History of Poland Part 1 The Asian and Slavic Basis
An Outline of Asian, Slavic, and Early Polish History by Robert S. Sherins, M.D.
PGSCA, Vice-president and Membership Chairman
May 10, 2004

800 BCE – Early Slav origins in the Caucasus

800 BCE – Earliest Asian migrations to Europe: Asian migrations to Europe were known as far back in history as 800 BCE. Apparently, because of increasing cultural pressure from the Chinese, Eurasian nomads were driven westward from the Altai region of present day Mongolia. Scythian nomadic tribes were among the early inhabitants of the Altai region, who found there way to Europe. By 600 BCE, the Scythians settled the region north of the Black Sea. Slavs, who were living in the Black Sea region, were forced to migrate further northwards.

600 BCE – Scythian history

The origin and reasons for Scythian migration to the Caucasus and Ukraine has never been discovered. However, it is believed that the migration occurred between 800 and 600 BCE. Scythians were the first great pastoral nomadic group in Central Asia. Greek writers, such as Homer and Herodotus, described Scythian costumes with open tunics and padded and quilted leather trousers that were tucked into boots.

Vast territories were required to graze the livestock that were critical for Scythian survival of the small bands of horsemen. Increases in the population of the bands could exceed the abundance of the pastoral lands, which supported them. The Scythians displaced other peoples in the process of their migrations and expansions as their population enlarged. Thus, the Scythians ranged over great distances to survive. They were a pastoral and nomadic tribal people of the Central Asian steppes, who relied upon horses and wagons for mobility. They lived in felt tents and subsisted on mare’s milk and cheese in addition to any fish or game that was hunted. Western Scythians were agriculturalists, raising wheat for both consumption and export. During spring and summers, the Scythians ranged far distances seeking adequate pastures to feed their livestock. In wintertime, the tribes settled along river valleys. Men rode horseback, while the women drove the oxen-wagons filled with their portable belongings and tents. Wealthy Scythians were polygamous and son’s inherited their father’s wives.

Evidence of early Scythian settlements has been documented in the Altai region of Asia. They proceeded to the region of the Ural Mountains and then to the Volga River region and Black Sea area. The Scythians migrated to the Sub-Carpathian region, where they most likely encountered Slav settlements. Eventually, Scythians were settled in the Mediterranean region. They were famous for their horses with saddles and conquered lands from the Steppes of Eurasia to southern Europe. Saddles provided the Scythians with the most stable platform from which to use archery as a skilled weapon. As a result, Scythians were employed as mercenaries.

Scythians migrated to the Caucasus region from the Altai Mountains. They also relocated to the Oxus River in Central Asia. Additional settlements of the Scythians were located in the Indus River area of India and the Ganges River south of the Himalayan Mountain Range. There were also migrations to Persia, the Caspian Sea area, and regions near both the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Scythians also spread to Anatolia, the Middle East, the Nile area, and the Red Sea region.

Scythian tribes were divided into hordes or small groups, which recognized the authority of a king from the main horde, who reigned. They used saddles on their horses to attack enemies. They successfully maintained supremacy by their military organization and by using guerrilla tactics. Scythians used saddles with stirrups that created an efficient mounted platform for the archers. They could fire many arrows accurately while mounted and riding. When the hail of arrows was exhausted, the Scythians would turn away and re-arm before returning to attack and overwhelm the enemy. During those battles, the Greeks rode bareback on horses, so the Scythians had a definite advantage by using saddles, which stabilized their use of bow and arrow weapons. Later, the Sarmatians defeated the Scythians by incorporating bronze armor plates sewn into their woolen or leather garments, which could withstand the hail of arrows during battle. Sarmatians also developed effective lances that were fifteen feet in length, thereby being able the mounted Scythians.

The early Scythian settlements in the northern Black Sea region were peaceful and were based upon trade with the Greek colonies that had migrated to the area in support of the populations at home. Cattle, hides, furs, timber, wax, honey, and grain were traded to the Greeks in exchange for olive oil, wine, and textiles. Scythians were excellent traders and used the rivers to further their exchanges with the Greeks at the Black Sea ports. Scythians also controlled a large slave trade.

Scythians continued to migrate from the Black Sea area to the region north of the Caucasus Mountains. Eventually, their boundaries extended from the Volga River in the east. Scythians also moved westward to the Don, Dnieper, Bug, and Dniester Rivers and to the Carpathian Mountains. In so doing, the Scythians continued to displace Slavic tribes, who were forced to migrate northward.

Scythian Burials: Scythians buried their deceased members in high barrow structures called, “kurgans.” The tombs were covered with larch wood to preserve the contents, which were in turn covered by large stones and boulders. Burial mounds have provided archeologists with much of the detailed knowledge about Scythian culture. Skeletons of Scythians were found buried with their axes, arrowheads and clothing. Females were similarly buried as the men, which gave rise to the Greek myth about women Amazons, who could also serve as warriors.

Burials also included gold materials and jewelry, silk cloth, and sacrifices of both their horses and other humans. Permafrost in the regions has helped to preserve the relics from Scythian culture. All of the items that a Scythian might need in his after-life were included in the burial. The richest people were buried with their horses. Ordinary people were buried with utensils. One grave included a carpet, which is the oldest oriental pile rug ever found. Burial treasures have helped archeologists to better understand the history of peoples currently inhabiting Central Asia, the Gorno-Altai region of Mongolia, Kirghiztan, and Kazakhstan.

Perhaps most famous of all was the use of elaborate gold items in the materials and jewelry utilized by the Scythians. The refined techniques used in the creation of the items were learned from the Greeks. Items of golden Scythian men showed beards and long hair typical of Europeans. Personal jewelry was elaborate and detailed. Gold was also utilized as decorations on horse’s gear and for ornaments on weapons. Decorations often utilized animal motifs, such as winged griffins attacking horses, battling of stags, deer, eagles, or milking ewes. An early Scythian tomb depicted gold objects of more primitive animal motifs; probably a style known to them prior to learning the more refined techniques of the Greeks. One of the ancient royal tombs contained forty-four pounds of gold adornments.

The appearance of gold crafts among the Scythians coincided with the time of the Assyrian gold art from the 8th century BCE. Scythians allied with Assyria against the Medes, who were rising to power in the region of northern Persia in the 7th century BCE. That was coincident with the history of the Assyrian invasion of Syria, Phoenicia, and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Migrations and contact with the peoples of Luristan and Media, north of Assyria, could have influenced the timing and use of gold crafts among the Scythians. Perhaps the gold items themselves were imported or the craftsmen were taken during invasions.

Scythian language was an Indo-European oral language and closely related to Iranian. However, there was no written language. Many dialects existed. The language of the Sarmatians was also a dialect of the early Iranian verbal communication. The earliest Iranian language was called, Gathic Avestan. Avestan is related to Old Persian, from which the modern Iranian language was derived. Ossetic is another language that is related to Gathic Avestan and was spoken in the Caucasus region. Ossetic is thought to be descendant from the language spoken by the Scythians and Iranian Sarmatians, who followed them. Apparently, the Ossetics spoken language was called Ironig or Ironski, which is Iranian. Another theory, but not currently accepted, stated that the Scythian language was a Turkic language.

200 BCE – Sarmatians

Another Asiatic tribe from the Altai region was known as the Sarmatians. They were very aggressive and utilized armor in their attacks, which aided them in battles against the Romans and Macedonians. Sarmatians aided the Parthians of northern Persia and revived their Iranian Empire. By the 3rd century CE, Sarmatians aligned themselves with the Alanians and, later, the Alanians allied with the Goths. The Sarmatians defeated remaining Scythians groups and also advanced into both Roman territories and regions over which the Sasanian Persians ruled. The Sarmatians displaced the Scythians, who migrated to the Crimea and the southern Danube delta of Dobruja.

Sarmatians migrated into southern Russia about 200 BCE. They were a dominant culture for the next 400 years until 200 CE. By that time, 200 CE, Roman forces replaced the Greek Empire and settlements in the region. Romans reigned from the Black Sea to the northern region of the Caspian Sea. Between the forces of the Romans and Sarmatians, the Slavs, who preceded them, were forced northward to the Vistula River. Other tribes, the Goths and Balts, move further west.

By 200 CE, the Goths, then a Baltic tribe, rose to power and dominated the region of the Black Sea to the Dniester, Bug, Dnieper, and Don Rivers. By the middle of the 6th century CE, the Sarmatians converted to Orthodox Christianity.

