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Where we came from

Where we came fromIt is not easy to single out the Slavs among a huge Indo-European branch of nations. To settle this question we need data of various sciences. So, linguistics determined that Slavic language is young in the family of Indo-European languages. Comparative historical linguistics found out that during the period when Pra-Slavic language was separating from Common Indo-European and began its independent development it had the most close ties with Baltic language. As to the influence of Iranian languages, they affected only a part of the Slavs. The Slavs lived in Central Europe and were in contact, first of all, with Proto-Germans and Proto-Italians. To all these observations linguists also add an analysis of the vocabulary denoting geographical objects, animals, plants. Linguistics locates initial dwelling territory of the Slavs somewhere in a basin of the Visla River.

Unfortunately, such science, as anthropology can give very little information since a common anthropological type characteristic for all dwelling area of the Slavs was not formed. On the other hand archeology can render an invaluable assistance. The most important for archeology is to establish a genetic succession when one archeological culture replaces another. That is why the leading part in ethnogenetic constructions is given to retrospective method. From the cultures authentically slavic it is necessary to go back in centuries to those antiquities which are concerned with them and then advance even deeper into past. One of the most disputable parts in that chain built by archeologists is Chernyakhovsk culture that some researchers refer to slavic. There is a standpoint that this culture had a poly-ethnic character. Chernyakhovsk culture was destroyed during the Great Resettlement of People which falls to IV-V centuries A.D. Somewhere from northwest the Goths came to Pre-Dnepr territories (some researchers consider Chernyakhovsk culture gothic). The waves of nomads' hordes would come from open spaces of the Central Asia and caused movement of other nations inhabited in the Eastern Europe, and all this mass moved demolishing everything on its way. The Avars replaced the Huns, and were replaced by Khazars and Bulgarians in their turn. Written sources have special value for restoration of Slavic ethnogeny of this period.

Extensive data are found in works of Byzantine writers who inform in details about Slavic development of the Balkan Peninsula. Gothic Bishop of Jordan left even more important historical material. He subdivides the Slavs into three large groups: the Veneds, Ants and Sklavens. Recent archeological researches verify this version. Now we can distinguish three basic areas of Slavic archeological culture distribution; such division is mostly based on ceramics. The first area - so-called culture of Prague-Korchaksk Type occupied the territories of Middle and Southern Poland and Pripyatskoye Polesye (Russia). Most likely, it was the Sklavens' territory. The other culture - of Prague-Penkovsk Type controlled the lands between the Dnestr and Dnepr Rivers. According to written sources it was a country of the Ants. And there were a number of cultures in the west, the most known among them - the Fridberg culture. The sources inform that the Veneds had a territory of the Polish Coastal Region and the lower Visla River lands. This is the scheme that some modern researchers follow. It is necessary to emphasize, that the question is not three branches of the Slavs - Eastern, Southern and Western, all mentioned areas of Slavic people habitation are concerned with Pra-Slavic groups.Researchers state that modern division of the Slavs into Slavic branches was a result of disintegration of these Slavic groups in VI-VII centuries A.D. Some parts of these splitting Pra-Slavic groups were settling on the territory of the Eastern Europe in VII-VIII centuries.

Anyway since IX-th century we already have ethno-geography of the Eastern Slavic people which is given by an Old Russian annalist. 'Povest Vremennykh Let' tells us about the Polans who settled in the Middle Low Dnepr lands (Kiev region), about their neighbours - the Drevlyans who lived in marshy and woody Pripyatskoye Polesye. The northern borders of the Eastern Slavic World were populated by the Ilmen Slovens (Ilmen Lake region); the Dergovichi took the territory between the Pripyat and Western Dvina Rivers; their neighbours, the Kriviches, later fell apart into three sub-branches: the Smolensk Kriviches, the Polotsk and the Pskov Kriviches; the Severyans were steppe neighbours of the Polans, the Sozh River basin was controlled by the Radimiches, and the basin of the Oka River - by the Vyatiches. The Uliches and Tivertses occupied the southern territories up to the Black Sea coast. Historians had not trusted this annalistic geographical scheme till researches of the beginning of XX-th century confirmed it. It was women's jewellery that helped. It turned out that one of the most common types of Eastern Slavic women jewellery - temporal rings, differ over all the territory of Russian Plain. It was found out that certain versions of these jewellery coincide with distribution of this or that Slavic tribe. Later these oWhere we came frombservations were confirmed by other elements of material culture of the Eastern Slavs.

Spreading over such vast area the Eastern Slavs got in touch with other people of the Eastern Europe who had been dwelling here before or came at one time with the Slavs. It is known that the Balts lived on the territories up to Moscow, that fact is verified by toponymy, such place-names are very stable and can exist during centuries. Northeast regions were occupied by Finno-Ugric people, and the southern lands were populated by tribes of Iranian language group - descendants of the Sarmatians. Armed conflicts would give place to peaceful coexistence; assimilation processes resulted in absorption of these people by the Slavs, but the Slaves underwent changes too, they got new skills, new elements of material culture. Synthesis and interaction of cultures is a major phenomenon of the time of settling of the Slavs over Russian Plain, it is perfectly illustrated by archeological digs data.

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