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Valentin V. Sedov

Slavs in Antiquity


Source: V. V. Sedov: "Slavyane v drevnosti", Moscow 1994.

In the first chapter of the book the development of knowledge about the origin and ancient history of Slavs is considered. It begins with the analysis of the Roman and medieval authors' ideas on the beginning of Slavdom and concludes with the historiographic situation in the late 20th century. The chapter has the following sections: "Ancient Authors about Early Slavs" (p. 5); "Notions about Ancient Slavs in the Chronicles and Historical Writings of Middle Ages" (p. 8); "From Mavro Orbini to P. J. Safarik" (p. 13); "From P. J. Safarik to L. Niederle" (p. 18); "Lubor Niederle and his Time" (p. 25); "The Investigations of the 20-50's" (p. 32); "The Last Decades of the 20th Century" (p. 40).

In the chapter "Ethnogenesology of Slays" (p. 60) the contemporary state of the problem of Slavs' origin and early history is analyzed. The potentialities of different disciplines in the investigation of this problem are appraised: linguistics, onomastics, ethnology, archaeology, anthropology, history, folkloristics. It is beyond doubt that this problem may be solved only by means of cooperation of all these disciplines, two of them being leading today linguistics (the questions of glottogenesis) and archaeology (the study of cultural development of certain population in the concrete territorial and chronological circumstances).

The prehistory of Slavs is characterized in the chapter "Ancient Europeans" (p. 95). It begins with the time-point of the 2nd millennium B.C. when the Central European community of Urnfield cultures existed. It is identified with Ancient Europeans of H. Krahe an ethno-linguistic community, which united a big group of tribes speaking similar ancient Indo-European dialects. In the late 2nd first half of the 1st millennium B.C. Celts, Italics, Venets, Illyrians, Germans, Western Baits and Slavs appeared from this conglomeration.

The question of Slavs' formation is considered in details in the next chapter (p. 136). Slavs as a separate ethnos were being formed about the middle of the 1st millennium B.C. on the basis of Lusatian (Lausitz) culture, which belonged to the Central European community of Urnfield cultures. Podkloszove Burials culture (Middle and Upper Vistula with Rightbank Oder) was the first Slavonic one.

The 3rd and the 2nd centuries B.C. are the period of close contacts between Slavs and Celts ("Slavs and Celts", p. 149). Celts, that migrated into the Slav territory in contemporary Poland, influenced upon the development of agriculture, crafts and culture of Slavs greatly. The pottery-making, metallurgy and metalworking which reached the highest level in Southern Poland during Roman epoch, were the heritage of Celts. As a result of contacts between Slavs and Celts the Przeworsk culture appeared.

"Slavs in Przeworsk culture" (p. 166). The territory of Slavs in the late La-Tene and Roman time was not isolated. Several migrations of Germanians into the environment of Slavs are observed archaeologically. The territory of Przeworsk culture expands to the south-east (Upper Dniester, Volyn') and to the south (northern-eastern Slovakia). The two regions of this culture are distinguished the Vistula region (where Slavs dominated) and the Oder one (where Germanians were also numerous). The Slavonic language underwent some considerable changes in the spheres of phonetics, grammar and vocabulary.

"Zarubintsy culture" (p. 201). As far as in the 3rd/2nd centuries B.C. a part of the population of the Podkloszove Burials culture and the Pomorye culture settled in the Pripyat' basin, Middle Dnieper and part of Upper Dnieper. As a result of their contacts with the local tribes of Milograd culture and Scythian Forest-Steppe cultures, the Zarubintsy culture was formed. The ethnic identity of its population is not clear. Most probably, those people were close both to Slavs and to Western Balts by their language. Later the Zarubintsy population moved to the northern regions, mostly to the Desna basin (Pochep culture) and Upper Oka (Moshchiny culture), and some separate groups in the south joined the Cherniakhov culture.

"Migration of Goths to the North Pontic Area" (p. 222). In the last decades of the 2nd century A.D. a movement of a great mass of population from the Lower Vistula region towards south under the leadership of Goths took place. The most part of it settled in Mazovia, Podlasie and Volyn' (Wielbark culture), but a part moved further to the western part of North Pontic Area, where the basis of future Gothia was laid. The second wave of migrants under the leadership of Goths dates back to the middle of the 3rd century. Some large groups of the migrants settled at those times between Dniester and Lower Dnieper, and some little ones widely within the Cherniakhov territory.

"Slavs in the Cherniakhov Culture. Formation of Ants" (p. 233). Cherniakhov culture (late 2nd early 5th centuries A.D.) was a polyethnic conglomeration. The most part of its population were Sarmatians, that settled widely between Lower Danube and Meothida (the Sea of Azov), and Slavs. In the Dniester-Danube region also Gets-Dacians and Goths-Gepids tribes lived, belonging to this culture. The formation of Cherniakhov culture was a result of interaction of the South-Eastern Przeworsk tribes with Sarmatians. Some uniformity of Cherniakhov territory was conditioned by spreading of Roman Provincial Culture. In the region of Podolia and Middle Dnieper a new dialect-tribal formation Ants was generated under the circumstances of Slavic-Iranian symbiosis.

"Slavs during the Migration Period" (p. 287). The, migration of Germanian tribes towards the borders of Roman Empire and the Huns invasion in late 4th century A.D. changed the cultural situation in South-Eastern Europe considerably. The development of Provincial Roman cultures had been interrupted, the majority of crafts centers stopped functioning, the period of cultural regress began, and it was strengthened by the unfavorable conditions for the agriculture. A part of Slavic population was forced to leave the Przeworsk and Cherniakhov territories and to move to the other lands.

During the 5th century, as the stabilization of life had begun, the process of formation of the early medieval Slavic cultures took place: Prague-Korchak culture on the basis of Przeworsk remains; Pen'kovka culture on the basis of Podolia-Dnieper variant of Cherniakhov culture with the participation of northern immigrants (the population of Kiev culture); the culture of Pskov Long Barrows; Imen'kovo culture and some other small ones.

[Translated by N. Lopatin]

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