The vast majority of Slavs are traditionally
Christians. However, modern Slavic nations and ethnic groups are considerably diverse both genetically and culturally, and relations between them – even within the individual groups – range from "ethnic solidarity to mutual feelings of hostility".
The oldest mention of the Slavic ethnonym is from the 6th century AD, when
Procopius, writing in
Byzantine Greek, used various forms such as Sklaboi (Σκλάβοι), Sklabēnoi (Σκλαβηνοί), Sklauenoi (Σκλαυηνοί), Sthlabenoi (Σθλαβηνοί), or Sklabinoi (Σκλαβῖνοι), and his contemporary
Jordanes refers to the Sclaveni in
Latin. The oldest documents written in
Old Church Slavonic, dating from the 9th century, attest the autonym as Slověne (Словѣне). Those forms point back to a Slavic
autonym, which can be reconstructed in
Proto-Slavic as *Slověninъ, plural Slověne.
The reconstructed autonym *Slověninъ is usually considered a derivation from slovo ("word"), originally denoting "people who speak (the same language)", meaning "people who understand one another", in contrast to the Slavic word denoting "
German people", namely *němьcь, meaning "silent, mute people" (from Slavic *němъ "
mute, mumbling"). The word slovo ("word") and the related slava ("glory, fame") and slukh ("hearing") originate from the
Proto-Indo-European root *ḱlew- ("be spoken of, glory"), cognate with Ancient Greek κλέος (kléos "fame"), as in the name
Pericles, Latin clueō ("be called"), and English loud.
In medieval and early modern sources written in
Latin, Slavs are most commonly referred to as Sclaveni or the shortened version Sclavi.
The origin and migration of Slavs in Europe between the 5th and 10th centuries AD:
Original Slavic homeland (modern-day southeastern
Ukraine and southern
Jordanes, in his work Getica (written in 551 AD), describes the
Veneti as a "populous nation" whose dwellings begin at the sources of the
Vistula and occupy "a great expanse of land". He also describes the Veneti as the ancestors of Antes and Slaveni, two early Slavic tribes, who appeared on the Byzantine frontier in the early 6th century. Procopius wrote in 545 that "the Sclaveni and the Antae actually had a single name in the remote past; for they were both called Sporoi in olden times". The name Sporoi derives from
Greek σπείρω ("I scatter grain"). He described them as barbarians, who lived under democracy, believed in one god, "the maker of lightning" (
Perun), to whom they made a sacrifice. They lived in scattered housing and constantly changed settlement. In war, they were mainly
foot soldiers with shields, spears, bows, and little armour, which was reserved mainly for chiefs and their inner circle of warriors. Their language is "barbarous" (that is, not Greek), and the two tribes are alike in appearance, being tall and robust, "while their bodies and hair are neither very fair or blond, nor indeed do they incline entirely to the dark type, but they are all slightly ruddy in color. And they live a hard life, giving no heed to bodily comforts..." Jordanes described the Sclaveni having swamps and forests for their cities. Another 6th-century source refers to them living among nearly-impenetrable forests, rivers, lakes, and marshes.
Menander Protector mentions a
Daurentius (c. 577–579) who slew an
Avar envoy of Khagan
Bayan I for asking the Slavs to accept the suzerainty of the Avars; Daurentius declined and is reported as saying: "Others do not conquer our land, we conquer theirs – so it shall always be for us as long as there are wars and weapons".
