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Valentin V. Sedov

Slavs in the Early Middle Ages

Summary from the book "Slavyane v rannem srednevekovie" (Russian language), Archaeological institute of Russian Academy of Sciences, Moscow, 1995

In the first part of the book, named "The Slavs in the beginning of the Middle Ages" (p. 5), the archaeological cultures are characterized, which have been formed on the basis of Provincial Roman ones, as well as in conditions of Slavic migration. The Slavs in the beginning of the Middle ages settled in the extended territories of Central and Eastern Europe from the Elbe in the west up to the Don in the east and from the coast of the Baltic sea in the north up to Peloponnessos in the south and were differentiated in several dialect-tribal formations.

One of those large formations was Prague-Korchak culture (p. 7) formed on the basis of late Pszeworsk antiquities (Southern Poland, Western Ukraine and north-eastern Slovakia). Its main markers are hand-made pottery, square semisubterranean dwellings with heating devices in a corner and cremation burial rite. From the tribes of this group only the Dulebs are known, who appeared in the 8th-12th centuries divided and scattered in different pans of its former territory. The S-shaped hair-rings are their ethnographical feature.

Another dialect-tribal formation of the Slavs is represented by Sukow-Dziedzice culture (p. 40), which have been formed also on the basis of late Pszeworsk culture in Central Poland. Its characteristic elements are distinctive hand-made pottery, ground timber buildings and surface cremation burials. In the 7th century a part of Sukow-Dziedzice area was captured by the Slavs of another group - the bearers of Feldberg ceramics. On the territory of Sukow-Dziedzice culture the tribal groups of the Obodrits, the Velets, the Pomoryans and the Polyans have been formed. For all of them the S-shaped hollow hair-rings were common.

In the North Pontic Area Pen'kovka culture (p. 68) has been formed on the basis of Cherniakhov culture. The bearers of Pen'kovka culture were the Ants, fixed by historical sources of the 6th-7th centuries. The characteristic elements of the Ants were semisubterranean dwellings, specific handmade ceramics and biritual flat burials. The Ants together with the tribes of Prague- Korchak group and romanized autochthons became the creators of Ipotesti-Cindesti culture (p. 95) of the Danube and Prut basins. It is partly similar to Pen'kovka antiquities, but differs from it by numerous Provincial Byzantine elements.

In the first half of the 6th century the Avars (p. 109) came to the Pontic territories. In 557 they attacked the Ants and defeated them. Soon after that a powerful migration wave under the leadership of the Avars spread westwards and in 578 reached the Middle Danube area. Here under the conditions of Slavic-Avarian symbiosis a homogenous culture has been formed; it is impossible to divide Slavic and Avarian ethnic components in it.

The capture of Danube lands by the Avars has become an impulse for movements of separate Slavic groups in Central Europe. In the 7th century the Slavic Tornow culture (p. 138) spread in the Middle Oder and in the Hawel basins. These were the Luzhichans (Lausitz Sorben) ancestors. In the 8th century another group of the Slavs represented by Rüssen antiquities (ancestors of the Sorbs) populated the basins of the Elbe and the Saale.

Beginning from the second half of the 6th century large masses of the Slavs settled in the Balkan Peninsula (p. 148). They actively accepted numerous elements of Provincial Byzantine culture, therefore their antiquities are hardly distinguished among the materials of the local population. Soon the Balkans were slavized. On the Peloponnessos the Slavs dominated about two centuries, but then have been assimilated by the Greeks.

At the boundary of the 6th and 7th centuries a large group of people of different tribes from the Danube area moved to the Mazury Lakes region. A group of the Slavs from this population inhabited the south-eastern coast of the Baltic Sea (p. 170) and was gradually absorbed by the local tribes of the Western Baits. Their rests under the name of the Vends are fixed by the Chronicle of Heinrich the Latvian in the early 13th century.

At the end of the 7th century the Slavs of Imen'kovo culture under the pressure of the Bulgars-Turks had to leave the Middle Volga and settle the left bank of the Dnieper where the Ants lived. The result of this interaction was the formation of Volyntsevo culture (p. 186) in this region. It inherited Pen'kovka house-building as well as Imen'kovo pottery-making. In the 8th century this Slavic group populated the Upper Oka, where together with Moshchiny population formed the basis of the Viatiches, and the Upper Don. In the forest-steppe zone of the left-bank Dnieper the Severyans were formed.

