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THE Slavs, numbering at present about one hundred and fifty million souls, form with the Balts (the Letts, Lithuanians, Prussians) the Balto­Slavonic group of the Indo-European family. Their languages have much in common with German on the one hand and with Iranian on the other. The differentiation of Balto-Slavonic into Old Baltic and Old Slavonic, and then of Old Slavonic into the separate Slavonic languages was caused partly by the isolation of the various tribes from one another, and partly by mutual assimilation and the influence of related dialects and unrelated languages. Thus it is not a matter of genealogy only, but is partly due to historical and political developments.

Until lately the place where the Old Balto-Slavonic branched off from the other Indo-European languages and the place of origin of the Slavs were matters of dispute. But in 1908 the Polish botanist Rostafinski put forward from botanical geography evidence from which we can fix the original home of the Balto-Slavs (and consequently that of the Germans too, for the Balts could only have originated in immediate proximity to the Germans). The Balto-Slavs have no expressions for beech (fagus sylvatica), larch (larix europaea), and yew (taxus baccata), but they have a word for hornbeam (carpinus betulus). Therefore their original home must have been within the hornbeam zone but outside of the three other tree-zones, that is within the basin of the middle Dnieper. Hence Polesie — the marshland traversed by the Pripet, but not south or east of Kiev—must be the original home of the Slavs. The North Europeans (ancestors of the Celts, Germans, and Balto­Slavs) originally had names for beech and yew, and therefore lived north of the Carpathians and west of a line between Konigsberg and Odessa. The ancestors of the Balto-Slays crossed the beech and yew zone and made their way into Polesie; they then lost the word for beech, while they transferred the word for yew to the sallow (Slav. iva, salix caprea) and the black alder (Lithuan. yëva, rhamnus frangula), both of which have red wood. It is not likely that the tree-zones have greatly shifted since, say, B.C. 2000. For while the zones of the beech and yew extend fairly straight from the Baltic to the Black Sea, the boundary of the hornbeam forms an extended curve embracing Polesie. The reason for this curve is the temperate climate of Polesie which results from the enormous marshes and is favourable to the hornbeam, which cannot withstand great fluctuations of temperature. And this curve must have been there before the rise of the Old Balto-Slavonic language, otherwise the Balto-Slavs living without the limit of the beech and yew could not have possessed a word for the hornbeam. According to a tradition the Goths in their migration from the Vistula to the Pontus about the end of the second century A.D. came to a bottomless marshland, obviously on the upper Niemen and Pripet, where many of them perished. At that time the impassable morasses of Polesie had already existed for centuries, though their enormous depths may first have become marshland in historic times owing to the activity of the beaver—which raises dams of wood in order to maintain a uniform water level; and, as floating leaves and other remains of plants stuck in the dams, a gradually thickening layer of peat was formed from them and the land became continually more marshy. It follows that though the curve of the hornbeam boundary may have been a little smaller in prehistoric times than it is now, it cannot have been greater, and there can be no objection to the argument from the four tree-boundaries.

Original Home. Soil and Climate

Polesie— a district rather less than half as large as England— is a triangle, of which the towns Brest Litovsk, Miholev and Kiev are roughly speaking the apices. It was once a lake having the form of a shallow dish with raised sides, and before its recent drainage seventy-five per cent of it was nothing but marsh, covered to half its extent partly with pine groves and partly with a mixed forest, but otherwise treeless. The upper layer consists of peat extending to eighteen feet in depth, and here and there under the peat is a layer of iron ore about two inches thick. Enormous morasses traversed by a thick and intricate network of streams alternate with higher-lying sandy islets. The flow of water is impeded, because the subsoil is impervious, the gradient of the rivers is slight, and the bed of the lower Pripet is confined by high banks. The morasses are covered with reeds and rushes —less often with sweet flags on sandy ground—the surface of the streams with water-lilies and the like, which so hinder their flow that they constantly have to change their course. Between reeds and rushes there are places with reed-grass — and less often with soft grass — which the peasants mow standing up to the waist in water, or from a boat. Only the higher-lying places —small oases difficult to get at — can be cultivated.

The average temperature throughout the year is over 43° Fahr.; January mean 20° Fahr., July mean 65° Fahr. The average fall of moisture is 16-24 inches; depth of snow seven inches at the most; snow remains not quite three months (from the middle of December nearly to the middle of March), often only for two or three weeks. The Pripet is frozen from the middle of November to the middle of January; it is navigable for 220 to 300 days. Notwithstanding the soft mild climate, the land is unhealthy: the putrefying marsh develops miasmatic gases causing epidemic lung and throat diseases, and the loathsome elf-lock (plica polonica); and the swarms of gnats cause intermittent fever. But since draining, the weakly breed of men and beasts has visibly improved.

Anthropology. Ethnology. Society

This anomalous land has developed a singular people. The present population does not even now reach half a million (beginnings of the XXth Century); so that the entire Old Slav race in Polesie cannot have amounted to more than a few hundred thousand souls. The inhabitants of Polesie are White Russians, but those of the southern tract are black-haired mongoloid Little Russians who emigrated from the South to escape the advance of the Altaian mounted nomads. The White Russian is of middle stature, the recruit being on an average 5 ft. 4 ins. high. (Old skeletons measure 5 ft. 43 ins. to 5 ft. 5t ins., so that the marsh has had a degenerating effect. In healthier districts outside Polesie the Slavs become taller and stronger; in the sixth century, according to Procopius, they were "all of considerable height and remarkable strength".) Their skin is white, flaxen hair predominates (57 per cent.), their eyes are grey or sky-blue.

According to Procopius the South Slavs were reddish, but most of them are now dark and black- or brown-haired, and in large districts we find slavised black-haired Roumanians. Marco Polo calls the Russians la gente molto bella . . . e sono bianchi e biondi, and Ibrahim ibn Iaqub in the tenth century marks as exceptional the dark and black hair of the Bohemians. This fact is due to an admixture of alien dark races.

The broadest rivers, the greatest seas, the highest mountains, the most terrible deserts can be overcome; the treacherous marsh alone is invincible. Here the inhabitants of two places can see each other and yet be as distant as Europe is from America. Before the drainage many places in Polesie could be reached only by enormous detours, and others were accessible only over the ice in the depth of winter. Thus the Slavs in their original home were divided into small groups which had very little intercourse during the greater part of the year. But in a low grade of civilization the stranger is an enemy, and they had no kind of political, territorial, or social cohesion. Still later, when they came into contact with the East Romans, they were — according to Procopius —“not ruled by one man but lived from the earliest times in democracy, and so they deliberated in common on all their affairs good and bad”. “Mauricius” attests that they were “kingless and hostile to one another”, and never cared to form large bands; in this sense we must understand the further assertion that they were “free and by no means easily moved to let themselves be enslaved or dominated” by their like. The more easily were they enslaved by a foreign yoke: “they yield to the first comer” reports Pseudo-Caesarius. The only organic wholes were found by small groups of villages — in Polesie sometimes by single villages —under patriarchal government. There could be no thought of social distinctions, as differences of rank did not exist.

Probably the Slavs, like the Germans, had no collective name before they spread from Polesie: for, failing the notion of a State, they had likewise no notion of a people. The name Slavs is correctly Slovene (sing. Slovenin) and is probably a nomen topicum— meaning roughly “inhabitants of Slovy” — belonging originally only to one populous tribe. The East Romans came into contract at first with a part of this tribe and thus named all other Slav tribes north of the Danube Sklawenoi, Sthlawoi; nevertheless, for a time they distinguished from them the Antai of South Russia who spoke the same language with them.

As with all Indo-Europeans, the Slav family was originally patriarchal; there is no trace of a matriarchate. The marriage bond was first loosened later among the individual Slav peoples under the yoke of the nomads. The wife bought or carried off by force was at first the property of the husband. This was usual from the earliest times, and is still presupposed in certain old ceremonial customs (e.g. mock-abduction by previous arrangement). The rich might live in polygamy, but the mass of the people were monogamic. The isolation of the little villages in Polesie made the marriage bond all the closer. The conjugal fidelity of the Slavs was universally marvelled at, and according to Mauritius, St Boniface, and others, their wives were so extraordinarily honourable that many thought it unseemly to outlive their husbands, and voluntarily put an end to their lives.

Village-Community. Agriculture. Cattle-breeding 

Until recently it was generally believed that the ancient Slavs lived in house-communities (Zadrugas), that is, that after the father's death the sons did not divide the inheritance, but continued to live together under the direction of a house-elder. The modern Servo-Croatian Zadrugas were taken for survivals of Old Slavonic custom; and this seemed more likely, because the White Russians in Polesie — where the original home of the Slavs has just been discovered—also live in Zadrugas, and moreover traces of this mode of life remain not only among the other Slav peoples, but even among the German and many other peoples. But the Servian Zadruga turned out to be a consequence of the originally East-Roman system of taxation — the hearth-tax — in accordance with which each separate hearth formed the unit of taxation. To be sure the Old Servian laws directed the married son to detach himself from his father, but under the dominion of the Turk he remained — often only outwardly — in the undivided household in order to pay only one hearth-tax as before. But the hearth-tax occurs also among the Altaian conquerors; and it was also not unknown to some Teutonic peoples. As a matter of fact there exists no free people where society is based on the communistic household. A priori indeed other causes of its origin are also conceivable: e.g. seigniorial prohibition of division, and especially insufficiency of land and over-population after the peasant-holdings have become by successive divisions too small for further subdivision. And of all places this might best be assumed of Polesie — a country so poor in cultivable land. But in the sixth century Procopius states: “They live scattered far apart in wretched huts and very frequently change the place of their dwellings”. Communistic households do not exist under such conditions.

The house-community, Zadruga, must be distinguished from the Russian village-community (Mir or Obshtchina) which has also been long regarded as of ancient Slavonic origin. It disposes of the whole of the land and soil of the village, periodically taking possession of all the peasant-holdings and allotting them afresh. But it has been recently found that these village-communities too came into existence very late, in consequence of the capitation-tax introduced by Peter the Great in 1719. For the payment of this tax the villein-village was collectively liable, and, as soon as the number of able-bodied men materially altered through births and deaths, all the land of the village was to be redistributed in equal parts among the existing inhabitants. These periodical redistributions were not legally established before 1781. They were rightly estimated by Fustel de Coulanges: “Far from being collective ownership, the Mir is collective serfdom”.

In agriculture and diet the ancient Slavs entirely differed from the Germans. The latter lived chiefly on milk and meat and were cattle­rearers, leaving the agriculture to be done by women, old men, and serfs. But Polesie is entirely unsuited to cattle: milk cows cannot live on reeds and rushes, and grass grows only in oases and gives poor nourishment. Even now, when the marshes have been drained, the peasant’s cow is a miserable animal, giving very little milk and chiefly retained for draught purposes. Still more wretched was his horse, and there are hardly any sheep. The pig thrives better, but it does not live in clover, for there is but little sweet calamus and other roots, the nut-giving beech does not grow at all, and the acorn-bearing oak only here and there. According to the Arabian geographer of the ninth century, the Slavs who were subject to a kumiz-drinking and therefore mounted­nomad king had only a few pack-horses—only eminent men had riding-horses, and they occupied themselves with swine-rearing as other peoples with sheep. It is therefore evident that the horses belonged not to the Slavs but to their Altaian masters, and that the Slavs in Russia then had no domestic animals except swine. The same is reported by Constantine Porphyrogenitus a hundred years later. "The Ros (Scandinavian rulers of the Russian Slavs) strive to live at peace with the Patzinaks (mounted nomads of the Pontus steppe) for they buy from them cattle, horses, and sheep ... as none of these animals are found in Russia" (i.e. in the Russian Slav land). Hence milk as a common article of diet was unknown to the ancient Slavs, so that they had no words of their own for cattle, heavy plough, milk, curd and such-like, but had to borrow from German and Altaian sources.

