Learn more about Slavic peoples
The Slavic peoples are a linguistic and ethnic branch of Indo-European peoples, living mainly in Eastern Europe. Since emerging from their original homeland (most commonly thought to be in Eastern Europe) in the early 6th century, they have inhabited most of eastern Central Europe, Eastern Europe and the Balkans. Many have later settled in Northern Asia or emigrated to other parts of the world.
Slavic settlers mixed with existing local populations and later invaders, thus modern Slavic peoples share some but not all genetic traits. Yet they are connected by speaking often closely related Slavic languages, and also by a sense of common identity and history, which is present to different extents among different individuals and different Slavic peoples.
Slavic peoples are traditionally divided along linguistic lines into West Slavic (including Czechs, Poles and Slovaks), East Slavic (including Belarusians, Russians, and Ukrainians), and South Slavic (including Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs and Slovenians). For a more comprehensive list, see Ethno-cultural subdivisions.
 Origin of the term Slav
The origin of the word Slav remains controversial. Excluding the ambiguous mention by Ptolemy of tribes Stavanoi and Soubenoi, the earliest references of "Slavs" under this name are from the 6th century. The word is written variously as Sklabenoi, Sklauenoi, or Sklabinoi in Byzantine Greek, and as Sclaueni, Sclauini, or Sthlaueni in Latin. (About using the K in the middle, see the discussion page). The oldest documents written in Old Slavonic and dating from the 9th century use the word "slověne". Note the first vowel "o", rather than an "a" as in Greek and Latin.
Folk etymologies and scholars such as Roman Jacobson traditionally link the name either with the word sláva ("glory", "fame", hypothetically reconstructed IE root *kleu--) or with the word slovo ("word, talk"). Thus slověne would mean "people who speak (the same language)", i.e. people who understand each other, as opposed to the Slavic word for foreign nations, nemtsi, meaning "speechless people" (from Slavic němi - mute, silent, dumb), as for example in Polish: Niemcy is Germans.
It can be argued, however, that these obvious connections are misleading. Names of ethnicities are often very old and defy attempts to find etymologies for them. There are two alternative scholarly theories as to the origin of the Slavs ethnonym, both very tentative: According to the first theory<ref>Bernstein S. B., Очерк сравнительной грамматики славянских языков, vol. 1-2, Moscow, 1961.</ref>, it derives from a Proto-Indo-European *(s)lawos, cognate to Greek λᾱ(ϝ)ός "population, people", which itself has no commonly accepted etymology. The second theory (forwarded by e.g. Max Vasmer) suggests that the word originated as a river name (compare the etymology of the Volcae), comparing it with such cognates as Latin cluo ("to wash"), a root not known to have been continued in Slavic, however, and appearing in meanings of "to clean, to scour" in Baltic.
Parenthetically, the English word slave is derived from Middle Latin sclavus, in turn derived from the ethnonym discussed above, because of the large number of Slavs captured during the raids of Turkic nomads and sold to Europe and the Arab world through slave markets along various routes. (See saqaliba for more information.)
 Proto-Slavic language
The ancestor of the Proto-Slavic language branched off at some uncertain time in an unknown location from common Proto-Indo-European (possibly passing through a common Proto-Balto-Slavic stage). According to a popular view, "the Indo-Europeans who remained after the migrations became speakers of Balto-Slavic" . Proto-Slavic proper, defined as the last stage of the language preceding the split of the historical Slavic languages, predates the 7th century, and was likely spoken during the 5th and 6th century.
The Slavic language group is categorized with the satem or eastern branch of the Indo-European language family, along with the Baltic and Indo-Iranian groups. This is in contrast with the western or centum branch that includes Romance, Germanic and Celtic languages.
 Genetic origins
The first known historic Slavic people (Venedi, Sklavene and Anti) did identify themselves by "common ancestors and common blood" according to the 6th century historian Jordanes, and that is also partly supported by modern bio-genetic comparisons (DNA analyses). The new genetic analyses of Y-chromosomes and mitochondria (mostly since 2000), iteratively offered interesting conclusions on the genetic similarity and probable collective origin of western and eastern Slavs; however they also demonstrated a considerable heterogeneity and controversies for the biological and historical development of South Slavic peoples.
