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The Settling of the Slavs
Culture of the Eastern Slavs
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The Settling of the Slavs

The Settling of the SlavsThe problem of the Slavs' origin is the point at issue in historical science of our country. The Slavs' ancestors are the indigenous population of Central and Eastern Europe. The Slavs belong to the Indo-European group of languages, comprising also Germanic, Baltic, Romance languages and those of many Central Eastern peoples and India. At the turn of the 4th - 3rd millenniums BC, the ancient Indo-European peoples were settling gradually over the most territory of Eurasia, reaching the Baltic Sea and Scandinavia in the north of the continent, the Atlantic Ocean in the west, territories of Iran and India in the east and the Mediterranean Sea in the south of the continent. According to different concepts the native land of the Slavs was placed either into the territory of the Central areas of the Danube, or between the Oder and the Vistula, the Dnieper and the Oder. The question of the Slavs' ethnogeny and their singling out as the ethnic Slavs dates back to the 3rd millennium BC - the 1st century AD. The problem is that under the name ' Slovene' ethnic Slavs appeared only in the historical sources of the 6th century AD.

According to the version, introduced by archaeologists, it is evident that the ancient Slavonic tribes had been living on the territory of the Eastern Europe since the middle of the 1st millennium BC. By the end of the 2nd century BC on the territory of the southern and central regions of Modern Poland and on the west the Pshevor culture was spread. The people belonging to that culture (especially of its eastern part) are considered to be the ancient Slavs. As a result there was a gradual expansion of the Pshevor culture monuments to the areas of the Dniester and the Dnieper. In the 2nd century a new Chernyakhov archaeological culture was being formed, which according to modern investigators also belong to ancient Slavs. It covered the most territory of the forest-steppe and steppe zones starting from the left bank of the river Dnieper up to the lower reaches of the Danube. Evidently, along with the elements of the ancient Slavs culture, the Chernyakhov culture also contained some elements of the Iranian-speaking people living on the same territory. The Sarmat tribes, which at the turn of a new era replaced the Scythians in northern areas of the Black Sea, could also be attached to the Iranian-speaking people. In the course of time they yielded the inhabited territory to the other tribes and moved to the Northern Caucasus, and the modern Ossets became their descendants. At the end of the 2nd century AD the Germanic tribes of the Goths and the Gepids moved from lower reachers of the river Vistula to the northern banks of the Black Sea.

Since the end of the 4th century AD the tribes of the Eastern Europe were involved into a gigantic process of displacement, migration and mixing, which radically changed both ethnic and political maps of the continent through the 4th - 8th centuries. This process is known as the Great migration of peoples. At the end of the 4th century Turkic speaking nomads and Huns from the Central Asia invaded the steppes in the areas of the Black Sea. It was they who started the real stirring up of the migration process. After defeating the Goths, the Huns made them leave for the Balkans and then for the Central and Western Europe (in the limits of the Roman Empire). Having conquered the northern areas of the Black Sea the Huns, roaming between the Volga and the Danube, established a great warlike state in which numerous tribes were united. Hun leader Atilla by name gained the great popularity in the middle of the 5th century, who took devastated marches from Konstantinopol to Galiya and Northern Italy. After the year of 453 the power of the Hun Union declined rapidly as a result of intestine wars and the risings of the conquered people. A new Turkic-speaking Avar tribe that came to the steppes in the areas of the Black Sea from Asia in the 6th century replaced the Huns. They preserved their might in the areas of the Black Sea and on the plains of Modern Hungary up to the 8th century. Simultaneously according to archaeological data the true Slavonic archaeological cultures - the Prague - Korchak and the Penkov one were clearly defined. It was from the second half of the 6th century, when the Slavs began to play the leading part in the Great migration of peoples. Since the 6th - the 7th centuries in historical literature the process is known as the settling of the Slavs.

In the second half of the 1st millennium the settling of the Slavs on the European continent was developed in three directions: to the south - the Balkan Peninsula, including Peloponess, to the east and north - along the Eastern European plain, to the west - in the central areas of the Danube river and in the country between the Oder and the Elbe rivers. The bearers of the both Prague - Korchak and the Penkov archaeological cultures took part in all the migration processes. As a result of the Slavonic settling, they inhabited the vast territory of the Eastern, Central and South-Eastern Europe. In the process of settling through the Eastern European plain the Slavonic tribes were contiguous to the Baltic-speaking tribes, which lived to the north of the Pripyat and Desna rivers and in the up-stream of the Oka.

The Finno-Ugric tribes (the ancestors of the modern Estonians, the Finns, the Karelians, the Mari, the Mordovians, the Veps, etc.) inhabited the country between the Volga and the Oka rivers and on the north and north-west. The penetration of the Slavonic tribes into the northern parts of the Eastern European plain had mainly a peaceful and gradual character. Peaceful coexistence of the Slavs with the Balts and Finno-Ugric tribes led to their assimilation.

In the process of migration and settling (the 6th - 8th centuries) there was a gradual cracking of the relations within the Slavs' tribes and clans as well as the Germanic. At the same time the settling all around Europe served as a powerful spur to the active differentiation of the Slavs. According to the linguistic data, at the turn of the 7th - 8th centuries the disintegration of linguistic unity of the ancient Slavs took place and the formation of their own languages began. As a result of subdivision and mixing of the tribes new communities, which by that time had exclusively territorial - political character, were formed. They had their names based on the names of the territory they inhabited, on the peculiarities of the landscape, or on the name of the river (e.g.: the Polyane - people living in the field (from the Common Slavonic word 'pole', meaning - field); the Drevlyane - people living in the wood (from the Common Slavonic word 'dervo', meaning - tree); the Buzhane - from the name of the river Bug; the Moravians - from the name of the river Morava). The structure of those communities was of two stages: several relatively small formalities, which could be defined as 'tribal principalities' composed as a rule, a bigger community, known as 'the union of tribal principalities'.

The three directions of the settling of the Slavs predetermined their gradual division into three main branches: Eastern, Western and Southern. In accordance with the chronicals by the 8th - 9th centuries the twelve Slavonic Unions of tribal principalities were formed on the territory of the Eastern European plain. On the left bank of the Dnieper in the basins of the rivers Desna and Seym there was the union of tribal principalities, known by name 'The North'. The most northern Slavonic community settled in the areas of the lake Ilmen and the rivers Volkhov and Msta up to the Gulf of Finland, was known under the name Slovene, which coincided with the common Slavonic name.

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