Polesie is rather more favourable to agriculture; though only the dry islets are cultivable. Even now, after the drainage, very little grain is produced. In the enormous sea of forest and marsh the little fields escaped the notice of observers, so that the Arabian geographer could say that the Slavs mostly lived among trees, having no vines and no cornfields. The scantiness of cultivable land forced the Slavs to a very intensive tillage of the soil with the hand-hoe or by yoking themselves to their excellently constructed hook-ploughs. Of course there was no wealth of grain in Polesie itself, but the manna-grass (glyceria fluitans), which is sweeter and still more nutritious than millet, grows there wild in abundance in standing water and wet meadows. It was still exported in the nineteenth century, and it probably served the ancient Slavs as food. For clothing and oil, flax and hemp were cultivated.

Polesie was rich in big game—aurochs, elk, wild boar, bear, wolf—and in fur-coated animals—beaver, otter, fox, sable, marten, ermine, squirrel, etc. But imperfect weapons and the difficulty of the country made hunting not very productive, so that there was little game as food. On the other hand, there was all the more fishing, and the natural abundance was increased by damming the flowing water with weirs. Bee-keeping played an important part among all Slav peoples from the earliest times. The intoxicating Med, fermented from honey, was to the Slavs what wine and beer are to other peoples.

The isolating marsh hinders intercourse; the White Russian is above all a husbandman and fisherman. Void of all enterprise, he leaves others to trade with the fruits of his labour and they drain him to the last farthing. Drunkenness is his only hateful quality; otherwise he has very attractive traits. He is thrifty almost to avarice, cautious in the management of his affairs, and shows an endurance that harmonizes little with his slender physique. He is in no way aggressive but rather dreamy, confiding, not at all malicious, good tempered, not without dignity, very hospitable, and a lover of amusement. The dance, song, and music are his natural element. On summer evenings the village youths assemble in the streets and often promenade the whole night long singing in chorus their melancholy lyric songs. The White Russian has remained true to the ancient Slav character. According to Procopius, the Slavs were not malignant or villainous, but harmless and naive; Mauricius says: “They are hardened to heat, frost, wet, nakedness, and hunger, and are well-disposed to strangers”. According to Adam of Bremen (died 1075) there was no more hospitable and kindly people than the Slavs of Pomerania. The variety of musical instruments among the Slavs struck the Arabian geographer of the ninth century, and all Slav peoples are still very musical.

National Strength and Weapons. Heathenism

The bottomless marshes of the Pripet were no sufficient protection from sudden raids and attacks; in winter the nomads could penetrate over the ice on their fleet horses far into the land, and in summer the pirates could use the rivers up to their sources. Defence was hopeless. This made the Old Slavs exceptionally unwarlike, and shy as the beast of the forest. In summer, when suddenly attacked, they had to disappear like frogs into the water or into the woods; in winter they had to take refuge behind the shelter of their numerous stockades. According to Procopius they fought without armour but with little shields and darts, some even without coat and cloak and with only an apron about their loins. But not even this wretched equipment was really Slavonic; it must have been borrowed from some German people, probably the warlike Heruli who fought in the same way.

Polesie is a land of exuberant fancy. A remarkable autumnal stillness is peculiar to its sea of marsh, a stillness not disturbed even by the humming of a gnat and only broken now and then by the gentle rustling of the rushes. To the fisherman as he glides at night in his punt over the smooth silver water it is as impressive as its contrast, the surging of the sea of reeds and the roaring of the forest in the storm-wind. This produced in the inhabitant an uncontrolled imagination which made him people the world of nature with spirits. Today he still personifies sun, moon, fire, wood, marsh, will-o-the-wisp, spring, and all else that is perceivable. But joy and sorrow, every illness, Sunday, every holiday, are also spirits. His house, stable, barn, threshing-floor have their own goblins, each with wife and children. To this must be added ancestor-worship. On certain days the father says at the evening meal: “Holy ancestors, we invite you to come to us and eat of all that God has given to us, in which this house is rich —Holy ancestors, I pray you come, fly to us”. Kneeling with bread and salt in his hands he prays to the spirit of the house and its wife and children, beseeching its favour and deliverance from all evil. The Polesian has only obscure ideas of a future life, but he has most definite knowledge of the wicked dead and their appearance as werewolves and vampires. So superstitious is he that he harbours in his mind a copious code of secret expedients for scaring away all evil spirits, and at every step he is careful not to provoke a spirit. Still he cannot know everything; this is possible only for particular wizards of both sexes who have intercourse with the spirits of evil and whose help is sought in need and richly rewarded.

Cosmogony. Burial 

The world is the work of God, the creator of all good and useful beings and things, and of the devil who made the mountains, marshes, beasts of prey, poisonous plants, illnesses, etc. God breathed into man a good spirit, the devil an evil one. The Polesian is very much in the dark about the godhead itself: “God knows how many gods there are”. The Christian saints are to him smaller, special gods; thus St Elias is god of thunder, George of cattle and game, Nicolas of fields, Cosmas and Damian of smiths. They stroll about in the world amusing themselves by playing all sorts of pranks on mankind. Noteworthy is the cult of fire, namely of the hearth-fire, which must never be allowed to go out and is transferred to any newly-occupied house. The White Russian heathenism (with a very thin varnish of Christianity) goes back to the earliest Slavs, and clear traces of it are still found among all the Slav peoples. It is identical with the Shamanism of the Altaians, with this difference — that what constituted the belief of large masses in Polesie was among the mounted nomads a Shaman mystery of which the mass of the people took no notice, observing only the hocus-pocus of the wizards. The attention of observers was mostly attracted by the fire-worship, and thus the Arabian geographer of the ninth century calls both the Slavs and the Altaian-Magyars fire-worshippers. According to Procopius the Slavs believed in one single chief god, denied Fate, and worshipped rivers, nymphs, and other demons. No traces of mythology have survived; the later-mentioned gods and their worship belong to the individual Slav peoples.

Many Slav peoples burned the bodies of the dead, others—among them the Polesians—buried them. But the burning of bodies must be attributed to the influence of foreign conquerors, namely the Germans. As a matter of fact the Norman Ros likewise burned the bodies of the dead together with their self-destroyed widows, and the widows of the Heruli also hanged themselves on their husbands’ burial-mounds.

Polesie is still the most backward district of backward Russia. As a consequence and at the same time as a cause of the slender needs of the people we see no division of labour. The Slav had to make for himself his few utensils; and in these, judging by the buried remains which are very poor in metal articles, he displayed remarkable taste in form and ornament. He could only supply the external market with raw products — costly furs, wax, and honey—but it is not likely that he brought them to the market, for he himself was offered wholesale as a captured slave.

Place in History. Early Expansion

In our first volume it was shown how the salt-desert zone of the Asiatic Background developed the wild mounted nomad. Here we have a second example of the great natural law that a people is and remains what its land of origin has made it. Just as the mounted nomad is the son and product of the arid salt-deserts, the Slav is the son and product of the marsh. The Slav and the mounted nomad, like the lands of their origin, are diametrical extremes, and the murderous irony of fate made them neighbours. The one was a soft anvil, the other a hammer hard as steel. A second not less weighty hammer (the Germans) came into play, and the anvil was beaten flat.

Dry and tolerably fertile forest land contains so much cultivable soil that it cannot easily be over-peopled: so here men form societies, and States arise. But primitive man cannot wrest a foot of land from the marsh; on the contrary, he extends it by making dams, transforming small streams into great fish-ponds. Thus, as the cultivable oases become smaller, the population huddles closer together. Dry forest land makes its inhabitants stronger, but the marsh has a degenerating influence. Forest land, however, is not inexhaustible; when what has been reaped from it is not made up for by dunging, or by allowing it to lie fallow—in short, when the soil is merely worked out —it can no longer support the growing population, and compels migration or expansion at the cost of the neighbourhood. But the unwarlike inhabitants of the marshland can conquer nothing, and can only spread gradually where they meet with no resistance. This is upon the whole the difference between the expansion of the Germans and that of the Slavs. The Germanic migration was eruptive as a volcano, the Slavonic a gradual percolation, like that of a flood rolling slowly forward. Some Germanic people or other leave their home: in the search for a new home they rouse their neighbours, and they in turn rouse theirs, and so it goes on until a hemisphere is thrown into commotion, strong States fall to pieces, mighty peoples perish, and even the Roman Empire quakes. And the Slavs? They have occupied and thickly populated immeasurable regions unnoticed by the annalists, and even now we ask in vain how this could have taken place so noiselessly, and whence have come the countless millions of Slavs.

The occupation by the Slavs of the district surrounding Polesie is prehistoric. They moved northward after the Baltic peoples had abandoned their original home in the hornbeam zone and retired towards the Baltic Sea; eastward over the Oka and to the sources of the Oskol; southward to Kiev — further southwards they could not maintain themselves permanently, as fifteen centuries ago the grass steppe reached as far as Kiev and consequently served the mounted nomads as a camping ground up to that point. Towards the south-west the Slavs reached the Carpathians, and in the west they spread across the Vistula. In the time of the Romans the Vistula was regarded as the eastern frontier of the Germans.

This expanded Slavia has indeed the most manifold varieties of climate and soil, yet it forms a contrast to its little nucleus Polesie, the cradle of the Slavs. The latter scattered the inhabitants and isolated them in small villages, whereas the water-network of all the rest of Russia connects even the most distant peoples. It would indeed be easier to go from Lake Ladoga to the Black Sea than from many a Polesian village to the next.

The Waterways. The Pontus Steppe 

The whole of Russia forms an enormous plain, so that there is nothing to hinder the icy north winds. The Sea of Azov and the northern part of the Caspian are ice-locked; the winter is terribly cold in the south, and the south winds bring burning hot summer days to the distant north. Thus the climate is everywhere the same and thoroughly continental in its extreme severity. In the northern region of the expanded Slav territory the Valdai hills are the watershed of the Baltic, Black, and Caspian Seas. The river basins of the Lovat, Volga, Don, Dnieper, Dwina are however so entangled and, in consequence of the slight gradients, their streams are navigable so far upstream, that it is only necessary to drag a boat on land over the low narrow watersheds in order to reach the Black Sea or the Caspian from the Baltic by the Ladoga Sea. Similarly, from the Memel-Niemen basin the Dnieper can be reached, from the Dnieper the Volga or the Don, from the Don the Volga, or the Volga from the Dwina. A thousand years ago Russia was even better watered, but since this time many rivers mentioned by the chroniclers as formerly navigable have been dried up by reckless disforesting. This network of rivers, as if created for primitive commerce, is the most magnificent on the face of the earth, and in spite of its inhospitable climate it would certainly have nurtured the highest civilization, had not its southern entrances been situated in the grass steppe by the Black and Caspian Seas, the domain of the mounted nomads, the arch-enemies and stiflers of all growing civilization.