The Haplogroup I which is usually associated with Slavic people is found at 40-60% levels in most Eastern European countries, but lower in the Balkans (15-35%) and elsewhere in Europe. However it is also widely found (40-50%) among peoples in India and Pakistan, and its maximal predominance is found in Central Asia at 60-70% e.g. Tadjikistan, Kirgisia, Kashmir, etc. The most recent detailed comparisons suggest its subdivisions: its main subtype prevails in East-European Slavs, and other Indo-Balkanic subtypes occur chiefly in India, Croatia and Bosnia, suggesting a separate origin for these peoples.
The other Haplogroup R1a occurs in most Slavic people around 15-25% levels in Eastern European countries, but it is more abundant in the Balkans: in Serbia, Croatia and Bosnia at 40-50%, in some Adriatic islands even 80%, et cetera. The highest levels of a larger group can be found with Bosnian Croats of who 1% belong to the haplogroup.
In such high levels it occurs in non-Slavic areas, chiefly in Sardinia and Scandinavia. It is not found in India, but occurs widely in western Caucasus (30-60%), and can also be found in some areas of northern Iran . The spread is believed to be related to the mass migrations following the Last Glacial Maximum when the Balkans served as a refuge.
Its regional abundance in Slavic countries indicates mostly the former Pre-Slavic populations that subsequently are Slavicized.
In Poland 50% of Poles are of R1a Y-DNA, when the second 50% is composed of R1b and I1 Y-DNA. Germany is a country of R1b and I1 Y-DNA composition with an R1a Y-DNA frequency of just 8%. This clear correspondence between the Germanic/Slavic language boundary and the R1b/R1a genetic boundary led genetic researchers to conclude that R1a was a valid identifier of the Slav peoples. However this view is not without its problems.
Germany is historically populated by both Germanic tribes and Western Slavic (Lech) tribes (eg. Sorbs, Polabians). By comparison, Poland is a country historically populated almost entirely by historically Lech tribes. There is no historical record of German Slavs or Polish Slavs being exterminated during last 1000 years. On the contrary many Lech tribes still existed until XIX century in Poland and Germany and few Lech tribes with their tribal customs kept still alive do exist in XXI century Germany (eq. Sorbs). One would therefore expect their to be a larger minority of R1a in Germany than is actually the case.
By contrast, non-Slavic Sweden and Norway do have higher than expected frequencies of R1a (18% and 24% respectively). In Britain the distribution of R1a corresponds closely to the areas of Viking influence.
In both Germany and in Poland R1b and I1 do exist in 55-45 proportion to each other. In Europe only Nordic countries have something similar in proportions between R1b and I1. Curiously according to autochtonic theory West Slavs of Germany and Poland are not generally recognized as Pre-Slavic population that subsequently became Slavicized (allochtonic theory?). Polish archeologists even point to Pomeranian culture as the source of cultural distinctive and autochtonic appearance of Slavs in Europe. This is a form of Lusatian culture with heavy Viking influences and is clearly Slavic according to autochtonic theory. If it is not originally Slavic, then it is a Pre-Slavic Non-Slavicized culture of Western Slavs, which was spread over entire Central-Eastern-South Slavic Europe and totally culturally dominated it. This subsequently makes Slavs (R1a Y-DNA) culturally Lechicized by the former Pre-Slavic population of Europe, the Western Slavs (I1 Y-DNA), the founders of the Eastern Civilization of Europe. This subsequently means that the easternly appearing cultural distinctiveness of Rusins (East Slavs) is whatever is left of the original Slavic culture and Lechs are not Slavicized with it to this very day as a matter of fact.
