Danes and turns

The map of the Baltic Sea shows the territory of the Wends, the Danes and the Saxons respectively. (From Anna Elisabeth Jensen: Dania Slavica).

Friends and enemies in the western Baltic Sea

1000 years ago, the Baltic Sea was a border region between Scandinavians in the north and Slavic peoples on the coast south of the Baltic Sea. The Slavic peoples, here referred to as Wenders with a collective term, lived in the coastal areas in the eastern part of present-day Holstein as well as in Mecklenburg-Western Pomerania and parts of Pomerania in present-day Poland between the Elbe and the Oder.

The Baltic Sea was a melting pot of different ethnic groups bound together by trade, cultural impulses and know-how. Venders settled on Lolland and Falster. Danish kings and noble families entered into strategic relations with Wendish princes and families sealed with marriages, but they were also happy to wage war if it furthered their interests.

In the middle of it all, on the border between Denmark and the Land of the Venders, Lolland and Falster lay as the gateway to Scandinavia or the gateway to Europe, depending on which side you look at it from. The merchant Wulfstan wrote in a travelogue shortly before the year 900 that Lolland and Falster belong to the kingdom of the Danes – a statement that must be taken with reservations – and that Vendland lies south of the Baltic Sea. For most of the time, the coexistence was peaceful and favorable for all parties, but at times the Baltic Sea was ravaged by war, where the people of Lolland and Falster had to defend themselves.

Through archaeological traces and written sources, the story of Danes and Venders is told in the time from 800 – 1200 AD. in what we in Denmark refer to as the Viking Age and the early Middle Ages and with a focus on the 1000th and 1100th centuries. The narrative is based on the results of the project Friends and enemies. The Danish-Vendian relations in the Viking Age and the early Middle Ages and interviews with museum inspector and deputy director at Museum Lolland-Falster, Anna-Elisabeth Jensen, who has written the book Dania Slavica, as well as additional interviews with medieval archaeologist and museum inspector Leif Plith Lauritsen.


Note: Danish only