200 CE – Goths

200 CE – Goths originated between the Oder and Vistula Rivers in the middle of the 3rd Century, which was the region that was occupied later by Poland. An old unproven Goth legend claimed that they were a Baltic tribe, who came from Gothiscandza, southern Scandinavia.

There are some fascinating concepts regarding the origin of the Goth name. Goth may have been taken from the root-word, Gut. Language specialists, philologists, have conceived the idea of the word, Gut-iuda, as the Gothic people, which may have been taken from the earlier Greek word, Gutthones. Gut is identical to the Baltic word, Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea. The Swedish word, Gutnish means Gotland in the same manner that lamb can be used to mean sheep. The Swedish word, Gotar and the Anglo-Saxon word, Geatas may have been the name that became the proto-German word, Gauta. Philologists have suggested that the warriors from Gotland invaded the region of northern Poland to take control of the amber resources. Perhaps that was the origin of the Goth peoples.

In 200 CE, the Goths made a major expansion to the Black Sea area and defeated the Sarmatians, which extended their reign to the Black Sea. A Gothic army crossed the Danube in 238 to demand tribute from the occupying Romans. Then they withdrew. A second invasion occurred in 250, when the Goths led the army as far as Phillippopolis, Bulgaria (Macedonia???).

In 251, the Goths defeated the Roman Emperor Decius on the lower Danube. They defeated the Roman army at Abrittus in 251. Goths succeeded in sea-borne raids to conquer Trebizond, located on the Black Sea coastline of northern Turkey. They led a massive invasion to Asia Minor, plundered properties, and took many slaves.

Goths converted to Christianity between 300 and 400 CE. A native Goth, Ulfila, who created the Gothic alphabet, led them. The Bible was also translated into Gothic.

In 267 CE, Goths were one of the first barbarian forces to attack the Roman Empire. But, Roman Emperor Aurelia destroyed the Gothic kingdom in the 270’s. King Cannabaudes was killed and the Goths were driven back across the Danube River, which ended the Gothic Empire. A new group, the Gepids, filled the power vacuum in the region, which created a division among the Goths.

There were two major groups of Goths. The Tervingi branch of the Goths occupied the lands west of the Dniester River that consolidated the realm between the Dniester and the Danube. That group settled in the territory of Dacia, which had been abandoned by the Romans. Dacia was the region that later formed Romania. Romans referred to that branch as Visigoths. The later conquest and settlement by the Huns in the Volga region drove the Visigoths westward.

The Greutungi group occupied the region east of the Sea of Azov. They were called the Ostrogoths, who were later conquered by the Asiatic Huns in the second half of the 4th century. By 400 CE, the Slav tribes had recognized the reign of the superior Goths.

400 CE – Avars

400 CE – Avars: Mongolian peoples, known to the Chinese as the “Juan-Juan.” Arose in the 4th century CE from Mongol and Turkic groups inhabiting the region along the northern Chinese border. About the same time, Huns, another Asian group from the northern Chinese border area, migrated westward, driving back the Goths, who preceded them in the 2nd century CE. The accumulative effect of those Asian migrations was the replacement of the Goths and Germanic tribes, as well as the fall of the Western Roman Empire.

The Avars migrated through western Iran to the Russian steppes and mingled with the Huns and Uighurs. By the 6th century, they migrated into Eastern Europe. The confederation of the Juan-Juan, Huns, and Uighurs were known as the Avars.

The Avars established a base located around Belgrade, in present-day Yugoslavia. Their arrival drove out the Slavs to further areas in the west, which they settled and have since occupied.

Tribute was successfully extracted from the Byzantine Empire, which helped to finance the Avar expansion into the Balkan Peninsula. At first, Emperor Justinian refused to pay the tribute, but was attacked again by the Avars with even greater forces. Justinian was then required to pay huge outlays. Justinian used his tribute payments to engage the Avars to raid and subjugate neighboring Slavs, who had settled in the Balkans. Thus, the Avars expanded into the Balkans.

Avars reached Constantinople, but failed to conquer the capital. In 626, the Avars formed an allegiance with the Persians, Huns, Gepids, and Bulgars, to lay siege on Constantinople. The Avars attacked from the European side of the Bosphorus, while the Persians attacked from the Asiatic side. The siege was not successful, and in the process, the Byzantines destroyed the Persian fleet. The Avars had to abandon their siege.

After the Khagan (king) died, the Avars continued to decline. The Slavs and Bulgars expanded their influence and power in the region. Charlemagne defeated the Avars in 791. By the 9th century, it was the resurgent Bulgars, who reigned.

450 CE – Huns

450 CE – Huns were the first Turkic speaking tribe, who originated in Central Asia. Chinese references mention the peoples of the Xiong-Nu or Hsiung-nu as far back in history as 1200 BCE. Korean legend mentioned the northern Altaic tribes under a “Huan” ruler in the 8th millennium BCE, which even pre-dated the establishment of China.

Huns were the first well-documented people in history with a horse-based culture. They held a state of readiness and mobility, which permitted them to achieve military superiority over rivals. Huns migrated westward to the Ukrainian steppes. Huns merged with the Avars and Magyars. In Europe, the Huns united the Alan, Slavic, and Gothic tribes under Hun rule. They were savage and barbaric, which played out in the eventual downfall of the Roman Empire.

Huns migrated and reigned over a large area north of the Caspian Sea by 360 CE and continued to move westward, dominating the regions that they settled. They drove out the Goths, who preceded them. Eventually, the Huns reigned over areas from the Volga River to the Rhine River in the west.

The most powerful and ruthless Hun monarch was Attila. To gain control, a confederation of Hunnic tribes united together about 420 CE. Leadership was seized by Attila, who murdered his brother, Bleda, to gain control of the group. The Huns extorted tribute from Romans, as well as the tribes of Slavs, Avars, and Sarmatians. Hun mercenaries were even loaned to the Romans to bolster their forces. Within fifty years, Attila led the Huns to dominate Europe from the Baltics in the north to the Rhine River in the west and the Danube River in the south. Huns also occupied the Caucasus, the region north of the Caspian Sea, and as far to the east as the Oxus River north of Persia. Huns controlled territories from the Baltics to the Caspian Sea by 450 CE.

One of the most important reasons that the Huns succeeded was that their resources were based upon plunder, looting, and tribute, without which they could not have continued. They did not develop their own resources and agriculture upon which they could depend. Attila remained powerful until his defeat by the Franks at Orléans.

Valentinian III ruled the Western Roman Empire, but the military forces were controlled by warlord, Aétius. Aétius assembled military forces of Franks, Visigoths, and his own Roman-Germanic army. They defeated Attila in 451 at the battle of the Catalaunian Fields near Chalons-sur-Marne. The Huns were soundly beaten but were allowed to escape.

Instead of annihilation, Attila was able to lead his remaining forces to Milan. He devastated Northern Italy and the Huns approached the walls of Rome. Rome was spared because Attila learned of a bigger threat from the Eastern Empire and turned back his troops.

In 453, while in a drunken stupor, Attila was reported to suffer a severe nosebleed from which he suffocated. After Attila’s death, the reign of the Huns declined. By 500 CE, Huns retreated to the regions of the lower Don and Volga Rivers. Subsequent invaders in Europe have been referred to as Huns. Thus the naming of Hungary and the nickname, Huns, that was given to the army of Nazi Germany.

After the domination of the Huns, a remnant of the Goths settled in Crimea. Germanic tribes made expeditions into Britain and France. Slavs spread to the regions of the Elbe and Danube Rivers.

600 CE – The earliest Slavs

600 CE – The earliest Slavs settled in Central Europe and in the region of the Carpathian Mountains a number of centuries BCE. There are several theories about Slav origins. Prussians, Lithuanians, Letts, Jadzwings, and Zmuds settled Northern Europe. East of those Slavs were the Ugro-Finnish peoples, who settled in a semi-circle from the Riga River to the lower Volga River.

Linguistic research has revealed additional information about the origins of the Slavs. Teutons originally settled the region of the Carpathian Mountains. On the western side of the Teutons were the Celts. The Prussians and Lithuanians inhabited the Northern Minsk region. Letts and Ugro-Finns settled from the middle Volga region to central Russia and the northern part of Poland and Prussia.