Fifteen hundred years ago the Pontus steppe was still grass steppe as far as the northern limit of the black earth (on the Dnieper as far as Kiev), not till later was it divided by the advance of the forest into a northern tree steppe, and a southern grass steppe zone. The Don divides the Pontus steppe transversely: as a rule one people dwelt west of the Don to the mouth of the Danube, and another east of the Don to the Caucasus. Towards the Caspian Sea the steppe becomes very salt, and in further curving round the Caspian it passes into the Central Asiatic steppe and desert zone, the ancient domain of the mounted nomads. So often as these were stirred by internal commotion, the hordes that were from Neolithic times onward driven out sought refuge and a new home in the Pontus steppe. As early as the Iliad "mare-milking" mounted nomads were known there. At the time of Herodotus the Scythians had dwelt for centuries west of the Don, and the Sarmatae east of it, enjoying a long interval of peace, during which the Asiatic background remained in equilibrium and no new horde broke into the Pontus steppe. The wildness of the Scythians gradually decreased and numerous Greek colonies covered the coasts of the Pontus and the Maeotis (the Sea of Azov), becoming flourishing emporia, especially for an enormous export of grain to Greece. This probably caused the Scythians to transplant wholesale agricultural peoples under their subjection. Herodotus includes various peoples, nomads, and husbandmen, evidently not of the same origin, under the name Scythian; the latter sowed grain “not for food, but for sale”, and there can be no doubt that among them were Slav nations also.

Into this motley of peoples the Hellenic colonies brought the most promising seeds of culture, and seemed likely to send out a stream of civilization to the west of Europe, as well as one to the north­east. But the Asiatic nomads were on the move, and the still wild Sarmatae were pushed on from the east, crossed the Don, drove out and in part subjugated the Scythians, and had conquered even the western part of the Pontus steppe before the end of the second century B.C. Amid these storms the Hellenic colonies, and with them the seeds of civilization, perished. During the second or third century A.D. the Sarmatian hordes were driven out by the German Goths and Heruli. The Gothic dominion lasted over two centuries, and is the only non-nomadic episode in the history of the steppe. The Goths were the most magnificent German people, and their influence on the Slavs must have been enormous. But about 375 the Goths were forced to make way for the Huns; and the steppe remained in nomad hands for fourteen centuries continuously. In succession came Huns, Bulgars, Avars, Chazars, Magyars, Patzinaks, Cumans, Mongols. Like the buran, the furious tempest of the steppe, each of these hordes drove its predecessor in wild flight into the civilized lands of Europe, extirpated the Slavonic peasantry which had settled in the grass steppe, and passed over the tree steppe plundering and murdering so that the Slavs were forced to leave this zone too and to withdraw into the marshes of Polesie. Regular commerce was impossible, for on the banks of the rivers, especially in the dangerous rapids of the Dnieper over which the boats had to be carried on land, the nomad lurked in the tall grass and killed the crews and took their wares. Nevertheless, as the Southerner and the Oriental eagerly sought the raw products of the north—wax, honey, and especially strong slaves and pretty female slaves as well as costly furs—reckless Scandinavian pirate merchants found a rich market for these wares, which they had to take to the Euphrates and elsewhere by the roundabout way of the Dwina to the Volga and the Caspian or by Ladoga and the Volkhov, while the Dnieper route stood open only at times and was always extremely dangerous. The greatness of this plunder-commerce is shown by the finding of Oriental coins in Russia—11,077 pieces in one place—Scandinavia, Iceland, Greenland, and wherever else the Northmen went. Quite 100,000 coins have been secured, and many more have been kept secret and melted, or lie still in the bosom of the ground, so that Jacob's estimate — a million —is certainly much too low.


The oldest written history of the Slays can be shortly summarized —myriads of slave-hunts and the enthralment of entire peoples. The Slav was the most prized of human goods. With increased strength outside his marshy land of origin, hardened to the utmost against all privation, industrious, content with little, good-humoured, and cheerful, he filled the slave markets of Europe, Asia, and Africa. It must be remembered that for every Slavonic slave who reached his destination, at least ten succumbed to inhuman treatment during transport and to the heat of the climate. Indeed, Ibrahim (tenth century), himself in all probability a slave-dealer, says: “And the Slavs cannot travel to Lombardy on account of the heat which is fatal to them”. Hence their high price.

The Arabian geographer of the ninth century tells us how the Magyars in the Pontus steppe dominated all the Slavs dwelling near them. The Magyars made raids upon the Slavs and took their prisoners along the coast to Kerkh where the Byzantines came to meet them and gave Greek brocades and such wares in exchange for the prisoners. The Slavs had a method of fortification, and their chief resort was the fortresses in winter and the forest in summer. The Ros (Vikings, Norse pirates) lived on an island (probably the old commercial town Ladoga between the Ladoga and Ilmen lakes). They had many towns, and were estimated at 100,000 souls. They made war on the Slavs by ship and took them as prisoners to Khazaran and Bulgar (the emporia of the Chazars and Bulgars on the Volga). The Ros had no villages, their sole occupation was trading with sable and other skins. A hundred to two hundred of them at a time would come into Slavland and take by force the objects that suited them. Many of the Slavs came to them and became their servants for the sake of safety.

We see then the Slav surrounded on the north by pirates, on the south by mounted nomads, and hunted and harried like the beast of the forest. Jordanes’ words: “Instead of in towns they live in marshes and forests”, cover the most terrible national martyrdom in the history of the world. The “fortifications” — simple ramparts— mentioned by the Arabian geographer were not impregnable; indeed, the strongest fortifications of Europe and Asia were stormed by the nomads and Northmen. Mauricius states: “Settled in places very hard of access, forests, rivers, lakes, they provide their dwellings with several exits with a view to accidents, and they bury everything that is not absolutely necessary ... When they are suddenly attacked they dive under the water, and lying on their backs on the bottom they breathe through a long reed, and thus escape destruction, for the inexperienced take these projecting reeds for natural; but the experienced recognize them by their cut and pierce the body through with them or pull them out, so that the diver must come to the surface if he will not be stifled”. As late as 1768 parts of the revolting peasants surrounded by the Polish army rescued themselves from the Dnieper by breathing through reeds for more than half a day.

This terrible existence must have further shattered and dissolved Slavdom, already weakened in Polesie. Even partially regular tillage was impossible in districts exposed to constant attacks. Cornfields would have betrayed them, so that they could only be placed far out of reach. Breeding of horses, oxen, or sheep, as well as milk food could not be thought of, for cattle were the most coveted booty of the nomads, and what they did not take would have been carried off by the pirates. Even in their original home the Slavs were limited to grain and fish, and they remained so in their wider home.

Even by the ninth century this encircling of the Slavs by the pirates was very old. The Germanic inhabitants of the Baltic districts made a practice of piracy from the earliest times, and very early land-peoples also appear as masters of the Slavs. As we have already seen, they had been enslaved in pre-Christian times by the Keltic Venedi. The Venedi in course of time became fused with Slavs into one Slavic people, thenceforth called Wends by the Germans. The first known of their Germanic conquerors were the Bastarnae who, coming from the lower Oder, were in the third century B.C. already in occupation of the Slav lands north of the Carpathians as far as the mouth of the Danube. According to Polybius and Dio Cassius they were a numerous, daring, bibulous people of powerful stature and terrifying appearance who knew neither agriculture nor navigation, and disdained cattle-rearing because they cared only for warlike pursuits. On their expeditions their wives and children followed the army in wagons, and their horsemen fought with foot-soldiers among them. They fell into various clans and divisions under little kings (reguli), one of whom stood at the head as leader of the war-band. But a numerous people without agriculture and cattle-rearing cannot live only on plunder and cannot live alone in a land; it needs another more numerous people of serfs, among whom it settles as a dominating class. But north of the Carpathians such a people could only be the Slavs. Thus arose the oldest known Slavo-Germanic State. The second Germanic people from whose influence the Slavs could not escape was the ferocious Heruli situated by the Black Sea east of the Goths and the Don, for the same weapons and the same burial customs are found among them as among the Slavs. The third people were the Goths.

According to the oldest Gothic tradition (given by Jordanes) King Ermanarich (died 373) overcame the Slavs (Veneti) “who, notwithstanding that they were despised as warriors, nevertheless being strong in numbers, attempted at first a stout resistance.” His great-nephew Vinithar attacked the South-Russian Slavs, the Antae, and after one reverse overcame first them and then the Huns, who had come to their help, in two battles, but fell in the third. It is certainly strange that a tribe of the Slavs, who were despised as warriors not only by the Germans but also by the Byzantines, could defeat even in one battle a German leader before whom the Huns themselves recoiled. Still, it is a fact that the Antae were successful warriors, and later in the sixth century possessed the whole region from the Dniester to the Don, which was formerly held by the Goths. It is astonishing that the Byzantine sources of the sixth century distinguish the Antae from all the remaining Slavs, but at the same time emphasize the fact that they spoke the same language. And the name Antai is not Slavonic. The military superiority of the Antae is, as Kunik has shown, to be traced back to a non-Slavonic conquering folk, the Antae, who overcame certain Slav stocks and ruled them long and powerfully as a superior warlike class. This folk then became Slavised, and, as was the case with many such despotisms both German and nomadic, it too fell apart into small States, which however still negotiated common concerns in general meetings, and proceeded as one body in external affairs. We hear the same of the Bastarnae. In the tenth and eleventh centuries we find in the former abodes of the Antae of the Pontus steppe the Slavonic Tiwertzi and Ulichi whose names are equally non-Slavonic. How could they have maintained themselves against the nomads here where they were daily exposed to the inroads of all the Asiatic hordes, if they were pure Slavs without a Germanic or Altaian warrior-stratum?

Still less could the Slavs resist the pressure of foreign conquerors after the Scandinavian Vikings had renewed their attacks. Leaving their families behind them, these appeared at first in small bands of one to two hundred men as well-organized followers of a sea-king, and always returned home after selling their plunder. At important points on their route they established trading stations, and in the course of time these became fortified settlements surrounded by a subjected Finnish, Baltic, or Slavonic population. Hence a regulated government was developed, no longer exclusively resting on plunder. From the word vaeringjar came the name of a people Varangians. The Varangians gradually extended their sway over the whole of Russia — over Kiev about the year 855 — covered it with originally independent towns (gardar), and finally formed these little States into a single empire of the Ros (Russians). In brief, trading Scandinavian sea-robbers got possession of the Russian network of waterways, over­came the Finns and Slavs, and the Scandinavian dynasty of the house of Rurik (= Old Norse : Hroerekr) created the powerful Russian State.

As in the North Germano-Slavic, so in the South Nomado-Slavic States were formed. A nomadic milk-feeding horde dominated a Slavic vegetarian peasant class. A similar state of affairs lasted till yesterday in Ferghana, the former Khanate of Khokand, where the vegetarian Tadjiks languished from the earliest times in the basest nomadic servitude. The same thing can be also traced back far into ancient times in East Europe on the western border of the steppe zone. So we find it as early as Ephorus (fourth century B.C.).

A horde of Sarmatae, the Iazygians, migrated into Central Hungary where (c. A.D. 337) the serfs of the Sarmatae, the Sarmatae Limigantes, revolted against their lords, the Sarmatae Arcaragantes or Sarmatae Liberi, and repulsed them. Here we have a similar double stratum to that which Ephorus mentions, and because the Tabula Peutingeriana (about the third century A.D.) mentions the Venedi Sarmatae and the Lupiones Sarmatae next to the pure nomadic wagon-inhabiting Sarmatae Hamaxobii, Sarmatae Vagi, many assume that these serfs of the Sarmatae, the Limigantes, were Slavs. The oldest explicit information concerning a Nomado-Slavic State on the lower Danube is to be found in Pseudo-Caesarius of Nazianzus of the sixth — probably even the fourth — century A.D., viz. that of the galactophagous Phisonitae or Danubians (Phison according to Marquart is equivalent to Danubius) and the vegetarian Slavs .

