History, Geography and Population of Kashubia

Boundaries of Kashubia

Historically, Kashubians were primarily farmers and lived in the Pomeranian area of northern Poland, south of the Baltic coast, between the Vistula and Oder Rivers. Kashubia is a small area stretching from Gdansk on the east to Bytow on the west, and is about 100 miles long and 60 miles across. It stretches up to the Baltic Sea on the north.

There are three regions of Kashubia:

The North, which includes the beaches and dunes of the North Sea. The Hel Peninsula was originally the center of the fishing industry. 

Central Kashubia is comprised of the towns/cities of Kartuzy, Zukowo, Koscierzyna, Bytów, Sierakowice as well as a great number of small villages. This part of Kashubia has many rolling hills, winding rivers and streams, lakes, and forests. It has often been called Poland’s Switzerland.

Southern Kashubia is located along the River Brda and the River Wda, and is known for its many forests.

History of Kashubia

The Kashubians are a true ethnic minority, distinct from the Poles in both language and culture. Originally western Slavs with ethnic links to the Poles, the Kashubians are believed to have settled in the area around 1,500 years ago, although the first records date from the 13th century. 

Since the Kashubians have never governed themselves, they are more of an ethnic group than a nationality and have always had to fight to just exist. Today, the term “Kashubia” applies to the part of Poland where the Kashubian Poles live, rather than any particular area settled by the Kashubians.

In 1772, as result of the First Partition, Kashubia was made separate from Poland and fell under Prussian control. Between World War I and World War II, Poland regained control of Eastern Kashubia, which maintained their Slavic culture, language, and traditions. In contrast, Western Kashubians became more like Germans.

Description of the Land

The terrain of Kashubia is comprised of lakes, hills, and farmland, much like Minnesota. There are over 700 lakes in Kashubia. The main crops in the 1800s were rye, potatoes, oats and wheat, and some farmers raised livestock. Land was livelihood for the Kashubian peasants. While much of the land was poor sandy soil, a wealthy farmer was considered to be one who owned land. 

When a Kashubian’s oldest son was married, it was common for the son to take on ownership of the farm. In return, the parents received cash payment, food and lodging, and a share of crops until they died.

Population of Kashubia

Estimates as to just how many Kashubians and people of Kashubian descent live in Poland today vary wildly. In Poland’s 2011 census 232,547 people declared themselves to be Kashubian but just 16,377 declared Kashubian to be their sole nationality. Similarly while 108,100 people said they spoke Kashubian at home, only 13,800 declared Kashubian to be their native tongue. In both cases of language and nationality, Kashubians would also consider themselves Polish and speak Polish.