Slavic tribes from the 7th to 9th centuries AD in Europe
According to eastern homeland theory, prior to becoming known to the
Slavic-speaking tribes were part of the many multi-ethnic confederacies of
Eurasia – such as the Sarmatian, Hun and Gothic empires. The Slavs emerged from obscurity when the westward movement of Germanic tribes in the 5th and 6th centuries CE (thought to be in conjunction with the movement of peoples from Siberia and Eastern Europe:
Huns, and later
Bulgars) started the
great migration of the Slavs, who settled the lands abandoned by Germanic tribes fleeing the Huns and their allies: westward into the country between the Oder and the
Saale line; southward into
Moravia, much of present-day
Pannonian plain and the
Balkans; and northward along the upper
Dnieper river. It has also been suggested that some Slavs migrated with the
Vandals to the
Iberian Peninsula and even
Around the 6th century, Slavs appeared on
Byzantine borders in great numbers. Byzantine records note that Slav numbers were so great, that grass would not regrow where the Slavs had marched through. After a military movement even the
Asia Minor were reported to have Slavic settlements. This southern movement has traditionally been seen as an invasive expansion. By the end of the 6th century, Slavs had
settled the Eastern Alps regions.
Pope Gregory I in 600 CE wrote to Maximus, the bishop of
Dalmatia), in which he expresses concern about the arrival of the Slavs: "Et quidem de Sclavorum gente, quae vobis valde imminet, et affligor vehementer et conturbor. Affligor in his quae jam in vobis patior; conturbor, quia per Istriae aditum jam ad Italiam intrare coeperunt." ("I am both distressed and disturbed about the Slavs, who are pressing hard on you. I am distressed because I sympathize with you; I am disturbed because they have already begun to arrive in
Italy through the entry-point of
Pan-Slavism, a movement which came into prominence in the mid-19th century, emphasized the common heritage and unity of all the Slavic peoples. The main focus was in the Balkans where the South Slavs had been ruled for centuries by other empires: the Byzantine Empire,
Ottoman Empire, and
Venice. Austro-Hungary envisioned its own political concept of
Austro-Slavism, in opposition of Pan-Slavism that was predominantly led by the
Russian Empire.
Hitler's ambitions at the start of
World War II was to exterminate, expel, or enslave most or all
West Slavs from their native lands, so as to make
living space for German settlers. This
plan of genocide was to be carried into effect gradually over 25 to 30 years. The first half of the 20th century in Russia and the
Soviet Union was marked by a succession of wars,
famines and other disasters, each accompanied by large-scale population losses. Stephen J. Lee estimates that, by the end of World War II in 1945, the Russian population was about 90 million fewer than it could have been otherwise.
Former Soviet states in Central Asia such as
Kyrgyzstan have very large minority Slavic populations with most being Russians. Kazakhstan has the largest Slavic minority population.
Proto-Slavic, the supposed ancestor language of all Slavic languages, is a descendant of common
Proto-Indo-European, via a
Balto-Slavic stage in which it developed numerous lexical and morphophonological isoglosses with the
Baltic languages. In the framework of the
Kurgan hypothesis, "the Indo-Europeans who remained after the migrations [from the steppe] became speakers of Balto-Slavic". Proto-Slavic is defined as the last stage of the language preceding the geographical split of the historical
Slavic languages. That language was uniform, and on the basis of borrowings from foreign languages and Slavic borrowings into other languages, it cannot be said to have any recognizable dialects, which suggests that there was, at one time, a relatively-small
Slavic linguistic unity was to some extent visible as late as
Old Church Slavonic (or
Old Bulgarian) manuscripts which, though based on local Slavic speech of
Thessaloniki, could still serve the purpose of the first common Slavic literary language.
Consistent with the proximity of their languages, analyses of
autosomal marker CCR5de132 shows the
gene pool of
Western Slavs to be identical and demonstrating significant differences from neighboring Finno-Ugric,
Turkic, and North Caucasian peoples. Such genetic homogeneity is somewhat unusual, given such a wide dispersal of Slavic populations, especially Russians. Together they form the basis of the "East European"
gene cluster, which also includes non-Slavic
The 2006 Y-DNA study results "suggest that the Slavic expansion started from the territory of present-day Ukraine, thus supporting the hypothesis placing the earliest known homeland of Slavs in the basin of the middle
Dnieper". According to genetic studies until 2020, the distribution, variance and frequency of the
Y-DNA haplogroupsR1a and
I2 and their subclades R-M558, R-M458 and I-CTS10228 among
South Slavs correlate with the spread of Slavic languages during the medieval Slavic expansion from Eastern Europe, most probably from the territory of present-day
Among Slavic populations who profess a religion, the majority of contemporary Christian Slavs are Orthodox, followed by Catholic. The majority of Muslim Slavs follow the
Hanafi school of the
Sunni branch of Islam. Religious delineations by nationality can be very sharp; usually in the Slavic ethnic groups, the vast majority of religious people share the same religion.