The best account we have is of the similar Avaro-Slavic State. The dominating Avar nomad class was absorbed as a nation and language by the subjugated Slavs, but even after the destruction of the Avar Empire it survived socially with Slav names, as is shown by the remarkable passage in the Arabian geographer of the ninth century: “The seat of their prince lies in the middle of the Slav land ... This prince possesses mares, whose milk ... is his only food”. As mare-milkers he and the dominating class were mounted nomads and, as the date proves, of Avar origin. This information alone destroys our former conceptions of the character of the Slav States north of the middle Danube and the Carpathians, and compels us to assume that nomadic States extended far into the territory of the Balts and even as far as the Baltic. The sea­farer Wulfstan at the end of the ninth century says of the Eastland (Prussia, east of the mouth of the Vistula): “Their king and the richest men drink mares' milk but the poor and the slaves drink mead”.

Naturally the activity of the nomads was not uniform over this immense region; it was greater at their base, the steppe, among the South Russian Slavs, of whom in 952 the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus says that they reared no horses, oxen, or sheep — and consequently must have been vegetarians — although at that time they had already been for a century under the powerful sway of Scandinavian Ros.

Thus we see how Slavdom was influenced on all sides by plundering peoples. All so-called Slav States of which we have sufficient information turn out to be either Germanic or Altaian foundations. And unless we do violence to all German, Byzantine, and Oriental evidence of the political and military incapacity of the Slavs, we must not represent the remaining Slav States as of Slav origin merely because there is no express statement of their Germanic or Altaian origin. The strongest proof of this is the remarkable fact that all titles of rank in Slavic (except voyevoda, duke) are partly from Germanic, partly from Altaian sources.

Between Germanic and Altaic oppressors the Slavs were crushed for centuries; and yet they became the most numerous people of Europe because of the enormous size of their territory and because their tyrants were neither numerous nor united. The robbers could not follow the individual Slavs into the forest thickets and the marshes, so that from them the wastes left by massacre were peopled anew. Besides this, the impetuosity of the two robber-peoples periodically languished. We know this of the Vikings from their activity in Europe. England, France, Spain, Italy suffered terribly from them, but for long intervals they were quiet, and after a single defeat the enemy often did not return for a long time. Their might was also broken from time to time in their own land, and then the afflicted peoples enjoyed a healing respite. This was less the case with Russia, where a few dozen robbers won decisive victories and where the Northmen only had no serious opponents but their like. It was the same with the mounted nomad. His first appearance was terrible beyond description; but his fury exhausted itself on the numerous battle-fields, and when his ranks were thinned he had to call out his Slav serfs to fight on his behalf. Thus he led masses of Slavs into the steppe where they revived and increased until once again a new and vigorous wild horde forced its way in from Asia and repeated the destruction.

German and Altaian Slavery

The primitive German was as savage in war as the mounted nomad, but far superior in character and capacity for civilization. The German with one leap into civilization so to speak from a plunderer becomes a founder of brilliant and well-ordered States, bringing to high perfection the intellectual goods which he has borrowed. On the other hand the lightest breath of civilization absolutely ruins the mounted nomad. This enormous contrast showed itself also in the kind of slavery. The mounted nomad treated the subjugated peoples like the beasts of the forest which are hunted and harried for amusement and mere delight in killing. Himself void of all capacity for civilization, he stifles all germs of civilization found among his subjects, outraging their sense of justice by his lawlessness and licence, and the race itself by the violation of their women. The German on the other hand treated his serf as a useful domestic animal which is destroyed only in anger and never wantonly. He enjoyed a certain autonomy, remaining unmolested after the performance of definite duties. Even the Scandinavian pirates, according to the Arabian geographer, handled their serfs "well" (from an Oriental point of view). It is then no wonder that the Slavs, incapable of resisting the terrible plundering raids and powerless to give themselves political organisation, preferred to submit voluntarily to the dominion of the pirates.

Concerning this the oldest Russian chronicler Pseudo-Nestor states (under the year 859): “[The Slavs] drove the Varangians over the sea, and ... began to govern themselves, and there was no justice among them, and clan rose against clan, and there was internal strife between them ... And they said to each other: Let us seek for a prince who can reign over us and judge what is right. And they went over the sea to the Varangians, to Ros, for so were these Varangians called ... [They] said to Ros: Our land is large and rich, but there is no order in it; come ye and rule and reign over us. And three brothers were with their whole clan, and they took with them all the Ros, and they came at first to the Sloviens and built the town of Ladoga, and the eldest Rurik settled in Ladoga ... And the Russian land got its name from these Varangians”.

The misery of the Slavs was the salvation of the West. The energy of the Altaians was exhausted in Eastern Europe, and Germany and France behind the Slavic breakwater were able freely to develop their civilization. Had they possessed such steppes as Hungary or South Russia, there is no reason to suppose that they would have fared any better than the Slavs.

The compact Slav settlement of the countries east of the Elbe and south of the Danube took place between the sixth and seventh centuries. In their occupation of the German mother-countries between the Elbe and the Vistula two phases are to be distinguished—one pre-Avar and the other with the force of the Avars behind it. In the first the Slavs reached and perhaps crossed the Riesengebirge, and perhaps already got as far as the middle and lower Oder. In the records of the Germans no trace of it is found, because from the beginning of the fifth, and indeed for the greater part from the end of the third century A.D., the country westward to the Oder and southward to the Riesengebirge was abandoned by its old German inhabitants. The oldest evidence of this is the name Silesia, from the mountain Slez (Zobtenberg) and the river Sleza (little Lohe). Slez (originally Silengu) leads letter for letter to Siling, Sleza to Silingia, consequently to the German Silinga, who according to Ptolemy lived just here. The Slavs must have found Silingians still there and have taken this name from them either before or soon after 406, when they crossed the Rhine and made their way with the Vandals and Sueves to Spain. It must be admitted that the Slavs found everywhere scattered remnants of the Germans, because they merely adapted the German names Oder, Elbe (Albi), Moldau (Walth ahva), etc. to their own mouths (Odra, Labe, Vltava). For certain times and in certain districts there was a mixed population, and it is to be particularly noticed that even in the sixth century the Germans, who had long withdrawn to the South, did not admit that the East as far as the Vistula had definitely passed to the Slavs. It had not been conquered from them — only occupied by loose bands of settlers.

From the third to the fifth century the hurricanes of war stirred up by the Goths and the Huns between the Carpathians, the Pontus, and the Danube raged over and around the Slavs. We hear not a word of their share in the fight. Not before the seventh decade of the sixth century did the advance of the Avars to the Elbe disclose the great change which had silently come to pass.

Expansion of the Avars

The Avars, like the Huns, must have needed an enormous number of dependent Slavs. The territory by the Pontus left vacant by the withdrawal of the Goths, Heruli, etc. was occupied by Slavs, naturally as serfs to the Huns. The subjugation of the Germans was disastrous to the Huns; they threw off the yoke after Attila's death, and the Hunnish Empire perished, Hungary became German, and the Huns withdrew into the Pontus steppe. This steppe was directly afterwards in the hands of Bulgar hordes who controlled numerous Slav tribes. Here between the Dniester and Dnieper in the first half of the sixth century lived the Antae, “the bravest of the Slavs”, who constantly joined in the Bulgar plundering raids in the East Roman Empire. In 558 Justinian was successful in instigating against them both the Avars who had suddenly emerged from the Asiatic background. The Avars demanded territory of Justinian but refused the offer of Lower Pannonia — which they would have had to wrest from the fierce Heruli and Lombards — and remained in the Dobrudja, contenting themselves with a yearly tribute for their defeat of the Bulgars and Antae. But when Justinian’s successor discontinued the tribute, the Dobrudja was no longer of any value to them. They then turned towards the north-west and suddenly appeared in the Eastern territories of the Frankish kingdom on the Elbe. They could not make their way thither through Hungary as it was occupied by the powerful Gepidae, and thus they had to go through North-Carpathian Slavland and through Bohemia. They must therefore first have subdued these lands. Their base of operations against the Franks in Thuringia is to be sought in Bohemia, where they found excellent summer-pastures in the mountain ring and good winter-quarters in the plains for their herds. It would be misunderstanding the entire nature of the mounted nomads, and of the Avars in particular, to regard these wars with Sigebert the king of the Franks as mere plundering expeditions. In the latter the nomads never confronted the enemy, but went round his positions with marvellous speed, and then charged behind his back. They confronted him or sought him out only when they had to defend their own land. In the first campaign they were defeated, but they won the second, and the consequence was that the North Sueves evacuated the oldest German land between the Elbe and the Oder. Nevertheless, Baian, the Avar Khagan, made peace with Sigebert, as he was attracted elsewhere: the Lombard king Alboin in Pannonia was preparing to wrest Italy from the East Romans, and in order to protect his rear he united himself with Baian against the Gepidae in Hungary and Transylvania. The kingdom of the Gepidae was destroyed, the Lombards made their way to Italy, and in 658 the Avars were complete masters of Hungary with its steppe on the Danube and Theiss so excellent for nomads. 

The evacuation of Old Germany by the North Sueves, the destruction of the kingdom of the Gepidae, and the withdrawal of the Lombards to Italy — three co-related events — mark an epoch in the history of the world, for the entire East was abandoned by the Germans to the Avars and their followers the Slays. Once more the map of Europe was suddenly changed, and from the steppes of Hungary the Avars became the terror of all their neighbours. But they did not give up the territories won from the Germans between the Oder and the Elbe, Saale, Main, Regnitz, Nab, for — as we shall see — a horde of the Avars wintered yearly on the Main and Regnitz till about the year 603, and the Khagan resettled the waste German land as far as the Baltic with Slavs brought there from the first, North-Carpathian, Avar kingdom.

The existence of this first Avar-Slavonic kingdom is proved by the account which the Arabian geographer of the second quarter of the ninth century (before the conquest of Hungary by the Magyars) gives of the mare-milking and therefore Altaic Great King, whose realm lay in the territory of the Slavonic Dulyebs or Volynyans south-west of Polesie, the very people who according to Pseudo-Nestor had been formerly kept in servitude by the Avars. Bordering on the steppes as they did, they were from the earliest times a prey to the inhabitants of the steppes. Before the Avars various nomadic and Germanic peoples were their masters; and these peoples left behind warlike elements which were sharply distinguished—even after becoming Slavised — from the subjected Slav mass. The king was called in Slavic knez (from kunegu), Germanic kuninga. Further among the Sorb-Serbs the class of the vicazi-vitezi "knights" (from vitegil), that is, German vikings; and the numerous Polish nobility has the German title szlachta.

Out of this Germano-Altaio-Slavonic mixture of the Dulyebi­Volynyane and other Slavonic peoples north of the Carpathians, Baian created for himself an almost inexhaustible reservoir of men whom he formed into barriers against the Germans on his western frontiers. He transplanted a part of the Dulyebi-Volynyane to Pannonia (where later was the Comitatus Dudleipa), another to South Bohemia (the later countries of Doudleby and Volyn), a third to the distant north (the island of Wollin) at the mouth of the Oder. Similarly he tore apart the North-Carpathian Croats of the upper Vistula and placed them partly in the Elbe and Saale, where several villages bear their name, partly in Carantania (pagus Crauuti), partly to Pannonia and Dalmatia, where later independent Croatian States arose; the North-Carpathian Serbs (Serbi) partly on the Saale and the Elbe (later the mighty Sorbs), partly where today they are independent in Servia and Montenegro. The Slav nations of today are therefore not original but a gradual crystallization since the sixth century into linguistic units out of the peoples transplanted by the Avars — a process already completed by the tenth century.

Limits of the Avar power

Baian’s purpose was probably that of settling the most warlike branches, viz. those dominated by Germans, in the strategically most important places. Thus we see why, for example, the Sorb-Serbs who were controlled by vikings were split up.