It may be that the R1b/R1a divide predates the current boundary between Slavic and Germanic language areas and that R1a is not such a clear-cut marker of Slav settlement as was initially thought on the basis of the German/Polish divide. It may, in northern Europe at least, reflect an earlier east-to-west movement of peoples who entered Scandinavia but were for some reason unable to penetrate far into mainland Europe via Germany.
 Origins and Slavic homeland debate
The location of the speakers of pre-Proto-Slavic and Proto-Slavic is subject to considerable debate. Serious candidates are cultures on the territories of modern Poland, Belarus and Ukraine. The proposed frameworks are:
- "Polish" hypothesis: The pre-Proto-Slavs were present in north-eastern Central Europe since at least the late 2nd millennium BC, and were the bearers of the Lusatian culture and later the Przeworsk culture (part of the Chernyakhov culture).
- "Belarusian" hypothesis: The pre-Proto-Slavs (or Balto-Slavs) were the bearers of the Milograd culture
- "Ukrainian" hypothesis: The pre-Proto-Slavs were the bearers of the Chernoles culture of northern Ukraine
From a Polish/German viewpoint, the "Polish" hypothesis is referred to as the autochthonic theory (the Proto-Slavs are native to the area of modern Poland), while the other possibilities are known as allochthonic theory (the Slavs immigrated to the area of modern Poland during the Migration period). This debate is politically charged, particularly in connection with the history of the Partitions of Poland, and both German and Slavic nationalists have employed either the 'autochthonic' (in the case of the Slavic nationalists) or the 'allochthonic' (in the case of the German nationalists) as tools of political propaganda. The debate of Slavic origins in general is often emotionally charged and interspersed with pseudoarchaeology and national mysticism. Contemporary scholarship in general has moved away from the idea of monolithic nations and the Urheimat debates of the 19th and early 20th centuries, and its focus of interest is that of a process of ethnogenesis, regarding competing Urheimat scenarios as false dichotomies.
 Earliest accounts
The lands of the Elbe, Oder, and west of the Vistula river were referred to as Magna Germania by Tacitus in AD 98. Tacitus, Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy mention a tribe of the Venedes east of the Vistula, commonly identified with the early Vandals, but 6th century authors re-applied the ethnonym to hitherto unknown Slavic tribes, whence the later designation "Wends" for Slavic tribes, and medieval legends purporting a connection between Poles and Vandals. A minority view postulates that the Venedes of Tacitus and the "Slavs proper" between the 1st and the 6th centuries coalesced into the historical Slavic ethnicities.
The Slavs were "known to other people" as those tribes located between the Vistula and Dnepr until the middle of the 1st century BCE. After that they expanded to the Elbe (Labe) River and Adriatic Sea and down the Danube. <ref> "Slavic languages". The New Encyclopædia Britannica. (1993). Chicago, IL, United States: Encyclopædia Britannica, Inc.. ISBN 0-85229-571-5.</ref>
The Slavs make their first appearance in historical records from the end of Late Antiquity, in the early 6th century. Byzantine historiographers under Justinian I (527-565), such as Procopius of Caesarea, Jordanes and Theophylact Simocatta describe tribes invading the Danubian provinces of the Eastern Empire, emerging from the area of the Carpathian Mountains, the lower Danube and the Black Sea. Jordanes mentions that the Venets sub-divided into three groups: the Venets, the Ants and the Sklavens (Sclovenes, Sklavinoi), collectively called Spores. The Byzantine term Sklavinoi was loaned as Saqaliba by medieval Arab historiographers.
 Scenarios of ethnogenesis
The Globular Amphora culture stretches from the middle Dniepr to the Elbe in the late 4th and early 3rd millennia BC. It has been suggested as the locus of a Germano-Balto-Slavic continuum (compare Germanic substrate hypothesis), but the identification of its bearers as Indo-Europeans is uncertain.
The Chernoles culture (8th to 3rd c. BC, sometimes associated with the "Scythian farmers" of Herodotus) is "sometimes portrayed as either a state in the development of the Slavic languages or at least some form of late Indo-European ancestral to the evolution of the Slavic stock"<ref>James P. Mallory, "Chernoles Culture", EIEC</ref> The Milograd culture (700 BC - 100 AD), centered roughly on present day Belarus, north of the contemporaneous Chernoles culture, have also been proposed as ancestral to either Slavs or Balts.