Throughout their history, Slavs came into contact with non-Slavic groups. In the postulated homeland region (present-day
Ukraine), they had contacts with the Iranian
Sarmatians and the Germanic
Goths. After their subsequent spread, the Slavs began assimilating non-Slavic peoples. For example, in the Northern Black Sea region, the Slavs assimilated the remnants of the Goths. In the Balkans, there were
Paleo-Balkan peoples, such as Romanized and
Dacians, as well as
Serdi. Because Slavs were so numerous, most indigenous populations of the Balkans were Slavicized. Thracians and Illyrians mixed as ethnic groups in this period. A notable exception is Greece, where
Slavs were Hellenized because
Greeks were more numerous, especially with more Greeks returning to Greece in the 9th century and the influence of the church and administration, however, Slavicized regions within
Moesia Inferior also had a larger portion of locals compared to migrating Slavs. Other notable exceptions are the territory of present-day
Hungary, where Slavs settled en route to present-day Greece, North Macedonia, Bulgaria and
East Thrace but assimilated, and the modern
Albanian nation which claims descent from Illyrians and other Balkan tribes.
The status of the
Bulgars as a ruling class and their control of the land nominally left their legacy in the
Bulgarian country and people, but Bulgars were gradually also Slavicized into the present-day South Slavic ethnic group known as
Bulgarians. The Romance speakers within
the fortified Dalmatian cities retained their culture and language for a long time. Dalmatian Romance was spoken until the high Middle Ages, but, they too were eventually assimilated into the body of Slavs.
Cossacks, although Slavic and practicing
Orthodox Christianity, came from a mix of ethnic backgrounds, including
Tatars and other peoples. Initially, the Cossacks were a mini-
subethnos, but now they are less than 5%, and most of them live in the south of Russia. The
Gorals of southern
Poland and northern
Slovakia are partially descended from Romance-speaking
Vlachs, who migrated into the region from the 14th to 17th centuries and were absorbed into the local population. The population of
Moravian Wallachia also descended from the Vlachs. Conversely, some Slavs were assimilated into other populations. Although the majority continued towards Southeast Europe, attracted by the riches of the area that became the state of
Bulgaria, a few remained in the Carpathian Basin in Central Europe and were assimilated into the
Magyar people. Numerous rivers and places in
Romania have a name with Slavic origins.
Slavs in the US (1990 census) and Canada (2016 census) by area:
^Živković, Tibor; Crnčević, Dejan; Bulić, Dejan; Petrović, Vladeta; Cvijanović, Irena; Radovanović, Bojana (2013). The World of the Slavs: Studies of the East, West and South Slavs: Civitas, Oppidas, Villas and Archeological Evidence (7th to 11th Centuries AD). Belgrade: Istorijski institut.
^A. Zupan; et al. (2013).
"The paternal perspective of the Slovenian population and its relationship with other populations". Annals of Human Biology. 40 (6): 515–526.
S2CID34621779. However, a study by Battaglia et al. (2009) showed a variance peak for I2a1 in the Ukraine and, based on the observed pattern of variation, it could be suggested that at least part of the I2a1 haplogroup could have arrived in the Balkans and Slovenia with the Slavic migrations from a homeland in present-day Ukraine... The calculated age of this specific haplogroup together with the variation peak detected in the suggested Slavic homeland could represent a signal of Slavic migration arising from medieval Slavic expansions. However, the strong genetic barrier around the area of Bosnia and Herzegovina, associated with the high frequency of the I2a1b-M423 haplogroup, could also be a consequence of a Paleolithic genetic signal of a Balkan refuge area, followed by mixing with a medieval Slavic signal from modern-day Ukraine.