The limits of the Avar power are marked by the abode of the Obodritzi in Mecklenburg, the Volynyans at the mouth of the Oder, the Dregovichi in Polesie and in Macedonia, the Milengi in Morea, the Severyans east of the Dnieper and in Moesia, the Serbs and Croats on the Adriatic and on the Saale. Thus the Avar power at one time or another extended from the Baltic to the southern extremity of Greece, from East Tyrol to the river Donetz in Russia, doubtless with very unequal intensity and unequal duration. Only one will, that of the Khagan, could carry through so vast a change—the transplanting of one and the same people partly to the Baltic, partly to the Adriatic, Ionic, and Aegean Seas.

The Khagan could not leave his Slavs without supervision, and therefore he had to maintain among them a standing Avar garrison with wives and children. But the Avars were a nomad people who only camped among the Slavonic peasantry in winter — more than half the year—and during the summer grazed the higher positions and heaths, of course leaving behind a guard over the Slavs, while their army went to battle and plunder.

The Slavised Avar nomads long survived the Avar Empire in many Slav lands, and even in the twelfth century we are told by Herbord of the Baltic Slavs of the Island of Rügen (Slay. Ruiana): “The men’s occupation is either hunting or fishing or cattle rearing. For therein consists their entire wealth as husbandry is only scanty there”. Here the nomads had to do without mountain summer-pastures.

Concerning the relation of the Avars to the Slavs, Fredegar states that from the earliest times the Wends [here in particular are meant the Slavs of the upper Main and its tributary the Regnitz north and east of Nuremberg] were used by the Huns [Avars] as befulci, that is, when the Huns took the field against any people the Wends had to fight in front. If they won the Huns advanced to make booty; but if they were defeated they rallied with the support of the Huns. Without these befulci the Avars, who were speedy on their marvellously trained horses but helpless and defenceless on foot, could have done little against trained infantry. They therefore had to call out countless, because wretchedly armed, masses of Slav foot-soldiers who, with certain death at the hands of their goaders behind them, charged forward in despair. On the other hand the Avar cavalry formed an incomparable mail-armed force with sword, bow, and pickaxe, and even the horses of the leaders were protected by armour. However the Avars were not in themselves numerous enough to supply the necessary reserves for their enormous empire, and with the expansion of their dominion the need for new masses of cavalry grew. This need was supplied by constant reinforcements from other Altaian hordes out of the steppe. Among them the most numerous were the Bulgars. The Khagan ‘s victorious flag, and the prospect of booty, worked irresistibly upon the plundering sons of the steppe.

By the transplantation of Slav peoples to the western borders of his robber-State the Khagan meant to keep in check his neighbours, the Saxons on the lower Elbe, the Franks on the Saale, the Bavarians on the Nab and upper Danube, the Lombards in Italy, while he himself, with his rear protected, was free for plundering raids on the East Roman Empire, in which he employed enormous masses of Slavs as befulci. He had no intention of conquering even a part of the Roman Empire and settling it with Slavs, for this was not to his interest; he had land in abundance and he needed the Slavs for his own colonizing purposes. He therefore left them the East Roman to pay tribute, and his plundering supplied him further. Nevertheless his procedure was uneconomical. The greater number of the East Romans were partly exterminated and partly carried into slavery. The vacuum thus created was permanently occupied by the Slavs who finally spread almost over the entire Balkan peninsula and even reached Asia Minor. Very exhaustive information about these Avaro-Slavic plundering raids is given in the sources, but it is not definitely known when the Slavs permanently settled there; certainly the greater part not before 602.

In this previously Roman territory the dominating Avar and Bulgar nomad class merged with the Slavonic peasantry into a national organism, and powerful military States of Slav speech arose; but the real holders of power were not the Slavs but the Slavised Altaians, and it is a delusion to think that the Slavs themselves, the Croats, Serbs, (new-) Bulgars, Macedo­Slavs became fit for war in the Avaro-Bulgar school. They remained a peasant folk living—partly to this day—alongside of a nomad shepherd class. The domination of the nomads appears most clearly among the Bulgarian Slavs who today are named after their nomadic masters the Altaian Bulgars. After the destruction of the Avar kingdom by Charles the Great, the Bulgarian kingdom extended from the Balkans to the Moravian Carpathians. The Serbs and Croats also founded mighty States. In the Middle Ages the Slavs of Dalmatia were dreaded pirates, and even the tiny Slav peoples of Macedonia and Greece kept the Romans occupied with many wars. But even at the beginning of the seventh century the commercial town of Saloniki obtained grain from the Thessalian Slavs. Led by the Avars, the Slavs pressed into the Peloponnesus, and the report was long believed that the Avars “occupied the Peloponnesus for 218 years so that no Roman durst enter it”. According to Constantine Porphyrogenitus the Croats of the tenth century could put 60,000 horsemen and 100,000 foot into the field. But as the Slavs were a foot people, such a very strong cavalry must refer to the Avar and Bulgar ruling class, which at that time stood out clearly from the Slav peasantry in Dalmatia; and to this day the name of the Khagan Baian denotes to the Croat the highest state official, the Ban, Banus, just as the name of Charles the Great — Karl —denotes to all Slavs Kral, the king. The Old Servian State also had a strong body of cavalry, in connection with which it must be noted that numerous nomadic Roumanians with horses and sheep, but without agriculture and ox-rearing, were, and still are, to be found in Servia and the other Balkan countries.

The Balkan Peninsula. The Roumanians

The Roumanians, Slavonic Vlasi, Vlakhs, are Romanised Altaians, probably Avars and Bulgars, for a still older nomad people could not have survived the wild Bulgar-Avaro-Slavonic storms which raged for a century over the Balkan peninsula. Like all mounted nomads the Bulgars and Avars were intent on cattle robbery (baranta), and so the indigenous wandering herdsmen specially suffered, for herds of sheep are not quick-footed enough to be hidden in time from mounted robbers. With the loss of his herds the wandering herdsman inevitably perishes as he cannot acquire new herds, and the acquisition of single animals would be of no use to him. The vegetarian peasant can better secure himself since he does not depend on cattle but on the soil, which the robber cannot destroy, and seed-grain is more easy to obtain than a herd of cattle.

The nomadic Vlakhs lived along with the peasant peoples of the Balkan peninsula and gradually adopted their language and became denationalized for a second time. They further attained to their highest prosperity as wandering herdsmen in Turkish times, after the fall of the Slav States effaced the customs barriers with a tithe on the import and export of sheep and horses; the herdsmen could thus graze summer and winter wherever was convenient for them. We know most about the Old Servian State, where the Vlakhs constituted an important element and a rich source of income for the sovereign and the other landlords. By them the larger mountain pastures were made the most of and indeed devastated and disforested by the reckless grazing-off of the new growth, by the searing of the grass to freshen the pasturage, and by the peeling of young beech-trees as a substitute for honey to sweeten milk foods. They provided the State with excellent horses, of small stature but hardy, and good cavalry for the army. They managed also the commerce, for it had to be a caravan trade with pack-horses, because most of the mountains ranges run parallel with the sea and were then impassable for wagons. The Vlakhs themselves traded in wool, skins, and the famous Vlakhish cheese which had to have a definite weight for Ragusa, and even served as a substitute for money. In return they chiefly brought sea-salt. By this trading the Vlakhs acquired knowledge of the world, and became far superior in experience and shrewdness to the boorish Slav peasant. They grazed the mountain pastures to the height of 5000 ft., from the end of April to the middle of September, and then slowly made their way, often taking two months, to winter on the coasts on account of the mild snowless climate and the salt which splendidly nourishes the sheep. They lived chiefly on milk and cheese. Their chief enemy was the ice when it locked up the grass in early spring. Thousands of sheep then starved and the richest man might become a beggar in a few days. As they had no fixed settlements, they could not easily be enslaved by the landlords, and after payment of the grazing-tax they enjoyed freedom of movement without restraint. They themselves were a heavy burden for the peasantry, especially through their destruction of the cornfields. Thus peasants and herdsmen were in opposition, there was no intermarriage between them, and the State had to regulate the wandering people and to protect the peasants with draconic laws. The Emperor Dushan’s law-book of 1349 states: “Where a Vlakh or an Albanian camps in a village district, there another who comes after him shall not camp; if he camps there by force, he shall pay the fighting-fine (100 hyperpyres, that is fifty gold ducats) besides the value of what he has grazed off”. Even the Ragusans in Dalmatia, although they were entirely dependent for their trade with the interior on the Vlakh caravans, complained bitterly of the mischief they did when they wintered in Ragusan territories, and finally forbade them to winter there.

All the more must the Avar nomads have oppressed the subjugated Slav peasantry, for here the Avar was master, and the peasant was without rights and protection. The Avar tribes as wandering herdsmen amongst the West Slavs could not graze their herds in connected winter-quarters as in the steppes, because the snow lies deeper and longer in central Europe. Neither had they there, as in Dalmatia, mild coasts rich in salt and free from snow — the best imaginable winter-pasture — and so they had to break up and live scattered in the Slav villages where the peasantry had to store up grain and hay for them during the summer and convert even the villages into suitable cattle-pens. This is pointed to by the very small Slavonic round villages with one single exit, which are common in Bohemia and as far as the Baltic, and which still preserve the character of closable cattle-pens.

Compared with the Slavs, the Avar oppressors were very few in number, and could not therefore always master them. Now and then these became restive, and refused obedience. The Khagan, occupied in many distant places, did not always find leisure to chastise them, and thus many Slav tribes gained their liberty.

There were, however, differences among the Avars themselves, who were only held together by the iron hand of the Khagan. They were but a mixed multitude. Where there was a prospect of rich booty they followed him joyfully, but where no treasure allured them — e.g. in 602 against the poor but warlike Antae — they simply refused obedience and deserted to the Romans. According to Mauricius such desertion was a common event, and it helps to explain why the Khagan did not repeat his victorious marches against the Frankish kingdom till the year 596. Avar hordes were indeed very loosely held together, and some fell away and established small States on the old basis of Slav servitude. The dissolution began as early as 603 in consequence of the successful revolution of a part of the north-west Slavs and the formation of a Slav union under Samo. By this the Avar hordes distributed among the Elbe Slavs between Bohemia and the Baltic were permanently cut off from the main horde in Hungary.

Dissolution of the Avar Empire. The Zupans 

After the dissolution of the great Avar State the Avars and the Bulgars themselves remained as a noble class, which finally became Slavised and nationally absorbed in the subjected peasantry. In Dalmatia as late as the tenth century the Avars were still sharply distinguished from the Croats. The mare-milking grand-prince north of the Carpathians in the ninth century may indeed already have become Slav, but by origin he must have been Avar. Strange was the fate of a Bulgar horde which later than 641 fled to Dagobert. The Bavarians massacred them and only seven hundred escaped with their families under Alciocus into the Marca Winidorum (Carantania), where they lived many years with the Slav prince Walluc. This Alciocus must be identical with the Alzeco who with his entire army—evidently stragglers from Hungary—came peaceably to Italy and received from the Lombard king Grimoald (662-672) extensive waste territory in the Abruzzi mountains north-east of Naples. Although these Bulgars learnt vulgar Latin, at the time of Paulus Diaconus they still retained their mother tongue intact. This is natural, for only when they wintered in Apulia did they find it necessary to use the vulgar Latin of the peasants, while in the summer-pastures on the mountains they were by themselves. It is therefore quite conceivable that their descendants did not forget their original language till much later.

