Slavs are one of the ethno-linguistic groups that belong to the Indo-European peoples and constitute the largest general linguistical group of Europe. Today Slavs mainly inhabit the Eastern, Central and South-Eastern parts of Europe including the Balkans.
The Slavs are part of the Indo-European race and are said by natural scientists, such as the Polish botanist Józef Rostafinski, to have originated within the basin of the middle Dneiper, the Polesie, impassable marshland traversed by the river Pripet, a district rather less than half as large as England, a triangle of which the towns of Brest-Litovsk, Mohilev, and Kiev are roughly speaking the aspices (although not south or east of Kiev). This original homeland was east of a line between today's Konigsberg and Odessa. The original Slav family was originally patriarchal; there is no trace of a matriarchate. Their skin was white, flaxen hair predominated (57%), their eyes grey or sky-blue, and the very earliest Slavs were thought to have had no domestic animals except swine (pigs). Previté-Orton also states that the primitive Slavs were fish and millet eaters, and swineherds, with an undeveloped method of agriculture. The Slav tribes had no single collective name before their tribes spread from the Polesie; they therefore, failing the notion of a State, had no notion of a single people or nation, as such, (as the modern Pan-Slav Movement did), and the various tribes did not always have a common culture. The marshlands gave a peculiar isolation to the settlements within it, both from neighbouring tribes and from one another. It thus maintained a primitive way of life and imprinted a long-lasting incapacity for political organisation beyond a patriarchal household in small villages and a somewhat formless tribal structure. Baudoin de Courtenay, the famous specialist in the Polish language, argues that "there is no specifically Slav civilisation, common to all the Slavs and to none of the other peoples." Portal argues also that "we know little about the Slavs before the eighth century, and the question of their original habitat, and the period before Christ is still much debated. This debate manifests itself largely with those Slav historians who see the Slavs as descendants of the Lusatian civilisation of great antiquity".
Despite all their disadvantages, the Slavs multiplied.
The Slavs later spread on all sides into the forests of central Russia, towards the Ukrainian steppe by modern Kiev, where a warlike tribe of them were known as the Antae, towards the Carpathian Mountains, and westwards to the rivers Vistula and Oder. To the Germans they were known as Wends, and to themselves and the Byzantines they were Slavs, a native word of uncertain meaning. As they migrated, the Roman Empire, both west and east, came into contact with them, notably north of the Danube when they called them Sclaveni, Sclavi, Sklawenoi or Sthlawoi. Nevertheless, for a time they distinguished from them the Antae of southern Russia who spoke much the same language with them. The Romans also identified Slovyenes (near Novgorod, Russia), Slovenes (Balkans), Slovintzi (Pomerania), Slovatzi (Slovakia) and Sloventzi (Austrian Alps).
The Slav migrations west had brought them into the Carpathian Mountains and gradually they spread in several directions including across the Vistula, which the Romans regarded as the eastern frontier of the Germans. The Germanic Teutons named the Slavs Vinithos or Venethas, rendered approximately by the Roman historian Tacitus as Venedi; late Latin Venethae or Venedae, German Wenden. Shakhmatov has proved that the Slavs inherited this name from their former rulers, the Celtic Veneti, who occupied the district of the river Vistula about the third and second centuries before Christ (B.C.).
The appearance of the Slavs in eastern Germany is not attested by reliable historical documents before the sixth century. The Czech scholar Novotny nevertheless thought it was always possible that isolated bands of Slavs had passed into Germany before this period but without any impact. Excavations in Poland, at Biskupin (90 kilometres north-east of Posen and not far from Gniezno), have brought to light inhabited sites of great antiquity (said to be third and second millennia BC), comprising the remains of a fortified town of some 100 houses (about 1000 inhabitants) with streets paved with logs. The inhabitants were engaged in primitive farming and stock-raising; hunting and food-gathering were merely supplementary forms of livelihood. It is thought, however, this may be an ancient Celtic settlement. Niederle, in Slavonic Antiquities, dismisses some recent archeological claims in Silesia and states: "All the attempts of archaeologists to establish the Slavonic character of the Lusatian-Silesian cineray urns found have proved fruitless."
It was around 600AD that disparate Slavonic tribes reached to and beyond the Elbe in old Germany and poured into Bohemia and Pannonia and along the northern bank of the lower Danube. The principal groups in the western group were the Czechs, Slovaks, Lusatian Sorbs, Polabians, Pomeranians and Poles (using modern terms). The Polabian tribes occupied the basin of the Elbe and parts of the Baltic coast. These tribes were extinguished and/or absorbed in their struggles with the Germans. Of the Pomeranian Slav tribes only a scattering of the Slovinzi and the Kashubians remain today.
In the East the scant settlements of people of Finnish stock, in what they called Susdai, presented no barriers to Slavic expansion which soon began feeling its way to the more favourable regions and also swerved south-east towards the Black Sea, coming up against the nomad tribes of the Steppe in the process. The only territories which the Slavs were unable to lay their hands on were those occupied by the Balts (comprising, roughly, Prussians, Sudovians, Lithuanians, Letts, Kuronians, Livonians and Estonians) and Finns, from, say, Danzig, up to Finland.
