Early Slavs

Early Slavs

Discussion
Ask a question about 'Early Slavs'
Start a new discussion about 'Early Slavs'
Answer questions from other users
Full Discussion Forum
 
Encyclopedia
The early Slavs were a diverse group of tribal societies
Tribe
A tribe, viewed historically or developmentally, consists of a social group existing before the development of, or outside of, states.Many anthropologists use the term tribal society to refer to societies organized largely on the basis of kinship, especially corporate descent groups .Some theorists...

 in Migration period
Migration Period
The Migration Period, also called the Barbarian Invasions , was a period of intensified human migration in Europe that occurred from c. 400 to 800 CE. This period marked the transition from Late Antiquity to the Early Middle Ages...

 and early medieval
Early Middle Ages
The Early Middle Ages was the period of European history lasting from the 5th century to approximately 1000. The Early Middle Ages followed the decline of the Western Roman Empire and preceded the High Middle Ages...

 Europe (ca. 5th to 10th centuries) whose tribal organizations indirectly created the foundations for today’s Slavic nations
Slavic peoples
The Slavic people are an Indo-European panethnicity living in Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. The term Slavic represents a broad ethno-linguistic group of people, who speak languages belonging to the Slavic language family and share, to varying degrees, certain...

 (via the Slavic states of the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

).

The first mention of the name Slavs dates to the 6th century, by which time the Slavic tribes inhabited a vast area of central-eastern Europe.
Over the following two centuries, the Slavs expanded further, towards the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 and the Alps
Slavic settlement of the Eastern Alps
Slavic settlement of the Eastern Alps region was a historic process that took place between the 6th and 9th century AD, having culminated in the final quarter of the 6th century...

 in the south and west, and the Volga in the north and east.
From the 9th century, the Slavs were gradually Christianised, and by the 12th century, they formed the population within a number of medieval Christian states, the East Slavs
East Slavs
The East Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the medieval state of Kievan Rus, by the seventeenth century they evolved into the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian peoples.-Sources:...

 in the Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

 and Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

, the South Slavs
South Slavs
The South Slavs are the southern branch of the Slavic peoples and speak South Slavic languages. Geographically, the South Slavs are native to the Balkan peninsula, the southern Pannonian Plain and the eastern Alps...

 in Bulgaria
Second Bulgarian Empire
The Second Bulgarian Empire was a medieval Bulgarian state which existed between 1185 and 1396 . A successor of the First Bulgarian Empire, it reached the peak of its power under Kaloyan and Ivan Asen II before gradually being conquered by the Ottomans in the late 14th-early 15th century...

 and Serbia, and the West Slavs
West Slavs
The West Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking West Slavic languages. They include Poles , Czechs, Slovaks, Lusatian Sorbs and the historical Polabians. The northern or Lechitic group includes, along with Polish, the extinct Polabian and Pomeranian languages...

 in Poland and the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

 (Pomerania
Duchy of Pomerania
The Duchy of Pomerania was a duchy in Pomerania on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, ruled by dukes of the House of Pomerania ....

, Bohemia).

Ethnogenesis



The question of Slavic origins has generated many theories, none of which have been universally accepted. The competing theories on the origin of Slavs used different types of evidence, had different perspectives upon the issues involved, but also were influenced by political factors. When discussing early "Slavs", one is referring to a diverse set of tribal communities who shared a common language and material culture
Archaeological culture
An archaeological culture is a recurring assemblage of artifacts from a specific time and place, which are thought to constitute the material culture remains of a particular past human society. The connection between the artifacts is based on archaeologists' understanding and interpretation and...

.

Historical evidence


In historical literature, the tribal names Antes
Antes (people)
The Antes or Antae were an ancient Slavic-Iranian tribal union in Eastern Europe who lived north of the lower Danube and the Black Sea in the 6th and 7th century AD and who are associated with the archaeological Penkovka culture.- Historiography :Procopius and Jordanes mention the Antes as one of...

, Sclaveni and Venethi have been often connected with early Slavic peoples. The earliest clear reference to the ethonym Slav does not occur until the 6th century AD. Nevertheless, attempts have been made to identify the Slavs, or their ancestors, with earlier groups. The Soubenoi mentioned by Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 in the 2nd century AD have often been deemed to have been Slavs, their name having originally been Sthlavanoi - a distorted form of Slovenoi. They lived in Sarmatia
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

, north of the Alans
Alans
The Alans, or the Alani, occasionally termed Alauni or Halani, were a group of Sarmatian tribes, nomadic pastoralists of the 1st millennium AD who spoke an Eastern Iranian language which derived from Scytho-Sarmatian and which in turn evolved into modern Ossetian.-Name:The various forms of Alan —...

. Another tribe linked with Slavs was the Venethi mentioned by writers such as Pliny the Elder
Pliny the Elder
Gaius Plinius Secundus , better known as Pliny the Elder, was a Roman author, naturalist, and natural philosopher, as well as naval and army commander of the early Roman Empire, and personal friend of the emperor Vespasian...

, Ptolemy
Ptolemy
Claudius Ptolemy , was a Roman citizen of Egypt who wrote in Greek. He was a mathematician, astronomer, geographer, astrologer, and poet of a single epigram in the Greek Anthology. He lived in Egypt under Roman rule, and is believed to have been born in the town of Ptolemais Hermiou in the...

 and Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

. They occupied the area between the Oder and Vistula river basins
Drainage basin
A drainage basin is an extent or an area of land where surface water from rain and melting snow or ice converges to a single point, usually the exit of the basin, where the waters join another waterbody, such as a river, lake, reservoir, estuary, wetland, sea, or ocean...

. Although Tacitus
Tacitus
Publius Cornelius Tacitus was a senator and a historian of the Roman Empire. The surviving portions of his two major works—the Annals and the Histories—examine the reigns of the Roman Emperors Tiberius, Claudius, Nero and those who reigned in the Year of the Four Emperors...

 listed the Venethi as a Germanic tribe
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

, in his Getica, Jordanes
Jordanes
Jordanes, also written Jordanis or Jornandes, was a 6th century Roman bureaucrat, who turned his hand to history later in life....

, several centuries later, stated that they were Slavic, although it is far from certain that they were referring to the same people. The third major ancient Slavic group, the Antes, were mentioned as early as the 1st century AD by Pliny the Elder (Natural History). Counted amongst the ranks of Sarmatian
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

 and Scythian tribes, they occupied the open steppe north of the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

. Jordanes' Slavic Antes were said to dwell along the northern curve of the Sea of Pontus
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

 – from the Dniester
Dniester
The Dniester is a river in Eastern Europe. It runs through Ukraine and Moldova and separates most of Moldova's territory from the breakaway de facto state of Transnistria.-Names:...

 to the Dnieper
Dnieper River
The Dnieper River is one of the major rivers of Europe that flows from Russia, through Belarus and Ukraine, to the Black Sea.The total length is and has a drainage basin of .The river is noted for its dams and hydroelectric stations...

.

Both writing in the mid-6th century, Jordanes and Procopius
Procopius
Procopius of Caesarea was a prominent Byzantine scholar from Palestine. Accompanying the general Belisarius in the wars of the Emperor Justinian I, he became the principal historian of the 6th century, writing the Wars of Justinian, the Buildings of Justinian and the celebrated Secret History...

 provide the first indisputable reference to the Slav ethonym
Ethnonym
An ethnonym is the name applied to a given ethnic group. Ethnonyms can be divided into two categories: exonyms and autonyms or endonyms .As an example, the ethnonym for...

, in the form Sclavenoi. Jordanes writes that their land stretched from the town of Noviodunum
Noviodunum
Noviodunum is a name of Celtic origin, meaning "new fort": It comes from nowyo, Celtic for "new", and dun, the Celtic for "hillfort" or "fortified settlement", cognate of English town.Several places were named Noviodunum...

, to the river Dniester
Dniester
The Dniester is a river in Eastern Europe. It runs through Ukraine and Moldova and separates most of Moldova's territory from the breakaway de facto state of Transnistria.-Names:...

, then northward to the Vistula river. He adds that the Sclavenoi, Antae, and Veneti were but one people. In his work De Bellis, Procopius also links the Sclavenoi and Antes, being two barbarian
Barbarian
Barbarian and savage are terms used to refer to a person who is perceived to be uncivilized. The word is often used either in a general reference to a member of a nation or ethnos, typically a tribal society as seen by an urban civilization either viewed as inferior, or admired as a noble savage...

 tribes speaking the 'same' language and bearing a similar appearance, living just north of the River Ister (Danube). He adds that they were originally one people, called Sporoi.