The organisation of the South and West Slavs in the centuries that followed is also Avar and Bulgarian. A number of titles of rank of the Altaians, Bulgars, Avars, Chazars, and other West and East Turks (in Chinese Turkestan), Utigurs and Mongols, have survived, and many of these were borrowed early from Iranians and particularly Persians. Many of these titles, some peculiar to the Altaians, some borrowed by them from Iranians, are to be found among the Slavs. At the head of an Altaian empire was the Khagan (East Turks, Avars, Chazars, etc.) or Khan (Bulgars, Cumans, etc.), and as successors of the Chazar Khagans as conquerors of the Russian Slavs, the first princes of the Scandinavian Varangians-Rus bore the title Kogan (in Arabian sources khagan Ros). The Turkish title boyla (Magnate) is found in Bulgar-Slavic and Russian (bolyarin). The common Slav word for "Sir," gospodar, came from Altaic, where it is a Persian loan-word—Middle Persian gospanddar, "owner of sheep" — the Altaian masters of the Slavs were indeed shepherds; hence the change in the significance of the word. Of the remaining titles which have come from Altaian into Slav the most important are zupan (pronounced zhoopan) and pan (the latter coming from gupanu). Both are to be found in the forms zupan and Kopanos in inscriptions on monuments which the Bulgar khan Omurtag (814-831) had erected to his deceased high officials who bore these titles. Both are obviously Persian loan-words in Altaian, although the original Persian words cannot be restored. The second (kopan) occurs among the Patzinaks also, but Zupan was common to several Altaian peoples in various pronunciations. An important historic criterion is offered by the fact that certain titles of rank are pronounced yabgu, yugur (Avar), yopan (Avar) in Eastern Turkish, but in western dialects jabgu (Bulg.). Among the Slavs whom the Avar khagan Baian had settled on the west front of his Empire, we find on the Elbe and Saale, and then in the Alps and on the Adriatic, Zupans; but in the centre on the Danube in the district of Linz, a iopan (pronounced yopan) Physso is mentioned in the year 777. This means that Baian placed the right wing of his west front against the Saxons and Franks, and the left wing against the Lombards, under Bulgarian Zupans, but the centre against the Bavarians, under Avar yopans. How important it was for Baian to settle his western front against the Germans with warlike elements can be seen from the appearance of a second warrior class, that of the Germanic vikings, among the Sorbs on the Saale (vicazi), and among the Serbo-Croatians in Illyria (vitezi). But it is also possible that before the invasion of the Avars this Slav folk dominated by vikings had been subjected by a Bulgarian horde, who set themselves over them as zupans, somewhere in their home in Transcarpathia, and were then dismembered by Baian, and transplanted together with his siztpans and vikings to distant regions.

Before the time of Bulgars and Avars there were still no zupans among the Slavs with whom the Byzantines came into contact, but Germanic rikses, and not till the year 952 is there a statement by Constantine Porphyrogenitus: “These peoples, Croats, Serbs, have no princes but zupans as a kind of elders just as the other Slav lands have”. In 965 Ibrahim ibn Iaqub says exactly the same of the Awbaba [of Wollin] dwelling on the Baltic at the other end of the Slav world, though he does not actually use the word zupan. Among the Alpine Slavs (Slovenes) neighbouring on the Croats in South Styria we also meet with a very numerous zupan class in the fifteenth century under which the common peasantry were placed. Among the Servians the “zoupanoi gerontes” mentioned by Constantine were the princes of the individual clans, and one of them made himself grand-Zupan (archon, archezoupanos, megas zoupanos, magnus comes) of the whole people. Similarly, the independent princes of the Elbe Slavs (not yet subjugated by the Germans) were named by the chroniclers duces, principes, seniores, promiscuously; Ibrahim calls them the elders. After the German subjugation the seniors=eldesten=supani of the Elbe Slavs, namely the Sorbs in the modern kingdom of Saxony, were still the highest class of the Slav population, having their possessions in fief, being under feudal law, dispensing justice, and only pledged to serve their lord in war on horseback; thus they came nearer to the German nobility than to the other Slav peasantry. In Mecklenburg, the land of the Obodritzi, the feudal village magistrates — the former zupans — were expressly reckoned among the vassals of the country. It cannot therefore be doubted that the Zupans of the Elbe Slavs also were principes, domini, landlords before their subjugation.

With zupan is connected zupa (Slav. zupa, Lat. suppa), that is the district under a Zupan, which among the Serbs was a principality, but among the Slovenes of Lower Styria at the time of the German dominion Zupa denoted only a village district. Here the zupans finally dwindled to village-chiefs, and then the word signified their office, officium suppae or the Zupan estate. The great Servian tribal zupa and the little Slovenish village Zupa formed in a certain sense an economic whole, in that all dwellers in the zupa-district possessed right of pasture; consequently the Zupa was here an undivided grazing-district throughout which the agricultural rotation proceeded as long as there were no permanent fields, and as long as the cornfields opened by clearing or the burning of a piece of forest and again abandoned after their exhaustion became derelict and once more forest-land. In consequence of this general right of use by the inhabitants the word Zupa in Servia became personified, and signified also the whole of the inhabitants entitled to the right of pasture — and formally of clearing too — the compastores, conterranei, so to speak. So long as the Avars were lords in the land, and so long as they remained wandering herdsmen, the requirements of their pasturing and their tyranny were decisive; the enslaved Slav peasantry could place their fields only where it suited their masters, and there could be no idea of a peasant right of clearing. In the Balkan peninsula the nomad shepherds wintered with their herds on sunny snowless sea shores, and for this reason in Dalmatia the word zupa denotes a sunny land where snow does not fall or where it melts rapidly. Some such districts—standing winter-quarters of the nomads — finally retained the word as their name. Among the Carinthian, Bohemian, and Polish Slavs we find no such Zupans and no such Zupas, for here peasant dynasties arose through peasant revolutions and the zupans had to give way. But the name itself remained, or was borrowed anew from neighbouring Slavs, and Zupan in Bohemia signified a high state official, and Zupa on the one hand is beneficium, and on the other the office connected with it. The members of the highest Bohemian and Polish nobility had the title pan (originally giipan). This word has no connection with Zupan, but arose from a title kopan attested by a Bulgarian inscription as before mentioned.

The Avars and Bulgars naturally tolerated no other dominos among the directly dominated Slavs, they were themselves the Zupans, and as Zupans remained as domini after the break-up of the Avar Empire, and indeed among the Sorbs and Alpine Slavs, and here and then were very numerous, so that they are to be considered as the Avar and Bulgar dominating class Slavised by the lapse of time, and no longer nationally different from the subject people.

Social History of the Slovenes

From the conglomeration of Slavs planted by the Avars in the Eastern Alps was formed the people of the Slovenes (Carantani). They extended from the Adriatic Sea to the Danube, and from East Tyrol deep into Hungary. As they had the Avar main horde at hand on the Danube and the Theiss, they were most deeply enslaved. After the destruction of the Avar kingdom by Charles the Great their social organisation appears greatly changed. In Lower Styria south of Cilli as late as the fifteenth century they were under an uncommonly numerous hereditary Zupan class, and even in the smallest hamlet there were one, two, three, or four zupans. On the other hand, south of this in some districts of Carniola and north of the Drave in Lower Styria (in the dominium of Arnfels) there was no such zupan class at all. There (in Carniola) the village-presidents (also called zupans) were chosen, but only village-magistrates— likewise called zupans—appointed for a fixed period of time, by the village peasantry, here (in the Arnfels dominium) they were nominated for a certain time by the landlord. In what is now Eastern Carinthia too there was no zupan class; the land was ruled by a peasant duke.               

In the various doomsday books (Urbar) we find all the villages belonging to the landlord concerned with a definite statement of the number of the peasant estates, and the enrolled zupans with all the dues and services. These villages originated at various times, some before and some after the German occupation, and we can determine many which were Old Slavic. Those which were first established by the Germans, even when they were colonized with Slav peasants, are for the most part large and often very regularly and artistically laid out in German fashion, and their dues too are purely German. They cover most of the broad valleys and river plains. The carefully planned villages of the plains are therefore new. In another area of the large districts their origin is uncertain; their nucleus may be old, but they were remodeled, and enlarged by the attachment of new clearings. Yet other districts are so markedly non-German that they must be pre-German. These are not really villages, but tiny hamlets. Large villages were unknown to the early Slavs, and the districts of the Elbe Slays are thickly set with little villages; the Serbs likewise, for the most part, live in hamlets and isolated farms; the Bohemian and Polish large villages are later foundations after the German fashion, and the large Russian villages were only formed from small villages in modern times.

The Zupans in Lower Styria 

At the head of almost every village in Lower Styria and Carniola whether large or small, old or new, there is a zupan, and even the mayor of Laibach (Slav. Lyublyana), the capital of Carniola, bears this title. Thus, since the German occupation, the expression zupan covers various meanings among the Slovenes to which the magistrate’s office is common, but with different rights and duties. In a Slovene village first established by the Germans — usually large — the Zupan is nothing more than an ordinary magistrate, judex, magister villae, living in a farm exempt from taxes, as a rule two hides (praedia, mansi, hubae). But in tiny little hamlets of the Tüffer domain, the Zupan—who here too has everywhere two hides (praedia) — cannot be a judex, magister villae, as he pays tribute, and in certain hamlets he is the only inhabitant, and therefore has no one to preside over. Indeed, in the neighbouring domain, Rann-Lichtenwald, in 1309 there were also villages with two, and in 1448 with even three and four zupans; two magistrates in a village belonging to one and the same landlord would be absurd. Here the zupans considerably increased during the 139 years, and, where there was formerly one, three or four occupied the paternal inheritance either undivided or in divided estates. As they all bore the title, but only one of them could be magistrate of the village, Zupan here signified the member of an hereditary class and not the holder of an office. The zupans paid far more tribute than the peasants on estates of equal size, the higher taxation consisting in swine, subsidiarily swine-pence — this proves that they had greater rights of pasture than the peasants.

The old Slovene Zupan is a village-magistrate only where there are peasants under him. What was he originally? What he was among the Elbe Slavs (senior) and the Serbs (princeps, dominus), viz. landlord, as descendant of the Avaro-Bulgar herdsman class. Under the German dominion he lost his former seigniorial character; the Germans seized a considerable part of the territory, especially what was uncultivated, including the wasted plains and valleys, and left what remained to those whom they found there — up to that time nomad zupans and their Slav peasants — reckoning two hides (praedia) for a Zupan and one for a peasant. In consequence the zupans were so huddled together that they were forced to give up the wandering herdsman life, and as they could no longer keep large herds, they had to adapt themselves to husbandry, contenting themselves with a smaller flock of sheep, and finding compensation in swine-breeding. Their former monopoly in cattle-breeding was also abolished, as under the Germans the peasants also were allowed to engage in cattle-breeding though not to the same extent as the zupans. This is shown by the taxation. The peasants still remained subordinated to the zupans, but they were newly distributed among them, with the land, so that a precisely defined number of peasants was allotted to a definite group of Zupans. Thereupon each group of zupans shared the peasantry allotted to them according to a definite principle—evidently evidently hereditary. This follows from the fact that the percentage of Zupans and peasant hides is repeated in several districts remote from one another, although the individual zupans appear so very unequally provided with peasants, some indeed having none at all.

Thus we can see how the German domination forced the former wandering herdsman to become a settled cattle-breeder and little by little a grower of grain, and how the cattle-breeding of these Zupans was preponderant up to late times. Their social position was in earlier times by no means slight: in a list of witnesses (1322) a Zupan was not cited among the peasant witnesses but mentioned before the burghers of Laibach — thus he was at least equal to them in rank. In the thirteenth century in the manorial estates of Tüffer and Lichtenwald one of the village zupans acted as Schepho — chief official of a larger administrative district — and this also points to the higher position of a Zupan.

The Carinthian Peasant-State

As has been already mentioned, in many districts of Carniola and Styria there was no zupan class at all and no permanent zupans, but one of the peasants was made village-magistrate — equally called zupan — from time to time and enjoyed in return a certain remission of dues. But this has nothing to do with the hereditary zupan of Tüffer and Lichtenwald, where there were settled zupans paying large taxes, even four in one and the same village belonging to one and the same landlord.

