The Earliest States of Eastern Europe
DG-2014, 318-324

Stages of formation of the state in Western Pomerania

B. Florya


Western Pomerania was a small political unit on the South coast of the Baltic sea. The author distinguishes between two stages in the formation of the state there in the early Middle Ages.

The evidence to the first stage can be found in the narrative sources on the events of the 1120s (the lives of Otto von Bamberg, “apostolus gentis Pomeranorum”). These texts describe the Pomeranian society of that time as the society where the prince’s authority and his domains and the support of a large armed force (“druzhina”) co-exists with Pomeranian political centers (“grady”). “Grady” were subject to the leadership of the prince who represented Western Pomerania to foreign lands, but the prince’s authority did not spread to the inner life of “grady”. Every “grad” was independent in its decision to converse or not to converse. The decision was taken with the participation of the inhabitants of a “grad” and its neighbourhood. Sometimes there were armed conflicts between the prince and Szczecin (the main Pomeranian “grad”). The prince’s authority was stronger on the lands won back from the Lutici, where the decision to converse to Christianity was taken at the assembly summoned by the prince’s deputy.

The second stage found its reflection in documents (prince’s letters, Papal letters) of the second half of the twelfth – early thirteenth centuries. At this stage both rural and “grad” inhabitants of the whole Pomerania were subject to the authority of prince’s deputies and judges. The documents contain evidence to the existence of the developed system of taxation. The main branches of economy (not only allotments, but also salt production and fishery) were taxed. The inhabitants were also to perform various “services” for the benefit of the authority. The important decisions were taken then by the social élite (“barons” and “nobiles”) joined to the sovereign and supported financially from the prince’s coffers.

Such social organization shows (in spite of some deviations) the principal resemblance with the pattern of the social organization which existed in Central-European countries and Rus’ in the early Middle Ages. Thus, the society of Western Pomerania followed the same pattern of historical development as those countries. The conclusion is: the lives of Otton von Bamberg which describe the society of Western Pomerania in the 1120s show not only the regional specifics, but they are unique as the evidence of a special stage in the formation of the polity model in Eastern Europe. There is no written evidence as to this stage in medieval Central Europe and Rus’.

Poland, Pomeranian “grady”, Pomeranian “barons” and “nobiles”, prince’s authority, Szczecin, Western Pomerania


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