In the northern forest zone of the Russian plane (p. 209) two large groups of the Slavs dominated. One of them is represented by the culture of Pskov long barrows (p. 211), spread in the basins of Pskov and Ilmen' lakes. The other one (p. 218) settled among the Dnieper Baits of Tushemlya- Bantserovshchina culture and further eastwards - the basins of the Volga and the Klyaz'ma. Its main characteristic feature are the bracelet-shaped non-tied hair-rings which were common up to the 13-14th centuries. The ground house-building, specific pottery and burial rites mark out this group from the other Slavic world.

In the beginning of the 8th century the culture of Sopki (high barrows) spread (p. 238) in the Ilmen' basin. Its bearers were the Slavs. The wide distribution of this culture was stipulated by more progressive methods of economic activity. The tribes of Long barrows culture of this region joined the structure of the Slavs. At the same time a part of the population of Long barrows culture settled on the Dvina near Polotsk and on the Dnieper near Smolensk (p. 229). This process formed the basis for a separate group of the Slavs - the Smolensk-Polotsk Kriviches. To the north the Pskov Kriviches have been formed. In the Volga and Klyaz'ma basins an anonymous group of the Slavs emerged.

The second part of the research (p. 255) is devoted to the questions of differentiation of the Common-Slavic world and formation of separate Slavic nationalities.

One of the early ethno-linguistic groups were the Bulgarians (p. 256), the formation of which occurred in conditions of interaction with Turks-Bulgars settled in the eastern part of the Balkan peninsula. Creation and strengthening of state organization played a significant role in this process.

The basis of the Alpine Slavs of Karantania (p. 274) have made the tribes of Prague-Korchak culture, who early separated from their tribesmen and were not included in the Slavic-Avarian symbiosis. A significant part of these Slavs was later germanized, and only the Slovenes survived.

The Slavs of Pannonia (p. 299) after the disintegration of Avarian Kaganat were not a tribal unity. Only in the northern part of the Middle Danube region among the Slavs of the Great Moravian State (p. 284) the process of formation of separate ethnos probably took place, but was interrupted by the conquest of these lands by the Hungarians. The Slavs of Great Moravia joined not only the ethnogenesis of the Czechs and the Slovaks, but the Hungarian nationality also.

The structure of Czech ethnos (p. 310) included the tribes of the Prague-Korchak culture, the Ants and the Slavs of Slavic-Avarian symbiosis.

The Croats (p. 321) and the Serbs (p. 331) were large tribal groups of the great massif of the Ants. Probably they have come from the North Pontic area to the Adriatic Sea together with the Avarian migration wave and here the local Slavs and romanized population were also included into this process.

In the region of Ohrid (p. 337) there were no circumstances for the formation of an independent Slavic nationality.

The Poles (p. 341) as separate Slavic ethnos were generated in the conditions of state formation on the basis of tribes of three groups - Sukow-Dziedzice, Prague-Korchak and Tornow.

Even more complex was the process of formation of the Ancient-Russian nationality (p. 358). It was formed by the tribes of several groups - Prague-Korchak in the Dnieper forest-steppe and forest right-bank zone (the Dulebs and their descendants - the Volynyans, the Drevlyans, the Polyans and the Dregoviches); Pen'kovka (the Croats, the Tivertses and the Uliches); Volyntsevo in the south-east of the Russian plane (the Severyans, the Vyatiches and the Don Slavs); Long barrows, Sopkis and the bearers of bracelet-shaped hair-rings (the Kriviches, the Slovenes and the tribal formation on the Volga and Klyaz'ma). The Ancient-Russian State with its meta-tribal structures, numerous cities, the Christianity as an official religion were eliminating the ethnic differences within the Ancient-Russian territory.

The Tataro-Mongolian invasion and inclusion of West-Russian lands in the Lithuanian state interrupted this process and a gradual formation of Russian, Ukrainian and Byelorussian nationalities began.

In the conclusion (p.385) it is stated that the wide Slavs migration of the beginning of the Middle Ages had greatly destroyed the ethno-tribal structure of the last Common-Slavic period. None of the medieval Slavic ethnoses was formed on the basis of Ancient-Slavic tribal groups.

Translated by N. Lopatin

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