It will have been seen that a change took place in the signification of the word Zupan, and at the same time a change in the position of the peasant population in general, a change different according to place and time, and further developed and differentiated by the unequal pressure of their lords, by continual colonization under new conditions, and by the decay and resettlement of entire villages. The unpretending peasant who was entrusted for a time with the office of village-magistrate had as little in common with the old Slovene Zupan as the Frankish horse-boy (marescallus) with a great French or German marshal.

While thus the former Avaro-Bulgar herdsman nobility, even if divested of overlordship and turned into a peasantry, maintained itself under the German domination in the sixteenth century in a position distinct from the remaining peasantry and in certain districts of Lower Styria as a numerous hereditary class, it disappeared in the neighbouring province of Carinthia long before the German occupation through revolts of the enslaved peasantry. As we have already seen, these latter had heavy burdens to bear in providing their tormentors with supplies of food and fodder, and giving themselves up to be massacred as befulci in countless wars, while the Avar harnessed their wives and daughters like beasts to his wagon, violated them systematically, destroying their family life and indeed reducing their whole existence to the level of brutes. Thus, destitute of all social ties the peasantry revolted; though many risings were stifled in blood before one was successful. And now after ages of servitude a part of the great Slav world was cheered by the sun of a golden freedom, not this time to fade into anarchy. From the midst of the victorious peasantry a prince was chosen to be a just judge and to guarantee the husbandry of the people, and especially the cattle-breeding till then forbidden to them. And that things should ever remain so, a wonderfully ingenious ritual was devised for the installation of each new prince — always a peasant. And as there was as yet no fixed hereditary succession, and a certain time always elapsed before a new prince was installed, the interregnum was provided for by recognition of the eldest member of a certain peasant family as eo ipso vicegerent. So tenaciously did the people cling to this ritual that even the splendid German dukes of Carinthia had to humble themselves to assume the ducal throne as peasants. In the year 1086 the ritual — markedly modernized and relaxed — was of the following nature :

For the installation of the duke the oldest member of a certain peasant family, the so-called duke-peasant, had to sit on the “prince’s stone” which lies in the Zollfeld near Klagenfurt. The new duke, in a coarse peasant’s dress with a staff in his hand and leading a bull and a mare, is conducted by four nobles before the carelessly seated peasant, who has to question those nobles in the Slovene tongue and to find out who the man is, whether he is a just judge, mindful of the country’s well-being, of free standing and full of zeal for the Christian faith. This they must swear to. Thereupon the peasant says: “By what right shall he remove me from this my seat?” They answer: “With 60 pfennigs, these two brindled beasts, and the peasant dress which he is wearing; he will also make thy house tax-free”. Thereupon the peasant gives the duke a light cuff on the cheek, bids him be a good judge, vacates the seat for him, and takes the beasts. The duke takes his seat upon the stone and swings his drawn sword in all directions. He also takes a drink of fresh water.

The successful revolt of these Slovenes from the Avars took place, as we shall see presently, about 603. The first prince of the Carinthians whose name is known was Walluc (after 641), dux in Marca Vinedorum, independent of the Avars as well as of the Bavarians and Lombards. About the year 745 the Avars attempted to subjugate the Carinthians afresh, and their duke, Borut, sought help from the Bavarians. These indeed drove off the Avars but made the Carinthians dependent on the Frankish king, under native princes, of whom the last mentioned is Woinimir in 796; and Arnulf (emperor 896), if not the first, was one of the first German princes who as duke of Carinthia submitted (in 880) to the peasant ceremony.

The peasant revolt was not limited to Carinthia, rather it embraced a great part of the Avar Slavdom from the Alps to the Erzgebirge and the Vistula, for the Bohemian dynasty of the Premyslids and the Polish dynasty of the Paists were of peasant origin. The Premyslids were always conscious of this, and Lutold (died 1112), vassal prince of Znaim (Slay. Znoyem), had the chapel which he built there decorated with frescoes which still remain, among them the scene of the election of his ancestor with the hazel-stick, the bast-bag, and bast-shoes. Pulkava, court-chronicler to the Emperor Charles IV, king of Bohemia (1346-1378), states that Premysl's bast-shoes and bast-bag were "to this day" carefully preserved. “And on the day of the coronation of the Bohemian king, the canons and prelates in procession receive the king that is to be and show him the bast-shoes and lay the bast-bag on his shoulders so that he may be mindful that he sprang from poverty and may not be presumptuous”. This is a poor survival of a more ample ritual which, unlike the Carinthian, had lost all its original significance, for it did not originate in Prague but was transferred there after the union of the State of the Lemusi with that of the Chekhs of Central Bohemia. And it was disagreeable to the later Premyslids. King Wenzel I (1230-1253), who was German in feeling, was ashamed of his origin, causing his peasant kinsmen to be driven from Staditzi and giving the village to the Germans. But he does not seem to have touched the bast relics; the kinsmen appear to have recovered their heritage, for in the year 1359 the Emperor Charles IV, as king of Bohemia, declared to the sons of Radosta, co-heirs of Staditzi, that they and their forefathers had always been free heirs of their tax-free estates; but as these had not long since been illegally given away and burdened with taxation by his father, the blind King John (who fell at Crecy, 1346), Charles IV now restores their rights, but retains as crown-land the field which Premysl had once tilled single-handed (it is to this day called the king’s field) and charges the petitioners with the care of Premysl’s hazel stock, all the nuts from which they have to present yearly at the royal table as a memorial of an event so remarkable.

Peasant-Princes in Bohemia and Poland

The peasant origin of the Premyslids and the Piasts cannot be an invention of the chroniclers. No high-born dynasty would believe such a story, rather it would make short work of such blasphemy against its kingly majesty. The chroniclers merely decked the fact out with the fruits of their reading in ancient classics, and the Church interpreted it in the sense of Christian humility.

The peasant prince, Premysl, was not prince of the whole of Bohemia—which even much later consisted of several little States — but originally only of the little people of the Lemusi round Bilin in North-West Bohemia, in immediate proximity to the Sorb clan Glomachi (German Daleminzen) in the modern kingdom of Saxony. These Glomachi like the Lower Styrians remained under zupans, but their social organisation was more complicated. Under German domination they fell into the three classes : (1) Supani (Lat. seniores, German eldesten), (2) Withasii (Slay. vicazi) in equis servientes (servants on horseback, esquires), and (3) the Smurdi, correctly smrdi, that is the “stinkers”, the common peasant-folk. In addition, there were corresponding to the German occupation members of German nationality: (4) the Censuales (German lazze), and (5) the Proprii (heyen). The three Slav classes were under the special jurisdiction of zupans with Slavonic as official language. The Daleminzian Zupans and smurdi corresponded to the two Lower Styrian classes, the zupans as former domini (seniores) of Avaro-Bulgar origin; they were likewise very numerous but their percentage cannot now be ascertained. On the other hand, the Withasii were of Germanic Norse origin. The Vikings somewhere in Russia must have subjected the forefathers of the Glomachi, and been transplanted with them by the Avars after the year 563 to serve as a barrier against the Franks on the Saale and the Elbe. Had they been later conquerors, they must have stood above the Zupans, but here the Zupans (Avars and Bulgars) were the foremost rank, and therefore the latest conquerors, and at the time of the German domination the vicazi took rank next beneath them as feudal peasants liable to cavalry service and standing with the Zupans under feudal law. In West and South Europe too the Vikings on stolen horses were, as is well known, as terrible horsemen on the land as they were pirates by sea.

Peasant Revolution in North Bavaria 

Thus we find both among the Alp-Slavs and the Slavs on the Elbe a peasant State in immediate proximity to zupan States. Either then the peasant revolution was only successful in places, or the Avars having rallied and enslaved the peasantry of Styria afresh remained there as vupans, and then together with the peasantry fell under German dominion. Fredegar says: “At this time Samo, a Frank, joined himself with several merchants, went to these Slavs to trade, and accompanied their army against the Avars. He showed remarkable bravery, an enormous number of Avars fell, he was chosen king, ruled successfully thirty-five years, and beat the Avars in all following wars”.

The Fredegar compilation incorrectly puts this event under the year 623, for the author of this chapter wrote in 642 or 643, and at that time Samo must have been already dead. If the length of his reign is correctly given, the revolt must have taken place in 605 at the latest. In the year 601 the Avars were depopulated by a disease just as the Khagan had driven Constantinople to such straits that the citizens were making ready to migrate to Chalcedon in Asia Minor. Soon after he was almost destroyed in five defeats at the hands of the Romans in Hungary itself, the heart of Avardom. These plunderers were already face to face with extinction when the Emperor Maurice was dethroned in 602, and were only saved from destruction by the incapacity of his successor Phocas. But their supremacy was now at an end. Samo’s revolt thus falls between 602 and 605, most probably in the year 603. Then followed the revolt of the Croats and the Serbs, and finally the Bulgar khan Kubrat on the lower Danube made himself free between 635 and 641.

The Slav Kingdom of Samo

Of Samo’s State only this is certain, that it bordered on Thuringia, and embraced the Main and Redantz (Regnitz) Slavs. Thus it lay in what had been Frankish territory, for Samo himself acknowledged: “The land we inhabit and we ourselves are Dagobert’s, yet only in case he will maintain friendship with us”. Before the irruption of the Avars into the Frankish kingdom in 562, it extended over the Saale to the Elbe. The Sorbs on the Saale and the Elbe as well as the Slavs on the Main and Regnitz were not transplanted (by the Avars) into this previously Frankish district till later. Thus from this time to the founding of Samo's State scarcely forty-four years elapsed, so that he could not have ceased to be conscious of the fact that his land was really Frankish property. Here, in the country of the Regnitz Slavs, the traces of the wintering of the Avars are to this day ineffaceable. On the lower Aisch, which flows from the south-west into the Regnitz between Erlangen and Bamberg, broad visages with protruding cheek-bones, deep-set eyes, and black hair are still to be met with.

But the Slavs were originally blue-eyed and fair, and were only black-haired and mongoloid where their women were systematically violated by the Altaian conquerors, and this Fredegar attests expressly of Samo’s Slavs. The Avars (or Bulgars) must therefore have wintered here also. The same is the case with the Bohemian Slavs, whose black hair struck the traveller Ibrahim ibn Iaqub in 965 as peculiar. Whether, or how far, Samo’ s kingdom extended into Bohemia is not known; it is, indeed, improbable that it did so, for even in historic times no State has ever existed on both sides of the Fichtelgebirge and the Bohmerwald. As late as the ninth century several independent Slav clans existed in Bohemia, and they assuredly took part in the Slav revolt against the Avars, for there is as little trace of a zupan class in Bohemia as in Carinthia. It is therefore to be presumed that the Slav tribes did not proceed singly but in combination against the Avars, and that an ephemeral federation was formed, with Samo at its head. But we have no right to speak of Samo ‘s Empire, and the assumption that his kingdom embraced Carantania, the country of the Alpine Slavs, rests only upon the Anonymus de conversione Bagariorum et Carantanorum — a party production of the Salzburg Church directed against the Slav apostle St Methodius, and employing for its own purposes Fredegar ‘s notice of Samo — for the association of Samo with the Carinthian Slavs would prove the latter to be members of the Frankish kingdom, and therefore of the Salzburg diocese.

Bohemia, Chekh : eh‘A, is now proposed. The first suggestion is based on the conjecture Togastisburg and is therefore to be rejected, the second overlooks the fact that Uhog was then pronounced Ongog, so that we ought to find Ungastisburg or something similar in Fredegar.

