From about 500CE and during the early Middle Ages, the Wends occupied most of the land in north-central Europe east of the River Elbe and the tribes tended to settle along river valleys.
The Sorbs settled between the Rivers Saale and Mulde in the south-west, while the Polabian and Obodrite Wends occupied land in the north-west extending to present Denmark. In fact, King Waldemar IV of Denmark who died in 1375 assumed the official title of “King of the Wends” and this title was used by Danish monarchs until 1972.
The Vilzi or Veletians moved northwards to Pomerania, along the Baltic Sea west of the River Oder. The Ploni moved to the central area between the Rivers Elbe and Spree while the Luzici and the Milceni tribes settled along the River Spree in Lusatia, with the Luzici giving their name to Lusatia.
During the Middle Ages, wendish tribes could not resist conquest and colonisation by the Teutonic tribes who were moving east. However, three Wendish groups have continued to exist in Europe, including the Kashubian Wends in Pomerania, the Wends in Hungary and the Lusatian Wends, geographically located in Lusatia between Berlin, Dresden and the present Polish border in the eastern part of Germany. Lusatia is divided between Upper Lusatia whose main centre is Bautzen and Lower Lusatia whose main centre is Cottbus.
At the time of the steady migration of Wends mainly from Lusatia to Australia in the 1850s, the geographical and political situation was more complex. Lusatia was divided between three different German provinces. The northern or lower Lusatia was in Brandenburg, central Lusatia was in Silesia and southern or Upper Lusatia was in Saxony.
There has naturally been some confusion as documents label these Wends as Prussians, Silesians and Saxons. In general, in the upper or southern area were the Saxon Wends and in the lower or northern area were the Prussian Wends. Those who read into the terms “Upper” and “Lower” more than geographically based concepts, determined by the northward flow of the River Spree, are generally being unfair to the lower Wends!