nedjelja, 10. siječnja 2010.

Slavic mythology

Unlike Greek or Egyptian mythology, there are no first-hand records for the study of Slavic mythology. Despite some controversial theories (for instance, the Book of Veles), it cannot be proven that the Slavs had any sort of writing system prior to Christianisation; therefore, all their original religious beliefs and traditions were likely passed down orally over generations, and potentially forgotten over the centuries following the arrival of Christianity. Prior to that, sparse records of Slavic religion were mostly written by non-Slavic Christian missionaries who were uninterested in accurately portraying pagan beliefs. Archaeological remains of old Slavic idols and shrines have been found, though little can be yielded from them without proper knowledge of their contexts, other than confirming existing historical records. Fragments of old mythological beliefs and pagan festivals survive up to this day in folk customs, songs, and stories of all the Slavic nations.
Written sources

There are no known written accounts of Slavic mythology predating the fragmentation of the Proto-Slavic people into Western, Eastern, and Southern Slavs, with the possible exception of a short note in Herodotus’ Histories, mentioning a tribe of Neuri in the far north, whose men, Herodotus claims, transform themselves into wolves for several days each year. Some researchers have interpreted this through the Slavic folk belief in werewolves, whilst others believe that Herodotus actually referred to ancient Slavic carnival festivals, when groups of young men roamed the villages in masks, sometimes referred to as vucari (wolf-humans). The identification of "Neuri" with Proto-Slavs remains controversial, however.

The first definitive reference to the Slavs and their mythology in written history was made by the 6th century Byzantine historian Procopius, whose Bellum Gothicum described the beliefs of a South Slavic tribe that crossed the Danube heading south in just two days. According to Procopius, these Slavs worshipped a single deity, who crafted lightning and thunder. Though not named explicitly, it can be deduced this is a reference to the deity known as Perun in later historic sources, as in many Slavic languages today (Polish 'piorun' for example) Perun simply means "thunder" or "lightning bolt". He also mentions the belief in various demons and nymphs (ie vilas), but does not mention any other names.

The Slavic Primary Chronicle is a major work with many valuable references to the pagan beliefs of Eastern Slavs. The chronicle treats the history of the early Eastern Slavic state. Even though the manuscript was compiled at the beginning of the 12th century, it contains references to, and copies of, older documents, and describes events predating the Baptism of Kiev. Two deities, Perun and Veles/Volos, are mentioned in the text of the early 10th century peace treaties between pagan rulers of East Slavs and Byzantine Emperors. Later, Nestor the Chronicler describes a state pantheon introduced by Prince Vladimir in Kiev in 980 CE. Vladimir's pantheon included Perun, Hors, Dažbog, Stribog, Simargl, and Mokosh. The Hypatian Codex of the Primary Chronicle also mentions Svarog, compared to Greek Hephaestus. Also very interesting are the passages in the East Slavic epic The Tale of Igor's Campaign referring to Veles, Dažbog, and Hors. The original epic has been dated to the end of the 12th century, although there are marginal disputes over the authenticity of this work.

The most numerous and richest written records are of West Slavic paganism, particularly of Wendish and Polabian tribes, who were forcibly Christianised only at the end of the 12th century. The German missionaries and priests who assailed pagan religion left extensive records of old mythological systems they sought to overcome. However, they hardly restrained themselves from “pious lies”, claiming pagan Slavs were idolatrous, blood-thirsty barbarians. As none of those missionaries learned any Slavic language, their records are confused and exaggerated.

Major works include a chronicle of Thietmar of Merseburg from the beginning of the 11th century, who described a temple in the city of Riedegost (Radagast) where the great deity Zuarasic (Svarožič) was worshipped. According to Thietmar, this was the most sacred place in the land of pagan Slavs, and Svarožič was their most important deity.
See Radegast (god).

Another very valuable document is the Chronica Slavorum written in the late 12th century by Helmold, a German priest. He mentions 'the devil' Zerneboh (Chernobog), goddess Živa, god Porenut, some unnamed gods whose statues had multiple heads and, finally, the great god Svantevit, worshipped on the island of Rügen who, according to Helmod, was the most important of all (Western) Slavic deities.

A modern artistic representation of Saxo Grammaticus.

The third, and arguably the most important record, comes from the Danish chronicler Saxo Grammaticus, who in his Gesta Danorum described the war fought in 1168 by the Danish king Valdemar I against the Wends of Rügen, the conquest of their city at cape Arkona and the destruction of the grand temple of Svantevit that stood there. Saxo meticulously described the worship of Svantevit, the customs associated with it and, the tall four-headed statue of the god. He also mentioned multi-headed deities of other Slavic tribes; Rugievit, Porewit and Porentius.

The fourth major source are three biographies of the German warrior-bishop St Otto, who in the early 12th century led several military-pastoral expeditions into the regions of Slavic tribes living near the Baltic Sea. According to the manuscript, the most important Slavic deity was Triglav, whose temples in the city of Szczecin were respected oracles. In the cities of Wolgast and Havelberg, the war god Gerovit was worshiped, a likely corruption of Jarovit, a Slavic deity possibly identical to Jarilo of the East Slavic folklore.
Archaeological remains

The Indo-European custom of communal feasts was known as bratchina (from brat, "brother") in Kiev Rus, as slava ("glorification") in Serbia & Macedonia and as sabor ("assembly") in Croatia and Bulgaria.

Statues of several Slavic deities were discovered in 1848, on the banks of the Zbruch river, a tall stone statue was found, with four faces under a single stone hat. Because of its likehood with Saxo's description of the great idol in the temple of Rügen, the statue was immediately proclaimed a representation of Svantevit, although it was clear it could not be the original Svantevit of Rügen. Several other multi-headed statues were discovered elsewhere. A tiny four-headed statue from the 10th century, carved out of bone, was unearthed amongst the ruins of Preslav, a capital of medieval Bulgarian tsars. A two-headed, human-sized wooden statue was discovered on an island in the Tollensesee lake near Neubrandenburg: in the Middle Ages, this was the land of Slavic Dolenain tribe, whose name survives in the name of the lake. Furthermore, a three-headed statue was discovered in Dalmatia (Croatia) on the hill bearing the name of Suvid, not far from the peak of Mt. Dinara called Troglav.

The remains of several Slavic shrines have also been discovered. Some archeological excavations on the cape of Arkona on Rügen island have uncovered vestiges of a great temple and a city, identified with those described by Saxo. In Novgorod, at the ancient Peryn skete, archeologists discovered the remains of a pagan shrine likely dedicated to Perun. The shrine consisted of a wide circular platform centred around a statue. The platform was encircled by a trench with eight apses, which contain remains of sacrificial altars. Remains of a citadel with a more or less identical layout were discovered on a location with the suggestive name Pohansko (Paganic), near Břeclav in the Czech Republic.

All these archeological remains have the multiplicity of aspects in common. Statues of gods with multiple faces and remains of shrines with multiple sacrificial altars confirm written reports of Christian missionaries about the Slavs worshipping polycephalic gods, and also indicate that ancient Slavic mythology apparently put great emphasis on worship of deities with more aspects than one.

Also quite important are remains of several pieces of pottery from 4th century Chernyakhov culture. Russian archeologist Boris Rybakov identified and interpreted symbols inscribed onto them as records of the ancient Slavic calendar.