The Slav revolts here described were successful only as far as the Erzgebirge (which divides Bohemia from the kingdom of Saxony), for immediately north of this we find the Sorb clans on the Saale and Elbe dominated even after this time by zupans. In Samo's time the Sorb prince Dervan was subject to the Frankish king. By the successful revolt of the Bohemians, and especially of the Lemusi, the zupans who dominated the Sorb people were cut off from the main horde of the Khagan in Hungary, so they voluntarily submitted to the Frankish king in order to escape the fate of their clansmen in Bohemia and on the Main-Regnitz. But when Dagobert was defeated by Samo, Dervan fell away from the Franks to Samo, who was well satisfied not to have as enemies the dreaded Sorbs, and let alone their two dominating classes, the Avar zupans and the Viking vicazi. This explains how a Zupan prince could still remain prince under Samo, the deliverer of the peasants. We now see that the whole of Slavdom, with perhaps the sole exception of the North-Russian peoples, was swept along in the Avar tornado. This expansion of the Avar power from the Peloponnesus to the Baltic is not inconceivable, for there were Altaian empires greater still, that of the descendants of Chinghiz-Khan and the kingdom of the Huns, the predecessors of the Avars, which stretched from the Don to the lower Rhine.

The view often put forward, that the Slavs themselves became effective warriors in the cruel Avar school, runs counter to the facts. Neither from the Germans nor from the Romans did they permanently wrest a span of ground; in spite of their enormous expansion their part is purely passive. The German migrations took place under the lead of remarkable and heroic figures; at one time the Germans even gave the Roman Empire its wisest statesmen and most powerful military commanders, but among the millions of Slavs who flooded Germany and the East Roman Empire we do not find the name of even one moderately prominent warrior. Those mentioned by the Byzantine sources, like Khilvud, Dabragezas, Mezamir, Ardagast, Piragast, Musok, cannot be compared with the German army leaders, and also they were obviously not real Slavs, but Slavic descendants of partly Germanic and partly Altaian conquerors. The earliest prominent personality among the Slavs is the Frankish Samo, and the most powerful Slav prince, the Russian Svyatoslav (died 972), was in spite of his Slav name a pure-blooded German, son of Ingvarr and Helga (Slay. Igor, Olga) and one of the greatest German heroes in history.

Mauritius and other writers describe the Slavs as they must have been in their marshy cradle, without organisation, without military discipline, and consequently quite unsuited for any serious offensive movement. But on the defensive when well led they were excellent in a style which was forced upon them by the continual man­hunts of the pirates and the mounted nomads. Of a military schooling from the Avars there is no trace except that they learned plundering from their tormentors. On the offensive they could do nothing against the Romans, though the Romans likewise could do nothing against the defensive of the Slavs. For example, in 593-4, when the imperial army advanced victoriously over the Danube, it was unwilling to winter in a land where the cold was unbearable and the barbarians were invincible on account of their great numbers. In the defensive power of the Slavs lay also the strength of the Avar-Slav positions on the Baltic, Elbe, and Saale against the Franks even after the fall of the Avar Empire. Only after two and a half centuries of continual warfare did the Germans remain victors.

Considerably more than thirty tiny Slav tribes in the former Old Germania from the Danube to Mecklenburg are mentioned there in four groups. Not one of the groups forms a State, each is only seldom and temporarily united when war threatens, otherwise it is divided into little clans bitterly hostile to one another. Each little clan dwells huddled close together in hamlets and little villages amidst marsh and a dense forest zone through which go roads only passable for pack-horses in dry seasons of the year, provided at the entrance to the forest zone with gates and abattis. And if the enemy forced his way in notwithstanding, the people fled to their numerous earthworks, civitates. The Obodritzi in Mecklenburg alone had 53 such civitates and the same number of duces, and were actually regarded as invincible.

After the time of Charles the Great war with these Slavs was permanent. Thanks to the protection of the mountain range and their peaceful acceptance of Christianity, the Bohemian group maintained itself and finally combined into a powerful Bohemian kingdom. On the other hand the remaining three groups, really some dozen of Lilliputian clans, succumbed to the Germans who always found allies among them, sometimes among the Obodritzi, sometimes among the Lyutitzi. Thus the Elbe Slavs (save some small remnants) were exterminated or Germanized.

And in their despairing and incomparably brave defence they too might have kept off the German colossus could they have reconciled themselves to the Cross, which was made hateful to them by the oppression of the German Government. At the same time it must be clearly noted that they were not aggressors but a thoroughly industrious peasant people. The Avar, dominant class which had become Slavised in the course of time was not numerous enough for offence against the German power and the equally invincible Danish vikings; it became much reduced in the continuous defensive wars, and also lost its former ferocity because it was squeezed into narrow tribal bounds, so that it had at last to give up the wandering herdsman life. The Spanish Jew Ibrahim ibn Iaqub who made a journey in these parts in the year 965 says: "In general the Slavs are intrepid and warlike and were they not at variance among themselves, no people on earth could measure themselves against them. The lands inhabited by them are the most fruitful and richest of all, and they devote themselves zealously to agriculture and other kinds of industry wherein they surpass all northern peoples." According to Herbord, Pomerania had an abundance of honey, wheat, hemp, poppy, vegetables of all kinds, and fruit-trees. Yet the lands between the Elbe and the Vistula are only made fertile by industrious cultivation.

The type of the Slav method of warfare is the powerful Polish leader Boleslav Khrobry (992-1025), who created a kingdom that stretched from the Dnieper to the Elbe, and from the Baltic to the Danube and Theiss. He carried on bloody wars with all his neighbours, especially with the German king Henry II. But Boleslav did not confront the German army in open battle; his strength lay in masterly maneuvering and in the heroic defence of strong positions. “Never — says his unfriendly contemporary Thietmar — have I heard of besieged men who made exertions to defend themselves with greater endurance and more clever circumspection”. The sources of Boleslav’s strength we know from Ibrahim ibn Iaqub in the year 965: “The land of Meshko [Boleslav's father] is rich in grain and meat and honey and fields ... And he has 3000 ... warriors, a hundred of whom are a match for a thousand others. And he gives these people clothes and horses and weapons and all that they need. And when a child is born to one of them he at once orders ... a salary to be assigned to the same ... and when he reaches full age he procures him a wife and pays for him the marriage gift to the maiden’s father ... And the marriage takes place with the approbation of the king ... And he is like a tender father to his subjects”. This standing army is not native, for it is landless; it consists of foreign mercenaries, evidently Norse vikings.

The Elbe Slavs and the Vikings

It is clear that the Polish Slavs, like the Russian, were from the earliest times strongly influenced by the vikings and their plundering raids and settlements. For the vikings who ravaged all the coasts of Europe cannot have left alone the river-mouths of the Baltic. According to Iomsvikinga-saga, in the vicinity of the Slav sea and commercial town Volin (Slav), Winetha (Saxon), Iulin or Iumin (Danish), mentioned by Ibrahim and the German chroniclers, the Iomsburg, a sea fort, was built by Danish pirates [about 970], and according to Orderic Vitalis (b. 1075) the German gods Wodan, Thor, and Frigg were worshipped in a district of the Lyutitzi at the mouth of the Oder. All three however had also their worship in the Upsala temple among the Swedes.

This viking admixture is clearest among the Baltic Slays — especially those of the Island of Rugen — and gave them the appearance of a pirate people. Helmold reports that the men of Thigen were [1168] tributary to the Danes, but they revolted, and occupied the rich Danish islands, "and the Danes cannot easily protect themselves from the sudden attacks of the pirates, for there are creeks there in which the Slavs can keep well hidden, and from which they can break out unperceived to attack and plunder the unwary. For the Slavs are particularly strong in sudden surprises. Hence even up to recent times this custom of robbing has such possession of them that they are always ready for maritime enterprises to the entire disregard of the profits of agriculture, for their whole hope and all their wealth depend on their ships. Indeed they do not even trouble themselves much about house-building; rather they fashion for themselves huts of wicker-work, as they only seek shelter at need from storm and rain. As often as war threatens to break out, they thresh all the grain and bury it in holes together with all gold and silver and what precious things they possess; their women and children however they take into their fortified places or at least into the forests, so that nothing remains for the enemy to plunder but the huts, the loss of which they very easily bear. They pay no regard to the attacks of the Danes, indeed they consider it sport to measure themselves against them." We see here a remarkable fusion of the viking pirates, Altaian herdsmen, and Slav peasants on the Island of Rügen. But could the most terrible of all pirates, the Danes, who fill the gloomiest pages in British history, here stand helpless before Slav pirates? It is more likely that Danish vikings were here opposed by Slavised vikings. So too the Narentanian pirates of Dalmatia, called Pagani, seem to be Norse vikings transplanted by the Avars, for here too we find a noble class of vitezi.

Giesebrecht excellently characterizes the Baltic Slays: “A mixed race, not seldom fluctuating in sharp contradiction in their belief, law, and customs, the Wends were already a fallen nation when they came into contact with the Franks. Thus from them could proceed much that was energetic as far as it could be carried out by individuals, families, or associations, but nothing that presupposed national unity”.

More favourable conditions for a thriving development were obtained by those Slav peoples among whom either the Altaian or the German dominating class destroyed the other. The Russian Slavs with the Varangians whom they absorbed finally reached a national and social harmony, while the Bohemians and a part of the Alpine Slavs overcame their Avar oppressors. But they found it a still harder task to build up their rude freedom into an orderly State. This the Carinthians brilliantly performed, remaining in true freedom without a nobility for a long time. Even under German dominion, under far less favourable conditions, they were an equal match for the Germans of Ditmarschen in Holstein.

As a people who for immemorial ages were deprived of justice and politically broken the Slavs longed only for an ordered legal State. An early example of this is afforded with an objectivity extremely rare among medieval chroniclers by the author of the Fredegar Chronicle. In Samo’s kingdom Frankish merchants were robbed and killed and King Dagobert demanded redress. Samo “only agreed on a reciprocal legal procedure on this and similar disagreements which had arisen on both sides. Hereupon Sycharius in the manner of an arrogant envoy let ... fall threats to the effect that Samo and his whole people had to be subject to Dagobert”. Samo replied, “The land we inhabit and we ourselves are Dagobert’s, yet only in case he will maintain friendship with us”. Sycharius: “It is not possible for Christians, the servants of God, to stand in friendship with dogs”. Samo: “If you are the servants of God, and we are God's dogs, we are permitted to bite you when you ceaselessly act against his will”. This led to Dagobert’s crushing defeat at Wogastisburg.

The appeal to law and not to the sword is the basis of Old Slavonic thought and aspiration; the principal task of the Slav princes was to secure a passable administration of justice — the Russian Slavs actually appealed to Norse pirates. The chronicler Cosmas pictures the oldest Bohemian princes as simple judges, and by their memorable ritual the Carinthians hoped to secure the necessary foundation of justice, but this was an ideal not always attainable among a people where no man was willing to subordinate himself to another without an army capable of breaking down resistance. And as the Slavs lacked everything in the remotest way like this, they often became the prey of their warlike neighbours and perished in impotent rebellions to gain the human rights denied them. Mighty Slav States arose indeed, but without the co-operation of the people themselves, whose endeavours were early directed to social questions. This was a favourable soil for social religious dreams of an evangelical way of life, and the Slav temperament reached its greatest perfection in an offshoot of the Hussite movement fanned into flame by the teaching of Wyclif — in the venerable Unity of the Bohemian and Moravian Brethren. This movement was democratic, not communistic — a wonderful theoretic union of human perfection with spiritual purity in the midst of a society saturated with selfishness. Their chief representative, well known in England also, was the founder of the new pedagogy, John Amos Comenius, the teacher of the peoples of Europe.