Perhaps in the fifth or sixth century, groups of Slavs began their migrations south towards the distant Roman province of Illyria. As they continued to arrive in scattered bands, it was no easy task for the now beleagered Romans to deal with them. Bold marauders, they appropriated all moveable property on which they could lay their hands, but their chief purpose was to occupy and cultivate lands which were not in use. The Roman Emperor Heraclius virtually gave up trying to drive them out and instead entered into negotiations, and many of the Slav tribes had definite districts assigned to them for residence and cultivation in return for an annual rental or tribute. However these payments were often not forthcoming, and the Slavs began to spread over more than the stipulated territories. Throughout the seventh century, the Balkan peninsula continued to be agitated with the coming and going of fresh tribes of Slavs, most of whom settled. By 700 AD the process of Slav infiltration was almost complete, and the Balkan peninsula had become predominantly Slavonic with the lines of the chief Slav tribes becoming roughly defined. These were the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes. The latter occupied what we today know as Carniola and southern Carinthia; the Croats held Croatia with parts of Bosnia-Herzegovina, and Dalmatia; the Serbs held the remaining portions of the three last-named provinces together with Montenegro. Originally they had neither kings, nor priests, nor even slaves, but settled down in free communities of peasant owners and organised their social and economic life on 'a system of family communism'.
The three late eighteenth century partitions of Poland, following centuries of continuous warfare and intercine strife, left eastern Europe in the hands of the three great European powers: Russia, Prussia, and Austria, and, with the exception of Napoleon's invasions, led to the longest period of peace in eastern Europe for well over a century. However, the first half of the 19th century saw the foundations of the Pan-Slav Movement of Slavic solidarity, "started by Kollar, the Slovak poet, in 1824, it swiftly spread to Bohemia where it was taken up by Czech philologists and men of letters out of a feeling for the common inheritance of Slavonic culture.....and so that the humblest peasant, wherever he toiled in Europe, might feel himself to belong to a great common brotherhood. As a result Pan-Slavism played a part in the Bohemian revolution of 1848." In Russia this movement commenced with the Slavic Benevolent Committees at their meetings and in their newspapers, and general Slavophilism in Russia and this spread into eastern and south-eastern Europe. "By the reign of Tsar Alexander III Pan-Slavic ideas entered as a directing influence into Russian policy and became a force of the first magnitude, challenging the whole authority of the Ottoman Porte in the Balkans, and spreading new restlessness among the many millions of Slavs who were living in the Habsburg monarchy." "Russian policy was deeply affected by Pan-Slavism which had swept Russian thought since 1855. This mixture of western nationalism and Orthodox mysticism varied in practice from vague Slav sympathy to grandiose plans for a united Slav empire under Tsarist rule; the sentiment, not the programme, was the important thing. Alexander II was in no position to stand out against Pan-Slav sentiment. Some of his advisers, and in particular Ignatiev, Ambassador at Constantinople, were themselves Pan-Slavists and eager to exploit it." This firstly led to the liberation of Bulgaria and Serbia, who both shared similarities in language and religion with Russia, and to the subsequent Balkan wars by the so-called Balkan League against the Ottoman Empire, when the latter were driven back to a small toehold in Europe, creating wild demonstrations in St. Petersburg in favour of the Bulgarians and Serbians. This now created further unrest amongst Slav nationalists in the Austro-Hungarian Empire and German Empire, and Bismarck, in his final years of office, said they must resolutely oppose it. Any study of Russia's path to The Great War has to take this movement into full account. The Slavs living on what Vienna perceived as its semi-colonial periphery, felt that in Russia they had a great Slav power as protector.. Although Austria had occupied Bosnia-Herzegovina since the Treaty of Berlin in 1878, its announcement of formal annexation of the province in 1908 (seen in western circles as a mere formality after such a long period of occupation), along with the further announcement of a new railway building programme in the province, caused outrage in the Pan-Slav and 'Greater Serbia' circles, who saw this as an expansion of Teutonic territory "at Slav expense". Austria-Hungary already possessed numerous provinces populated largely by Slavs. The Russians also expressed concern about Galicia, and constantly accused the Austrians of encouraging Ukrainian nationalist sympathies. In addition, with the bulk of Poland now a Russian Kingdom, Polish nationalists in St. Petersburg placed pressure upon the Russians over Galicia, where the largest estates had remained in the hands of Polish landowners. This pressure increased with the coming of the Russian Dumas. In fact, Ukraine (Galicia) "barely registered with key German policy makers"; As far back as 1870 Bismark had said Germany had no interest in the Near East. The gradual obsession of the Pan-Slav movement with the two great Teutonic empires became entwined with Russian government policies which would culminate in The Great War. Nitti, Prime Minister of Italy, who took part in the subsequent Versailles treaty deliberations, wrote: "Russia was the real and underlying cause of the world-conflict. She alone promoted and kept alive the agitations in Serbia and of the Slavs in Austria."