It is claimed usually that worshiping in woods was more common to Slavic people than praying in shrines. Those woods were called in PSlav. *gaje (conf. Polish Nom. sg. m. gaj 'small wood, thicket, bush, grove'; see: sacred grove), they were sometimes encircled by a fence which created a sacred area, both a natural and social sphere. Sometimes they would be cementaries as well (conf. Kleczanów Wood).
Folklore traces

As various Slavic populations were Christianised between the 7th and 12th centuries, Christianity was introduced as a religion of the elite, flourishing mostly in cities and amongst the nobility. Amongst the rural majority of the medieval Slavic population, old myths remained strong. Christian priests and monks in Slavic countries, particularly in Russia, for centuries fought against the phenomenon called dvoeverie (double faith). On the one hand, peasants and farmers eagerly accepted baptism, masses and the new Christian holidays. On the other hand, they still persisted performing ancient rites and worshiping old pagan cults, even when the ancient deities and myths on which those were based were completely forgotten.

This was because, from a perspective of the Slavic peasant, Christianity was not a replacement of old Slavic mythology, but rather an addition to it. Christianity may have offered a hope of salvation, and of blissful afterlife in the next world, but for survival in this world, for yearly harvest and protection of cattle, the old religious system with its fertility rites, its protective deities, and its household spirits was taken to be necessary. This was a problem the Christian church never really solved; at best, it could offer a Christian saint or martyr to replace the pagan deity of a certain cult, but the cult itself thrived, as did the mythological view of the world through which natural phenomena were explained.

While folk beliefs and traditions of all Slavic peoples indeed are the richest resource for reconstructing the ancient pagan beliefs, these may very likely have lost their original mythology and sanctity. People entertained a vague idea that some festivals must be celebrated in a certain way, some stories must be told or some songs must be sung, merely in accordance with tradition. Cults of old deities were mixed with worship of new Christian saints, and old rituals blended among new Christian holidays.

Gamayun, one of three prophetic birds of Russian folklore, alongside Alkonost and Sirin (painting by Viktor Vasnetsov, 1897).

This led scholars to analyse the structure of folklore itself, and to devise methodologies through which they could reconstruct the lost mythology from this structure. We can roughly divide the folklore accounts into two groups:
Fairy tales about various fantastical characters and creatures such as Alkonost, Baba Yaga, Koschei the Deathless, Firebird, Zmey songs and tales of legendary heroes such as Russian bogatyrs, and superstitions about various demons and spirits such as domovoi, likho, vilas, vampires, vodyanoy, rusalkas etc. Many of these tales and beliefs may be quite ancient, and probably contain at least some elements of old mythical structure, but they are not myths themselves. They lack a deeper, sacral meaning and religious significance, and furthermore they tend to vary greatly among various Slavic populations.
Folk celebrations of various Christian festivals and popular beliefs in various saints. It is, for instance, quite clear that a popular saint in many Slavic countries, St Elijah the Thunderer, is a replacement of old thunder-god Perun. Likewise, traces of ancient deities can also be found in cults of many other saints, such as St Mary, St Vitus, St George, St Blaise, St Nicholas, and it is also obvious that various folk celebrations, such as the spring feast of Jare or Jurjevo and the summer feast of Ivanje or Ivan Kupala, both very loosely associated with Christian holidays, are abundant with pre-Christian elements. These beliefs have considerable religious and sacral significance to the people still performing them. The problem is, of course, that the elements of pre-Christian religion are hopelessly mixed into popular Christianity.

Reconstruction of original Slavic myths is thus a true detective work, requiring a considerable knowledge of various scientific disciplines such as semiotics, linguistics, philology, comparative mythology and ethnology. Folklore accounts must be analysed on level of structure, not merely as songs or stories, but as groups of signs and symbols which contain some internal structural logic. Each of these signs is composed of some key words, which are more than simply names of characters, places or artifacts. One important aspect of symbols is that they are almost impossible to change; while their names may be altered, their structure may not. Changing or losing of key words would result in a change of symbol, which would then invalidate the internal structural logic of a text and render the entire tale meaningless. It would then soon be forgotten, because the pattern, or logic, through which it was transmitted over generations would be lost.

For example: as stated already, the Slavic god of thunder, Perun, was mostly equated with St Elijah the Thunderer in Christian folklore. But he was also sometimes equated with St Michael, and sometimes even with the Christian God, whilst in some of Russian or Belarusian folk stories, he was downgraded to various fairy characters such as Tsar Ogin (Tsar Flame) or Grom (Thunder). Notwithstanding changes in the name itself, there are always some key words present which were used to describe Perun as a symbol in ancient mythical texts, and have survived through folklore. Perun is always gore (up, above, high, on the top of the mountain or in heaven; Perun is a heavenly god, and he is also the 'highest' deity of old Slavic pantheon), he is suh (dry, as opposite of wet; he is god of thunder and lightning, which causes fire), he treska/razbija/goni/ubija (strikes/reduces to rubble/pursues/kills; he is a god of thunder and storms, destructive and furious) with strela/kamen/molnija (arrow/stone/lightning; Perun's weapons, are of course, his bolts of lightning. He fires them as arrows which are so powerful they explode and blow up stones when they hit). These key words are always preserved in folklore traces, even if the true name of Perun has been long ago forgotten. Consequently, the structure of this symbol allowed the identification of Perun with similar characters either from Christian religion or from later folklore, which share these similarities in structure of their own symbols.

Following similar methodology, and drawing parallels with structure of other, related Indo-European mythologies (particularly Baltic mythology), and occasionally using some hints found in historical records of Slavic paganism, some of the ancient myths could be reconstructed. Significant progress in the study of Slavic mythology was made during last 30 years, mostly through the work of the Russian philologists Vladimir Toporov and Vyacheslav Vsevolodovich Ivanov, as well as that of the Croatian scientists Radoslav Katičić and Vitomir Belaj. Also very valuable are the studies of Russian scholar Boris Uspensky and of Serbian philologist and ethnologist Veselin Čajkanović.

However, uncritical interpretation of folklore or unskilled reconstruction of myths can lead to disastrous effects, as we shall see.
Inauthentic sources

When dealing with Slavic mythology, one cannot be too careful or too critical about the validity and authenticity of sources. Scholarly interest in beliefs of ancient Slavs has been continually waxing since the times of Renaissance, and with it the overall number of confusions, errors, misinterpretations, and unsupported reconstructions (not to mention inventions) has also increased.

No valid scientific methodology by which folklore accounts could be interpreted was known before the mid-20th century, and with sparse historical and archeological sources, the doors were thus opened to wild and unwarranted speculation. One of the best examples of overall confusion and complete misinterpretation is a fake deity of love, Lada or Lado, constructed from meaningless exclamations in Slavic wedding songs. Gods such as Koleda and Kupala were constructed from misinterpreted names of popular Slavic folk festivals; Koledo was the Slavic name for Christmas processions of carol singers, whilst the source of the name Kupala is unknown. Christian sources claim that it comes from Ivan Kupala (literally: John the Baptist) however this claim is as baseless as the claim of those who choose to interpret it as a pagan holiday. This festival day is celebrated at the summer solstice in many Slavic, and also western European countries, such as France and Italy. These customs indeed do have more than a few elements of pre-Christian beliefs, but simply inventing gods based on names of customs is not considered a valid method for reconstruction of lost beliefs.

