (1093 - 1127)
  • Canute Lavard (1128 - 1131)
  • Niklot (1090 - 1160) prince of the Slavic Obotrites.[6]

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

See also

  • List of Medieval Slavic tribes



  • (German)
  • 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


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