The ethnic composition of the bearers of the Przeworsk culture (2nd c. BC to 4th c. AD, associated with the Lugii) of central and southern Poland, northern Slovakia and of Ukraine, including the Zarubintsy culture (2nd c. BC to 2nd c. AD, also connected with the Bastarnae tribe) and the Oksywie culture are other candidates.
The area of southern Ukraine is known to have been inhabited by Scythian and Sarmatian tribes prior to the foundation of the Gothic kingdom. Early Slavic stone stelae found in the middle Dniestr region are markedly different from the Scythian and Sarmatian stelae found in the Crimea.
The (Gothic) Wielbark Culture displaced the eastern Oksywie part of the Przeworsk culture from the 1st century AD. While the Chernyakhov culture (2nd to 5th c. AD, identified with the multi-ethnic kingdom established by the Goths immigrating from the Wielbark culture) leads to the decline of the late Sarmatian culture in the 2nd to 4th centuries, the western part of the Przeworsk culture remains intact until the 4th century, and the Kiev culture flourishes during the same time, in the 2nd-5th c. AD. This latter culture is recognized as the direct predecessor of the Prague-Korchak and Pen'kovo cultures (6th-7th c. AD), the first archaeological cultures the bearers of which are undisputedly identified as Slavic. Proto-Slavic is thus likely to have reached its final stage in the Kiev area; there is, however, substantial disagreement in the scientific community over the identity of the Kiev culture's predecessors, with some scholars tracing it from the "Belarusian" Milograd culture, others from the "Ukrainian" Chernoles and Zarubintsy cultures and still others from the "Polish" Przeworsk culture. The Kiev culture was overrun by the Huns around 400 AD, which may have triggered the Proto-Slavic expansion to the historical locations of the Slavic languages.
 Slavs in the historical period
Slavs emerged from obscurity when the westward movement of Germans and Celts in the 5th and 6th centuries AD (necessitated by the onslaught of peoples from Siberia and Eastern Europe: Huns, Avars, Bulgars and Magyars) started the great migration of the Slavs, who settled the lands abandoned by Germanic tribes fleeing the Huns and their allies: westward into the country between the Odra and the Elbe-Saale line; southward into Bohemia, Moravia, much of present day Austria, the Pannonian plain and the Balkans; and northward along the upper Dnieper river.
When their migratory movements ended, there appeared among the Slavs the first rudiments of state organizations, each headed by a prince with a treasury and defense force. Moreover, there were the beginnings of class differentiation, with nobles who pledged allegiance to the Frankish and Holy Roman Emperors.
In the 7th century, the Frankish merchant Samo, who supported the Slavs fighting their Avar rulers, became the ruler of the first known Slav state in Central Europe, which, however, most probably did not outlive its founder and ruler. Karantania in today's Austria and Slovenia was one Slavic state; very old also are the Principality of Nitra and the Moravian principality (see under Great Moravia). In this period, there existed central Slavic groups and states such as the Balaton Principality, but the subsequent expansion of the Magyars and Romanians, as well as the Germanisation of Austria, separated the northern and southern Slavs.
In the early history of South Slavs, and continuing into the Dark Ages, non-Slavic groups were sometimes dissimilated by Slavic-speaking populations: the Bulgars became Slavicized and their Turkic tongue disappeared; in a similar manner the ancient Pre-Slavic Croats from the Azov Sea at Tanais by their migration since 8th century also became Slavicized and their early Indo-Iranian tongue then mostly disappeared (except some archaisms in dialects). In both cases of Pre-Slavic Bulgars and Croats, the same is confirmed also by their newest biogenetical analyses, where the main Slavic haplogroup (M173) is very low in Bulgarians (12%) and Croats (23%); other non-Slavic genome types predominate among both of these peoples.
