East Slavs

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East Slavs
Усходнія славяне / Uskhodniya slavyane (Belarusian)
Восточные славяне / Vostochnyye slavyane (Russian)
Восточны славяне / Vostochny slaviane (Rusyn)
Східні слов'яни / Skhidni sloviany (Ukrainian)
East Slavic Europe.svg
  Countries with predominantly East Slavic population[ citation needed ]
Total population
200+ million[ citation needed ]
Regions with significant populations
Belarus, Russia, Ukraine [ citation needed ]
Minority: Baltics (Estonia, Latvia, Lithuania), Serbia, Caucasus (Azerbaijan, Georgia), Moldova, Turkey, United States, Canada, other former Soviet states.[ citation needed ]
East Slavic languages:
Belarusian, Russian, Rusyn, Ukrainian
Related ethnic groups
Other Slavs
A young Ukrainian girl in a folk costume, by Nikolay Rachkov Slavic girl.jpg
A young Ukrainian girl in a folk costume, by Nikolay Rachkov
Maximum extent of European territory inhabited by the East Slavic tribes--predecessors of Kievan Rus', the first East Slavic state --in the 8th and 9th centuries. East Slavic tribes peoples 8th 9th century.jpg
Maximum extent of European territory inhabited by the East Slavic tribes—predecessors of Kievan Rus', the first East Slavic state —in the 8th and 9th centuries.

The East Slavs are the most populous subgroup of the Slavs. [2] They speak the East Slavic languages, [3] and formed the majority of the population of the medieval state Kievan Rus', which they claim as their cultural ancestor. [4] [5] Today, the East Slavs consist of Belarusians, Russians, Rusyns, and Ukrainians. [6]




Researchers know relatively little about the Eastern Slavs prior to approximately 859 AD when the first events recorded in the Primary Chronicle occurred. The Eastern Slavs of these early times apparently lacked a written language. The few known facts come from archaeological digs, foreign travellers' accounts of the Rus' land, and linguistic comparative analyses of Slavic languages. [3]

Very few native Rus' documents dating before the 11th century (none before the 10th century) have survived. The earliest major manuscript with information on Rus' history, the Primary Chronicle , dates from the late 11th and early 12th centuries. It lists twelve Slavic tribal unions which, by the 10th century, had settled in the later territory of the Kievan Rus between the Western Bug, the Dniepr and the Black Sea: the Polans , Drevlyans , Dregovichs , Radimichs , Vyatichs , Krivichs , Slovens , Dulebes (later known as Volhynians and Buzhans), White Croats , Severians , Ulichs , and Tivertsi . [2]


There is no consensus among scholars as to the urheimat of the Slavs. In the first millennium AD, Slavic settlers are likely to have been in contact with other ethnic groups who moved across the East European Plain during the Migration Period. Between the first and ninth centuries, the Sarmatians, Huns, Alans, Avars, Bulgars, and Magyars passed through the Pontic steppe in their westward migrations. Although some of them could have subjugated the region's Slavs, these foreign tribes left little trace in the Slavic lands. The Early Middle Ages also saw Slavic expansion as an agriculturist and beekeeper, hunter, fisher, herder, and trapper people. By the 8th century, the Slavs were the dominant ethnic group on the East European Plain.[ citation needed ]

By 600 AD, the Slavs had split linguistically into southern, western, and eastern branches. The East Slavs practiced "slash-and-burn" agricultural methods which took advantage of the extensive forests in which they settled. This method of agriculture involved clearing tracts of forest with fire, cultivating it and then moving on after a few years. Slash and burn agriculture requires frequent movement because soil cultivated in this manner only yields good harvests for a few years before exhausting itself, and the reliance on slash and burn agriculture by the East Slavs explains their rapid spread through eastern Europe. [7] The East Slavs flooded Eastern Europe in two streams. One group of tribes settled along the Dnieper river in what is now Ukraine and Belarus to the North; they then spread northward to the northern Volga valley, east of modern-day Moscow and westward to the basins of the northern Dniester and the Southern Buh rivers in present-day Ukraine and southern Ukraine.[ citation needed ]

Another group of East Slavs moved to the northeast, where they encountered the Varangians of the Rus' Khaganate and established an important regional centre of Novgorod for protection. The same Slavic population also settled the present-day Tver Oblast and the region of Beloozero. Having reached the lands of the Merya near Rostov, they linked up with the Dnieper group of Slavic migrants.[ citation needed ]