Another theory about Slav origins stated that they settled the region of the Niemen River, wedged between the Finns-Finns to the north and the Teutons in the Carpathian Mountains. The Slavs were Indo-Europeans and not from Ugro-Finnish origins. The Slavs were forced by the Ugro-Finnish peoples to migrate southward where they occupied the middle Volga River region. They occupied the villages that had been abandoned by the Teutons and Celtic peoples, who had migrated westward. Thus the Slavs originated in the Carpathians and Vistula areas. The Slavs then migrated in all directions to the Don River in the east, the shores of the Baltics in the north along the Elbe and Oder Rivers, and the Adriatic Sea in the south. They also migrated as far to the west as the Rhine River and the mouth of the Vistula River.

Slavic tribes split into three linguistic groups about the 7th century CE. Eastern Slavs settled along the Dnieper River, which is now Ukraine. Slavs spread northward to the northern Volga River valley, east of modern-day Moscow. Slavs also spread westward to the basins of the northern Dniester River and the western branch of the Bug River, in present-day Moldavia and southern Ukraine.

Having overthrown the Avars, by 605 CE, Slavs expanded to the regions of the Upper Volga, Dvina, Vistula, Oder, and Elbe Rivers, to the Frankish boundaries. Slavs moved to control the Balkans in 650 CE. Huns, who had settled in the region of the Don River, replaced the Slave and formed the Khanate of Great Bulgaria. They were known as the Bulgars.

Early Slavs burned the corpses of their deceased members. Later they began to develop more elaborate burial customs. With the burials were included decorations, implements, utensils, and arms. Those customs were discovered among the western Slavs and in the burial mounds of the eastern Slavs. Slav graves contained ear chains made from rings and earrings that were made from twisted bronze wires, as well as wooden pails with iron hoops, and carved or ornamented urns and other earthenware.

The Teutons pushed Slav tribes eastward. Slavs settled along the Warthe, Oder, and Notze (Notec) Rivers. Slavs originally inhabited agricultural fields, and were known by the name, Polanie. “Pole” was the Slavic word, which meant field. Polanie reclaimed forests with access to the rivers and lakes where there was plentiful food. They were predominantly agriculturalists.

Raids by Norsemen prompted the Slavs to form defensive forces. Protection by military bands allowed for the cultivation of the Slavic fields. Fortified towns (grody) developed, where the business of the tribes was conducted, trade or barter occurred, and some form of communal worship was possible. As well, there was a place for the storage of goods that could be defended. Possibly tribal disputes were settled in the grody towns.

Historical fortified towns were centers for the larger organization of the Polanie. There were important towns of Kruszwica, located on Lake Goplo, Gniezno, also called Gnesen by the Germans, and Knezno, which was taken from the word, Knez, the residence of a prince or duke. Poznan also developed as a vital town center in the west.

Two important tribes are notable, the Lenczanians and the Mazurs. They were armed and in opposition. The most savage of them, the Mazurs, eventually came under control of the Piast Dynasty of princes.

Located north of the Slavs was a tribe known as the Pomorzanie. They were conquered and came under the control of the Polanie. In Polish, Po means “by” and “morze” means the sea. Pomorze meant “by the sea.” The Teutons changed the name to Pomerania. The Polanie then had access to the Baltic Sea, Scandinavia, and the numerous regional rivers to ply their vessels and continue trading with the Romans, Byzantines, and Scandinavians.

Between the 8th and 9th centuries, the Polanie were transformed from an agricultural and village settlement culture to a militaristic and structured society that was governed by the princes.

650 to 750 CE – Khazars

650 to 750 CE – Khazars were nomadic Oghuric Turkic people, who migrated from Central Asia during the 5th century. They first settled in the Russian steppes. Some Khazars were reported to have had reddish hair many centuries prior to the arrival of the Mongols in the 13th century. Their language was Turkic Oghur and their religion was Shamanistic. Later, the kingdom consisted of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. All religions were well tolerated; so early Jewish refugees came from both Byzantium and Persia and settled the kingdom.

The Khazarian kingdom was ruled by a succession of Kok Turks, who were also known as Celestial Blue Turks. Their empire lasted 800 years from the 5th to 13th century. Khazars from Asia spread from the Oxus River to the region of the Dniester. From 550 to 630 CE, they had to pay tribute to the Huns, whose reign was already established. Later, the Khazars became part of the Western Turkish Empire.

The Khan, Bulan, adopted Judaism in 861 in order to preserve his rule in face of mounting pressures from his neighbors in the Persian Islamic Empire and the Byzantine Christian Empire. Khazarians spoke both Hebrew and Slavic and settled in cities throughout the northern Caucasus and Ukraine. Later, King Obadiah established Jewish schools and synagogues. In the 10th century, it was estimated that 35,000 Jews lived in Khazaria.

At the time of its maximum expansion by the 9th century, the kingdom was a vast empire that included the regions of southern Russia, northern Caucasus, eastern Ukraine, Crimea, western Kazakhstan, and northwestern Uzbekistan, as well as the regions of the Sabirs and Bulgars, since the 7th century. Pressure from the Khazarian Empire forced the Bulgars to retreat to the Balkans, where the nation of Bulgaria was founded. Some Bulgars also migrated to the upper Volga River area. Khazarian power extended over neighboring tribes of the eastern Slavs, Magyars, Pechenegs, Burtas, and the Huns from the northern Caucasus.

Originally, the Caspian Sea was called the Khazar Sea. Modern inhabitants, such as the Azeri, Turks, Persians, and Arabs use the same term. In Turkish, the name of the Sea is Hazar Denizi; in Arabic it is Bahr-ul-Khazar; and in Persian it is Daryaye Khazar. It was the power of the Khazarian Empire that kept the boundary between Islam in Persia and the Arabs from spreading northward past the Caucasus Mountains.

There were several capital cities in the kingdom. The first capital was built at Balanjar, which is known by the archeological site of Verkhneye Chir-Yurt. By 720, the Khazars moved the capital to Samandar, a town located on the northern coast of the Caucasus. In 750, Itil (or Atil) became the final capital, which was relocated to the Volga River region and lasted more than 200 years.

The Khazarians founded the major city of Kiev. The name, Kiev, was taken from the Turkic words, “Kui,” which meant riverbank, and “ev,” which meant settlement. The modern Ukrainian spelling translated from Cyrillic is Kyiev. Later in 834, a fortress made of brick was constructed in Sarkel in the Volga area with the assistance of the Byzantines.

Food staples for the inhabitants included rice, fish, barley, wheat, melons, and cucumbers. Hemp was also produced. Khazarians also hunted fox, rabbit, and beaver, in order to export furs. Trade along the “silk road” enable them to exchange goods with the Byzantines, Europeans, Azerbaijanis, Uzbeks, Persians, Volga Bulgarians, Chinese, and other Central Asians. In addition to furs, other materials were traded including, silk, candle wax, honey, jewelry, silverware, coins, and spices.

There were two levels of authority within the Khazarian monarchy, which included both a supreme king and a civilian military leader, who was called the “bek.” The monarchy was known as the “kagan.”

Khazarian culture was liberal and permitted people of all religious persuasions to prosper. The legal courts were composed of members, who came from all of the religious groups in the kingdom. Khazars made their judgments according to the Hebrew Torah, while other tribes were judged according to their own laws. The official language of the kingdom was the Oghuric Turkic tongue, but in practice, they wrote using Hebrew-Aramaic letters. That is why so many documents that have been discovered by archeologists were written in Hebrew.

Jews from many neighboring regions also immigrated to Khazaria. Crimea had a very large Jewish community, which came under control of the Khazars. As well, Jews from Persia, the Byzantine Empire, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Hungary, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq, sought refuge in Khazaria. Judaism in the Khazarian kingdom balanced the power of their Christian and Muslim neighbors in Byzantium and Persia.

The Khazarian kingdom ended with their devastating defeat by the Kievan Rus in 965. The final act of defeat occurred when Rus Prince Svyatosalv conquered the Khazarian forces at the Sarkel fortress. Itil was conquered about two years later and then the Rus invaded the Balkans. It was said that no Khazarians remained, but it was only the nation that did not survive. Many people migrated and merged with the inhabitants of neighboring regions. Some of the Khazarians migrated and were incorporated into the Jewish communities of Hungary, Romania and Poland.