Jordanes’ account suggests that Slavs were ancient, and had long lived in the forest zone of eastern Europe
Eastern Europe
Eastern Europe is the eastern part of Europe. The term has widely disparate geopolitical, geographical, cultural and socioeconomic readings, which makes it highly context-dependent and even volatile, and there are "almost as many definitions of Eastern Europe as there are scholars of the region"...

. Paul Barford and Curta, however, have questioned the extent of Jordanes’ understanding of ancient demography and geography. Although the various references to postulated Slavic groups consistently locate such tribes in the expanses between the upper Vistula river and the region north of the Black Sea
Black Sea
The Black Sea is bounded by Europe, Anatolia and the Caucasus and is ultimately connected to the Atlantic Ocean via the Mediterranean and the Aegean seas and various straits. The Bosphorus strait connects it to the Sea of Marmara, and the strait of the Dardanelles connects that sea to the Aegean...

, such information “is far too enigmatic to form the basis for the proposition of unequivocal conclusions”.

Moreover, whilst Sclavene may have originally been the self-designation
Ethnonym
An ethnonym is the name applied to a given ethnic group. Ethnonyms can be divided into two categories: exonyms and autonyms or endonyms .As an example, the ethnonym for...

 of a particular ethnic group
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

, Curta argues that it came to be used by the Byzantines
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 as an 'umbrella term' to categorize various barbarian ethnic groups who dwelt beyond the River Danube.

Linguistic evidence


For a long time, language was seen as the defining factor in the formation of a people's culture and world view. Although deductions about the existence of a proto-Slavic
Proto-Slavic language
Proto-Slavic is the proto-language from which Slavic languages later emerged. It was spoken before the seventh century AD. As with most other proto-languages, no attested writings have been found; the language has been reconstructed by applying the comparative method to all the attested Slavic...

 people based on an unattested and reconstructed proto-Slavic language
Proto-Slavic language
Proto-Slavic is the proto-language from which Slavic languages later emerged. It was spoken before the seventh century AD. As with most other proto-languages, no attested writings have been found; the language has been reconstructed by applying the comparative method to all the attested Slavic...

 must be held with caution, scholars often place great emphasis on linguistics
Linguistics
Linguistics is the scientific study of human language. Linguistics can be broadly broken into three categories or subfields of study: language form, language meaning, and language in context....

 in the hope of discovering the Slavic Urheimat
Urheimat
Urheimat is a linguistic term denoting the original homeland of the speakers of a proto-language...

. So far, scholars have been unable to agree on the exact region where the proto-Slavic language developed. Nevertheless, Marija Gimbutas
Marija Gimbutas
Marija Gimbutas , was a Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of "Old Europe", a term she introduced. Her works published between 1946 and 1971 introduced new views by combining traditional spadework with linguistics and mythological...

’ model for analysing the spread of Indo-Europeans
Proto-Indo-Europeans
The Proto-Indo-Europeans were the speakers of the Proto-Indo-European language , a reconstructed prehistoric language of Eurasia.Knowledge of them comes chiefly from the linguistic reconstruction, along with material evidence from archaeology and archaeogenetics...

 is the favoured one. Hence, other theories attempting to place the origins of proto-Slavic in the Near East
Near East
The Near East is a geographical term that covers different countries for geographers, archeologists, and historians, on the one hand, and for political scientists, economists, and journalists, on the other...

 (Anatolian hypothesis
Anatolian hypothesis
The Anatolian hypothesis is also called Renfrew's Neolithic Discontinuity Theory ; it proposes that the dispersal of Proto-Indo-Europeans originated in Neolithic Anatolia...

), the Balkans
Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 (modified Anatolian hypothesis, PCT), or beyond the Urals
Ural Mountains
The Ural Mountains , or simply the Urals, are a mountain range that runs approximately from north to south through western Russia, from the coast of the Arctic Ocean to the Ural River and northwestern Kazakhstan. Their eastern side is usually considered the natural boundary between Europe and Asia...

 are now considered peripheral.
The communis opinio proposes that, “somewhere in eastern Europe”, proto-Slavic had separated from proto-Indo-European
Indo-European languages
The Indo-European languages are a family of several hundred related languages and dialects, including most major current languages of Europe, the Iranian plateau, and South Asia and also historically predominant in Anatolia...

 by 1500- 1000 BC, probably via a proto-Balto-Slavic
Balto-Slavic languages
The Balto-Slavic language group traditionally comprises Baltic and Slavic languages, belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. Baltic and Slavic languages share several linguistic traits not found in any other Indo-European branch, which points to the period of common development...

 medium. Kortlandt places the Slavs near the Indo-European homeland itself: “the Indo-Europeans who remained after the migrations became speakers of Balto-Slavic
Balto-Slavic languages
The Balto-Slavic language group traditionally comprises Baltic and Slavic languages, belonging to the Indo-European family of languages. Baltic and Slavic languages share several linguistic traits not found in any other Indo-European branch, which points to the period of common development...

”.

Proto-Slavic remained surprisingly conservative for over one millennium
Millennium
A millennium is a period of time equal to one thousand years —from the Latin phrase , thousand, and , year—often but not necessarily related numerically to a particular dating system....

. According to Kortlandt, the earliest evidence for dialectal divergence within Common Slavic can be dated to no earlier than the 4th century, apparently in connection with the earliest phases of the Slavic expansion. Analysis of loan words
Loanword
A loanword is a word borrowed from a donor language and incorporated into a recipient language. By contrast, a calque or loan translation is a related concept where the meaning or idiom is borrowed rather than the lexical item itself. The word loanword is itself a calque of the German Lehnwort,...

 reveals that Slavs have had a long period of contact with Germanic
Germanic peoples
The Germanic peoples are an Indo-European ethno-linguistic group of Northern European origin, identified by their use of the Indo-European Germanic languages which diversified out of Proto-Germanic during the Pre-Roman Iron Age.Originating about 1800 BCE from the Corded Ware Culture on the North...

 groups, occurring from the period of Proto-Slavic proper, through to the Middle Ages
Middle Ages
The Middle Ages is a periodization of European history from the 5th century to the 15th century. The Middle Ages follows the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 and precedes the Early Modern Era. It is the middle period of a three-period division of Western history: Classic, Medieval and Modern...

. The majority of Germanic loan words are of Gothic
Gothic language
Gothic is an extinct Germanic language that was spoken by the Goths. It is known primarily from the Codex Argenteus, a 6th-century copy of a 4th-century Bible translation, and is the only East Germanic language with a sizable Text corpus...

 origin. In addition, there are also some Iranic
Languages of Iran
Different publications have reported different statistics for the languages of Iran; There have been some limited census taken in Iran in 2001, 1991, 1986 and 1949-1954.The following are the languages with the greatest number of speakers :...

 influences, although not as many as once thought. In addition to the proposed genetic relationship
Genetic relationship (linguistics)
In linguistics, genetic relationship is the usual term for the relationship which exists between languages that are members of the same language family. The term genealogical relationship is sometimes used to avoid confusion with the unrelated use of the term in biological genetics...

 with Baltic
Baltic languages
The Baltic languages are a group of related languages belonging to the Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European language family and spoken mainly in areas extending east and southeast of the Baltic Sea in Northern Europe...

, much of the Balto-Slavic similarity has also been viewed to be a result of ongoing cultural contacts between the two peoples. This would place the proto-Slavs in the vicinity of speakers of early Baltic, Germanic and the Iranic speaking nomads of the steppe.

In attempt to localise the linguistic Urheimat, linguists have employed place names, especially hydronyms, as indirect evidence. According to one interpretation of the onomastic
Onomastics
Onomastics or onomatology is the study of proper names of all kinds and the origins of names. The words are from the Greek: "ὀνομαστικός" , "of or belonging to naming" and "ὀνοματολογία" , from "ὄνομα" "name". Toponymy or toponomastics, the study of place names, is one of the principal branches of...

 evidence, the most ancient recognizably Slavic hydronyms are to be found in northern and western Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

 and southern Belarus
Belarus
Belarus , officially the Republic of Belarus, is a landlocked country in Eastern Europe, bordered clockwise by Russia to the northeast, Ukraine to the south, Poland to the west, and Lithuania and Latvia to the northwest. Its capital is Minsk; other major cities include Brest, Grodno , Gomel ,...