Pre-Kievan period

According to archeology, the Prague, Korchak, Penkova, Kolochin and Kyiv cultures are classified as early Slavic, the earliest of which, Kyiv, from the 2nd-3rd centuries AD. e. was the northern neighbor of the more developed and multi-ethnic Chernyakhov culture, associated with West Slavs (Great Moravia). Rare, few and short-lived settlements of the Slavs were located "in unusual topographic conditions: in low places, often now flooded during floods". [8]

Eastern Slavs, who found themselves as a result of migrations of the 4th-5th centuries. in the basins of lakes Chudskoye and Ilmen, formed the culture of Pskov long barrows. This culture was strongly influenced by the autochthonous Finno-Ugric and Baltic peoples, from whom it adopted a specific burial rite and some features of ceramics, but in general, the way of life of the Eastern Slavs changed little. By the 5th century on the site of the Kyiv culture and in other regions to the north, east, west and south of it, a number of related cultures arise, such as Korchak, Kolochin, etc. [9]

Among the East Slavs, fortified cities, apparently, first appeared among the Ilmen Slovenes in the 5th century (based on archaeological data in the town on Mayat river). The first settlements near the polans and severians arose in the region of Kyiv and Chernigov already by the 7th-8th centuries, [10] which indicates at least a partial rejection of the previous strategy of scattered and secretive living among the forests. This is also evidenced by the fact that in the VIII-IX centuries. in all other East Slavic lands there were no more than two dozen cities, while only on the Left Bank of the Dnieper there were about a hundred of them. The foundation of the main Slavic city of this region, Novgorod, is attributed by the letopis to 862. [11] In the same era, settlements appeared on the territories of other East Slavic tribes (see Old Russian cities). So, the northerners who lived on the territory of modern Voronezh, Belgorod and Kursk regions, along with settlements in the 9th-10th centuries. built fortified settlements, mainly at the confluence of large rivers (see Romensko-Borshchiv culture). [12] In the 10th century, a fortress appeared not far from the city of Smolensk that arose later (the Gnezdovsky archaeological complex).

Somewhat apart are the early East Slavic settlements, the creation of which is attributed to the tribal unions of Dulebs and Antes. Archaeologically, they are represented by the Prague-Korchak and Penkov cultures, respectively. A number of such settlements of the Prague-Korchak (Zimino, Lezhnitsa, Khotomel, Babka, Khilchitsy, Tusheml) and Penkovo (Selishte, Pastyrskoe) cultures existed in the 6th-7th centuries. on a vast territory from the borders of modern Poland and Romania to the Dnieper. The Prague-Korchak settlements were a site surrounded by a wooden wall with one building, which was part of the common wall of the settlement. They did not have agricultural tools, and the settlements, apparently, were built to collect and accommodate a military detachment. Penkovsky settlements could have up to two dozen buildings inside the walls and were large trade, craft and administrative centers for their time. The center of the territory controlled by the dulebs (Zimino, Lezhnitsa) was in the basin of the Western Bug; the geographical center of the Penkovo culture falls on the Dnieper region, but the main fortress of the Antes (Selishte) was located in the western part of this area, near the borders of Byzantine Empire (in modern Moldova), on which they made military campaigns. [9] The early Slavic settlements were destroyed by the Avars in the 7th century, after which they were not built until the 10th century. [13]

Post-Kievan period

The disintegration, or parcelling of the polity of Kievan Rus' in the 11th century resulted in considerable population shifts and a political, social, and economic regrouping. The resultant effect of these forces coalescing was the marked emergence of new peoples. [14] While these processes began long before the fall of Kiev, its fall expedited these gradual developments into a significant linguistic and ethnic differentiation among the Rus' people into Ukrainians, Belarusians, and Russians. [14] All of this was emphasized by the subsequent polities these groups migrated into: southwestern and western Rus', where the Ruthenian and later Ukrainian and Belarusian identities developed, was subject to Lithuanian and later Polish influence; [15] whereas the Russian ethnic identity developed in the Muscovite northeast and the Novgorodian north.[ citation needed ]

Modern East Slavs

Modern East Slavic peoples and ethnic/subethnic groups include:[ citation needed ]



According to Y chromosome, mDNA and autosomal marker CCR5de132, gene pool of the East and West Slavs (the Czechs, Slovaks, and Poles) is identical, which is consistent with the proximity of their languages, demonstrating significant differences from the neighboring Finno-Ugric, Turkic and North Caucasian peoples all the way from west to east; such genetic homogeneity is somewhat unusual for genetics given such a wide dispersal of Slavic populations, especially Russians. [16] [17] Together they form the basis of the "East European" gene cluster, which also includes Balts, some Balkan peoples [16] [18] and the non-Slavic Hungarians and Aromanians.[ failed verification ]