800 CE – Collapse of the Roman Empire

800 CE – Collapse of the Roman Empire permitted the westward expansion of Slavs. They settled areas east of the Germanic region in Europe and the present-day Czech and Slovak areas. The Slavs became three distinct groups. The eastern Slavs were the ancestors of the Russians, Belarussians, and Ukrainians. The western Slavs were the ancestors of the Poles, Czechs, and the Slovaks. The southern Slavs were the ancestors of the Bulgarians, the Serbs, and the Croatians.

In 800 CE, Charlemagne was crowned as the first Holy Roman Emperor. Europe had evolved from the Dark Ages. His realm reached far beyond the Frankish-Saxony borders into the “unknown territories.” Charlemagne might have thought that “Poles” were primitive and disorganized, because they lived in the territory of dense forests, swamps, and treacherous “moving sands.” Slavs, who lived in the “Polish region” were known to be unwarlike, agriculturalists, and had a primitive and rural-type of governance. The largest group of Slavs was known as the Polanie, the “people of the fields.”

Since earlier times of the first century, Roman merchants had sought the amber resources from the region inhabited by the Slavs. Romans referred to amber as the “gold of the north.” The Slavs of the west traded with the Germanic Saxons; often they warred with each other. Throughout the 8th and 9th centuries, the Slavic Polanie remained isolated from the other European groups. The Polanie built earthen defensive structures and had places of pre-Christian worship. In the southern regions, the Polanie used open mining and iron smelting practices. Their tribal settlements were smaller and consisted of clusters of homesteads and villages. Villages were separated by large forests, which required each of them to be self-sufficient. Historians have thought that the isolation of the Polanie led to the regional strengths of future Polish inhabitants. Isolation also helped to create the subtle dialects of the Polish language that differed slightly from that of the Czechs, Bohemians, and from the northern and eastern Slavs.

880 CE – Norsemen

880 CE – Norsemen influenced Slav in Europe. Norse settlers arrived in Novgorod and Kiev by 880 CE. The Viking princes reached Armenia and the Caspian Sea, in their quest for access to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. In the process, the Vikings passed through Novgorod and Kiev. Viking ships sailed to England, France, and Spain, as well as to Italy and Byzantium in the Mediterranean.

The Norsemen, known as Varangians, dominated Slavic settlements in the region. That forced the Slavs to seek an organized federation, which was called the Kievan Rus. Initially the Kievan Rus spoke the Norwegian language. Slavic tribes were disorganized and constantly battling each other. This gave opportunity to the unified Norse rulers to dominate the Slavs. The Rus represented a cultural mixture of Slavs and Scandinavian Norsemen.

The first Norse ruler was Rurik, who led a military expedition against Constantinople in 860 CE. By 880 CE, Kiev was made the capital of the Kievan Rus. The Kievan Rus took tributes from their neighbors to protect the Slavs from incursions by the neighboring Pecheneg and Khazar tribes. Kievan Rus were united, aggressive, and an expansive culture. Christianity was adopted in 1000 CE after a marriage between Vladimir to the sister of the Byzantine Emperor. The early Kievan Rus rulers were: 880-912 Oleg; 912-945 Igor; 945-962 – Olga; 962-972 – Sviatoslav; 978-1015 – Vladimir I; and 1019-1054 – Yaroslav.

900 CE

900 CE – Tribal relationships formed the basis of early Slavic culture. Groups were scattered in large clans called, gentes, which were bound by their familial blood ties. Lands were occupied and held by members from the same common clan or group. An elder patriarch, the Staroste, was responsible for directing each clan or gens. He controlled the decisions regarding crops, work allotment, and social order. Property consisted of the tools, which could be moved with the clans. Slavs never had permanent communal households, zadrugas. An assembly, Wiec, consisted of the adult males in the community, who helped to make decisions for the group.

Individuals did not exist outside of their clan, which protected and nurtured them. Outsiders were not accepted into a clan and had to sustain themselves. Such individuals either perished or became a slave of a clan. Military captured prisoners most often became slaves. Even children of slaves were retained as slaves.

By the 9th-10th centuries, Slaves were used to help fortify the key Polanie towns. Settlements became increasingly divided into agricultural settlements and other towns, which served to protect the clans (grody). “Grody” towns were required for increased military protection and civil administration. Military princes were placed in charge of the fortified towns and the slaves were utilized to serve the towns.

Settlements thrived on the agricultural production of grain, supplying bread and fish, or tending the livestock of horses and cattle. The town’s people built boats and made military products, such as shields. Settlements were named after the products or industry of the inhabitants and occupations were often inherited from father to son.

There is only meager information about the religious practices of the early Slavs. Apparently, they deified the forces and phenomena of nature, such as the trees, rivers, and stones. There were supernatural gods, goddesses, and spirits. However, there was no representation of the idea of a supreme god or hierarchy of gods. Western Slavs may have shared a common religion with other Indo-European cults, but they lacked a developed pattern of ritual. In addition, the religion of the Slavs was disorganized, which didn’t produce a unified political authority.

Whereas the Teutons were an aggressive culture, the Slavs were calm and peaceful. Archeological research of the Pommorze (Pomerania) has produced religious artifacts, such as the deity of Swiatowit (Indra), the Slavic Zeus. He was depicted with four faces able to see everything, as well as a cornucopia in his right hand and a sword in his left hand. The Pomeranians worshiped Perun, the god of storms; Welles, the god of cattle; Lada, the goddess of order and beauty; Marzanna, the goddess of death; Dziewanna, the goddess of spring; Radegast, the protector of merchants and guests; and many other minor nymphs, sirens, and fauns.

Slaves believed in immortality of the soul and in an afterworld with both punishments and rewards. Funerals became elaborate and there were days set aside for commemoration with offerings and prayers for the dead. Some women served with special powers of communication with the dead. Evidence was found in the region of the Elbe and on the Island of Rugia (Rugen) of a class of Slavic priests.

Isolation of the Polanie into the smaller groups and settlements created individualism and self-reliance. Cohesion of Slavs into a nation would have to await the future and very powerful princes of the Piast Dynasty, which was established at Gniezno during the 10th century. European competition and stresses from the “outside world” on the Polanie shaped their need for better protection and organization. The Piast rulers were able to expand their control over the region and neighboring peoples.

Poles were a Slavic culture. Other European Slavs included the following tribes: Obodrichi, Silesians, Czechs, Moravians, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Bulgars, Polochanes, Mazovians, Derevlians, Polianians, Volhynians, Slovianians, Viatchians, Krivichians, Radimichians, and Severians.

Modern Slavs are divided by their national and geographical location, as well as their religious, ethno-cultural, and linguistic history. They are a very numerous and complex group of ethnically related, but different peoples, who consolidated and settled into many regions. Mostly, Slavs are divided into the western and eastern ethnic subdivisions, such as:

  1. Eastern Slavs, who are made up of the peoples of Russia; Belarus; Ukraine. They include the Ruthenes (Lemko, Bojko, and Hucul); and Poleszuks (transitional between Ukrainians and Belarussians).
  2. Western Slavs, who are made of the following peoples: Poles, which includes the Kaschubians, Slovincians, Mazurs, Silesians, Kociewiacy, Borowiacy, and Warmiaks; Czechs and Moravians; Slovaks; Sorbs, which includes Lusatians and Serb-Lusatians; South Slavs, which include the Bulgarians (and Pomaks), Bosniacs, Croats (and Istrians and Janjevci), Macedonians (and Torbesh), Serbs (Montenegrins, Bokeljs, Bunjevci, Gorani, Molise Serbs, Gardisce Serbs and Burgenland Serbs) and the Slovenians (Carinthians).

