Prussians

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The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Prussians

 

a group of tribes that once inhabited the southern coast of the Baltic Sea between the lower Vistula and Neman rivers. The material culture of these tribes was similar to that of the linguistically related Letto-Lithuanians, as well as to the Slavic culture. The Prussians are first mentioned in ninth-century sources. Sources dating from the ninth to 13th centuries reveal that their primitive communal social structure was disintegrating and that social classes and a state were emerging. By the 13th century the Prussians constituted a federation of 11 lands governed by an aristocracy. They maintained trade relations with the neighboring Poles and Russians.

The development of an early feudal society and state among the Prussians was interrupted by the incursions of German feudal Catholic forces. The first attempts to Christianize the Prussians date from the late tenth and early 11th centuries. The Teutonic Knights, supported by the pope and German feudal lords, embarked on the conquest of the Prussian lands in the 1230’s. The Prussians’ long struggle against the Knights ended in the conquest of their territory in 1283. The majority of the Prussians were exterminated by the conquerors. The survivors were subjected to forcible germanization, and their territory was settled by German colonists. The name “Prussia” is derived from these tribes.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
References in periodicals archive ?
No Baltic tribe or tribal group seems to have had a history so dynamic, rich in incident, and tragic as the Old Prussians. They died out during conflicts between two medieval European cultures --Christian and pagan--and were physically destroyed or assimilated.
The Old Prussians belonged to the Western Baltic group of tribes, which also included the Curonians, Samogitians, Skalvians, Galindians, and Yotvingians.
The region that was the richest of all was that inhabited by the Old Prussians
Images of these gods were placed into the hollow of a huge, evergreen oak tree, which grew in the main holy place of the Old Prussians, Ramava or Rikoita in the region of Nadrava.
The Old Prussians were allowed to make sacrifices to the three high gods only in Ramava.
The origin of the engine was God--the creator of the world and the lesser gods--who was recognised by all the Baltic peoples, including the Old Prussians. They called God by the name of Deivs (in modern-day Latvian "Dievs" and in Lithuanian "Dievas") and Ukapirmis (the First of All) and they viewed the light of the day as his visible manifestation.
When the legendary rulers of the Old Prussians, Prutens and Vudevuts, had reached more than a hundred years of age, the Prussian lands were divided between the sons of Vudevuts; it is from them that each of the regions takes its name.
The Old Prussians believed that through fire people and sacrifices reached the world of the gods.
The Old Prussians worshipped their ancestors Prutens and Vudevutu as the gods Urskaits and Izsvambrats (translated--the Elder and his brother).
In the middle of the 1st century CE, a conflict began between the Old Prussians and their southern neighbours --the Eastern Slav tribe the Masurians or Mazovians.
Thus, the Masurian land is to Kruk, who calls himself "the last of the tribe of Old Prussians," a space of searching and confirming identity, both that individual and that collective.
The symbolism of tomb as well as the motif of the expecting and inviting dead brings to mind Old Prussian beliefs, which the poet includes in the circle of his tradition.