In his early works, notably The Firebird and The Rite of Spring, Igor Stravinsky sought to evoke the imagery and rhythms of pagan Slavic ritual.

Misinterpretation of Thiethmar's historic description of Wendish paganism led to confusion between a god, Svarožič, and a city in which his temple stood, Radegast. Since the name Radegast can be easily etymologised as meaning "Dear guest", this led to the construction of Radegast as the supposed Slavic god of hospitality. Likewise, to pair up with a deity with the sinister sounding name of Chernobog (Black god) mentioned by Helmod, the White God, or Belobog, was invented. That name is not found in any reliable historic or ethnographic record; rather, it was simply assumed that, since there already was a Black God, there simply had to be a White God as well. Again, this is clearly not a scientific approach to the study of Slavic mythology, but pages and pages have been written about the supposed Belobog-Chernobog dualism so far, and many books and scholarly references even today take for granted that such gods were truly worshipped by ancient Slavs.

Even more questionable than confusions or misinterpretations are deliberate forgeries. In the nineteenth and twentieth century, the general population became increasingly interested in Slavic mythology, fuelled by various romantic, nationalistic, and, in modern times, neopagan movements. Forging evidence of ancient mythology, for a time, became almost a sort of hobby among various social groups, often with the aim to promote their own topical agendas. For instance, statues of ancient Slavic gods were "discovered", inscribed with Germanic runes, or folk songs and stories were "recorded" in which half of the Slavic pantheon is described as picking flowers or merrily dancing around a bonfire.

The 19th century Veda Slovena is a heavy mystification of Bulgarian folk songs, with many alleged references to Slavic mythology, which most scholars consider a forgery. A more recent example is a controversial Book of Veles, which claims to be an authentic written record of old Slavic religion from the 9th or 10th century CE, written in the Cyrillic alphabet, whereas it cannot be proven that the Slavs had any sort of writing system prior to Christianisation, let alone that they used Cyrillic alphabet (named, of course, after St Cyril, who coined the first known writing system for Slavs when he was sent together with his brother Methodius to baptise them in 9th century). Some of the Slavic neopagans use the Book of Veles as their sacred text, and consequently, insist that the document is authentic. However, the original book, supposedly written on birch barks, was lost (if indeed it ever existed), and thus its authenticity cannot be established at present.
Calendar and festivals

Slavic myths were cyclical, repeating every year over a series of festivities that followed changes of nature and seasons. Thus, to understand their mythology, it is important to understand their concept of calendar. On the basis of archeological and folklore remains, it is possible to reconstruct some elements of pre-Christian calendar, particularly major feastivals.
The year was apparently lunar, and began in early March, similar to other Indo-European cultures whose old calendar systems are better known to us. The names for the last night of old year and the first day of new year are reconstructed as Velja Noc(*Velja Notj)/Velik Dan(Velikŭ dĭnĭ) (Great Night/Great Day). After Christianization, these names were probably passed onto Easter. In Slavic countries belonging to Orthodox Churches, Easter is known as Velik Dan/Great Day, whilst amongst Catholic Slavs, it is known as Velika Noc/Great Night. The names blend nicely with the translation of the Greek Megale Evthomada, Great Week, the Christian term for the week in which Easter falls. In pagan times, however, this was a holiday probably quite like Halloween. Certain people (shamans[citation needed]) donned grotesque masks and coats of sheep wool, roaming around the villages, as during the Great Night, it was believed, spirits of dead ancestors travelled across the land, entering villages and houses to celebrate the new year with their living relatives. Consequently, the deity of the last day of the year was probably Veles, god of Underworld.

The spring fertility festival of Maslenitsa, rooted in pagan times and involving the burning of a straw effigy is still celebrated by Slavs all over the world, as seen here in Melbourne, Australia.
There was a large spring festival dedicated to Jarilo, god of vegetation and fertility. Processions of young men or girls used to go round villages on this day, carrying green branches or flowers as symbols of new life. They would travel from home to home, reciting certain songs and bless each household with traditional fertility rites. The leader of procession, usually riding on horse, would be identified with Jarilo. The custom of creation of pisanki or decorated eggs, also symbols of new life, was another tradition associated with this feast, which was later passed on Christian Easter.
The summer solstice festival is known today variously as Pust, Ivanje, Kupala or Kries. It was celebrated pretty much as a huge wedding, and, according to some indications from historical sources, in pagan times likely followed by a general orgy. There was a lot of eating and drinking on the night before, large bonfires (in Slavic — Kres) were lit, and youngsters were coupling and dancing in circles, or jumped across fires. Young girls made wreaths from flowers and fern (which apparently was a sacred plant for this celebration), tossed them into rivers, and on the basis of how and where they floated, foretold each other how they would get married. Ritual bathing on this night was also very important; hence the name of Kupala (from kupati = to bathe), which probably fit nicely with folk translation of the future patron saint the Church installed for this festival, John the Baptist (Ivan Kupala Day). Overall, the whole festivity probably celebrated a divine wedding of a fertility god, associated with growth of plants for harvesting.
In the middle of summer, there was a festival associated with thunder-god Perun, in post-Christian times transformed into a very important festival of Saint Elijah. It was considered the holiest time of the year, and there are some indications from historic sources that it involved human sacrifices. The harvest probably began afterwards.
It is unclear when exactly the end of harvest was celebrated, but historic records mention interesting tradition associated with it that was celebrated at Svantevit temple on the island of Ruyana (present-day Rugen), a survived through later folklore. People would gather in front of the temple, where priests would place a huge wheat cake, almost the size of a human. The high priest would stand behind the cake and ask the masses if they saw him. Whatever their answer was, the priest would then plead that the next year, people could not see him behind the ritual cake, i.e. that the next year's harvest would be even more bountiful.
There probably also was an important festival around winter solstice, which later became associated with Christmas. Consequently, in many Slavic countries, Christmas is called Bozhich, which simply means little god. While this name fits very nicely with the Christian idea of Christmas, the name is likely of pagan origin; it indicated the birth of a young and new god of the sun to the old and weakened solar deity during the longest night of the year. The old sun god was identified as Svarog, and his son, the young and new sun, as Dažbog[citation needed]. An alternative (or perhaps the original) name for this festival was Korochun.

A fairly typical cosmological concept among speakers of Indo-European languages, that of the World Tree, is also present in Slavic mythology. It is either an oak tree, or some sort of pine tree. The mythological symbol of the World Tree was a very strong one, and survived throughout the Slavic folklore for many centuries after Christianisation. Three levels of the universe were located on the tree. Its crown represented the sky, the realm of heavenly deities and celestial bodies, whilst the trunk was the realm of mortals. They were sometimes combined together in opposition to the roots of the tree, which represented the underworld, the realm of the dead. Contrary to the popular ideas, it seems the world of the dead in Slavic mythology was actually quite a lovely place, a green and wet world of grassy plains and eternal spring. In folklore, this land is sometimes referred to as Virey or Iriy.