Timetable of Asian and Slav History

Date History
800 BCE Early Slav origins in the Caucasus.
800 BCE
    Earliest Asian migrations to Europe:
  1. Asian migrations to Europe were known as far back in history as 800 BCE. Apparently, because of increasing cultural pressure from the Chinese, Eurasian nomads were driven westward from the Altai region of present day Mongolia.
  2. Scythian nomadic tribes were among the inhabitants of the Altai region, who found there way to Europe.
  3. By 600 BCE, the Scythians settled the northern region of the Black Sea.
  4. Slavs, who were living in the Black Sea region, were forced to migrate northwards.
600 BCE
    Scythian history:
  1. The origin and reasons for Scythian migration to the Caucasus and Ukraine has never been explained. However, it is believed that the migration occurred between 800 and 600 BCE. Scythians were the first great pastoral nomadic group in Central Asia. Greek writers, such as Homer and Herodotus, described Scythian costumes with open tunics and padded and quilted leather trousers that were tucked into boots. Early Scythians did not use saddles or stirrups when horse riding.
  2. Vast territories were required to graze the livestock that was critical for Scythian survival of small bands of horsemen. Increases of population of the bands could exceed the abundance of the pastoral lands, which supported them. And, the Scythians displaced other peoples in the process of the migrations and expansions as their populations enlarged. Thus, the Scythians ranged over great distances to survive. They were a pastoral and nomadic tribal people of the Central Asian steppes, who relied upon horses and wagons for mobility. They lived in felt tents and subsisted on mare’s milk and cheese in addition to any fish or game that was hunted. Western Scythians were agriculturalists, raising wheat for both consumption and export. During spring and summers, the Scythians ranged far distances seeking adequate pastures to feed their livestock. In wintertime, the tribes settled along river valleys. Men rode horseback, while the women drove the oxen-wagons filled with their portable belongings and tents. Scythians were polygamous and the son’s inherited their father’s wives.
  3. Evidence of Scythian settlements has been documented from the Altai region of Asia. They proceeded to the region of the Ural Mountains and thence to the Volga River region and Black Sea area. The Scythians migrated to the Sub-Carpathian region, where they most likely encountered Slav settlements. Eventually, Scythians were settled in the Mediterranean region.
  4. They were famous for their horses with saddles and conquered from the Steppes of Eurasia to southern Europe. Saddles provided the Scythians with the most stable platform from which to use archery as a skilled weapon. As a result, Scythians were employed as mercenaries.
  5. Scythians migrated to the Caucasus region from the Altai Mountains. They also relocated to the Oxus River in Central Asia. Additional settlements of the Scythians were located in the Indus River area of India and the Ganges River south of the Himalayan Mountain Range. There were also migrations to Persia, the Caspian Sea area, and regions near both the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.
  6. Scythians also spread to Anatolia, the Middle East, the Nile area, and the Red Sea region.
  7. Scythian tribes were divided into hordes or small groups, which recognized the authority of a king reigning from the main horde. They used saddles on their horses to attack enemies and could very successfully maintain supremacy by their military organization by using guerrilla tactics. Scythians used saddles with stirrups that created an efficient mounted platform for the archers. They could fire many arrows accurately while mounted and riding rapidly. When the hail of arrows was exhausted, the Scythians would turn away and re-arm before returning to attack and overwhelm the enemy. During those battles, the Greeks rode bareback on horses, so the Scythians had a definite advantage by using saddles, which stabilized their use of bow and arrow weapons. Later, the Sarmatians defeated the Scythians by incorporating bronze armor plates sewn into their woolen or leather garments, which could withstand the hail of arrows during battle. Sarmatians also developed effective lances that were fifteen feet in length to repel the mounted Scythians.
  8. The early Scythian settlements in the northern Black Sea region were peaceful and based upon trade with the Greek colonies. Cattle, hides, furs, timber, wax, honey, and grain were traded to the Greeks in exchange for olive oil, wine, and textiles.
  9. Scythians continued to migrate from the Black Sea area to the region north of the Caucasus Mountains. Eventually, their boundaries extended from the Volga River in the east. Scythians moved westward to the Don, Dnieper, Bug, and Dniester Rivers and to the Carpathian Mountains. In so doing, the Scythians continued to displace Slavic tribes, who were forced to migrate north.
  10. Scythians were excellent traders and used the rivers to further their exchanges with the Greeks at the Black Sea ports. Scythians also controlled a large slave trade.
  11. Scythian Burials: Scythians buried their deceased members in high barrow structures called, “kurgans.” The tombs were covered with larch-wood to preserve the contents, which were in turn covered by large stones and boulders. Burial mounds have provided archeologists with much of the detailed knowledge about the Scythian culture. Skeletons of Scythians were found buried with their axes, arrowheads and clothing. Females were similarly buried as the men, which gave rise to the Greek myth about women Amazons. The assumption was that women could also serve as warriors. Burials also included gold materials and jewelry, silk cloth, and sacrifices of both their horses and other humans. Permafrost in the regions has helped to preserve the relics from Scythian culture. All of the items that a Scythian might need in his after-life were included in the burial. The richest people were buried with their horses. Ordinary people were buried with utensils. One grave included a carpet, which is the oldest oriental pile rug ever found. Burial treasures have helped archeologists to better understand the history of peoples currently inhabiting Central Asia, the Gorno-Altai region of Mongolia, Kirghiztan, and Kazakhstan.
  12. Perhaps most famous of all was the use of elaborate gold items in the materials and jewelry utilized by the Scythians. The refined techniques used in the creation of gold items were learned from the Greeks. Items of gold Scythian men showed beards and long hair typical of Europeans. Personal jewelry was elaborate and detailed. Gold was also utilized as decorations on horse’s gear and for ornaments on weapons. Decorations often utilized animal motifs, such as winged griffins attacking horses, battling of stags, deer, eagles, or milking ewes. An early Scythian tomb depicted gold objects of more primitive animal motifs; probably a style known to them prior to learning the more refined techniques of the Greeks One of the ancient royal tombs contained forty-four pounds of gold adornments.
  13. The appearance of gold crafts among the Scythians coincided with the time of the Assyrian gold art in the 8th century BCE. Scythians allied with Assyria against the Medes, who were rising to power in the region of northern Persia in the 7th century BCE. That was coincident with the history of the Assyrian invasion of Syria, Phoenicia, and the Northern Kingdom of Israel. Migrations and contact with the peoples of Luristan and Media, north of Assyria, could have influenced the timing and use of gold crafts among the Scythians. Perhaps the gold items themselves were imported or the craftsmen were taken during invasions.
  14. Scythian language is Indo-European oral language and closely related to Iranian. However, there was no written language among them. Many dialects existed. The language of the Sarmatians was also a dialect of the Iranian early language. The earliest Iranian language was called, Gathic Avestan. Avestan is related to Old Persian, from which the modern Iranian language was derived. Ossetic is another language that is related to Gathic Avestan and was found spoken in the Caucasus region. Ossetic is thought to be descendant from the language spoken by the Scythians and Iranian Sarmatians, who followed them. Apparently, the Ossetics spoken language was called Ironig or Ironski, which is Iranian. Another theory, not currently accepted, was that the Scythian language was a Turkic language.
200 BCE
    Sarmatians:
  1. Another Asiatic tribe from the Altai region was known as the Sarmatians. They were very aggressive and utilized armor in their attacks, which aided them in battles against the Romans and Macedonians. Sarmatians aided the Parthians of northern Persia and revived their Iranian Empire. By the 3rd century CE, Sarmatians aligned themselves with the Alanians and, later, the Alanians then allied with the Goths. The Sarmatians defeated remaining Scythians groups and also advanced into both Roman territories and regions over which the Sassanid Persians ruled. They displaced the Scythians, who migrated to the Crimea and the southern Danube delta of Dobruja.