. In fact, proto-Slavic has very well-developed terminology for inland bodies of water
Body of water
A body of water or waterbody is any significant accumulation of water, usually covering the Earth or another planet. The term body of water most often refers to large accumulations of water, such as oceans, seas, and lakes, but it may also include smaller pools of water such as ponds, puddles or...

 (lakes, river, swamps), as well as the flora and fauna indigenous to the temperate forest
Temperate broadleaf and mixed forests
Mixed forests are a temperate and humid biome. The typical structure of these forests includes four layers. The uppermost layer is the canopy composed of tall mature trees ranging from 33 to 66 m high. Below the canopy is the three-layered, shade-tolerant understory that is roughly 9 to...

 zone. In contrast, inherited Common Slavic vocabulary does not include detailed terminology for physical surface features peculiar of the mountains or the steppe, nor any relating to the sea, to coastal features, littoral flora or fauna, or salt water fishes. Therefore, supporters of this line of reasoning view this area as the Urheimat of the Slavs. Others, adopting a different methodology, note that the Common Slavic words for beech, larch and yew were foreign (Germanic) in origin, whilst that for hornbeam was native. Hence they argued that the original Slavic homeland was devoid of beech
Beech
Beech is a genus of ten species of deciduous trees in the family Fagaceae, native to temperate Europe, Asia and North America.-Habit:...

, larch
Larch
Larches are conifers in the genus Larix, in the family Pinaceae. Growing from 15 to 50m tall, they are native to much of the cooler temperate northern hemisphere, on lowlands in the north and high on mountains further south...

 and yew
Taxus baccata
Taxus baccata is a conifer native to western, central and southern Europe, northwest Africa, northern Iran and southwest Asia. It is the tree originally known as yew, though with other related trees becoming known, it may be now known as the English yew, or European yew.-Description:It is a small-...

, but was plentiful in hornbeam
Hornbeam
Hornbeams are relatively small hardwood trees in the genus Carpinus . Though some botanists grouped them with the hazels and hop-hornbeams in a segregate family, Corylaceae, modern botanists place the hornbeams in the birch subfamily Coryloideae...

. On the basis of the modern distribution of those trees (and assuming geo-botanical stability over the past two thousand years), some believe the Slavic urheimat
Urheimat
Urheimat is a linguistic term denoting the original homeland of the speakers of a proto-language...

 was within the Pripet
Pinsk Marshes
The Pinsk Marshes or Pripyat Marshes are a vast territory of wetlands along the Pripyat River and its tributaries from Brest, Belarus to Mogilev and Kiev ....

 marshes, in Polesie
Polesia
Polesia is one of the largest European swampy areas, located in the south-western part of the Eastern-European Lowland, mainly within Belarus and Ukraine but also partly within Poland and Russia...

.

Although linguists cannot agree exactly where it first developed, the evidence shows that proto-Slavic remained archaic for over a millennium, suggesting that it developed in a relatively confined region and was spoken by a relatively compact body of peoples. Its spread has been dated to have begun in the 4th century, evidenced by increasing dialectical divergence and the acquisition of Germanic and Sarmatian
Sarmatians
The Iron Age Sarmatians were an Iranian people in Classical Antiquity, flourishing from about the 5th century BC to the 4th century AD....

 loanwords.

Archaeological evidence


In the archaeological literature, attempts have been made to assign a Slavic, or proto-Slavic, ethnicity
Ethnic group
An ethnic group is a group of people whose members identify with each other, through a common heritage, often consisting of a common language, a common culture and/or an ideology that stresses common ancestry or endogamy...

 to several different archaeological cultures encompassing various time periods and territorial zones.
The Prague-Korchak cultural complex is regarded as the "Slavic cultural model", a remarkably uniform cultural tradition which spanned almost half of Europe, coinciding neatly with the historic distribution of Slavic speech. Scholars have attempted to ascertain how far back this commonality of tradition can be traced in the archaeological record. It is certain that Prague-type assemblages represented a new cultural model in eastern Europe, where the Przeworsk
Przeworsk culture
The Przeworsk culture is part of an Iron Age archaeological complex that dates from the 2nd century BC to the 5th century AD. It was located in what is now central and southern Poland, later spreading to parts of eastern Slovakia and Carpathian Ruthenia ranging between the Oder and the middle and...

and Chernyakov
Chernyakhov culture
The Sântana de Mureș–Chernyakhiv culture is the name given to an archaeological culture which flourished between the 2nd and 5th centuries in a wide area of Eastern Europe, specifically in what today constitutes Ukraine, Romania, Moldova, and parts of Belarus...

cultures previously existed. These cultures 'disappeared' in the late 4th century (attributed to the “violent irruption of the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

”,) and had been 'replaced' by the Slavic model by the late 5th century AD.

The Chernyakov culture existed from the second to the 5th centuries, and it encompassed the territories of modern Ukraine
Ukraine
Ukraine is a country in Eastern Europe. It has an area of 603,628 km², making it the second largest contiguous country on the European continent, after Russia...

, Moldavia
Moldavia
Moldavia is a geographic and historical region and former principality in Eastern Europe, corresponding to the territory between the Eastern Carpathians and the Dniester river...

 and Wallachia
Wallachia
Wallachia or Walachia is a historical and geographical region of Romania. It is situated north of the Danube and south of the Southern Carpathians...

. Chernyakov finds are characterized by polished black pottery vessels, fine metal ornaments, and impressive iron tools. In the earlier half of the 20th century, much energy had been spent by scholars debating the ethnic affinity of the people which inhabited the Chernyakov zone. Soviet scholars such as Boris Rybakov
Boris Rybakov
Boris Alexandrovich Rybakov was a Soviet and Russian historian who personified the anti-Normanist vision of Russian history....

 saw it as the archaeological reflection of the proto-Slavs, whilst western, especially German, historians attributed it to the Goths.
However, the remains of archaeologically visible material culture and their link with ethnic identity are not as clear as originally thought. The 'Culture-Historical' doctrine founded by German archaeologist Gustaf Kossinna
Gustaf Kossinna
Gustaf Kossinna was a linguist and professor of German archaeology at the University of Berlin...

, assumed that “sharply defined archaeological culture areas correspond unquestionably with the areas of particular peoples or tribes". "Kossina simply equated culture provinces with ethnic groups and further equated those groups with historically attested peoples or tribes”. However, material cultures are better understood to represent cultural-economic systems incorporating many different groups. "What created the boundaries of these cultural areas were not the political frontiers of a particular people, but the geographical limits within which the population groups interacted with sufficient intensity to make some or all of the remains of their physical culture
Physical culture
Physical culture is a term applied to health and strength training regimens, particularly those that originated during the 19th century. During the mid-late 20th century, the term "physical culture" became largely outmoded in most English-speaking countries, being replaced by terms such as...

 – pottery, metal work
Metalworking
Metalworking is the process of working with metals to create individual parts, assemblies, or large scale structures. The term covers a wide range of work from large ships and bridges to precise engine parts and delicate jewelry. It therefore includes a correspondingly wide range of skills,...

, building styles, burial goods and so on- look very similar. Therefore, the spread of cultures is not necessarily the result of direct migrations, but may be due to the spread of ideas.

Today, the Chernyakov zone is recognized to represent a cultural interaction of a diversity of peoples, one rooted primarily in Scytho-Sarmatian
Scythian languages
Scythian languages refers to all the languages spoken by all the peoples of a vast region of Eurasia named Scythia extending from the Vistula river in East Europe to Mongolia during ancient times. Included also are some languages of eastern Iran and the Central Asian subcontinent...

 traditions modified by an admixture of Germanic elements introduced by the Goths. The Chernyakov zone also consisted of Dacians
Dacians
The Dacians were an Indo-European people, very close or part of the Thracians. Dacians were the ancient inhabitants of Dacia...

 and, quite possibly, early Slavs. In fact, one of the settlement types in the Chernyakov zone were semi-subterranean dwellings with hearths in one of the corners. This settlement type later became typical of early Slavic sites.". Volodymir Baran labelled it as the Slavic "ethnic badge". Baran therefore placed Slavic cultural origins in the Carpathian
Carpathian Mountains
The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians are a range of mountains forming an arc roughly long across Central and Eastern Europe, making them the second-longest mountain range in Europe...

 foothills of Podolia
Podolia
The region of Podolia is an historical region in the west-central and south-west portions of present-day Ukraine, corresponding to Khmelnytskyi Oblast and Vinnytsia Oblast. Northern Transnistria, in Moldova, is also a part of Podolia...