Only the Northern Russians among the East and West Slavs belong to a different, “Northern European” genetic cluster, along with the Balts, Germanic and Baltic Finnic peoples (Northern Russian populations are very similar to the Balts). [19] [20]

See also

Related Research Articles

The East Slavic languages constitute one of three regional subgroups of the Slavic languages, distinct from the West and South Slavic languages. East Slavic languages are currently spoken natively throughout Eastern Europe, and eastwards to Siberia and the Russian Far East. In part due to the large historical influence of the Russian Empire and the Soviet Union, the Russian language is also spoken as a lingua franca in many regions of Caucasus and Central Asia. Of the three Slavic branches, East Slavic is the most spoken, with the number of native speakers larger than the Western and Southern branches combined.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Slavs</span> European ethno-linguistic group

Slavs are the largest European ethnolinguistic group. They speak the various Slavic languages, belonging to the larger Balto-Slavic branch of the Indo-European languages. Slavs are geographically distributed throughout northern Eurasia, mainly inhabiting Central, Eastern and Southeastern Europe. A large Slavic minority is also scattered across the Baltic states and Central Asia, while a substantial Slavic diaspora is found throughout the Americas, as a result of immigration.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Belarusians</span> East Slavic ethnic group

Belarusians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Belarus. Over 9.5 million people proclaim Belarusian ethnicity worldwide. Nearly 8 million Belarusians reside in Belarus, with the United States and Russia being home to more than half a million Belarusians each.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ukrainian language</span> East Slavic language

Ukrainian is an East Slavic language of the Indo-European language family, spoken primarily in Ukraine. It is the native language of Ukrainians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ruthenia</span> Medieval exonym for Rus

Ruthenia is an exonym, originally used in Medieval Latin as one of several terms for Kievan Rus', the Kingdom of Galicia-Volhynia and, after their collapse, for East Slavic and Eastern Orthodox regions of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania and the Kingdom of Poland, corresponding to what is now Ukraine and Belarus.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Ukrainians</span> East Slavic ethnic group

Ukrainians are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Ukraine. The native language of the Ukrainians is Ukrainian. The majority of Ukrainians are Eastern Orthodox Christians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Severians</span>

The Severians, also Severyans, Siverians, or Siverianians were a tribe or tribal confederation of early East Slavs occupying areas to the east of the middle Dnieper River and southeast of the Danube River. They are mentioned by the Bavarian Geographer, Emperor Constantine VII (956–959), the Khazar ruler Joseph, and in the Primary Chronicle (1113).

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Old East Slavic</span> Slavic language used in the 10th–15th centuries

Old East Slavic was a language used during the 5th–16th centuries by the East Slavs from which the Belarusian, Russian, Rusyn, and Ukrainian languages later evolved.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Boykos</span> Ethnic group

The Boykos, or simply Highlanders, are an ethnolinguistic sub-group of Rusyns located in the Carpathian Mountains of Ukraine, Slovakia, Hungary, and Poland. Along with the neighboring Lemkos and Hutsuls, the Boykos speak a dialect of the Rusyn language. Within Ukraine, the Boykos and other Rusyns are seen as a sub-group of ethnic Ukrainians. Boykos differ from their neighbors in dialect, dress, folk architecture, and customs.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Rusyns</span> Ethnic group that speaks an Eastern Slavic language

Rusyns, also known as Carpatho-Rusyns, or Rusnaks, are an East Slavic ethnic group from the Eastern Carpathians in Central Europe. They speak Rusyn, an East Slavic language variety, treated variously as either a distinct language or a dialect of the Ukrainian language. As traditional adherents of Eastern Christianity, the majority of Rusyns are Eastern Catholics, though a minority of Rusyns still practice Eastern Orthodoxy. Rusyns primarily self-identify as a distinct Slavic people and they are recognized as such in Croatia, Hungary, Poland, Romania, Serbia, and Slovakia, where they have official minority status. Alternatively, some identify more closely with their country of residence, while others are a branch of the Ukrainian people.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Radimichs</span> Medieval East Slavic tribe

The Radimichs were an East Slavic tribe of the last several centuries of the 1st millennium, which inhabited upper east parts of the Dnieper down the Sozh and its tributaries. The name probably derives from the name of the forefather of the tribe - Radim. According to Russian chronicle tradition, "... but there were Radimichs from the Lechites family, who came and settled here and paid tribute to Rus, and the wagon was carried to the present day". However, in the scientific literature, there is no consensus on the ethnicity of the Radimichs. Archaeological evidence indicates that this tribal association had a mixed Slavic-Baltic origin.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Tivertsi</span>