In other cases, Slavs themselves assimilated other groups such as the Romanians, Magyars, Greeks, Italians, etc. Apart from the Illyrians who inhabited the Balkans, the Croats also partly merged with the Alans, and the Serbs are speculated to have assimiliated a tribe of the Sarmatians called the Serboi, later merged with the Celts.
Because of the vastness and diversity of the territory occupied by Slavic peoples, there were several centers of Slavic consolidation. In the 19th century, Pan-Slavism developed as a movement among intellectuals, scholars, and poets, but it rarely influenced practical politics and didn't find support in all nations that had Slavic origins. Pan-Slavism became compromised when Russian Empire started to use it as an ideology justifying its territorial conquests in Central Europe as well as subjugation of other ethnic groups of Slavic origins such as Poles or Ukrainians, and the ideology became associated with Russian imperialism. The common Slavic experience of communism combined with the repeated usage of the ideology by Soviet propaganda after World War II within the Eastern bloc (Warsaw Pact) was a forced high-level political and economic hegemony of the USSR dominated by Russians, and as such despised by the rest of the conquered nations. A notable political union of the 20th century that covered many South Slavs was Yugoslavia, but it broke apart as well.
Nazi Germany, whose proponents claimed a racial superiority for the Germanic people, particularly over Semitic and Slavic peoples, plotted an enslavement of the Slavic peoples, and the reduction of their numbers by killing the majority of the population. As a result, a large number of people considered by the Nazis to have Slavic origins were slain during World War II.
 Religion and alphabet
Slavs gradually adopted Christianity between 6th and 10th century, and consequently the old Slavic religion was suppressed. The two main Christian denominations with Slavs are Eastern Orthodox and Greek or Roman Catholic, while a few are Protestant or Muslim. The delineations by nationality can be very sharp. In many Slavic ethnic groups the vast majority of religious people share the same religion, although many are atheist or agnostic; in the latter cases people still may traditionally associate themselves with a particular religion in a cultural and historical sense.
2. Those who are mainly Roman Catholic with small Protestant minorities:
3. Those who are mainly Muslim:
4. Those who are a religious mixture:
The Orthodox/Catholic religious divisions become further exacerbated by the use of the Cyrillic alphabet by the Orthodox and Greek Catholics and of the Roman alphabet by Roman Catholics. However, the Serbian language (including Montenegrin) can be written using both the Cyrillic and Roman alphabets (privately, Latinic tends to be more popular, particularly among the youth). There is also a Latinic script to write in Belarusian, called the Lacinka alphabet. The Bosnian language has at times been written using the Arabic alphabet (mostly in Muslim documents), but it now uses the Roman (in Bosniak, Croat, and Serb areas) and Cyrillic alphabet (in Serb areas).
 Ethno-cultural subdivisions
Slavs are customarily divided into three major subgroups: East Slavs, West Slavs, and South Slavs, each with a different and a diverse background based on unique history, religion and culture of particular Slavic group within them. The East Slavs may all be traced to Slavic-speaking populations that were loosely organized under the Kievan Rus' empire beginning in the 9th century A.D. Almost all of the South Slavs can be traced to ethnic Slavs who mixed with the local population of the Balkans (Illyrians, Thracians, Dacians and Getae) and with later invaders from the East (Bulgars, Avars, and Alans), then fell under the hegemony of the Ottoman Empire. The West Slavs do not share either of these backgrounds, as they expanded to the West and integrated into the cultural sphere of Western (Roman Catholic) Christendom around this timeframe.
Please note that some of the following subdivisions remain highly debatable, particularly for smaller groups and national minorities.