. Here, along the northwestern fringes of the Chernyakov zone, the Slavs gradually accreted into a culturally unified people, since the multiethnic environment of the Chernyakhov zone necessitated the “need for self-identification
Identity (social science)
Identity is a term used to describe a person's conception and expression of their individuality or group affiliations . The term is used more specifically in psychology and sociology, and is given a great deal of attention in social psychology...

 in order to manifest their differentiation from other groups”.
The Przeworsk culture lay to the northwest of the Chernyakov zone, and extended from the Dniester to the Tisza
Tisza
The Tisza or Tisa is one of the main rivers of Central Europe. It rises in Ukraine, and is formed near Rakhiv by the junction of headwaters White Tisa, whose source is in the Chornohora mountains and Black Tisa, which springs in the Gorgany range...

 valley and northward to the Vistula and Oder rivers. It arose considerably earlier than the Chernyakov culture. During the early 20th century, Slavic, and in particular Polish
Poles
thumb|right|180px|The state flag of [[Poland]] as used by Polish government and diplomatic authoritiesThe Polish people, or Poles , are a nation indigenous to Poland. They are united by the Polish language, which belongs to the historical Lechitic subgroup of West Slavic languages of Central Europe...

, archaeologists argued that the Przeworsk culture represented the material remains of the Venethi, who were a proto-Slavic tribe. German archaeologists rather connected it to the Germanic Vandals
Vandals
The Vandals were an East Germanic tribe that entered the late Roman Empire during the 5th century. The Vandals under king Genseric entered Africa in 429 and by 439 established a kingdom which included the Roman Africa province, besides the islands of Sicily, Corsica, Sardinia and the Balearics....

 and Burgundians
Burgundians
The Burgundians were an East Germanic tribe which may have emigrated from mainland Scandinavia to the island of Bornholm, whose old form in Old Norse still was Burgundarholmr , and from there to mainland Europe...

. Not surprisingly, such debates were influenced by the prevailing political climate of the time- namely German expansionism
Expansionism
In general, expansionism consists of expansionist policies of governments and states. While some have linked the term to promoting economic growth , more commonly expansionism refers to the doctrine of a state expanding its territorial base usually, though not necessarily, by means of military...

 in Europe.

More accurately, the Przeworsk culture represents an amalgam of a series of localized cultures, most with roots in earlier traditions, modified by influences from the (Celtic) La Tene culture, (Germanic) Jastorf
Bad Bevensen
Bad Bevensen is a town in the north of the district Uelzen in Lower Saxony, Germany. It is situated to the east of the Lüneburg Heath . The Ilmenau river, a tributary of the Elbe, flows through Bad Bevensen...

 culture from beyond the Oder, and the local Bell-Grave culture of the Polish plain. It is impossible to believe that a single people could lay behind such a territorially wide and culturally varied zone. The Venethi may have played a part, but others included Vandals, Burguindians and even Sarmatians. To the east of the Przeworsk zone lay the Zarubinets culture
Zarubintsy culture
The Zarubintsy culture was a culture that from the 3rd century BC until 1st century AD flourished in the area north of the Black Sea along the upper and middle Dnieper and Pripyat Rivers, stretching west towards the Southern Bug river. Zarubintsy sites were particularly dense between the Rivers...

, sometimes considered part of the Przeworsk complex. The area occupied by the Zarubinets culture is one where very ancient Slavic hydronyms are found, and where Irena Rusinova proposed that the most proto-typical examples of Prague-type pottery later arose. The Zarubinets culture is identified as either being proto-Slavic, or an ethnically mixed community which became Slavonicized.

As one looks even further back in pre-history
Prehistory
Prehistory is the span of time before recorded history. Prehistory can refer to the period of human existence before the availability of those written records with which recorded history begins. More broadly, it refers to all the time preceding human existence and the invention of writing...

, the confidence with which archaeological connections can be made to known historic groups regresses correspondingly. Much attention has been given to the Chernoles culture
Chernoles culture
The Chernoles culture is an Iron Age archaeological unit dating ca. 1025–700 BC. It was located in the forest-steppe between the Dniester and Dnieper Rivers, in what is now northern Ukraine. This location corresponds to where Herodotus later placed his Scythian ploughmen...

, which existed from 1050 to 725 BC
720s BC
-Events and trends:*728 BC—Piye invades Egypt, conquering Memphis, and receives the submission of the rulers of the Nile Delta. He founds the Twenty-fifth dynasty of Egypt.*727 BC—Babylonia makes itself independent of Assyria, upon the death of Tiglath-Pileser III....

 in the forest-steppe zone. This area seems to correspond to where Herodotus
Herodotus
Herodotus was an ancient Greek historian who was born in Halicarnassus, Caria and lived in the 5th century BC . He has been called the "Father of History", and was the first historian known to collect his materials systematically, test their accuracy to a certain extent and arrange them in a...

 placed his "Scythian ploughmen", postulated to represent proto-Slavic agriculturalists under the Scythian clientship. The Chernoles culture has been seen to represent a stage in the evolution of Slavic stock. Gimbutas goes so far as identifying it as the proto-Slavic homeland. Others, instead have labelled the neighbouring Milogradi
Milograd culture
The Milograd culture is an archaeological culture, lasting from about the 7th century BC to the 1st century AD. Geographically, it corresponds to present day southern Belarus and northern Ukraine, in the area of the confluence of the Dnieper and the Pripyat, north of Kiev...

 or Lusatian
Sorbian languages
The Sorbian languages are classified under the Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages. They are the native languages of the Sorbs, a Slavic minority in the Lusatia region of eastern Germany. Historically the language has also been known as Wendish or Lusatian. Their collective ISO 639-2 code...

 cultures as proto-Slavic. However, many pre-historians argue that it is spurious to ascribe ethnic labels to the Iron Age
Iron Age
The Iron Age is the archaeological period generally occurring after the Bronze Age, marked by the prevalent use of iron. The early period of the age is characterized by the widespread use of iron or steel. The adoption of such material coincided with other changes in society, including differing...

 peoples of Europe.

Social anthropology


Primordialism
Primordialism
Primordialism or perennialism is the argument which contends that nations are ancient, natural phenomena.Primordialism can be traced philosophically to the ideas of German Romanticism, particularly in the works of Johann Gottlieb Fichte and Johann Gottfried Herder. For Herder, the nation was...

is a paradigm that has been employed in analysing the processes involved in the formation of a people, or ethnos. It was connected to the nationalism
Nationalism
Nationalism is a political ideology that involves a strong identification of a group of individuals with a political entity defined in national terms, i.e. a nation. In the 'modernist' image of the nation, it is nationalism that creates national identity. There are various definitions for what...

 movements of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and today has largely fallen out of favour amongst social anthropologists
Cultural anthropology
Cultural anthropology is a branch of anthropology focused on the study of cultural variation among humans, collecting data about the impact of global economic and political processes on local cultural realities. Anthropologists use a variety of methods, including participant observation,...

. Ethnicity, according to primordialists, is defined by biological descent and is tied to a geographic homeland (Urheimat). They argued that a people, or nation, is a natural and organic social grouping, and is therefore timeless. Essentially, primordialists saw modern ethnicity as the survival of an ancient tribalism, and therefore believe that the national character of modern Europeans was set over a millennium ago when Urvolk (original people) known as Celts, Goths and Sclavenes traversed, and eventually settled, over large parts of Europe. These groups, in turn, had their origins in the Bronze and Iron Ages, when the ancestral Indo-Europeans dispersed.

However, a more recent, constructionist approach sees ethnicity as historical, not biological. That is, they see ethnicity as an instrument of political strategy, used as a resource by groups to achieve secondary goals, such as acquiring wealth, power or status. According to this view, the chief forces of group cohesion were primarily economic and political interests. As a rule, therefore, members are of diverse origin (multi-ethnic).

