Europäisches Journal für Minderheitenfragen

ISSN 1865-1089 (Print)
ISSN 1865-1097 (Online)

Abstract The current study investigates the cultural production of an autochthonous minority, looking into the prerequisites under which it contributes to the preservation and further development of its language and culture. As an example case, the author chose the Sorbs, a Western Slavic minority of officially 60,000 people, living in the east of Germany. During 1,400 years, the Sorbs have been able to preserve two languages, as well as many traditions and customs, and have established their own places of cultural production. These places are cultural institutions, mainly publicly administered or financed by the public authorities. They include two theatres and two museums, a publishing house, a research institute and several educational institutions. In view of the ongoing assimilation process, the study investigates the effectiveness of the infrastructure and the efficiency of Sorbian cultural institutions in preserving and developing the Sorbian language and culture. From the perspective of cultural policy, cultural economics as well as from a cluster-oriented perspective, in his analysis of the period 1998–2007 the author comes to the conclusion that the conditions in which Sorbian cultural production takes place do not foster adaptation to modernity and innovation: The yearly budget available has either stagnated or been cut since 1998. Only by reducing staff and services, the institutions were able to cope with their financial constraints. The cultural production of the Sorbs is of an assertive, conservative character and thus aims at preserving the cultural achievements of the past. Innovative and experience-oriented cultural forms of expression play a subordinate role. The cluster-oriented analysis has also shown that stable forms of cooperation of different institutions are still in their infancy, and conflicts between them drive the participants to question even these small beginnings. Other cooperative solutions are either not put into effect or being rejected. This also concerns options of merging, which could cause synergy effects in content and structure. Almost all cultural institutions also face stagnating and falling numbers of users. This confirms that the existing Sorbian institutions are not capable of making a crucial contribution to the preservation and development of the Sorbian language and culture.