The Tivertsi, were a tribe of early East Slavs which lived in the lands near the Dniester, and probably the lower Danube, that is in modern-day western Ukraine and Republic of Moldova and possibly in eastern Romania and southern Odesa oblast of Ukraine. The Tivertsi were one of the tribes that formed the Ukrainian ethnicity, namely the sub-ethnic and historic region of Podolia. The Tivertsis' cultural inheritors, the Podolians, are a distinct group of Ukrainians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Berezan Island</span> Island in Mykolaiv Raion, Mykolaiv Oblast, Ukraine

Berezan is an island in the Black Sea at the entrance of the Dnieper-Bug Estuary, Mykolaiv Raion, Mykolaiv Oblast, Ukraine. Located 8 kilometers from the city of Ochakiv and 4 kilometers from the resort village of Rybakivka. It is often being confused with the artificial island of Pervomaisky that is located within Dnieper-Bug Estuary. The Berezan island measures approximately 900 metres in length by 320 metres in width, the height of the northern part is 3-6 metres, the southern part is 21 metres. It is separated from the mainland by about a mile and a half of shallow water. Berezan is an integral part of the historical and archaeological reserve of the National Academy of Sciences of Ukraine "Olvia". The island is uninhabited. In the summer, archaeological expeditions of the IA NASU and the State Hermitage Museum work here. The archaeological site is regularly destroyed as a result of unauthorized excavations.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Dnieper Balts</span> Historical Baltic ethnicity that existed from millennia B.C. until the Early Middle Ages.

The Dnieper Balts were a subgroup of the Balts, that lived in the Dnieper river basin for millennia until the Late Middle Ages, when they were partly destroyed and partly assimilated by the Slavs by the 13th century. To the north and northeast of the Dnieper Balts were the Volga Finns, and to the southeast and south were the ancient Iranians, the Scythians.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">History of Ukrainian nationality</span> Aspect of history

The history of Ukrainian nationality can be traced back to the kingdom of Kievan Rus' of the 9th to 12th centuries. It was the predecessor state to what would eventually become the Eastern Slavic nations of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. During this time, Eastern Orthodoxy, a defining feature of Ukrainian nationalism, was incorporated into everyday life.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Kievan Rus'</span> State in Europe, 879 to 1240

Kievan Rus', also known as Kyivan Rus', was a state and later an amalgam of principalities in Eastern and Northern Europe from the late 9th to the mid-13th century. Encompassing a variety of polities and peoples, including East Slavic, Norse, and Finnic, it was ruled by the Rurik dynasty, founded by the Varangian prince Rurik. The modern nations of Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine all claim Kievan Rus' as their cultural ancestor, with Belarus and Russia deriving their names from it. At its greatest extent in the mid-11th century, Kievan Rus' stretched from the White Sea in the north to the Black Sea in the south and from the headwaters of the Vistula in the west to the Taman Peninsula in the east, uniting the East Slavic tribes.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">All-Russian nation</span> Imperial Russian ideology

The All-Russian nation or triune Russian nation, also called the pan-Russian nation, is the term for the Imperial Russian and later irredentist ideology that sees the Russian nation as comprising a "trinity" of sub-nations: Great Russia, Little Russia, and White Russia. Respectively, these sub-nations are contextually identified with Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians. Above all, the basis of the ideology's upholding of an inclusive Russian identity is centred around bringing all East Slavs under its fold.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Prague-Korchak culture</span> Eastern European archaeological culture

The Prague-Korchak culture was an archaeological culture attributed to the Early Slavs. The other contemporary main Early Slavic culture was the Prague-Penkovka culture situated further south, with which it makes up the "Prague-type pottery" group. The largest part of sites dates to the late 5th and early 6th century AD according to Late Roman iron fibulae. Settlements were as a rule placed at rivers, near water sources, and were typically unfortified, with 8–20 households with courtyards. Burial sites were both flat graves and barrows (kurgans), and cremation was dominant.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Anti-Normanism</span> Historical revisionist theory

Anti-Normanism is a movement of historical revisionism in opposition to the mainstream narrative of the Viking Age in Eastern Europe, and concerns the origin of Russia, Ukraine, Belarus and their historic predecessor, Kievan Rus'. At the centre of the disagreement is the Rus' people, a people generally considered to be of Scandinavian origin and who arrived in Eastern Europe in the 8th and 9th centuries, but who during the 10th and 11th centuries merged with Fenno-Ugrics, Balts and East Slavs, and together with that last group formed Kievan Rus' with Old East Slavic as a common language, and with the name Rus' as a common marker of identity.



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