Nevertheless, ethnicity is not altogether arbitrary or subjective. Constructionists argue that ethnicity is created upon pre-existing cultures, myths and practices. Wenksus coined the term Traditionskern (‘kernel of tradition’) to refer to a small group who claimed to “embody and perpetuate some ancient people”. This core group, usually the elite, was a standard to set up much larger units. Charismatic rulers gathered adherents from diverse backgrounds. “A victorious campaign confirmed their right to rule and drew them an ever growing people who accepted and shared in their identity”. In time, these heterogeneous armies grew into a new people. Despite their diversity, they had “a strong belief in a common biological origin’’. The stimuli for forging group identity seemed to have been particularly strong along the frontiers of the Roman Empire. Chiefs supported by Rome became more powerful and wealthy than would have otherwise been possible. Yet neither the support of Rome, nor that of their own people, was secured with certainty. Opposing factions arose within a group who would contest the right to lead the people and uphold its traditions. At the same time, defeat by an external power could not only spell the end of a ruler, but also his people, who would be absorbed into another, more victorious confederacy. “Seen in this light, ‘ethnic’ identity among barbarians was extraordinarily fluid, as new groups emerged and old ones disappeared. What remained was the belief, however imaginary, that the groups held an ancient and divinely sanctioned past”.

Given that historic groups were amalgams of different peoples and cultures, scholars such as Florin Curta
Florin Curta
Florin Curta is a Romanian-born American historian, expert medievalist and archaeologist on Eastern Europe. He is one of the top authorities in the field, especially regarding Balkan history, in the Western historiography; among others like John Fine and Dennis Hupchik...

 and Patrick Geary
Patrick J. Geary
Patrick J. Geary is, effective January 1, 2012, Professor of Medieval History at the Institute for Advanced Study and Distinguished Emeritus Professor of Medieval History at UCLA. He was educated at Spring Hill College in Mobile, Alabama, the Catholic University of Leuven, Belgium, and received...

 have dubbed the search for homelands as ‘meaningless’, whilst Andras Rona-Tas advocates the use plural, Urheimats, as being more appropriate in an attempt to highlight the several major stages in the formation of a people.

Conclusions


'Traditional' theories explain the changes seen in 6th century eastern Europe in terms of a demographic expansion of Slavic people, carrying with them their customs and language. Although there has been no consensus regarding the precise location of the Slavic homeland, scholars generally looked somewhere north of the Carpathian Mountains
Carpathian Mountains
The Carpathian Mountains or Carpathians are a range of mountains forming an arc roughly long across Central and Eastern Europe, making them the second-longest mountain range in Europe...

. For example, the Russian archaeologist Valentin Sedov, using the Herderian concept of a nation, proposed that the Venethi were the proto-Slavic bearers of the Przeworsk culture. Their expansion began in the 2nd century AD, having come to occupy a large area of eastern Europe, from the Vistula to the middle Dneiper. By the 4th century, they had slowly expanded southward and eastward, assimilating the neighbouring Zarubinec culture (which he perceived to have been partly Baltic), and continuing southeast to become a constituent population of the Chernyakhov culture. The Antes then separated themselves from the Venethic block by 300, followed by the Sclaveni by 500, in the areas which neatly coincided with the distribution of the Pen’kovka and Prague-Korchak cultures, respectively.

Marija Gimbutas
Marija Gimbutas
Marija Gimbutas , was a Lithuanian-American archeologist known for her research into the Neolithic and Bronze Age cultures of "Old Europe", a term she introduced. Her works published between 1946 and 1971 introduced new views by combining traditional spadework with linguistics and mythological...

 envisaged a Slavic cultural continuity spanning two millennia, centred on the Chernoles, and the preceding Komarov cultures. In the 7th century BC, these proto-Slavs were conquered by the Scythians. However, there was limited interaction between the Slavs, who served as tribute-paying Scythian ploughmen, and the nomads. Moreover, the protection afforded by their homeland in the forest steppe enabled them to preserve their language and their patrilineal, agricultural customs. After a millennium, when the Hun Empire
Hunnic Empire
The Hunnic Empire was an empire established by the Huns. The Huns were a confederation of Eurasian tribes from the steppes of Central Asia. Appearing from beyond the Volga River some years after the middle of the 4th century, they first overran the Alani, who occupied the plains between the Volga...

 collapsed, a distinct Slavic culture re-emerged and spread rapidly. Gimbutas wrote, "Neither Bulgars nor Avars colonized the Balkan Peninsula; after storming Thrace, Illyria and Greece they went back to their territory north of the Danube. It was the Slavs who did the colonizing; . . . entire families or even whole tribes infiltrated lands. As an agricultural people, they constantly sought an outlet for the population surplus. Suppressed for over a millennium by foreign rule of Scythians, Sarmatians and Goths, they had been restricted to a small territory; now the barriers were down and they poured out”. In addition to sheer numbers, the relative depopulation of eastern Europe (due in part to the outmigration of Germani), and the lack of imperial defences further catalyzed Slavic expansion.

Commencing with the processual archaeology
Processual archaeology
Processual archaeology is a form of archaeological theory that had its genesis in 1958 with Willey and Phillips' work Method and Theory in American Archeology, in which the pair stated that "American archaeology is anthropology or it is nothing" , a rephrasing of Frederic William Maitland's...

 movement in the 1960s, some scholars began to assert that "there was no need to explain culture change exclusively in terms of migration and population replacement". Historical linguist Johanna Nichols
Johanna Nichols
Linguist Johanna Nichols is a professor emerita on active duty in the Department of Slavic Languages and Literatures at the University of California, Berkeley. Her research interests include the Slavic languages, the linguistic prehistory of northern Eurasia, language typology, ancient linguistic...

 argued that "Ethnic spreads can involve either the spread of a language to speakers of other languages or the spread of a population. Massive population spread or demographic replacement has probably been a rarity in human history
History of the world
The history of the world or human history is the history of humanity from the earliest times to the present, in all places on Earth, beginning with the Paleolithic Era. It excludes non-human natural history and geological history, except insofar as the natural world substantially affects human lives...

.... [T]here is no reason to assume that the Slavic expansion was a primarily demographic event. Some migration took place, but the parsimonious assumption is the Slavic expansion was primarily a linguistic spread". Renfrew proposed the ideas of Elite Dominance and System collapse to explain scenarios of language replacement.

Dolukhanov suggests that their experience with nomads enabled the Slavs to gain substantial political and military experience, emerging as a “dominant force and establishing a new socio-political network in the entire area of central and southeastern Europe”.
Apart from military successes, Paul Barford has suggested that “the spartan and egalitarian (Slavic) culture . . . clearly had something attractive for great numbers of the populations living over considerable areas of central Europe”, resulting in their assimilation. “The analysis of Slav material culture (especially South Slavs
South Slavs
The South Slavs are the southern branch of the Slavic peoples and speak South Slavic languages. Geographically, the South Slavs are native to the Balkan peninsula, the southern Pannonian Plain and the eastern Alps...

) and results of anthropological investigations, as well as the loan-words in philological studies, clearly demonstrate the contribution of the previous populations of these territories in the make-up of some of the Slav populations".

Byzantine chroniclers also noted that Roman prisoners captured by the Sclavenes were soon able to become free members of Slav society, if they wished. Horace Lunt attributed the spread of Slavic to the "success and mobility of the Slavic 'special border guards' of the Avar khanate", military elites who used Slavic as a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

within the Avar Khanate
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

. He argued that only as a lingua franca
Lingua franca
A lingua franca is a language systematically used to make communication possible between people not sharing a mother tongue, in particular when it is a third language, distinct from both mother tongues.-Characteristics:"Lingua franca" is a functionally defined term, independent of the linguistic...

 could Slavic have spread, obliterating other languages and dialects, whilst at the same time remaining remarkably uniform. Whilst explaining the formation of specific regional Slavic groups within the Balkans, eastern Alps
Eastern Alps
Eastern Alps is the name given to the eastern half of the Alps, usually defined as the area east of the Splügen Pass in eastern Switzerland. North of the Splügen Pass, the Posterior Rhine forms the border, and south of the pass, the Liro river and Lake Como form the boundary line.-Geography:The...

 and the Morava-Danube basin, Lunt's theory fails to explain how Slavic spread to the Baltic region
Baltic region
The terms Baltic region, Baltic Rim countries, and Baltic Rim refer to slightly different combinations of countries in the general area surrounding the Baltic Sea.- Etymology :...

 and to the territories of the Eastern Slavs
East Slavs
The East Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the medieval state of Kievan Rus, by the seventeenth century they evolved into the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian peoples.-Sources:...