The pattern of three realms situated vertically on the axis mundi of the World Tree parallels the horizontal, geographical organisation of the world. The world of gods and mortals was situated in the centre of the earth (considered to be flat, of course), encircled by a sea, across which lay the land of the dead, where birds would fly to every winter and return from in spring. In many folklore accounts, the concepts of going across the sea versus coming from across the sea are equated with dying versus returning to life. This echoes an ancient mythological concept that the afterlife is reached by crossing over a body of water. Additionally, on the horizontal axis, the world was also split; in this case by four cardinal points, representing the four wind directions (north, east, south, west). These two divisions of the world, into three realms on the vertical axis and into four points on the horizontal, were quite important in mythology; they can be interpreted in statues of Slavic gods, particularly those of the three-headed Triglav and the four-headed Svantevit.

As noted in the description of historical sources, a very wide range of deities was worshipped by Slavs, on a huge geographical area from the shores of the Baltic to the shores of the Black Sea, in a time span of over 600 years. Historic sources also show that each Slavic tribe worshipped its own gods, and thus probably had its own pantheon. Overall, ancient Slavic religion seems to be fairly local and cultic in nature, with gods and beliefs varying from tribe to tribe. However, just as in the case of the various Slavic languages — it can be shown that they originate from a single, Proto-Slavic language — it is also possible to establish some sort of Proto-Slavic Olympus and, through careful study of folklore, reconstruct some elements of this original pantheon, from which the various gods of the various Slavic tribes originated.
Supreme god

There are various modern theories about a supreme Slavic deity being Rod or Svarog, and historic sources show that deities such as Svarožič, Svantevit or Triglav were worshipped as supreme by certain tribes. But overall by far the best candidate for the position of supreme deity is Perun. His name is the most common in all historic records of Slavic religion; in fact, he is the first Slavic god mentioned in written history (Procopius in his short note mentions that the god of thunder and lightning is the only god of Slavs, lord of all). The Primary Chronicle identifies him as chief god of Kievan Rus prior to Christianisation. A short note in Helmold's Chronica Slavorum states that West Slavs believe in a single deity in heaven who rules over all the other deities on earth; the name of this deity is not mentioned, but nevertheless it seems quite possible this was a reference to Perun. And even though we do not find the name of Perun in any of the extensive records of West Slavic religion, he was known by all branches of Slavs, as shown by a vast number of toponyms that still bear his name in all Slavic countries today. Finally, by analysing the folklore texts, one will notice that Perun is the only Slavic deity who was equated with the Christian God. These are very strong indications that Perun was indeed the supreme god of the original Proto-Slavic pantheon.

Perun, however, had a match. As Roman Jakobson pointed out, whenever Perun is mentioned in historic texts, he is always "accompanied" by another god, Veles. This relationship can be observed in toponyms as well. Wherever we find a hill or a mountain peak whose name can be associated with Perun, below it, in the lowlands, usually near a river, there will be a place with a name reminiscent of Veles. Consequently, as Perun was sometimes identified with the Сhristian God in folklore accounts, Veles was identified with the Devil.
Further information: List of Slavic deities
Perun and Veles

Gromoviti znaci or thunder marks such as these were often engraved upon roof beams of houses to protect them from lightning bolts. Identical symbols were discovered on Proto-Slavic pottery of 4th century Chernyakhov culture. They are thought to be symbols of the supreme Slavic god of thunder, Perun.[1]

Ivanov and Toporov reconstructed the ancient myth involving the two major gods of the Proto-Slavic pantheon, Perun and Veles. The two of them stand in opposition in almost every way. Perun is a heavenly god of thunder and lightning, fiery and dry, who rules the living world from his citadel high above, located on the top of the highest branch of the World Tree. Veles is a chthonic god associated with waters, earthly and wet, lord of the underworld, who rules the realm of the dead from down in the roots of the World Tree. Perun is a giver of rain to farmers, god of war and weapons, invoked by fighters. Veles is a god of cattle, protector of shepherds, associated with magic and commerce.

A cosmic battle fought between two of them echoes the ancient Indo-European myth of a fight between a storm god and a dragon. Attacking with his lightning bolts from sky, Perun pursues his serpentine enemy Veles who slithers down over earth. Veles taunts Perun and flees, transforming himself into various animals, hiding behind trees, houses, or people. In the end, he is killed by Perun, or he flees into the water, into the underworld. This is basically the same thing; by killing Veles, Perun does not actually destroy him, but simply returns him to his place in the world of the dead. Thus the order of the world, disrupted by Veles's mischief, is established once again by Perun. The idea that storms and thunder are actually a divine battle between the supreme god and his arch-enemy was extremely important to Slavs, and continued to thrive long after Perun and Veles were replaced by the Сhristian God and Devil. A lightning bolt striking down a tree or burning down a peasant's house was always explained through the belief of a raging heavenly deity bashing down on his earthly, underworldly, enemy.

The enmity of the two gods was explained by Veles' theft of Perun's cattle, or by Perun's theft of Veles' cattle (since Veles was the god of cattle, the matter of ownership here is not clear). The motif of stealing divine cattle is also a common one in Indo-European mythology; the cattle in fact may be understood simply as a metaphor for heavenly water or rain. Thus, Veles steals rain water from Perun, or Perun steals water for rain from Veles (again, since Veles is associated with waters, and Perun with sky and clouds, it is unclear to whom rain should belong). An additional reason for this enmity may be wife-theft. From folklore accounts it seems that the Sun was sometimes considered to be Perun's wife (an odd idea, as all Slavic sun-gods, like Hors and Dažbog, are male). However, since the Sun, in the mythic view of the world, dies every evening, as it descends beyond the horizon and into the underworld where it spends the night, this was understood by Slavs as Veles' theft of Perun's wife (but again, the rebirth of the Sun in the morning could also be understood as Perun's theft of Veles' wife).
Jarilo and Morana

Burning of Marzanna as a symbol of winter during the spring equinox is one of remains of pre-Christian beliefs in Polish culture

Katicic and Belaj continued down the path laid by Ivanov and Toporov and reconstructed the myth revolving around the fertility and vegetation god, Jarilo, and his sister and wife, Morana, goddess of nature and death. Jarilo is associated with the Moon and Morana is considered a daughter of the Sun. Both of them are children of Perun, born on the night of the new year (Great Night). However, on the same night, Jarilo is snatched from the cradle and taken to the underworld, where Veles raises him as his own. At the Spring festival of Jare/Jurjevo, Jarilo returns from the world of the dead (from across the sea), bringing spring from the ever-green underworld into the realm of the living. He meets his sister Morana and courts her. At the beginning of summer, the festival later known as Ivanje/Ivan, Kupala celebrated their divine wedding. The sacred union between brother and sister, children of the supreme god, brings fertility and abundance to earth, ensuring a bountiful harvest. Also, since Jarilo is a (step)son of Veles, and his wife daughter of Perun, their marriage brings peace between two great gods; in other words, it ensures there will be no storms which could damage the harvest.

After the harvest, however, Jarilo is unfaitfhul to his wife, and she vengefully slays him (returns him into the underworld), renewing the enmity between Perun and Veles. Without her husband, god of fertility and vegetation, Morana — and all of nature with her — withers and freezes in the upcoming winter; she turns into a terrible, old, and dangerous goddess of darkness and frost, and eventually dies by the end of year. The whole myth would repeat itself anew each following year, and retelling of its key parts was accompanied by major yearly festivals of the Slavic calendar. The story also shows numerous parallels to similar myths of Baltic [disambiguation needed] and Hittite mythology.
Svarog, Svarožič, Dažbog

Nicholas Roerich. Slavic Idols (1901).