  2. Sarmatians migrated into southern Russia about 200 BCE. They were a dominant culture for the next 400 years until 200 CE. By that time, 200 CE, Roman forces replaced the Greek Empire and settlements in the region. Romans reigned from the Black Sea to the northern region of the Caspian Sea. Between the forces of the Romans and Sarmatians, the Slavs, who preceded them, were forced north of the reign to the Vistula River. Other tribes, the Goths and Balts, move west.
  3. By 200 CE, the Goths, then a Baltic tribe, rose to power and dominated the region of the Black Sea to the Dniester, Bug, Dnieper, and Don Rivers.
  4. By the middle of the 6th century CE, the Sarmatians converted to Orthodox Christianity.
200 CE
    Goths:
  1. Originated between the Oder and Vistula Rivers in the middle of the 3rd Century, which was the region that was occupied later by Poland. An old unproven Goth legend claimed that they were a Baltic tribe, who came from Gothiscandza, southern Scandinavia.
  2. Regarding the origin of the name, Goth, there are some fascinating concepts. Goth may have been taken from the root-word, Gut. Language specialists, philologists, have conceived the idea of the word, Gut-iuda, as the Gothic people, which may have been taken from the earlier Greek word, Gutthones. Gut is identical to the Baltic word, Gotland, an island in the Baltic Sea. The Swedish word, Gutnish means Gotland in the same manner that lamb can be used to mean sheep. The Swedish word, Gotar and the Anglo-Saxon word, Geatas may have been the named that became the proto-German word, Gauta. Philologists have suggested that the warriors from Gotland invaded the region of northern Poland to take control of the amber resources. Perhaps that was the origin of the Goth peoples.
  3. In 200 CE, the Goths made a major expansion to the Black Sea area and defeated the Sarmatians, which extended their reign to the Black Sea.
  4. A Gothic army crossed the Danube in 238 to demand tribute from the occupying Romans. Then they withdrew.
  5. A second invasion occurred in 250, when the Goths led the army as far as Phillippopolis, Bulgaria (Macedonia???).
  6. In 251, the Goths defeated the Roman Emperor Decius on the lower Danube
  7. They defeated the Roman army at Abrittus in 251.
  8. Goths succeeded in sea-borne raids to conquer Trebizond, located on the Black Sea coastline of northern Turkey. They led a massive invasion of Asia Minor, plundered properties, and took many slaves.
  9. Goths converted to Christianity between 300 and 400 CE. They were led by a native Goth, Ulfila, who created the Gothic alphabet. The Bible was translated into Gothic.
  10. In 267 CE, Goths were one of the first “barbarian forces to attack the Roman Empire. But, Roman Emperor Aurelia destroyed the Gothic kingdom in the 270’s. King Cannabaudes was killed and the Goths were driven back across the Danube River, which ended the Gothic Empire.
  11. A new group, the Gepids, filled the power vacuum in the region, which created a division among the Goths.
  12. There were two major Goth groups. The Tervingi branch of the Goths occupied the lands west of the Dniester River that consolidated the realm between the Dniester and the Danube. That group settled in the territory of Dacia, which had been abandoned by the Romans. Dacia was the region that was later called Romania. That branch of the Goths was referred to by the Romans as the Visigoths. The later conquest and settlement by the Huns in the Volga area drove the Visigoths westward.
  13. The Greutungi group occupied the region east of the Sea of Azov. They were called the Ostrogoths, who were later conquered by the Asiatic Huns in the second half of the 4th century.
  14. By 400 CE, Slav tribes had recognized the reign of the superior Goths.
400 CE
    Avars:
  1. Mongolian peoples, known to the Chinese as the “Juan-Juan.” Arose in the 4th century CE from Mongol and Turkic groups along the northern Chinese borders. About the same time, Huns, another Asian group from the northern Chinese border area, migrated westward, driving back the Goths, who preceded them in the 2nd century CE. The accumulative effect of those Asian migrations was the replacement of the Goths and Germanic tribes, as well as the fall of the Western Roman Empire.
  2. The Avars migrated through western Iran to the Russian steppes and mingled with the Huns and Uighurs. They migrated into Eastern Europe by the 6th century. The confederation of the Juan-Juan, Huns, and Uighurs were known as the Avars.
  3. The Avars established a base situated around Belgrade, present-day Yugoslavia. Their arrival drove out the Slavs to the western areas that they settled and occupied since.
  4. Tribute was successfully extracted from the Byzantine Empire, which helped to finance the Avar expansion into the Balkan Peninsula. At first, Justinian refused to pay the tribute, but was attacked again by the Avars with even greater forces. Justinian was required to pay huge outlays thereafter. Justinian used his tribute payment to engage the Avars to raid and subjugate the Slavs, who had settled in the Balkans. Thus, the Avars expanded in the Balkans.
  5. Avars reached Constantinople, but failed to conquer.
  6. In 626, the Avars formed an allegiance with the Persians, Huns, Gepids, and Bulgars, to lay siege on Constantinople. The Avars attacked from the European side of the Bosphorus, while the Persians attacked from the Asiatic side. The siege was not successful, and in the process, the Byzantines destroyed the Persian fleet. The Avars had to abandon their siege.
  7. After the Khagan died, the Avars continued to decline. The Slavs and Bulgars expanded the influence and power in the region.
  8. Charlemagne defeated the Avars in 791. By the 9th century, it was the resurgent Bulgars, who reigned.
450 CE
    Huns:
  1. Huns were the first Turkic speaking tribes, who also originated in Central Asia. Chinese references mention the peoples of the Xiong-Nu or Hsiung-nu as far back in history as 1200 BCE. Korean legend mentioned the northern Altaic tribes under a “Huan” ruler in the 8th millennium BCE, which pre-dated the establishment of China.
  2. Huns were the first well-documented people in history with a horse-based culture, who migrated. They held a state of readiness and mobility, which permitted them to achieve military superiority over rivals. Huns migrated westward to the Ukrainian steppes. Huns became part of the Avars and Magyars. In Europe, the Huns united the Alans, Slavs, and Gothic tribes under Hun rule. Huns were savage and barbaric, which played out in the eventual downfall of the Roman Empire.
  3. They migrated and reigned over a large area north of the Caspian Sea by 360 CE and continued to move westward, dominating the regions that they settled.
  4. Huns drove out the Goths, who preceded them. Eventually, the Huns reigned over areas from the Volga River to the Rhine River in the west.
  5. The most powerful and ruthless Hun ruler was Attila. To gain control, a confederation of Hunnic tribes united about 420 CE. Leadership was seized by Attila, who actually murdered his brother, Bleda, to gain control of the group. The Huns extorted tribute from Romans and tribes of Slavs, Avars, and Sarmatians. Hun mercenaries were loaned to the Roman forces. Within fifty years, Attila led the Huns to conquer and dominate Europe from the Baltics in the north to the Rhine River in the west and the Danube River in the south. Huns occupied the Caucasus, the region north of the Caspian Sea, and as far to the east as the Oxus River north of Persia. Huns controlled territories from the Baltics to the Caspian Sea by 450 CE
  6. One of the most important reasons that the Huns succeeded was that their resources were based upon plunder, looting, and tribute, without which they could not have continued. They did not develop their own resources and agriculture upon which they could depend.
  7. Attila remained powerful until his defeat by the Franks at Orléans. Valentinian III ruled the Western Roman Empire, but the military forces were controlled by warlord, Aétius. Aétius assembled military forces of Franks, Visigoths, and his own Roman-Germanic army. The defeated Attila in 451 at the battle of the Catalaunian Fields near Chalons-sur-Marne. The Huns were soundly beaten but were allowed to escape.
  8. Instead, Attila led his remaining forces to Milan. Northern Italy was devastated and the Huns approached the walls of Rome. Rome was spared because Attila learned of a bigger threat from the Eastern Empire and turned back his troops. In 453, while in a drunken stupor, Attila was reported to suffer a severe nosebleed from which he suffocated to death. After Attila’s death, the reign of the Huns declined. By 500 CE, Huns retreated to the regions of the lower Don and Volga Rivers. Subsequent Asiatic invaders in Europe were referred to as Huns, thus the naming of Hungary followed and the nickname was given to army of Nazi Germany.
  9. A remnant of the Goths settled in Crimea.
  10. After the domination of the Huns, Germanic tribes made expeditions into Britain and France. Slavs spread to the regions of the Elbe and Danube Rivers.
600 CE
    The earliest Slavs settled in Central Europe and in the region of the Carpathian mountains several centuries BCE. There are several theories of Slav origins.
  1. Northern Europe was settled by Prussians, Lithuanians, Letts, Jadzwings, and Zmuds.
  2. East of those Slavs were the Ugro-Finnish peoples, who settled in a semi-circle from the Riga River to the lower Volga River.