, areas which had no historical links with the Avar Khanate
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

.

A related concept to elite dominance is system collapse, whereby the power vacuum
Power vacuum
A power vacuum is, in its broadest sense, an expression for a condition that exists when someone has lost control of something and no one has replaced them. It is usually used to refer to a political situation that can occur when a government has no identifiable central authority...

 associated with the demise of the Hun Empire on the one hand and the Roman Empire
Roman Empire
The Roman Empire was the post-Republican period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterised by an autocratic form of government and large territorial holdings in Europe and around the Mediterranean....

 on the other allowed certain minority group
Minority group
A minority is a sociological group within a demographic. The demographic could be based on many factors from ethnicity, gender, wealth, power, etc. The term extends to numerous situations, and civilizations within history, despite the misnomer of minorities associated with a numerical statistic...

s to take control and impose their customs and language (Renfrew 1987). Paul Barford suggests that Slavic groups might have existed in a wide area of central-eastern Europe (the territories lying within the abovementioned Chernyakov and Zarubintsy-Przeworsk culture zones), even prior to the historically documented 'Slavic migrations' of the 6th to 9th centuries. Serving as auxiliaries in Sarmatian, Goth and Hun armies, small numbers of Slavic speakers might have even reached the Balkans prior to the 6th century: These scattered groups then served as multiple foci for the creation of a consolidated Slavic cultural identity
Cultural identity
Cultural identity is the identity of a group or culture, or of an individual as far as one is influenced by one's belonging to a group or culture. Cultural identity is similar to and has overlaps with, but is not synonymous with, identity politics....

, when conditions favoured this, assimilating or passing on their material culture and language onto other ethnies.

A similar idea is proposed by Florin Curta. Seeing no clear evidence for a migration from the Polesie, or elsewhere north, he suggests that southeastern Europe witnessed the development of a "broad area of common economic and cultural traditions". "Whether living within the same region or widely scattered, adherence to this style helped to integrate isolated individuals within a group whose social boundaries criss-crossed those of local communities". "During the early 600s, however, at the time of the general collapse of the Byzantine administration in the Balkans, access to and manipulation of such (Slavic) artifacts may have been strategies for creating a new sense of identity for local elites". Curta suggests that the gretest impetus for the creation of this identity originated from the Danubian frontier.

Recent scholarship acknowledges that it may be simplistic to attempt to define a localized Slavic homeland. Although proto-Slavic language may have developed in a localized area, Slavic ethnogenesis occurred in a large area stretching from the Oder in the west to the Dnieper
Dnieper River
The Dnieper River is one of the major rivers of Europe that flows from Russia, through Belarus and Ukraine, to the Black Sea.The total length is and has a drainage basin of .The river is noted for its dams and hydroelectric stations...

 in the east, and south to the Danube river. It was a complex process fueled by changes within barbaricum and as well as within the Roman Empire. Despite the remarkable cultural uniformity, Slavic development appears to have been less politically consolidated compared to the Germani.

Patrick Geary points out that the Slavic expansion was a decentralized, yet often forceful process resulting in the assimilation of great numbers of people. The assimilating power was carried by small groups of "soldier-farmers" who carried common traditions and language. "Without kings or large –scales chieftains to bribe or defeat, the Byzantine Empire had little hope of either destroying them or coopting them into the imperial system". Pohl agrees: “Avars and Bulgars conformed to the rules of the game established by the Romans. They built up a concentration of military power
Armed forces
The armed forces of a country are its government-sponsored defense, fighting forces, and organizations. They exist to further the foreign and domestic policies of their governing body, and to defend that body and the nation it represents from external aggressors. In some countries paramilitary...

 that was paid, in the last resort, from Roman tax revenue
Tax revenue
Tax revenue is the income that is gained by governments through taxation.Just as there are different types of tax, the form in which tax revenue is collected also differs; furthermore, the agency that collects the tax may not be part of central government, but may be an alternative third-party...

s. Therefore they paradoxically depended on the functioning of the Byzantine state. The Slavs managed to keep up their agriculture (and a rather efficient kind of agriculture, by the standards of the time), even in times when they took their part in plundering Roman provinces. The booty they won apparently did not (at least initially) create a new military class with the greed for more and a contempt for peasant's work, as it did with the Germans. Thus the Slavic model proved an attractive alternative . . . which proved practically indestructible. Slav traditions, language, and culture shaped, or at least influenced, innumerable local and regional communities: a surprising similarity that developed without any central institution to promote it. These regional ethnogeneses inspired by Slavic tradition incorporated considerable remnants of Roman or Germanic population ready enough to give up ethnic identities that had lost their cohesion”.

Physical appearance


Procopius stated the Slavs "are tall and especially strong, their skin is not very white, and their hair is neither blond
Blond
Blond or blonde or fair-hair is a hair color characterized by low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin. The resultant visible hue depends on various factors, but always has some sort of yellowish color...

 nor black
Black hair
Black hair is the darkest and most common of all human hair colors globally. It is a dominant genetic trait, and it is found in people of all backgrounds and ethnicities. It has large amounts of eumelanin and is less dense than other hair colors. Black hair is known to be the shiniest of all hair...

, but all have reddish hair
Red hair
Red hair occurs on approximately 1–2% of the human population. It occurs more frequently in people of northern or western European ancestry, and less frequently in other populations...

’’. They are neither dishonourable nor spiteful, but simple in their ways, like the Huns
Huns
The Huns were a group of nomadic people who, appearing from east of the Volga River, migrated into Europe c. AD 370 and established the vast Hunnic Empire there. Since de Guignes linked them with the Xiongnu, who had been northern neighbours of China 300 years prior to the emergence of the Huns,...

 (Avars
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

)”. "Some of them do not have either a tunic or cloak, but only wear a kind of breeches pulled up to the groin”.

A similar description is later given by the Persian writer Ibn Fadlan
Ahmad ibn Fadlan
Ahmad ibn Fadlān ibn al-Abbās ibn Rāšid ibn Hammād was a 10th century Arab traveler, famous for his account of his travels as a member of an embassy of the Arab Abbasid Caliph of Baghdad to the king of the Volga Bulgars...

 describing the Rus: “Never have I seen a people of such perfect physique. They are as tall as date-palms and reddish in colour”. However, he was not impressed by the state of their hygiene.

Anthropological investigation of prehistoric Slav sites appears to support the historical literature, suggesting that Early Slavs were dolicocephalic
Cephalic index
Cephalic index is the ratio of the maximum width of the head multiplied by 100 divided by its maximum length ....

 and fair-haired
Blond
Blond or blonde or fair-hair is a hair color characterized by low levels of the dark pigment eumelanin. The resultant visible hue depends on various factors, but always has some sort of yellowish color...

. Today, physical anthropology
Biological anthropology
Biological anthropology is that branch of anthropology that studies the physical development of the human species. It plays an important part in paleoanthropology and in forensic anthropology...

, especially cranial indices, has fallen out of favour. As Luca Cavalli-Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza
Luigi Luca Cavalli-Sforza is an Italian population geneticist born in Genoa, who has been a professor at Stanford University since 1970 .-Books:...

 states, there is no guarantee that anthropological observations reflect genetic differences rather than socio-economic
Socioeconomics
Socioeconomics or socio-economics or social economics is an umbrella term with different usages. 'Social economics' may refer broadly to the "use of economics in the study of society." More narrowly, contemporary practice considers behavioral interactions of individuals and groups through social...

, nutritional, environmental, or other historic factors.

Social structuring



Early Slav society is often said to have been egalitarian and based around family clans, as noted by Procopius description of Slavic “democracy”. No individual held permanent power; however, brave and influential chiefs would arise during periods of conflict. When the conditions which brought them to power subsided, so too did their power. A slow process of consolidation occurred between the 7th and 9th centuries. During this period, the previously uniform Slav cultural area
Cultural area
A cultural area or culture area is a region with one relatively homogeneous human activity or complex of activities . These areas are primarily geographical, not historical , and they are not considered equivalent to Kulturkreis .-Development:A culture area is a concept in cultural anthropology...

 formed into more discrete zones. Various Slavic groups were to be influenced by more 'advanced' neighbouring cultures such as Byzantium, the Khazars, Vikings and the Carolingians, although these processes should not be necessarily thought to be unidirectional.