The name of Svarog is found only in East Slavic manuscripts, where it is usually equated with the Greek smith god Hephaestus. However, the name is very ancient, indicating that Svarog was a deity of Proto-Slavic pantheon. The root svar means bright, clear, and the suffix -og denotes a place. Comparison with Vedic Svarga indicates that Svarog simply meant (daylight) sky. It is possible he was the original sky god of the pantheon, perhaps a Slavic version of Proto-Indo-European *Dyēus Ph2ter. Svarog can be also understood as meaning a shining, fiery place; a forge. This, and identification with Hephaestus from historic sources, indicates he was also a god of fire and blacksmithing. According to the interpretation by Ivanov and Toporov, Svarog had two sons: Svarožič, who represented fire on earth, and Dažbog, who represented fire in the sky and was associated with Sun. Svarog was believed to have forged the Sun and have given it to his son Dažbog to carry it across the sky.

In Russian manuscripts he is equated with Sun, and folklore remembers him as a benevolent deity of light and sky. Serbian folklore, however, presents a far darker picture of him; he is remembered as Dabog, a frightful and lame deity guarding the doors of the underworld, associated with mining and precious metals. Veselin Čajkanović pointed out that these two aspects fit quite nicely into a symbolism of Slavic solar deity; a benevolent side represents the Dažbog during day, when he carries the Sun across the sky. The malevolent and ugly Dabog carries the Sun through the underworld at night. This pattern can also be applied to Sun's yearly cycle; a benevolent aspect is associated with young, summer Sun, and a malevolent one with old, winter Sun.

Svarožič was worshipped as a fire spirit by Russian peasants well after Christianisation. He was also known amongst Western Slavs, but there he was worshipped as a supreme deity in the holy city of Radegast. Svarožič is a simply diminutive of Svarog's name, and thus it may simply be another aspect (a surname, so to speak) of Dažbog. There is also a point of view that Svarog was the ancestor of all other Slavic gods, and thus Svarožič could simply be an epithet of any other deity, so that Dažbog, Perun, Veles, and so on, were possibly all Svarožičs.
Svantevit and Triglav


It is somewhat ironic that for now we cannot clearly determine the position of these two gods in Proto-Slavic pantheon, yet we have the most extensive historic accounts written about them. That they were important to all pagan Slavs is indicated by a significant number of toponyms whose names can be associated with them and by discoveries of multi-headed statues in various Slavic lands. Both of these gods were considered supreme in various locations; they were associated with divination and symbolized by the horse. A possibly significant difference is that Svantevit had a white horse whilst Triglav a black one, and Svantevit was represented with four heads whilst Triglav (whose name simply means Three-headed) with three. Svantevit was also associated with victory in war, harvest, and commerce.

Various hypotheses about them were proposed: that they are in fact one and the same deity, being somewhat similar; that they are not gods at all but compounds of three or four gods, a kind of mini-pantheons. Slavic neopagans tend to think of Triglav in particular as a concept of Trinity. Svantevit has also been proclaimed as a late West Slavic alternation of Perun or Jarilo, or compared with Svarožič and deemed a solar deity. None of these hypotheses is quite satisfactory, and mostly they are just wild speculation, another attempt to reconstruct Slavic mythology as it should be, rather than discovering what it was really like. Further research is necessary before more can be said of these deities.

It is claimed that Slovenian highest mountain Triglav is named after god Triglav.

Anothers claim that Triglav is a concept that consists of the three forms of existence: Yav, Nav, and Prav. Yav is being the world of life, Nav - the world of death, and Prav - the world that balance the other two. Compare to Russian yavlennie which means appearance or yavnyi - obvious; navernoe - perhaps; and pravo - law, right.

Zorica and Danica These names mean simply Dawn and Daystar, but in folklore accounts of all Slavic nations, they are often described as persons, or associated with persons, in pretty much the same way as Sun and Moon. Danica is often called Sun's younger sister or daughter, and was probably associated with Morana. Consequently, Zorica was either Sun's mother or older sister. It is quite possible this was a Slavic relic of the Proto-Indo-European dawn godd
Further developments

Ivanov and Toporov also schematically periodised various stages of development of Slavic mythology, attempting to show how it evolved from the original pantheon:
The first subsequent development occurred after the Proto-Slavs had split into East, West, and South Slavs. Each branch of the Slavic family devised various feminine deities of household (eg Mokosh), and deities associated with crafts, agriculture, and fertility (eg Rod and Chur). Deities such as Hors and Simargl are sometimes interpreted as the East Slavic borrowings from their Iranian neighbours.

Baba Yaga, by Ivan Bilibin.
At the level of abstract personification of divine functions, we have such concepts as Pravda/Krivda (Right/Wrong), Dobra Kob/Zla Kob (Good Fortune/Evil Fortune). These concepts, found in many Slavic fairy tales, are presumed to have originated at a time when old myths were already being downgraded to the level of legends and stories. Loius Leger pointed out that various Slavic words describing success, destiny, or fortune are all connected with the ancient Slavic word for God — "bog". Although used to denote the God of Christianity, the word is of pagan origin and quite ancient. It originates from the Proto-Indo-European root *bhag (meaning fortune), being cognate to Avestic baga and Sanskrit bhagah (epithets of deities).
The next level of development is a mythologisation of historical traditions. Beginning in pagan times, it continued well after the advent of Сhristianity. It is characterised by tales and songs of legendary heroes, ranging from purely legendary founders of certain tribes, such as the stories about Lech, Czech, and Rus, to quite historical persons such as the 15th century Croatian-Hungarian king Matthias Corvinus or the Serbian Prince Marko, who were both immortalised in folk legend or poetry. Russian bylinas about bogatyrs, Polish legends of Krak the Dragonslayer, Czech legends about Libuše, and the foundation of Prague all fall into this category. Various elements of these tales will still reveal elements of old myths (such as a hero slaying a dragon, a faint echo of an ancient concept of a cosmic battle between Perun the Thunderer and the serpentine Veles).
On an even lower level, certain mythical archetypes evolved into fairy-tale characters. These include Baba Yaga, Koschei the Immortal, Nightingale the Robber, Vodyanoy, Zmey Gorynych, and so on. At this point of development, one can hardly speak of mythology anymore. Rather, these are legends and stories which contain some fragments of old myths, but their structure and meaning are not so clear.
The lowest level of development of Slavic mythology includes various groups of home or nature spirits and magical creatures, which vary greatly amongst different Slavic nations. Mythic structure on this level is practically incomprehensible, but some of the beliefs nevertheless have a great antiquity. As early as the 5th century, Procopius mentioned that Slavs worshipped river and nature spirits, and traces of such beliefs can still be recognised in the tales about vilas, vampires, witches, and werewolves.
Slavic paganism today

A Slavic pagan ritual in modern Russia.
Main article: Slavic neopaganism

For the last few decades, Slavic paganism has gained limited popularity among the Russian public, with many web sites and organizations dedicated to the study of Slavic mythology[1][2] and some who openly call for "returning to the roots."[3]

Some musicians are also influenced by paganism, such as Pagan Metal singer Arkona.