 East Slavs
Main article: East Slavs
- Rusyns 3
 West Slavs
Main article: West Slavs
- Lechitic group
- Czech-Slovak group
- Sorbs (Serbo-Lusatians)
 South Slavs
Main article: South Slavs
- South-Eastern (Bulgaro-Macedonian) group
- South-Western group
- Montenegrins 6
- Gorani 8
- Muslims by nationality 9
- Yugoslavs (mostly in Serbia, Bosnia, few in Croatia) 10
† Extinct (Not existing anymore)
1 Also considered part of Rusyns
2 Considered transitional between Ukrainians and Belarusians
3 Also considered part of Ukrainians
4 Also considered part of Poles
5 Today, often considered part of Czechs, originally closer to Slovaks
6 Some opt Serbian nationality and there is an ongoing controversy, mainly based on that this Slavic people was historically self-styled Serb, that they speak the Serbian language and that during Yugoslavia they became adherents of the Serb Orthodox Church; but now (in independent Montenegro) also a Montenegrin (Ijekavian) language appeared, and the separate Montenegrin Orthodox Church is restored that existed for centuries before Yugoslavia in the former Montenegro Kingdom with Petrovici dinasty as its Church leaders, too.
7 Both occur widely in northeastern Croatia and also in northern Serbia; their Ikavian dialect is subequal as southern Croats in Hercegovina and Dalmatian mainland from where they once emigrated. Considered part of Croats by most of them, although recently (since Yugoslav disaster) some within Serbia consider themselves a separate peoples
8 These Gorani are Slavs in Kosovo; but not to be confound with other Gorani (or Gorinci) in the highlands of western Croatia (Gorski Kotar county).
9 A census category in former Yugoslavia rather than an ethnic group in the strict sense. Most Slavic Muslims now opt for Bosniak ethnicity, but some still use the "Muslim" designation.
10 This identity continues to be used by a minority throughout the former Yugoslav republics. The nationality is also declared by diasporans living in the USA and Canada. There are a multitude of reasons as to why people prefer this affiliation, some published on the article.
Note: Besides ethnic groups, Slavs often identify themselves with the local geographical region in which they live. Some of the major regional South Slavic groups include: Zagorci in northern Croatia, Istrani in westernmost Croatia, Dalmatinci in southern Croatia, Boduli in Adriatic islands, Slavonci in eastern Croatia, Bosanci in Bosnia, Hercegovci in southern Bosnia, Krajišnici in western Bosnia, Semberci, Srbijanci, Šumadinci in central Serbia, Vojvođani in northern Serbia, Sremci, Bačvani, Banaćani, Sandžaklije (Muslims in Serbia/Montenegro border), Kosovci, Crnogorci, Bokelji in southwest Montenegro, Torlaks, Shopi, Trakiytsi, Dobrudzhantsi, Balkandzhii, Miziytsi, Pirintsi, Rodoptsi, etc.
Another interesting note is that the very term Slavic itself was registered in the US census of 2000 by more than 127,000 residents.
Three generations of a Russian family, ca. 1910
1961 USSR postage stamp depicting Belarusian traditional costumes
Ukrainians in traditional dress
Yuri Gagarin, the first human in space
Slovaks in Serbia wearing traditional dress
Girl in Upper Silesian dress from Mysłowice, 2006
National costume of Lusatian Sorbs as traditionally worn in the northern part of Lusatia
National Kashubian costume
Serbian bagpiper in traditional attire wearing opanci and šajkača
A Bokelj in traditional garb
 See also
- Slavic mythology
- Gord (Slavic settlement)
- Early East Slavs
- Lech, Czech and Rus
- Pan-Slavic colours
- East Slavs
- West Slavs
- South Slavs
 External links
- The Name SLAV by B. Philip Lozinski.
- The Slavonic Antiquity: Scythians, Sarmatians, Meotians and Slavs by Sergei V. Rjabchikov.
- FROM PROTO-INDO-EUROPEAN TO SLAVIC, by Frederik Kortlandt.
- SLOVENI: UNDE ORTI ESTIS? SLOVÁCI, KDE SÚ VAŠE KORENE?, by Cyril A. Hromník (mainly in Slova).
- Site about Slavics, Slavic Countries, Cultures, Languages, etc (mainly in russian)
- "The Genetic Legacy of Paleolithic Homo sapiens sapiens in Extant Europeans: A Y Chromosome Perspective"ar:سلاف
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