Friday, June 17, 2011

Slavic Nations in Medieval Time

Europe's population during the Middle Ages consisted, in one way or another, largely of Slavs. They were the largest single ethnic group in Europe. At first, they were located primarily in eastern and southeastern Europe. The South Slavs comprised what are now the Serbs and Croats; the West Slavs were the ancestors of the Poles and Czechs; and East Slavs - who became Eastern Orthodox - were the forerunners of the Russians and Ukranians.

Early polish Swiatovit, a four sided statues depicting a Slavic supreme deity

This schism would help define the differences between eastern and Western Slavs. Eastern Slavs were controlled by the violent Byzantine Empire, while Western Slavs were influenced by more progressive elements. Some historians believe that the iron-tight control imposed on Eastern Slavic countries in the Middle Ages led inevitably to modern socialism.

Early Middle Ages

During the 5th and 6th centuries, the Slavs lived west of the Dnieper River near the Carpathian Mountains. Their primary industries were knitting and weaving, and farming using a plow to which humans were yoked. During this time, the Slavs considered their land to be communal - there are no records of surviving Slav legislation regarding individual land ownership. Only movable items had the legal status of personal property. Slavs had a distinct belief in protecting forests, but there is nothing to show that they cared about borders.As the Middle Ages progressed, monarchs began rewarding supporters with estates, and Slavic law belatedly recognized property rights/ Because all Slavs worked at the same profession and because there was no private ownership of land, there were no social strata - but neither was there any economic development.

Balkan countries in 10th century
Overrun by the Avars in the 6th and 7th centuries, the Slavs began migrating westward into Bohemia, Hungary, and the Balkans. While the Western Slavs eventually assimilated into the European culture, the Eastern Slavs, who would migrate north into southern Ukraine, remained independent. The Eastern Slavs withstood onslaughts by the Byzantine Empire and led successful assault on the Byzantines in alliance with proto-Bulgarians in 576 and again in 746, after which Constantinople signed a treaty recognizing Bulgaria as an independent state.
Serbian tzar Dusan, 1308 - 1355


The Slavs started assimilating into the european population by intermarrying with members of other cultures, including violent societies such as Huns and Vikings, whose warlike behavior they adopted. Slav households, previously matriarchal, gradually became patriarchal. The Slavs also developed stratified social classes, and their benign Slav folk and religious imagery grew more  bellicose.

Ukranian medieval peasant and nobleman


The introduction of religion, therefore, came as a pacifying influence. The Slavs began converting to Christianity during the 7th century, as missionaries entered Croatian lands. In the later 9th century, Cyril and Methodius, missionaries sent to Moravia by the Byzantine Empire, received papal authority to translate Scripture into Slavic languages (for which they invented the Cyrillic alphabet). Western and northwestern Slavs fell under the Roman church.

Brothers Cyril and Methodius brings Christianity to Slavs

By the end of the Middle Ages, many of the independent Slav states had either collapsed or merged with larger entities, such as Bohemia (into Germany). The Slavs had a major impact on medieval eastern European culture. No longer would eastern Europe rely on the landowner-slave economic relationship; instead, an early form of feudalism, with free peasants on communes, supplied most of the labor. Once in Europe, Slavs proved to be adept at both work and war.

Pagans slaughtering Christians (Bulgaria)

No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...