Most of those activities take place in Russia and Belarus, but they also take place in other Slavic countries like Slovenia, Slovakia, Bulgaria, Poland, Croatia, Macedonia, Serbia and Ukraine.

Slavic peoples

The Slavic Peoples are an ethnic and linguistic branch of Indo-European peoples, living mainly in eastern and Central Europe and Eastern Europe. From the early 6th century they spread from their original homeland in present-day Ukraine to inhabit most of the Central and Eastern Europe and the Balkans.[1] Many settled later in Siberia[2] and Central Asia[3] or emigrated to other parts of the world.[4][5] Over half of Europe is, territorially speaking, inhabited by Slavic-speaking communities.[6]

Modern nations and ethnic groups called by the ethnonym "Slavs" are considerably genetically and culturally diverse and relations between them are varied, ranging from a sense of connection to feelings of mutual resentment.[7].

Slavic peoples are classified geographically and linguistically into West Slavic (including Czechs, Moravians, Poles, Slovaks and Sorbs), East Slavic (including Belarusians, Russians and Ukrainians)[8], and South Slavic (including Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs and Slovenes). For a more comprehensive list, see the section below on ethnocultural subdivisions.

According to a 2007 genetic study[9] based on Y-chromosome male haplogroups, Slavic men cluster into two main groups; one encompasses all Western-Slavic, Eastern-Slavic, and two Southern-Slavic male populations (western Croats, Slovenes), whilst the other group encompasses all remaining Southern Slavic men.


Excluding the ambiguous[clarification needed] mention by Ptolemy of tribes Slavanoi and Soubenoi, the earliest references of "Slavs" under this name are from the 6th century AD. The word is written variously as Sklabenoi, Sklauenoi, or Sklabinoi in Byzantine Greek, and as Sclaueni, Sclavi, Sclauini, or Sthlaueni in Latin. The oldest documents written in Old Church Slavonic and dating from the 9th century attest slověne to describe the Slavs around Thessalonica. Other early attestations include Old Russian slověně "an East Slavic group near Novgorod", Slavutich "Dnieper river", and Croatian Slavonica, a river.

The name is normally linked with the Slavic forms sláva "glory", "fame" or slovo "word, talk" (both akin to slušati "to hear" from the IE root *ḱlew-). 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, němci, meaning "mumbling, murmuring people" (from Slavic němъ - mumbling, mute).[10] For example, the Polish word Niemcy means "Germans" or "Germany" (as do its cognates in many other Slavic languages).

However, some scholars have advanced alternative theories as to the origin of the name. B.P. Lozinski argues that the word sláva once had the meaning of worshipper, in this context meaning practicer of a common Slavic religion, and from that evolved into an ethonym.[11] S.B. Bernstein speculates that it derives from a reconstructed Proto-Indo-European *(s)lawos, cognate to Greek laós "population, people", which itself has no commonly accepted etymology.[12] Meanwhile Max Vasmer and others suggest that the word originated as a river name (compare the etymology of the Volcae), comparing it with such cognates as Latin cluere "to cleanse, purge", a root not known to have been continued in Slavic, although it appears in other languages with similar meanings (cf. Greek klyzein "to wash", Old English hlūtor "clean, pure", Old Norse hlér "sea", Welsh clir "clear, clean", Lithuanian šlúoti "to sweep").

Proto-Slavic language

Proto-Slavic, the ancestor language of all Slavic languages, branched off at some uncertain time in a disputed location from common Proto-Indo-European, passing through a Balto-Slavic stage in which it developed numerous lexical and morphophonological isoglosses with Baltic languages. In the framework of the Kurgan hypothesis, "the Indo-Europeans who remained after the migrations became speakers of Balto-Slavic".[13]

Proto-Slavic proper, or more commonly referred to as Common Slavic or Late Proto-Slavic, defined as the last stage of the language preceding the geographical split of the historical Slavic languages, was likely spoken during the 6th and 7th centuries CE on a vast territory from Novgorod to southern Greece. That language was unusually uniform, and on the basis of borrowings from foreign languages and Slavic borrowings into other languages, can't be said to have any recognizable dialects. Slavic linguistic unity lasted for at least 1-2 centuries more, as can been seen in Old Church Slavonic manuscripts which, though based on local Slavic speech of Thessaloniki in Macedonia, could still serve the purpose of the first common Slavic literary language.


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 Belarus, Poland, European Russia and Ukraine. The proposed frameworks are:

Historical distribution of the Slavic languages. The larger shaded area is the Prague-Penkov-Kolochin complex of cultures of the sixth to seventh centuries, likely corresponding to the spread of Slavic-speaking tribes of the time. The smaller shaded area indicates the core area of Slavic river names (after Mallory & Adams (1997:524ff).
Lusatian culture hypothesis: The pre-Proto-Slavs were present in north-eastern Central Europe since at least the late 2nd millennium BCE, and were the bearers of the Lusatian culture and later still the Przeworsk culture (2nd century BCE to 4th century CE) and the later still Chernyakhov culture (2nd-5th centuries CE).
Milograd culture hypothesis: The pre-Proto-Slavs (or Balto-Slavs) were the bearers of the Milograd culture (700 BCE to the 100 CE) of northern Ukraine and southern Belarus.
Chernoles culture hypothesis: The pre-Proto-Slavs were the bearers of the Chernoles culture (750–200 BCE) of northern Ukraine.
Tributary of Danube postulated by Oleg Trubachyov[14]

The starting point in the autochtonic/allochtonic debate was the year 1745, when Johann Christoph de Jordan published De Originibus Slavicis. From the 19th century onwards, the debate became politically charged, particularly in connection with the history of the Partitions of Poland and German imperialism known as Drang nach Osten. The question as to whether Germanic or Slavic peoples were indigenous on the land east of the Oder river was used by factions to pursue their respective German and Polish political claims to governance of those lands.
Earliest accounts

Slavic lands c. 500-550 CE
Further information: Vistula Veneti

Pliny the Elder and Ptolemy mention a tribe of the Veneti around the river Vistula. The lands east of the Rhine, Elbe, Oder, and west of the Vistula river were referred to as Magna Germania by Tacitus in AD 98. Romans occupied the land west of the Rhine. From Romanticism, the allochthonic school theorem is that the 6th century authors re-applied this ethnonym to hitherto unknown Slavic tribes, whence the later designation "Wends" for Slavic tribes, and medieval legends purporting a connection between Poles and Vandals.

The Slavs under name of Venethi, the Antes and the Sclaveni make their first appearance in Byzantine records in the early 6th century. Byzantine historiographers under Justinian I (527-565), such as Procopius of Caesarea, Jordanes and Theophylact Simocatta describe tribes emerging from the area of the Carpathian Mountains, the lower Danube and the Black Sea, invading the Danubian provinces of the Eastern Empire.

Jordanes mentions that the Venethi sub-divided into three groups: the Venethi, the Antes and the Sklavens (Sclovenes, Sklavinoi). 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 area of this culture contains numerous tumuli - typical for IE originators.