    Linguistic research has revealed other origins of the Slavs.
  1. Teutons originally settled the region of the Carpathian mountains.
  2. On the western side of the Teutons were the Celts.
  3. The north, region of Minsk province, was inhabited by Prussians, Lithuanians, and Letts.
  4. Urgro-Finns settled from the middle Volga, to central Russia, and northern Poland and Prussia.

    Aboriginal Slavs settled the region of the Niemen River, wedged between the Urgro-Finns to the north and the Teutons in the Carpathian Mountains.
  1. The Slavs were Indo-Europeans and not of Ugro-Finnish origin.
  2. The Slavs were pressured by the Ugro-Finnish peoples, so they migrated south and originally occupied the middle Volga River region. They occupied the villages that had been abandoned by the Teutons and Celtic peoples, who had migrated westward.
  3. Thus the Slavs originated in the Carpathians and Vistula areas.
  4. The Slavs then migrated in all directions to the Don River in the east, the shores of the Baltics in the north along the Elbe and Oder Rivers, and the Adriatic Sea in the south. They also migrated as far to the west as the Rhine River and the mouth of the Vistula River.

    Slavic tribes split into three linguistic groups about the 7th century CE.
  1. Eastern Slavs settled along the Dnieper River, which is now Ukraine.
  2. Slavs spread northward to the northern Volga River valley, east of modern-day Moscow.
  3. Slavs also spread westward to the basins of the northern Dniester River and the western branch of the Bug River, in present-day Moldavia and southern Ukraine.

Having overthrown the Avars, by 605 CE, Slavs expanded to the regions of the Upper Volga, Dvina, Vistula, Oder, and Elbe Rivers, to the Frankish boundaries. Slavs moved to control the Balkans in 650 CE. Huns, who had settled in the region of the Don River, replaced the Slave and formed the Khanate of Great Bulgaria. They were known as the Bulgars.

Early Slavs burned the corpses of their deceased members. Later they began to develop more elaborate burial customs. With the burials were included decorations, implements, utensils, and arms. Those customs were discovered among the western Slavs and in the burial mounds of the eastern Slavs. Slav graves contained ear chains made from rings and earings that were made from twisted bronze wires, as well as wooden pails with iron hoops, and carved or ornamented urns and other earthernware.

Slav tribes were pushed eastward by the Teutons. Slavs settled along the Warthe, Oder, and Notze (Notec) Rivers. Slavs originally inhabited agricultural fields, and were known by the name, Poloni. “Pole” was the Slavic word, which meant field.

Polanie reclaimed forests with access to the rivers and lakes where there was plentiful food. They were predominantly agriculturalists.

Raids by Norsemen prompted the Slavs to form defensive forces. Protection by military bands allowed for the cultivation of the Slavic fields. Fortified towns (grody) developed, where the business of the tribes was conducted, trade or barter occurred, and some form of communal worshop. As well, there was a place for storage of goods produced that could be defended. Possibly tribal disputes were settled in the grody towns.

Historical fortified towns were centers for the larger organization of the Polanie. Kruszwica, located on Lake Goplo, Gniezno, also called Gnesen by the Germans, and Knezno, which was taken from the word, Knez, the residence of a prince or duke. Poznan also developed as a vital town center in the west.

Two important tribes are notable, the Lenczanians and the Mazurs. They were armed and in opposition. The most savage of them, the Mazurs, eventually came under control of the Piast Dynasty of princes.

Later, there was conquest of the territories north of the Slav settlements, the tribes known as the Pomorzanie, which were controlled by the Polanie. In Polish, Po means “by” and “morze” means the sea. Pomorze meant “by the sea.” The Teutons changed the name to Pomerania. Polanie then had access to the Baltic Sea, Scandinavia, and the numerous regional rivers to ply their vessels and continue trading with the Romans, Byzantines, and Scandinavians.

Between the 8th and 9th centuries, the Polanie were transformed from an agricultural and settled village culture to a militaristic and structured society that was governed by the princes.

650 to 750 CE
    Khazars:
  1. Khazars from Asia spread from the Oxus River to the region of the Dniester about 650 CE.
  2. The Khan decided to convert to Judaism about 750 CE in order to preserve his rule in face of mounting pressures from the Persian’s Islamic faith and the Byzantine’s Christian faith
  3. Byzantium significantly traded with the Khazars.
  4. Khazars were nomadic Oghuric Turkic people, who migrated from Central Asia during the 5th century. They first settled in the Russian steppes. Some Khazars were reported to have had reddish hair many centuries prior to the arrival of the Mongols in the 13th century. Their language was Turkic Oghur and their religion was Shamanistic. Later, the kingdom consisted of Jews, Christians, and Muslims. All religions were well tolerated, so the kingdom was settled by Jewish refugees from Byzantium and Persia. The Khazarian kingdom was ruled by a succession of Kok Turks, who were also known as Celestial Blue Turks. Their empire lasted 800 years from the 5th to 13th century.
  5. Khazars from Asia spread from the Oxus River to the region of the Dniester about 650 CE. From 550 to 630. They had to pay tribute to the Huns, who reigned initially. Later, the Khazars became part of the Western Turkish Empire.
  6. The Khan, Bulan, adopted to Judaism in 861 in order to preserve his rule in face of mounting pressures from his neighbors in the Persian Islamic Empire and the Byzantine Christian Empire. Khazarians spoke both Hebrew and Slavic and settled in cities throughout the northern Caucasus and Ukraine. Later, King Obadiah established Jewish schools and synagogues. In the 10th century it was estimated that 35,000 Jews lived in Khazaria.
  7. At the time of its maximum expansion in the 9th century, the kingdom was a vast empire that included the regions of southern Russia, northern Caucasus, eastern Ukraine, Crimea, western Kazakhstan, and northwestern Uzbekistan, as well as the Sabirs and Bulgars since the 7th century. Pressure from the Khazar Empire forced the Bulgars to retreat to the Balkans, where the nation of Bulgaria was founded. Some Bulgars migrated to the upper Volga River area. Khazarian power extended over neighboring tribes of the eastern Slavs, Magyars, Pechenegs, Burtas, and the Huns in the northern Caucasus.
  8. Originally, the Caspian Sea was called the Khazar Sea. Modern inhabitants, such as the Azeri, Turks, Persians, and Arabs use the same term. In Turkish, the name is Hazar Denizi; Arabic is Bahr-ul-Khazar; and Persian is Daryaye Khazar.
  9. It was the power of the Khazarian Empire that kept the boundary between Islam in Persia and the Arabs from spreading northward past the Caucasus Mountains.
  10. There were several capital cities in the kingdom. The first capital was Balanjar, which is known by the archeological site of Verkhneye Chir-Yurt. By 720, the Khazars moved the capital to Samandar, a town located on the northern coast of the Caucasus. In 750, Itil or Atil became the final capital, which was relocated to the Volga River region and lasted more than 200 years.
  11. The major city of Kiev was founded by the Khazarians. The name, Kiev, was taken from the Turkic words, “Kui,” which meant riverbank, and “ev,” which meant “settlement.” The modern Ukrainian spelling translated from Cyrillic is Kyiev. Later in 834, a fortress of brick was constructed in Sarkel in the Volga area with the assistance of the Byzantines.
  12. Food staples for the inhabitants included rice, fish, barley, wheat, melons, and cucumbers. Hemp was also produced. Khazarians also hunted fox, rabbit, and beaver, in order to export the furs. Trade along the “silk road” enable them to exchange goods with the Byzantines, Europeans, Azerbaijanis, Uzbeks, Persians, Volga Bulgarians, Chinese, and other Central Asians. In addition to furs, other materials were traded including, silk, candlewax, honey, jewelry, silverware, coins, and spices.
  13. There were two levels of authority within the Khazarian monarchy, which included both a supreme king and a civilian military leader, who was called the “bek.” The monarchy was known as the “kagan.”
  14. Khazarian culture was liberal and permitted people of all religious persuasions to prosper. The legal courts were composed of members, who came from all of the religious groups in the kingdom. Khazars judge according to the Hebrew Torah, while other tribes were judge according to their laws. The official language of the kingdom was the Oghuric Turkic tongue, but in practice, they wrote using Hebrew-Aramaic letters. That is why so many documents that have been discovered by archeologists were written in Hebrew.
  15. Jews from many neighboring regions also immigrated to the Khazarian Empire. Crimea had a very large Jewish community, which came under control of the Khazars. As well, Jews from Persia, the Byzantine Empire, Uzbekistan, Armenia, Hungary, Syria, Turkey, and Iraq, sought refuge in Khazaria. Judaisim in the Khazarian kingdom balance the power of their Christian and Muslim neighbors in Byzantium and Persia.
  16. The Khazarian kingdom ended with their devastating defeat by the Kievan Rus in 965. The final act of defeat occurred when Rus Prince Svyatosalv conquered the Khazarian forces at the Sarkel fortress. Itil was conquered about two years later and then the Rus invaded the Balkans. It was said that no Khazarians remained, but it was only the nation that did not survive. Many people migrated to neighboring regions and merged with those inhabitants. Some of the Khazarians migrated and were incorporated into the Jewish communities of Hungary, Romania and Poland.
800 CE

Collapse of the Roman Empire permitted the westward expansion of Slavs. They settled areas east of the Germanic region in Europe, and the present-day Czech and Slovak areas.

