Extinction of Old Prussians


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In year 1218 population of West Balts is estimated to be around 220 thousand, of which 170 thousand lived in areas which later became part of East Prussia (with Warmia). It is known that Old Prussian language died out at some point in the 1st half of the 18th century.

In the 1500s and 1600s there were still publications in Old Prussian language, including Luther's catechism.

Based on several sources I made estimates of demographic and cultural decline of Old Prussians:

Year - total population / Prussian ancestry (%) / Prussian-speakers (%):

1218 - 170 / 170 (100%) / 170 (100%) - crusade against Pagan Prussians starts, Teutonic Knights arrive few years later

The course of the crusade can be seen in this video (starts at 1 minute 48 seconds into the video):

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-Yr06xWvlw#t=1m49s (Zakon Krzyżacki = Teutonic Order; Prusowie = Prussians)

Year - total population / Prussian ancestry (%) / Prussian-speakers (%):

1283 - 116 / 110 (95%) / 110 (95%) - population loss in crusade (including refugees to Poland, Lithuania & Rus) estimated as 35%
1310 - 150 / 126 (84%) / 120 (80%)
1405 - 270 / 151 (56%) / 123 (46%) - German colonization changed ethnic structure, part of Prussian elites already assimilated
1466 - 163 / 90 (55%) / 65 (40%) - population loss in Teutonic Order vs. Poland-Lithuania wars and in plagues estimated as 40%
1506 - 207 / 100 (48%) / 67 (32%)
1626 - 450 / 153 (34%) / 56 (12%) - change of ethnic structure due to Polish & Lithuanian colonization of parts of East Prussia
1656 - 501 / 169 (34%) / 50 (10%) - Poles and Lithuanians are ca. 20% of East Prussia's population each (in total ca. 40%)
1660 - 376 / 134 (36%) / 38 (10%) - population loss during the Swedish "Deluge" and due to plagues is estimated as 25%
1685 - 492 / 173 (35%) / 33 (7%) - French Huguenot immigration (8 K) in addition to earlier Dutch & Scottish (6 K combined)
1708 - 677 / 219 (32%) / 25 (4%)
1711 - 441 / 161 (37%) / 15 (3%) - losses in war and pest estimated as 35% (highest losses in Lithuanian-inhabited areas)
1740 - 601 / 195 (32%) / 0.1 (0%) - final extinction of Old Prussian language (according to R. Tautmann & G. Gerullis)
1759 - 686 / 222 (32%) / 0 (0%)
1816 - 1006 / 324 (32%) / 0 (0%) - this year East Prussia's population surpassed one million, I end my estimates here

Despite extinction of language, I estimate that up to 1/3 and no less than 1/5 of East Prussian DNA comes from Old Prussians.
DNA samples have been collected from Medieval (late 1300s) graves in Warmia (Ermland) recently.

So possibly we will get Old Prussian aDNA, although at that time the area already had other groups as well.
Great, Tomenable, being Lithuanian, I am very glad to find out that someone tries to remember the case of lost old Prussians!
Great, Tomenable, being Lithuanian, I am very glad to find out that someone tries to remember the case of lost old Prussians!

Polish families with "Prus" Coat of Arms are said to be descended from Old Prussian refugees who were allowed to settle in Mazovia under condition of converting to Christianity. Those families continued to use Prussian given names as late as the 1400s. Recently Y-DNA tests revealed they indeed belong to typically Baltic subclades. Łukasz Łapiński talks about their Y-DNA here (skip to 28:15 of the video):


Mazovia had the highest share of nobility of all regions of Poland - almost 1/4 its entire population were nobles.

That was caused by necessity. During the Early-High Middle Ages, Mazovia, a border region of Latin Christendom, was frequently raided by Pagans and Non-Catholics (Prussians, Lithuanians, Russians, Tatars, Mongols, etc.) and needed a hell of a lot of knights for wars.

So a lot of population of Mazovia became knights and later they were nobility, in total 20-25% of inhabitants.
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I am very glad to find out that someone tries to remember the case of lost old Prussians!

If you read Polish, there are many interesting papers about them published by Pruthenia or by Komunikaty W-M.

About Christianization of Prussia, Livonia & Lithuania: http://bazhum.muzhp.pl/media//files...y_Mazursko_Warminskie-r1997-t-n3-s503-520.pdf

About German, Polish, Lithuanian migration to Prussia: http://bazhum.muzhp.pl/media//files...y_Mazursko_Warminskie-r2003-t-n4-s431-441.pdf

About Prussian emigrants and refugees: https://www.yumpu.com/en/document/view/53008761/pruthenia/7
People wonder why were Prussians assimilated but Latvians and Estonians not. The main reason is because immigration of foreign ethnic groups (not only Germans) to Prussia was on a much larger scale, and much more of it was rural (Baltic Germans in Latvia and Estonia were virtually all nobility and townsmen, there were no German peasants there - unlike in Prussia).

For example:

Ethnic structure of the Duchy of Courland with the District of Pilten (today Southern Latvia) in 1795:

- ca. 360,000 Latvians
- ca. 50,000 Germans (this is high estimate, I've seen lower ones too)
- up to 20,000 Poles (also high estimate, could be closer to 10,000)
- ca. 10,000 Jews (later during the 1800s percent of Jews increased)
- ca. 10,000 Lithuanians

Total population was about 450,000 of which 80% were Latvians in 1795.

For comparison, Native Prussians were barely 1/2 of entire population in East Prussia already back in 1405. There were up to 1000 (one thousand) villages with German settlers (those villages were not exclusively German but majority German-inhabited) in East Prussia by year 1405 - and probably no such villages in Latvia and Estonia, where rural settlement of German peasants generally did not take place.

Duchy of Courland later became Courland Governorate of the Russian Empire.

Courland Governorate had the highest % of ethnic Germans out of all "Pribaltika" (which included also Livonian Governorate and Estonian Governorate - the latter is Northern Estonia).

In late 1790s and early 1800s the capital of Courland - Mitawa (Mitau) - had about 9,000 - 12,000 inhabitants of which half were Germans, 1/4 - 1/3 Jews and the rest mostly Latvians.
People wonder why were Prussians assimilated but Latvians and Estonians not.
The reason is geography.

Prussia was directly connected to Germany proper. The Polish did pose a slight problem, but it was dealt with.

Latvia and Estonia had the raucous Lithuanians wedged in between them. A lot of trade between the Livonian territories and German lands was actually carried out by shipping. Natural migration is obviously less natural in such a case.

Another reason is that there was no such thing as Latvians. There were several tribes of proto-Latvians, and some of them converted to Christianity and were loyal to the Teutonic Order. Some were granted privileges, e.g., Curonian Kings.

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