Gradually, there developed increasing evidence of differentiations of status within the organizations, leading to class divisions and the development of centralized socio-political organizations. Perhaps, the first rudiments of higher organizations were temporary pan-tribal warrior associations. We have the greatest evidence for this in the Danubian area, where various barbarian elements organized around military chiefs for the purpose of raiding Byzantine territory and defending themselves against Avars. Gradually, a higher degree of social stratification
Social stratification
In sociology the social stratification is a concept of class, involving the "classification of persons into groups based on shared socio-economic conditions ... a relational set of inequalities with economic, social, political and ideological dimensions."...

 developed- that of a chiefdom, associated with the development of inherited inequality in personal status and centralisation of power. Chiefdoms often contained fortified sites to back up their authority, a feature first seen in west Slavic
West Slavs
The West Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking West Slavic languages. They include Poles , Czechs, Slovaks, Lusatian Sorbs and the historical Polabians. The northern or Lechitic group includes, along with Polish, the extinct Polabian and Pomeranian languages...

 areas. The chief was supported by a retinue of high-status warriors who owed their positions to the chief. As chiefdoms grew powerful and expanded, centres of subsidiary power were created, ruled by lesser chiefs. It is difficult to draw the line between the powerful chiefs of "developed chiefdoms" and the princes who ruled centralized Medieval "states".

By the mid-9th century, Slavic elite attained a high level of sophistication. They wore luxurious clothing, rode on horseback, hunted with falcons and travelled with a retinue of soldiers.

Settlement features


Early Slavic settlements were no larger than 0.5 to 2 hectares. Settlements were often temporary, perhaps a reflection of the itinerant form agriculture they practiced. Settlements were often located on river terraces. The largest proportion of settlement features were the sunken buildings, called Grubenhauser in German, or poluzemlianki in Russian. They were erected over a rectangular pit and varied from four to twenty square meters
Square metre
The square metre or square meter is the SI derived unit of area, with symbol m2 . It is defined as the area of a square whose sides measure exactly one metre...

 of floor area, which could accommodate a typical nuclear family
Nuclear family
Nuclear family is a term used to define a family group consisting of a father and mother and their children. This is in contrast to the smaller single-parent family, and to the larger extended family. Nuclear families typically center on a married couple, but not always; the nuclear family may have...

. Each house contained a stone or clay oven in one of the corners, a defining feature of the dwellings throughout Eastern Europe. On average, each settlement consisted of fifty to seventy individuals. Settlements were structured in specific manner; there was a central, open area which served as a "communal front" where communal activities and ceremonies were conducted. The settlement was polarized, divided into a production zone and settlement zone.

Strongholds appeared later, in the 9th century, especially in the territories of Western Slavs. They were often found in the centre of settlement cells. In contrast, South Slavs did not form enclosed strongholds. Instead they lived in open rural settlements adopted from the social models of the indigenous populations they came across.

Tribal and territorial organization


Settlements were not uniformly distributed, but tended to form clusters separated by areas where settlement density falls. The clustering was a result of the expansion of single settlements. These 'settlement cells' were therefore linked by family or clan
Clan
A clan is a group of people united by actual or perceived kinship and descent. Even if lineage details are unknown, clan members may be organized around a founding member or apical ancestor. The kinship-based bonds may be symbolical, whereby the clan shares a "stipulated" common ancestor that is a...

 relationships. Settlement cells formed the basis of the simplest form of territorial organization, known as a zupa
Župa
A Župa is a Slavic term, used historically among the Southern and Western branches of the Slavs, originally denoting various territorial and other sub-units, usually a small administrative division, especially a gathering of several villages...

in South Slavic
South Slavic languages
The South Slavic languages comprise one of three branches of the Slavic languages. There are approximately 30 million speakers, mainly in the Balkans. These are separated geographically from speakers of the other two Slavic branches by a belt of German, Hungarian and Romanian speakers...

, or opole
Opole
Opole is a city in southern Poland on the Oder River . It has a population of 125,992 and is the capital of the Upper Silesia, Opole Voivodeship and, also the seat of Opole County...

in Polish. For example, Primary Chronicle
Primary Chronicle
The Primary Chronicle , Ruthenian Primary Chronicle or Russian Primary Chronicle, is a history of Kievan Rus' from about 850 to 1110, originally compiled in Kiev about 1113.- Three editions :...

 noted that “the men of the Poliane lived each with his own clan in his own place”. There were several such zupa containing the territorial confines of individual clans, which together formed the known tribes. “The complex processes initiated by the Slav expansion and subsequent demographic
Demographics
Demographics are the most recent statistical characteristics of a population. These types of data are used widely in sociology , public policy, and marketing. Commonly examined demographics include gender, race, age, disabilities, mobility, home ownership, employment status, and even location...

 and ethnic consolidation culminated in the formation of tribal groups, which later coalesced to create state which form the framework of the ethnic make-up of modern eastern Europe”.

The root of many tribal names denotes their territory which they inhabited, such as the Vistulans
Vistulans
Vistulans were an early medieval West Slavic tribe inhabiting the land of modern Lesser Poland.From the 1st century and possibly earlier, the Vistulans , were part of the Carpian Tribe, which got its name from the area that they lived in, which was beside the Carpathian Mountain Range...

(along the Vistula river), the Moravians
Moravians (ethnic group)
Moravians are the modern West Slavic inhabitants of the historical land of Moravia, the easternmost part of the Czech Republic, which includes the Moravian Slovakia. They speak the two main groups of Moravian dialects , the transitional Bohemian-Moravian dialect subgroup and standard Czech...

(along the Morava rivers), the Diokletians (near the former Roman
Ancient Rome
Ancient Rome was a thriving civilization that grew on the Italian Peninsula as early as the 8th century BC. Located along the Mediterranean Sea and centered on the city of Rome, it expanded to one of the largest empires in the ancient world....

 city of Doclea
Duklja (town)
Duklja or Doclea was once the principal city of the state of Duklja . The city was situated about three kilometers north from today’s Podgorica, Montenegro's capital.-History:...

) and Severiani (northern-folk), to mention a few. Others names derive from more general meanings, such as the Polanes (pola, field), Derevlane (drevo, tree). Others appear to have a non-Slavic, possibly Iranic
Iranian languages
The Iranian languages form a subfamily of the Indo-Iranian languages which in turn is a subgroup of Indo-European language family. They have been and are spoken by Iranian peoples....

, roots such as the Antes, Serbs
Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

, and Croats
Croats
Croats are a South Slavic ethnic group mostly living in Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina and nearby countries. There are around 4 million Croats living inside Croatia and up to 4.5 million throughout the rest of the world. Responding to political, social and economic pressure, many Croats have...

. Some geographically distant tribes appear to share names. The Dregoviti appear north of the Pripet
Pinsk Marshes
The Pinsk Marshes or Pripyat Marshes are a vast territory of wetlands along the Pripyat River and its tributaries from Brest, Belarus to Mogilev and Kiev ....

 river as well as in the Vardar valley
Macedonia (region)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its boundaries have changed considerably over time, but nowadays the region is considered to include parts of five Balkan countries: Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, as...

, the Croats in Galicia and northern Dalmatia
Dalmatia
Dalmatia is a historical region on the eastern coast of the Adriatic Sea. It stretches from the island of Rab in the northwest to the Bay of Kotor in the southeast. The hinterland, the Dalmatian Zagora, ranges from fifty kilometers in width in the north to just a few kilometers in the south....

, the Poliani between the Oder and Vistula and their namesake further east along the middle Dniester river. Historically, three groups retained the root Slav in their names- Slovenes, Slovaks
Slovaks
The Slovaks, Slovak people, or Slovakians are a West Slavic people that primarily inhabit Slovakia and speak the Slovak language, which is closely related to the Czech language.Most Slovaks today live within the borders of the independent Slovakia...

, and the historical East Slavic
East Slavs
The East Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the medieval state of Kievan Rus, by the seventeenth century they evolved into the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian peoples.-Sources:...

