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The Ethnogenesis of the Slavs, the Methods and the Process

Andrej Pleterski ; Institut za arheologiju SAZU

Puni tekst: hrvatski pdf 843 Kb

str. 7-30

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With texts of Žitie Konstantina (The Life of Constantine, Chapter XIV) and Žitije Metodija (The Life of Methodius, Chapters II and V) from the 9th century, it can be determined that a founda- tion of self-understanding of the Slavs was their language. Therefore, the ethnogenesis of the Slavs is to a large extent the history of their language. According to research done by linguists, is the Slavic language structurally derived from an older Baltic-Slavic linguistic stage, which was common to subsequent Balts and Slavs. This happened on the southern edge of the territory that was once inhabited by speakers of the Baltic-Slavic langua- ge. River-names indicate a youngest stage of this territory. It overlaps with a group of archaeological cultures in the third quarter of the rst Millennium BC. At the end of this period moved from Poland to Ukraine a group of people, called Venethi by their western Germanic neighbors. This process resulted in a separation of Slavic language from the Baltic- Slavic language community.
In the 4th century A.D., Goths included Slavs in their tribal confederation, which was dissolved in 375, with the arrival of the Huns. Then began the gradual expansion of the Slavs to the west and sou- th, which was following a withdrawal of Germanic tribes. A relatively uniform Slavic language began to crumble. This expansion ended only 400 years later, when the Slavs settled in the vast area from Hamburg in Germany to Peloponnese in Greece. Belief of researchers that the Slavs settled in this part of Europe very quickly and in large quantities is therefore wrong. It is quite possible that the ho- meland of the Slavs was originally a small territory. The colonisation was gradual and associated with partial assimilation of indigenous peoples, called Vlachs by the Slavs. Power of assimilation of the Slavs was in their free way of life, without taxes.
The legal framework for this assimilation was offe- red by the institution of a so-called vrv (rope) as a symbolic-social phenomenon.
The territory between the Danube and the Adriatic Sea, the Slavs began to settle in the second half of the 6th century. This is corroborated with both written sources as well as archaeological n- ds and their radiocarbon dates. An example of Bled in northwestern Slovenia demonstrates that in the 7th century, new immigrants organized space anew and gave it new names. This topographic names are Slavic, which means that the Slavs brought with them the Slavic language.
Folk narrative in a village Police (Western Slovenia) has preserved the memory of the strange newcomers who have settled in the village area, af- ter all residents, except one, died of plague. In the eyes of neighboring inhabitants in the 19th century, these immigrants were labeled as Gypsies. This is not consistent with the genesis of the village set- tlement, which shows a constant development sin- ce the Early Middle Ages. Folk narrative re ects strong social conditions either from the time of its origin or from the record time. Narrator namely al- ter a story to t his own views on life and his level of comprehension. Looking from this point of wiev, the explanation is quite simple. The name Gypsies is quite recent. In the consciousness of the people it replaced a much older term that had previously designated foreigners, newcomers, those of diffe- rent ethnic origin. These were the ones who created the division of land that has been preserved to the present. In wiev of its place names, they were of Slavic origin. It is therefore most likely that in the area of present-day Police there had been an older settlement inhabited by the Vlachs, which by the Early Middle Ages had been almost depopulated. The new, Slavic settlers had thus chanced upon the
Andrej PLETERSKI Etnogeneza Slavena – metode i proces

remaining villager and some cultivated land. In the eyes of neighboring Vlachs the Slavic settlers had certainly been viewed as newcomers.
The highly interesting notion of us as opposed to the Gypsies, which is inherent in the popular traditi- on of the region, equals to the relation of the Vlachs toward the Slavs-meaning we, the Vlachs against the Gypsies, the Slavs. It denotes that the prevai- ling notion of us, the majority, originates from the indigenous tradition of the Vlachs. This con rms an autochthonous model of Slavic ethnogenesis. Later
on these oldsettlers changed their language to the Slavic. This con rms the model of cultural assi- milation. That the folk tradition preserved explicit memory of the Slavic colonization, would not have been possible, if it would not have actually occurred in the Early Middle Ages. This con rms an allocht- honous model of Slavic ethnogenesis. Example of village Police therefore suggests that to understand the ethnogenesis of the Slavs a synthesis of three in- terpretative models–autochthonous, allochthonous, cultural assimilation-is needed.

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