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Ancient tribe Slavs - Ancestry and origin

Where is the origin of the Slavs?

In the lively and by no means concluded discussion about the origin of the Slavs, two completely different research approaches are opposed. Starting from the basic assumption that the Slavs "must come from somewhere", the classical view is based on the immigration of one or more homogenous "urslavic" groups, whose identity and origin it seeks to determine ("original homeland"). According to an older model, homogenous groups are supposed to have immigrated, whereas according to a modified thesis, Slavic peoples only formed from the migrating proto-Slavs during the migration or at the place of arrival within the framework of an ethnogenesis. According to another theory, the Slavs, as an ethnic-political category, are a Byzantine discovery in the form of a foreign designation, i.e. a categorization from outside.


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Who were the Primitive Slavs?

While linguistics, in connection with pre- and early history, at least roughly outlines the seats of the early Slavs and the character of their language, attempts to develop a "Slavic" religion, social order or material culture are to be regarded as failed; rather, the regional differences were probably too great, especially since the Slavs in their early times were mostly under the political rule of e.g. the Avars and Goths, by whom they were demonstrably strongly influenced at all levels.

As a result of the prehistoric migration of the Proto-Indo-European peoples from their original homeland between the Don and the Volga to the west, the ethnogenesis of the Slavs began in the first half of the 2nd millennium BC as a regional development of their own, not isolated from the other Indo-Germanic peoples, but together with them. These were in particular the Balts, with whom the Slavs lived in settlement neighbourhoods for centuries. The Eastern Slavs were also in contact with Finno-Ugric peoples (Uralians) for more than a millennium and a half. The division of the Slavic languages into an eastern (Russian, Ukrainian, Belarusian, etc.), southern (Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian, Bulgarian, etc.) and western (Polish, Sorbian, Czech, etc.) branch dates back to the 6th and 7th centuries AD.

The oldest historical evidence of Slavic settlements dates back to the 1st half of the 1st millennium AD. At that time, the Slavs settled in a closed area that included the central and western part of Ukraine and bordering parts of Poland. The oldest Slavic names of waters have been preserved in this original Slavic homeland. There, Slavic tribes lived partly in community or in neighbourhood with Germanic tribes. The Goths, who at that time moved their residences from the lower Vistula towards the Black Sea coast, temporarily appeared as the ruling elite of the Slavs. Influences can also be found on the part of the steppe nomads from the southern Russian steppes, namely the Scythians, Sarmatians and Alans. Presumably Slavic troops contingents under the leadership of the Huns fought against the Western and Eastern Roman Empire. For the formation of the Slavic language (topogenesis), it was possible with some probability to identify an area between the middle Vistula or Bug and the middle Dnieper. However, not only migrations of the bearers of this language, but also the assimilation of people of different origins led to the "Slavization" of East Central and Eastern Europe.

From about 500 onwards, an enormous expansion process unfolded, which made Slavic-speaking groups the dominant force in large parts of the area between the Elbe and Volga.

Not long before the division of the Slavic languages into their various branches, a split must have taken place between the Slavic and Baltic speaking populations. Both had previously spoken a variant of the even older, closely related Indo-European dialects. The archaeological evidence gives a similar picture.

More or less immediately after the collapse of Germanic Europe, Slavic-speaking groups increasingly appear in historical reports. Around 500 AD, they had reached the Eastern Roman border in the south and east of the Carpathians, where they carried out raids.

The first direct contact between the Roman Empire and the Slavs dates back to the beginning of the 6th century A.D. The central point here was the Danube border, which the Eastern Roman Empire was able to maintain until the end of the 6th century. The Slavs first wintered on the soil of the Eastern Roman Empire in the winter of 550/551, but increased migration did not begin until the beginning of the 580s.

The new contacts with the Eastern Roman Empire accelerated the development processes among the Slavs involved enormously. Added to this were subsidy payments and wealth through looted goods, the likes of which they had never seen before. This encouraged their militarization and the formation of larger political structures. This in turn enabled them to maximize the benefits they derived from their new relationship with the Byzantine territories. By the time Germanic Europe collapsed around 550, the Slavic-speaking groups had already become the barbarian "others" par excellence, adding to the Eastern Roman civilization in southeastern Europe.

The Slavic dominated former imperial territories, the Sklaviniai, were gradually eliminated by Constantinople; in the northwest, for example in Dalmatia, however, they formed the starting point of the high medieval state formations (Serbia); in the northeast, the southern expansion of the Bulgarian Empire was the prerequisite for the first Slavic-Byzantine synthesis, which was also to shape Serbia and Russia culturally. Since then, the Slavic world has belonged to two cultural zones, Byzantine Orthodoxy and Central European Catholicism. In the areas where Slavic settlements have continuously developed, many older tribal groups have, over time, entered into ethnic fusion with other groups. In the course of such ethnic balancing processes, the modern Slavic peoples have separated. In some areas with a Slavic majority population there has even been the assimilation of non-Slavic ethnic groups, such as the Proto-Bulgarians in Bulgaria and Finno-Ugric peoples, the Merians and Muromer, whose settlement area was overpopulated by Russians in the Middle Ages. The situation was different in Central Europe, where Slavic tribal groups advanced as far as the Elbe and even beyond in the early Middle Ages.



Who were the Elbe Slavs?

Since the middle of the 6th century, West Slavic groups penetrated into the territory of present-day Germany in several waves of immigration.

From the end of the 6th century and in the course of the 7th century the Lusatian tribes as well as the forerunners of the Wilzes immigrated to the territory of the later former GDR. From the 7th century onwards, several tribal associations developed from the various immigrants, in particular the Milzener and Lusitzi in Lusatia, the Heveller an der Havel in today's Brandenburg and the Wilzen/Liutizen in Western Pomerania and northern Brandenburg, as well as the Abodrites in Mecklenburg. Somewhat isolated lived on Rügen and on the adjacent mainland the Rugans. Even further west the Wagrier (Waigri) settled in eastern Holstein (as far as Schwentine on the Kiel Fjord) and the Drewaner in Lüneburg. The Slavic associations in northeastern Germany are summarized by researchers under the terms Wends, Polaben or Elbslavs.

The Elbe was the natural border to which the Slavs reached in the course of their medieval expansion near the west. On the middle Elbe, a peaceful coexistence between Elbslavs and Saxons developed over time. On the lower Elbe, however, Slavs and Saxons were hostile to each other for centuries. Since the second half of the 10th century, Saxon-Abslavic contacts have been expanding to include German-Slavic relations.

Up to the 12th century, German dukes and princes in the German-Slavic contact zone saw their primary task in subjugating and Christianizing the Slavs (generally called "Wends" by the Germans in the Middle Ages) east of the Elbe.

In the course of the later German settlement in the East, most of the Slavic small peoples were assimilated between Elbe and Oder. The Sorbs are the only ethnic group in the region that has preserved its ethnic identity to this day. The lost peoples include the Rugians, Pomorans and Dadosans, as well as Elbslavs such as the Obodrites and Lutizen and the Polabians, first mentioned in the 11th century, who preserved their native culture and language in the districts of Lüchow-Dannenberg and Wustrow in the Lüneburg Wendland until the beginning of the 18th century. Thereafter, this local population of Slavic origin assimilated to the surrounding German majority population.

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