- East Slavs
The East Slavs are a Slavic ethnic group, the speakers of
East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the medieval state of Kievan Rus, by the seventeenth centurythey evolved into the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian peoples.
Relatively little is known about the East Slavs prior to approximately 859 AD, the date from which the account in the
Primary Chroniclestarts. The reasons are the apparent absence of a written language ( Cyrillicscript, created about 863 was specifically for Slavic adoption) and the remoteness of East Slavic lands. What little is known comes from archaeological digs, foreign traveller accounts of the Rus land, and linguistic comparative analyses of Slavic languages.
Very few native Russian documents dating before the 11th century (none ante-dating the 10th century) have been discovered. The earliest major manuscript with information on Rus' history is the
Primary Chronicle, written in the late 11th and early 12th centuries. It lists the twelve Slavic tribal unions who, by the 9th century settled between the Baltic Seaand the Black Sea. These tribal unions were " Polans", " Drevlyans", " Dregovichs", " Radimichs", " Vyatichs", " Krivichs", " Slovens", " Dulebes" (later known as Volhyniansand Buzhans), "White Khorvats", " Severians", " Ulichs", " Tivertsi".
There is no consensus among scholars as to the
urheimatof the Slavs. In the first millennium AD, Slavic settlers are likely to have been in contact with other ethnic groups who moved across the East European Plain during the Migration Period. Between the first and ninth centuries, the Sarmatians, Goths, Bulgarians, Huns, Alans, Avars, Bulgars, and Magyarspassed through the Pontic steppein their westward migrations. Although some of them could have subjugated the region's Slavs, these foreign tribes left little trace in the Slavic lands. The Early Middle Agesalso saw Slavic expansion as an agriculturist and beekeeper, hunter, fisher, herder, and trapper people. By the 8th century, the Slavs were the dominant ethnic group on the East European Plain.
By 600 AD, the Slavs had split linguistically into southern, western, and eastern branches. The East Slavs flooded Eastern Europe in two streams. One group of tribes settled along the
Dnieperriver in what is now Ukraine; they then spread northward to the northern Volgavalley, east of modern-day Moscowand westward to the basins of the northern Dniesterand the Southern Buhrivers in present-day Moldovaand southern Ukraine.
Another group of East Slavs moved from
Pomeraniato the northeast, where they encountered the Varangiansof the Rus' Khaganateand established an important regional centre of Novgorod. The same Slavic population also settled the present-day Tver Oblastand the region of Beloozero. Having reached the lands of the Meryanear Rostov, they linked up with the Dnieper group of Slavic migrants.
In the eighth and ninth centuries, the south branches of East Slavic tribes had to pay tribute to the Khazars, a Turkic-speaking people who adopted
Judaismin the late eighth or ninth century and lived in the southern Volga and Caucasusregions. Roughly in the same period, the Ilmen Slavsand Krivichswere dominated by the Varangians of the Rus' Khaganate, who controlled the trade route between the Baltic Seaand the Byzantine Empire.
The earliest tribal centres of the East Slavs included
Novgorod, Izborsk, Polotsk, Gnezdovo, Sarskoe Gorodishche, and Kiev. Archaeology indicates that they appeared at the turn of the tenth century, soon after the Slavs and Finns of Novgorod had rebelled against the Norsemen and forced them to withdraw to Scandinavia. The reign of Oleg of Novgorodin the early tenth century witnessed the return of the Varangians to Novgorod and relocation of their capital to Kiev on the Dnieper. From this base, the mixed Varangian-Slavic population (known as the Rus) launched several expeditions against Constantinople.
At first the ruling elite was primarily Norse, but it was rapidly Slavicized by the mid-century.
Sviatoslav I of Kiev(who reigned in the 960s) was the first Rus ruler with a Slavonic name.
Modern East Slavs
Modern East Slavic peoples and ethnic groups include:
1There is an ongoing debate whether Rusyns are a separate East Slavic group rather than a sub-group of Ukrainians.
List of early East Slavic states
*loc - [http://lcweb2.loc.gov/frd/cs/rutoc.html Russia]
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