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."[15] The Milograd culture (700 BC - 100 AD), centered roughly on present-day Belarus, north of the contemporaneous Chernoles culture, has 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 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.

Daily Life of Eastern Slavs, by Sergei Ivanov.

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 indisputably 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 Ruthenian 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 370 AD, which may have triggered the Proto-Slavic expansion to the historical locations of the Slavic languages.
Further information: Genetic history of Europe

Haplogroup R1a Distribution

more detailed map of Haplogroup R1a distribution

The modern Slavic peoples come from a wide variety of genetic backgrounds. The frequency of Haplogroup R1a [16] ranges from 63.39% by the Sorbs, 56.4% in Poland and 54% in Ukraine, to 15.2% in Republic of Macedonia, 14.7% in Bulgaria and 12.1% in Herzegovina.[17] Haplogroup R1a may be connected to the spread of Proto-Indo-Europeans (see Kurgan hypothesis for more information).

A new study[18] studied several Slavic populations with the aim of localizing the Proto-Slavic homeland. The significant findings of this study are that:
Two genetically distant groups of Slavic populations were revealed: One encompassing all Western-Slavic, Eastern-Slavic, and two Southern-Slavic populations (north-western Croats, Slovenes), and one encompassing all remaining Southern Slavs. According to the authors most Slavic populations have similar Y chromosome pools — R1a, and this similarity can be traced to an origin in the middle Dnieper basin of Ukraine during the Late Glacial Maximum 15 kya.[19]
However, some southern Slavic populations such as Macedonians and Bulgarians are clearly separated from the tight DNA cluster of the rest of the Slavic populations. According to the authors this phenomenon is explained by "...contribution to the Y chromosomes of peoples who settled in the Balkan region before the Slavic expansion to the genetic heritage of Southern Slavs..."[20]

Northern Slavic peoples are distinguished by the presence of Y Haplogroup N in their genome. Postulated to originate from Central Asia, it is found at high rates in Finnic peoples. Its presence in Northern Russians[21] attests to the North-eastern Slavic tribes mixing with Finnic peoples in northern Eurasia.
Slavic migrations

Slavic tribes, mid seventh century AD.

The "Sklavinias" in the Balkans, 7th - 8th centuries

According to eastern homeland theory prior to becoming known to the Roman world, Slavic speaking tribes were part of the many multi-ethnic confederacies of Eurasia - such as the Sarmatian, Hun and Gothic empires.[22] The Slavs emerged from obscurity when the westward movement of Germans in the 5th and 6th centuries AD (thought to be in conjunction with the movement of peoples from Siberia and Eastern Europe: Huns, and later Avars and Bulgars) 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 Oder 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. Perhaps some Slavs migrated with the movement of the Vandals to Iberia and north Africa.[23]

Around the 6th century, Slavs appeared on Byzantine borders in great numbers.[24] The Byzantine records note that grass wouldn't regrow in places where the Slavs had marched through, so great were their numbers. After a military movement even the Peloponnese and Asia Minor were reported to have Slavic settlements.[25] This southern movement has traditionally been seen as an invasive expansion.[26] By the end of the 6th century, Slavs had settled the Eastern Alps region.
Early Slavic states

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 a defense force. Moreover, it was the beginnings of class differentiation, and nobles pledged allegiance either to the Frankish/ Holy Roman Emperors or the Byzantine 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. This provided the foundation for subsequent Slavic states to arise on the former territory of this realm with Carantania being arguably the oldest of them. 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, as well as the Germanisation of Austria, separated the northern and southern Slavs. The First Bulgarian Empire, ruled by a core of Bulgars, was founded in AD 681. After their subsequent Slavicisation, it was instrumental in the spread of Slavic literacy and Christianity to the rest of the Slavic world.

Throughout their history, Slavs came into contact with non-Slavic groups. In the postulated "homeland" region (present-day Ukraine), they had contacts with Sarmatians and the Germanic Goths. After their subsequent spread, they began assimilating non-Slavic peoples. For example, in the Balkans, there were Paleo-Balkan peoples, such as Thracians, Illyrians and Greeks. Having lost their indigenous language due to persistent Hellenisation and the Roman conquest, what remained of the Thracians and Illyrians were completely absorbed into the Slavic tribes, the most notable exceptions being Romanians and Albanians. Later invaders such as Bulgars and even Cumans mingled with the Slavs also, particularly in eastern parts (i.e. Bulgaria). Despite their cultural assimilation, one source states that only 15% of modern-day Bulgarians are of Slavic genetic origin, compared to 49% Thracian.[27]

In the western Balkans, south Slavs and Germanic Gepids intermarried with Avar invaders, eventually producing a Slavicised population. In central Europe, the Slavs intermixed with Germanic, Celtic and Raetian peoples, while the eastern Slavs encountered Uralic and Scandinavian peoples. Scandinavians (Varangians) and Finnic peoples were involved in the early formation of the Russian state but were completely Slavicised after a century. Some Finno-Ugric tribes in the north were also absorbed into the expanding Russian population.[28] At the time of the Magyar migration, the present-day Hungary was inhabited by Slavs, numbering about 200,000,[29] who were either assimilated or enslaved by the Magyars.[29] In the 11th and 12th centuries, constant incursions by nomadic Turkic tribes, such as the Kipchaks and the Pechenegs, caused a massive migration of East Slavic populations to the safer, heavily forested regions of the north.[30] In the Middle Ages, groups of Saxon ore miners settled in medieval Bosnia, Serbia and Bulgaria where they were Slavicised.

The Limes Saxoniae forming the border between the Saxons to the west and the Obotrites to the east

Polabian Slavs (Wends) settled in parts of England (Danelaw), apparently as Danish allies; Polabian-Pomeranian Slavs are also known to have even settled on Norse age Iceland. Saqaliba refers to the Slavic mercenaries and slaves in the medieval Arab world in North Africa, Sicily and Al-Andalus. Saqaliba served as caliph's guards.[31][32] In the 12th century, there was intensification of Slavic piracy. The Wendish Crusade was started against the Polabian Slavs in 1147, as a part of the Northern Crusades. Niklot, pagan chief of the Slavic Obodrites began his open resistance when Lothar III, Holy Roman Emperor invaded Slavic lands. In August 1160 Niklot was killed and German colonization (Ostsiedlung) of the Elbe-Oder region began. In Hanoverian Wendland, Mecklenburg-Vorpommern and Lusatia invaders started germanization. Early forms of germanization were described by German monks: Helmold in the manuscript Chronicon Slavorum and Adam of Bremen in Gesta Hammaburgensis ecclesiae pontificum .[33] The Polabian language survived until the beginning of the 19th century in what is now the German state of Lower Saxony.[34]

Cossacks, although Slavic-speaking and Orthodox Christians, came from a mix of ethnic backgrounds, including Tatars and other Turks. Many early members of the Terek Cossacks were Ossetians.

The Gorals of southern Poland and northern Slovakia are partially descended from Romance-speaking Vlachs who migrated into the region from the 14th to 17th centuries and were absorbed into the local population.

Ethno-linguistic map of Austria–Hungary, 1910.