    The Slavs became three distinct groups.
  1. The eastern Slavs were the ancestors of the Russians, Belorussians, and Ukrainians.
  2. The western Slavs were the ancestors of the Poles, Czechs, and the Slovaks.
  3. The southern Slavs were the ancestors of the Bulgarians, the Serbs, and the Croatians.

In 800 C.E., Charlemagne was crowned as the first Holy Roman Emperor. Europe had evolved from the Dark Ages. His realm reached far beyond the Frankish-Saxony borders into the “unknown territories.” Charlemagne might have thought that “Poles” were primitive and disorganized, because they lived in the territory of dense forests, swamps, and treacherous “moving sands.” Slavs, who lived in the “Polish region” were known to be unwarlike, agriculturalists, and had a primitive and rural-type of governance. The largest group of Slavs was known as the Polanie, the “people of the fields.”

Since earlier times, of the first century, Roman merchants had sought the amber resources of the region inhabited by the Slavs. Romans referred to amber as the “gold of the north.” The Slavs of the west traded with the Germanic Saxons, often they warred with each other. Throughout the 8th and 9th centuries, the Slavic Polanie remained isolated from the other European groups. The Polanie built earthen defensive structures and had places of pre-Christian worship. In the southern regions, the Polanie used open-cast mining and iron smelting practices. Their tribal settlements were smaller and consisted of clusters of homesteads and villages. Villages were separated by large forests, which required each of them to be self-sufficient. Historians have thought that the isolation of the Polanie led to the regional strengths of future Polish inhabitants. Isolation also helped to create the subtle dialects of the Polish language that differed slightly from that of the Czechs, Bohemians, and from the northern and eastern Slavs.

880 CE
    Norsemen influence Slav in Europe:
  1. Norse settlers arrived in Novgorod and Kiev by 880 CE. The Viking princes reached Armenia and the Caspian Sea, in their quest for access to the Middle East and the Mediterranean. In the process, the Vikings passed through Novgorod and Kiev. Viking ships sailed to England, France, and Spain, as well as to Italy and Byzantium in the Mediterranean.
  2. The Norsemen, known as Varangians, dominated Slavic settlements in the region. That forced the Slavs to seek an organized federation, which was called the Kievan Rus. Initially the Kievan Rus spoke the Norwegian language.
  3. Slavic tribes were disorganized and constantly battling each other. This gave opportunity to the unified Norse rulers to dominate the Slavs.
  4. The Rus represented a cultural mixture of Slavs and Scandinavian Norse. The first ruler was Rurik, who led a military expedition against Constantinople in 860 CE.
  5. By 880 CE, Kiev was made the capital of the Rus.
  6. The Kievan Rus took tributes from their neighbors to protect the Slavs from incursions by the Pechenegs and Khazars.
  7. Kievan Rus were united, aggressive, and an expansive culture. Christianity was adopted in 1000 CE after a marriage between Vladimir to the sister of the Byzantine Emperor.
  8. The early Kievan Rus rulers were: 880-912 Oleg; 912-945 Igor; 945-962 – Olga; 962-972 – Sviatoslav; 978-1015 – Vladimir I; and 1019-1054 – Yaroslav.
900 CE

Tribal relationships formed the basis of early Slavic culture. Groups were scattered in large clans called, gentes, which were bound by their familial blood ties. Lands were occupied and held by members from the same common clan or group. An elder patriarch, the Staroste, was responsible for directing each clan or gens. He controlled the decisions regarding crops, work allotment, and social order. Property consisted of the tools, which could be moved with the clans. Slavs never had permanent communal households, zadrugas. An assembly, Wiec, consisted of the adult males in the community, who helped to make decisions for the group.

Individuals did not exist outside of their clan, which protected and nurtured them. Outsiders were not accepted into a clan and had to sustain themselves. Such individuals either perished or became a slave of the clan. Military captured prisoners most often became slaves. Even children of slaves were retained as slaves.

By the 9th-10th centuries, Slaves were used to help fortify the key towns. Settlements became increasingly divided into agricultural settlements and other towns, which served to protect the clans (grody). “Grody” towns were required for increased military protection and civil administration. Military princes were placed in charge of the fortified towns and the slaves were utilized to serve the towns.

Settlements thrived on the agricultural production of grain, supplying bread and fish, or tending the livestock of horses and cattle. The town’s people built boats and made military products, such as shields. Settlements were named after the products or industry of the inhabitants. Occupations were often inherited from father to son.

There is only meager information about the religious practices of the early Slavs. Apparently, they deified the forces and phenomena of nature, such as the trees, rivers, and stones. There were supernatural gods, goddesses, and spirits. However, there was no representation of the idea of a supreme god or hierarchy of gods. Western Slavs may have shared a common religion with other Indo-European cults, but they lacked a developed pattern of ritual. In addition, the religion of the Slavs was disorganized and didn’t produce a political force.

Whereas the Teutons were an aggressive culture, the Slavs were calm and peaceful. Archeological research of the Pommorze (Pomerania) has produced religious artifacts, such as the deity of Swiatowit (Indra), the Slavic Zeus. He was depicted with four faces able to see everything, as well as a cornucopia in his right hand and a sword in his left hand. The Pomeranians worshiped Perun, the god of storms, Welles, the god of cattle, lada, the goddess of order and beauty; Marzanna, ghe goddess of death; Dziewanna, the goddess of spring; Radegast, the protector of merchants and guests; and many other minor nymphs, sirens, and fauns.

Slaves believed in immortality of the soul and in an afterworld, with both punishments and rewards. Funerals became elaborate and there were days set aside for commemoration with offerings and prayers for the dead. Some women served with special powers of communication with the dead. Evidence was found in the region of the Elbe and on the Island of Rugia (Rugen) of a class of Slavic priests.

Isolation of the Polanie into the smaller groups and settlements, created individualism and self-reliance. Cohesion of those Slavs into a nation would have to await the future and very powerful princes of the Piast Dynasty, which was established at Gniezno during the 10th century. European competition and stresses from the “outside world” on the Polanie shaped the need for better protection and organization. The Piast rulers were able to expand such control over the region and neighboring peoples.

Poles were a Slavic culture. Other European Slavs included the following tribes: Obodrichi, Silesians, Czechs, Moravians, Slovaks, Slovenes, Croats, Serbs, Bulgars, Polochanes, Mazovians, Derevlians, Polianians, Volhynians, Slovianians, Viatchians, Krivichians, Radimichians, and Severians.

    Modern Slavs are divided by their national and geographical location, as well as their religious, ethno-cultural, and linguistic history. They are a very numerous and complex group of ethnically related, but different peoples, who consolidated and settled into many different regions. Mostly, Slavs are divided into the western and eastern ethnic subdivisions, such as:
  1. Eastern Slavs are made up of the peoples of Russia; Belarus; Ukraine, which include the Ruthenes (Lemko, Bojko, and Hucul); and Poleszuks (transitional between Ukrainians and Belarussians).
  2. Western Slavs are made of: Poles, which includes the Kaschubians, Slovincians, Mazurs, Silesians, Kociewiacy, Borowiacy, and Warmiaks; Czechs and Moravians; Slovaks; Sorbs, which includes Lusatians and Serb-Lusatians; South Slavs, which include the Bulgarians (and Pomaks), Bosniacs, Croats (and Istrians and Janjevci), Macedonians (and Torbesh), Serbs (Montenegrins, Bokeljs, Bunjevci, Gorani, Molise Serbs, Gardisce Serbs and Burgenland Serbs) and the Slovenians (Carinthians).

Events
PGS-CA Meeting

March 25, 2017

Speaker:
Ted Gostin

Topic:
Polish State Archives Databases

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PGS-CA Meeting

May 27, 2017

Speaker:
Gregg Legutki

Topic:
FamilySearch Tree: New Features and a Few Old Ones

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PGS-CA Meeting

July 22, 2017

Speaker:
PGS-CA Members

Topic:
Brick Wall Solutions

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PGS-CA Meeting

September 23, 2017

Topic:
Celebrating our Polish Heritage 2nd Annual Polish Potluck and Show and Tell

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PGS-CA Meeting
Election Day!

November 18, 2017

Reminder:
This will be the 3rd Saturday in November (Due to Thanksgiving weekend being the 4th weekend).

Speaker:
TBA

Topic:
TBA

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