As Russia, which became the largest of Slavic countries, grew, it had conquered large territories in eastern Europe and the fringes of Asia. However, after the 1917 Russian Revolution, Jewish-led Bolsheviks turned Russia into the Soviet Union, a political enemy of all European nations until 1992. The conquest of eastern and central Europe by the Soviet Union in 1945 saw the subsequent imposition of communism upon all those countries and their peoples, Slavs, Teutons, Magyars and Latins. With the collapse of communism 1990-92, there has been a glimmer of hope politically and culturally.
Some argue that in the face of western Cultural Marxism and plutocratic liberalism the Slavs, particularly Russia, today are arguably the last line of defence for the European race. However the same people who brought about the Russian Revolution and Bolshevism remain active in the subversion of all nations in Europe, including the Slavs. Positive examples for the Slavs being the last line of defence for Europe include the prosecution of corrupt Jewish oligarchs by Vladimir Putin.
- Bosnia and Herzegovina
- Czech Republic
Some notable Slavs include:
- Nikolai Lobachevsky (mathematics)
- Pafnuty Chebyshev (mathematics)
- Nikola Tesla (physics)
- Feodor Schaliapin (Bass singer)
- Jan Kiepura (tenor)
- Leo Tolstoy (author)
- Maxim Gorky (author)
- Anton Chekhov )author)
- Ivan S. Turgenev (author)
- Ivan Goncharov (author)
- Nickolai Gogol (author)
- Alexander Pushkin (author and poet)
- Fyodor Dostoyevsky (author)
- Ivan Rudchenko (author)
- Maria Luyiyanenko (authoress)
- Modest Moussorgsky (composer)
- Sergei Prokofiev (composer)
- Sergei Rachmaninov (composer)
- Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky (composer)
- Henryk Wieniawski (composer)
- So famous that streets bearing his name can be found in the Polish cities of Kraków, Warsaw, and Wrocław.
- Schevill, Ferdinand, A History of the Balkans - from the Earliest Times, 1922, republished by Barnes & Noble, USA, 1995, p.73. ISBN 0-88029-697-6
- The Cambridge History of Poland, edited by Messrs. W.F. Reddaway, J.H. Penson, O. Halecki, & R. Dyboski, Cambridge University Press, England, 1950, p.2-3.
- Previté-Orton, C. W., The Shorter Cambridge Mediaeval History - The Later Roman Empire to the Twelfth Century, Cambridge University Press, 1952, ,p.215.
- Refer Professor Mikkola in his Urslavische Grammatik.
- Bury, Professor J.B., The Cambridge Medieval History, edited by H.M.Gwatkin, M.A., and J.P.Whitney, B.D., vol.ii, Cambridge University Press UK, 1913, chapter xiv "The Expansion of the Slavs", pps: 418-423.
- This is supported by Jaroslav Bidlo in his work Slované.
- Portal, Professor Roger, The Slavs, Paris 1965, London, 1969, pps:1 and 21-5.
- Previté-Orton, 1952, p.215.
- Bury, et al, 1913, pps: 418-423.
- Schevill, 1922/1995, p.73
- Portal, 1969, p.21.
- Bury, et al, 1913, p.425-6 and notes.
- Portal, 1969, p21.
- Bury, et al, 1913, p.425-6 and notes.
- The Cambridge History of Poland,1950, p.5.
- Portal, 1969, p.25.
- The Cambridge History of Poland, 1950, p.5.
- Previté-Orton, 1952, p.215.
- The Cambridge History of Poland, 1950, p.8-9.
- Davies, Norman, Vanished Kingdoms London, 2011, p.250. ISBN: 978-1-846-14338-0
- Portal, 1969, p.24.
- Davies, 2011, p.242.
- Schevill, 1922/1995, p.70-1.
- Marriott, J.A.R., The Eastern Question, 4th edition reprint, Clarendon Press, Oxford, U.K., 1969, p.55-7.
- A History of Europe by H.A.L. Fisher, London, 1949 edition, p.1038.
- Russia in the Age of Modernisation and Revolution 1881-1917 by Professor Hans Rogger, London, 1983, p.166
- Fisher, 1949, p.1038.
- The Struggle for Mastery in Europe 1848-1918 by A. J. P. Taylor, Clarendon Press, Oxford (UK), 1969, p.191.
- Taylor, 1969, p.229.
- Montgelas, 1925, p.73.
- Taylor, 1969, p.278.
- The Russian Imperial Conspiracy 1892 - 1914 by USA Senator Robert L. Owen, New York, 1927.
- Leiven, Dominic, The End of Tsarist Russia, New York, 2015, pps:8, 38, 72 and in general. ISBN 978-0-670-02558-9
- Baedeker, Karl, Austria-Hungary, Leipzig, 1905, p.427-8 for an excellent essay on the history and inhabitants of these provinces.
- Taylor, 1869, p.229.
- Austria's Kaiser Franz Josef had insisted he was "a German Prince" in his objections to being crowned King of Croatia in 1868. Taylor, 1969, p.196.
- London Daily Chronicle newspaper 29 July 1914, article by Sir Harry Johnston, G.C.M.G.
- Leiven, 2015, p.175.
- Owen, 1927.
- Peaceless Europe, Francesco Nitti, 1922, pps:9-12.
- Owen, 1927, supports this position and provides copious evidences.