Conversely, some Slavs were assimilated into other populations. Although the majority continued south, attracted by the riches of the territory which would become Bulgaria, a few remained in the Carpathian basin and were ultimately assimilated into the Magyar or Romance speaking population. There is a large number of river names and other placenames of Slavic origin in Romania.[35] Similarly, the populations of the respective eastern parts of Austria and Germany, and to a much lesser extent eastern Italy, are to some degree comprised of people with Slavic ancestry.
Modern Slavic history

As of 1878, there were only three free Slavic states in the world: Russian Empire, Serbia and Montenegro. An independent state of Bulgaria came into existence in 1908. In the entire Austro-Hungarian Empire of approximately 50 million people, about 23 million were Slavs. The Slavic peoples who were, for the most part, denied a voice in the affairs of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, were calling for national self-determination. During World War I, representatives of the Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes set up organizations in the Allied countries to gain sympathy and recognition.[36] In 1918, after World War I ended, the Slavs established such independent states as Czechoslovakia, the Second Polish Republic, and the Kingdom of Serbs, Croats and Slovenes.

One of Hitler's ambitions at the start of World War II was to exterminate, expel, or enslave most or all East and West Slavs from their native lands so as to make living space for German settlers. This plan of genocide[37] was to be carried into effect gradually over a period of 25–30 years.

Because of the vastness and diversity of the territory occupied by Slavic people, 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 some nations that had Slavic origins. Pan-Slavism became compromised when the 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 and 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. A notable political union of the 20th century that covered most South Slavs was Yugoslavia, but it ultimately broke apart in the 1990s along with the Soviet Union.

The word "Slavs" was used in the national anthem of the Slovak Republic (1939–1945), Yugoslavia (1943-1992) and the Federal Republic of Yugoslavia (1992-2003), later Serbia and Montenegro (2003-2006).
Religion and alphabet

Most Slavic populations gradually adopted Christianity between 6th and 10th century, and consequently their old pagan beliefs declined. See also Rodnovery.

The majority of contemporary Slavs who profess a religion are Eastern Orthodox (and/or Greek Catholic) and Roman Catholic. A very small minority are Protestant, mainly in the north. In the south, Bosniaks and some minority groups are Sunni Muslim. Religious delineations by nationality can be very sharp; in many Slavic ethnic groups the vast majority of religious people share the same religion. Some Slavs are atheist or agnostic: recent estimates suggest 18% in Russia.[38] and 59% in the Czech Republic.[39].
Mainly Eastern
Mainly Roman
Czechs (see Demographics_of_the_Czech_Republic#Religions)
Mainly Muslim:
Torbesh (Macedonian Muslims)
Muslims by nationality
Mainly Atheist or agnostic:

Religious mixtures:
Belarusians (Russian Orthodox (80% of religious population)/Roman Catholics see Demographics of Belarus)

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. There is also a Latin script to write in Belarusian, called the Lacinka alphabet.
Ethnocultural subdivisions

Present-day distribution of Slavic languages and language groups.

Slavs are customarily divided along geographical lines 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 10th century A.D. Almost all of the South Slavs can be traced to ethnic Slavs who mixed with the local European population of the Balkans (Illyrians, Dacians/Thracians, Greeks, Romans, Celts); with some Slavs of modern-day Bulgaria mixing with later invaders from the East, the Bulgars. They were particularly influenced by the Byzantine Empire and the Orthodox Church, although Catholicism and Latin influences were more pertinent in Dalmatia. The West Slavs and the Slovenes do not share either of these backgrounds, as they expanded to the West and integrated into the cultural sphere of Western (Roman Catholic) Christianity around this time also mixing with nearby Germanic tribes.

In addition there has been a tendency to consider the category of Northern Slavs. Presently this category is considered to be of East and West Slavs, in opposition to South Slavs, however in 19th century opinions about individual languages/ethnicities varied.

Some of the following subdivisions remain debatable, particularly for smaller groups and national minorities.
East Slavs
Main article: East SlavsRussians
Lipovan Russians
Pomors Ukrainians
Lemko 4
Poleszuks 2 Belarusians
Poleszuks 2

West Slavs
Main article: West Slavs
Czech-Slovak groupBohemians Czechs Moravians 6 Slovaks

Lechitic groupPoles
Silesians 5
Kashubians 5
Polabians † Sorbs (Serbo-Lusatians)
Milceni (Upper Sorbs)
Lusatians (Lower Sorbs)
Obotrites proper†
Polabians proper†
Drevani† Veleti (Wilzi, later Liutici)†
Kissini (Kessiner, Chizzinen, Kyzziner)†
Circipani (Zirzipanen)†
Ucri (Ukr(an)i, Ukranen)†
Rani (Rujani)†
Hevelli (Stodorani)†
Volinians (Velunzani) †
Pyritzans (Prissani) †

South Slavs
Main article: South Slavs
Eastern groupBulgarians
Pomaks (Muslim Bulgarians)
Palćene (Banat Bulgarians)
Bessarabian Bulgarians
Anatolian Bulgarians† Slavic Macedonians
Torbesh (Muslim Macedonians)

Slavic-speakers of Greek Macedonia

Western groupSlovenes
Carinthian Slovenes
Upper Styrian Slovenes
Hungarian Slovenes
Bunjevci 10
Šokci 10
Gorani 11
Gorani 11
Montenegrins Croats
Janjevci (Catholic Slavs in Kosovo)
Burgenland Croats (in Austria)
Molise Croats (in eastern Italy)
Krashovans (Croats in Romania) Bosniaks
Muslims by nationality 12
Yugoslavs 13

Notes to list of ethnocultural divisions

† Extinct
1 Also considered part of Rusyns
2 Considered transitional between Ukrainians and Belarusians
3 Also considered part of Ukrainians
4 The ethnic affiliation of the Lemkos has become an ideological conflict. It has been alleged that among the Lemkos the idea of "Carpatho-Ruthenian" nation is supported only by Lemkos residing in Transcarpathia and abroad[40]
5 Also considered part of Poles
6 Today, often considered part of Czechs, originally closer to Slovaks

7 Most Shopi self-declare as Bulgarians. Cognate with Torlaks.
8 Most Torlaks self-declare as Serbs. Cognate with Shopi.

10 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

11 These Gorani are a Slavic nation living mainly in Kosovo, Macedonia and Albania; not to be confound with other Gorani (or Gorinci) in the highlands of western Croatia (Gorski Kotar county).

12 A census category recognized as an ethnic group. Most Slavic Muslims (especially in Bosnia, Croatia, Montenegro and Serbia) now opt for Bosniak ethnicity, but some still use the "Muslim" designation.

13 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 (Herzegovina), Krajišnici in western Bosnia, Semberci in northeast Bosnia, Srbijanci in Serbia proper, Šumadinci in central Serbia, Vojvođani in northern Serbia, Sremci in Syrmia, Bačvani in northwest Vojvodina, Banaćani in Banat, Sandžaklije (Muslims in Serbia/Montenegro border), Kosovci in Kosovo, Crnogorci in Montenegro proper, Bokelji in southwest Montenegro, Trakiytsi in Upper Thracian Lowlands, Dobrudzhantsi in north-east Bulgarian region, Balkandzhii in Central Balkan Mountains, Miziytsi in north Bulgarian region, Pirintsi[41] in Blagoevgrad Province, Ruptsi in the Rhodopes, 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.

Wroten By: SvanTTeviD