 Slovene tribe. Although much has been made of supposed migratory links between tribes sharing the same names, the evidence in support of such a theory is very scarce at present. The occurrence of common name
Common name
A common name of a taxon or organism is a name in general use within a community; it is often contrasted with the scientific name for the same organism...

s may merely be a reflection of how historians named the various tribes.

Warfare


Typical early barbarian warrior bands contained only up to two hundred warriors. Such small bands were intended for fast penetration into enemy territory, and an equally quick withdrawal. In Wars VII.14, 25, Procopius tells us that the Slavs "fight on foot, advancing on the enemy; in their hands they carry small shields and spears, but they never wear body armour". According to the Strategikon, the Slavs favoured ambush and guerrilla tactics
Guerrilla warfare
Guerrilla warfare is a form of irregular warfare and refers to conflicts in which a small group of combatants including, but not limited to, armed civilians use military tactics, such as ambushes, sabotage, raids, the element of surprise, and extraordinary mobility to harass a larger and...

, often attacking the enemy's flanks. It mentions "they are armed with short spears, each man carries two, one of them with a large shield". Sources also mention the use of Slavic cavalry. Theophylact Simocatta
Theophylact Simocatta
Theophylact Simocatta was an early seventh-century Byzantine historiographer, arguably ranking as the last historian of Late Antiquity, writing in the time of Heraclius about the late Emperor Maurice .-Life:His history of the reign of emperor Maurice is in eight books...

 described how in the course of a raid, the Slavs "dismounted from their horses in order to cool themselves". Procopius mentions that Slav and "Hun" horsemen served as mercenaries in the Byzantine army. In their dealings with Sarmatians and Huns, it is not inconceivable that the Slavs became skilled horsemen, a feature which might explain their successful expansion.

As the Slavic tribes enlarged, raids became larger and more organized, capable of permanently occupying newly gained territory. Armies were composed of specialist divisions including cavalry, archers and infantry, and even siege machines.

The Strategikon (XI.4.I-45) mentions that the Slavs were a hospitable people who did not keep prisoners indefinitely, "but lay down a certain period after which they can decide for themselves if they want to return to their former homelands after paying a ransom, or to stay amongst the Slavs as free men and friends".

Burial


During the 5th to 9th centuries, most Slavs practised cremation
Cremation
Cremation is the process of reducing bodies to basic chemical compounds such as gasses and bone fragments. This is accomplished through high-temperature burning, vaporization and oxidation....

 burials. The funeral pyre was seen as a means of freeing the soul from the body in a rapid, visible and public manner.

Archaeological evidence suggests that the South Slavs quickly adopted inhumation practiced by the post-Roman Balkan natives. In areas under Avar control, Slavs practiced Avar-type burials.

Religion



Before Christianisation, Slavs practiced a polytheistic religion
Polytheism
Polytheism is the belief of multiple deities also usually assembled into a pantheon of gods and goddesses, along with their own mythologies and rituals....

.
Christianisation began in the 9th century, and was not complete until the second half of the 12th century.
The Christianisation of Bulgaria was a result of the khan
Boris I of Bulgaria
Boris I, also known as Boris-Mihail and Bogoris was the Knyaz of First Bulgarian Empire in 852–889. At the time of his baptism in 864, Boris was named Michael after his godfather, Emperor Michael III...

's shifting political alliances with the kingdom of the East Franks and the Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

, as well as his reception by the Pope
Pope
The Pope is the Bishop of Rome, a position that makes him the leader of the worldwide Catholic Church . In the Catholic Church, the Pope is regarded as the successor of Saint Peter, the Apostle...

 of the Roman Church
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

. Because of Bulgaria's strategic position, both the Greek East and the Latin West wanted Bulgaria's people to adhere to their respective liturgies and be aligned with them politically.
After some overtures to each side, the khan aligned with Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Through them, he achieved his goal of gaining an independent Bulgarian national church and having an archbishop appointed to head it.
There is some evidence of early Christianisation of the East Slavs
Christianization of the Rus' Khaganate
The Christianization of the Rus' Khaganate is supposed to have happened in the 860s and was the first stage in the process of Christianization of the East Slavs which continued well into the 11th century...

, but the Kievan Rus' remained largely pagan, or relapsed into paganism, until the baptism of Vladimir the Great in the 980s.
Also in the 10th century, the Baptism of Poland
Baptism of Poland
The Baptism of Poland was the event in 966 that signified the beginning of the Christianization of Poland, commencing with the baptism of Mieszko I, who was the first ruler of the Polish state. The next significant step in Poland's adoption of Christianity was the establishment of various...

 began with the baptism of Mieszko I of Poland
Mieszko I of Poland
Mieszko I , was a Duke of the Polans from about 960 until his death. A member of the Piast dynasty, he was son of Siemomysł; grandchild of Lestek; father of Bolesław I the Brave, the first crowned King of Poland; likely father of Świętosława , a Nordic Queen; and grandfather of her son, Cnut the...

 in 966.
The last remnants of Slavic paganism persisted into the 12th century, on the north-western fringe of the Slavic world, in Pomerania
Pomerania
Pomerania is a historical region on the south shore of the Baltic Sea. Divided between Germany and Poland, it stretches roughly from the Recknitz River near Stralsund in the West, via the Oder River delta near Szczecin, to the mouth of the Vistula River near Gdańsk in the East...

.
Here, Christianisation took place in the wake of the establishment of the Duchy of Pomerania
Duchy of Pomerania
The Duchy of Pomerania was a duchy in Pomerania on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea, ruled by dukes of the House of Pomerania ....

 within the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

, in 1121.
This process was mostly completed with the Wendish Crusade
Wendish Crusade
The Wendish Crusade was an 1147 campaign, one of the Northern Crusades and also a part of the Second Crusade, led primarily by the Kingdom of Germany inside the Holy Roman Empire and directed against the Polabian Slavs ....

 of 1147.
The final stronghold of Slavic paganism were the Rani
Rani (Slavic tribe)
The Rani or Rujani were a West Slavic tribe based on the island of Rugia and the southwestern mainland across the Strelasund in what is today northeastern Germany....

, with a temple to their god Svantevit on Cape Arkona
Cape Arkona
Cape Arkona is a cape on the island of Rügen in Mecklenburg-Vorpommern, Germany. Cape Arkona is the tip of the Wittow peninsula, just a few kilometres north of the Jasmund National Park....

, which was finally taken in a campaign by Valdemar I of Denmark
Valdemar I of Denmark
Valdemar I of Denmark , also known as Valdemar the Great, was King of Denmark from 1157 until 1182.-Biography:...

 in 1168.

Development of the medieval Slavic states


After Christianisation, the Slavic nations established a number of kingdoms or feudal principalities which persisted during the High Middle Ages
High Middle Ages
The High Middle Ages was the period of European history around the 11th, 12th, and 13th centuries . The High Middle Ages were preceded by the Early Middle Ages and followed by the Late Middle Ages, which by convention end around 1500....

.
The East Slavs
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

 after the death of Yaroslav the Wise (1054) fragmented in a number of principalities, of which Muscovy would eventually (after 1300) emerge as the most powerful.
The South Slavs consolidated the Principality of Serbia and the Bulgarian Empire
Bulgarian Empire
Bulgarian Empire is a term used to describe two periods in the medieval history of Bulgaria, during which it acted as a key regional power in Europe in general and in Southeastern Europe in particular, rivalling Byzantium...

.
The West Slavs were distributed between the Poland
Poland
Poland , officially the Republic of Poland , is a country in Central Europe bordered by Germany to the west; the Czech Republic and Slovakia to the south; Ukraine, Belarus and Lithuania to the east; and the Baltic Sea and Kaliningrad Oblast, a Russian exclave, to the north...

, Grand Duchy of Lithuania
Grand Duchy of Lithuania
The Grand Duchy of Lithuania was a European state from the 12th /13th century until 1569 and then as a constituent part of Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth until 1791 when Constitution of May 3, 1791 abolished it in favor of unitary state. It was founded by the Lithuanians, one of the polytheistic...

 and the Holy Roman Empire
Holy Roman Empire
The Holy Roman Empire was a realm that existed from 962 to 1806 in Central Europe.It was ruled by the Holy Roman Emperor. Its character changed during the Middle Ages and the Early Modern period, when the power of the emperor gradually weakened in favour of the princes...

.