^Underhill, Peter A. (2015), "The phylogenetic and geographic structure of Y-chromosome haplogroup R1a", European Journal of Human Genetics, 23 (1): 124–131,
PMID24667786, R1a-M458 exceeds 20% in the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Poland, and Western Belarus. The lineage averages 11–15% across Russia and Ukraine and occurs at 7% or less elsewhere (Figure 2d). Unlike hg R1a-M458, the R1a-M558 clade is also common in the Volga-Uralic populations. R1a-M558 occurs at 10–33% in parts of Russia, exceeds 26% in Poland and Western Belarus, and varies between 10 and 23% in the Ukraine, whereas it drops 10-fold lower in Western Europe. In general, both R1a-M458 and R1a-M558 occur at low but informative frequencies in Balkan populations with known Slavonic heritage.
^Pamjav, Horolma; Fehér, Tibor; Németh, Endre; Koppány Csáji, László (2019).
Genetika és őstörténet (in Hungarian). Napkút Kiadó. p. 58.
ISBN978-963-263-855-3. Az I2-CTS10228 (köznevén „dinári-kárpáti") alcsoport legkorábbi közös őse 2200 évvel ezelőttre tehető, így esetében nem arról van szó, hogy a mezolit népesség Kelet-Európában ilyen mértékben fennmaradt volna, hanem arról, hogy egy, a mezolit csoportoktól származó szűk család az európai vaskorban sikeresen integrálódott egy olyan társadalomba, amely hamarosan erőteljes demográfiai expanzióba kezdett. Ez is mutatja, hogy nem feltétlenül népek, mintsem családok sikerével, nemzetségek elterjedésével is számolnunk kell, és ezt a jelenlegi etnikai identitással összefüggésbe hozni lehetetlen. A csoport elterjedése alapján valószínűsíthető, hogy a szláv népek migrációjában vett részt, így válva az R1a-t követően a második legdominánsabb csoporttá a mai Kelet-Európában. Nyugat-Európából viszont teljes mértékben hiányzik, kivéve a kora középkorban szláv nyelvet beszélő keletnémet területeket.
^Fóthi, E.; Gonzalez, A.; Fehér, T.; et al. (2020), "Genetic analysis of male Hungarian Conquerors: European and Asian paternal lineages of the conquering Hungarian tribes", Archaeological and Anthropological Sciences, 12 (1),
doi:10.1007/s12520-019-00996-0, Based on SNP analysis, the CTS10228 group is 2200 ± 300 years old. The group's demographic expansion may have begun in Southeast Poland around that time, as carriers of the oldest subgroup are found there today. The group cannot solely be tied to the Slavs, because the proto-Slavic period was later, around 300–500 CE... The SNP-based age of the Eastern European CTS10228 branch is 2200 ± 300 years old. The carriers of the most ancient subgroup live in Southeast Poland, and it is likely that the rapid demographic expansion which brought the marker to other regions in Europe began there. The largest demographic explosion occurred in the Balkans, where the subgroup is dominant in 50.5% of Croatians, 30.1% of Serbs, 31.4% of Montenegrins, and in about 20% of Albanians and Greeks. As a result, this subgroup is often called Dinaric. It is interesting that while it is dominant among modern Balkan peoples, this subgroup has not been present yet during the Roman period, as it is almost absent in Italy as well (see Online Resource 5; ESM_5).
^Kushniarevich, Alena; Kassian, Alexei (2020),
"Genetics and Slavic languages", in Marc L. Greenberg (ed.), Encyclopedia of Slavic Languages and Linguistics Online, Brill,
10.1163/2589-6229_ESLO_COM_032367, retrieved 10 December 2020, The geographic distributions of the major eastern European NRY haplogroups (R1a-Z282, I2a-P37) overlap with the area occupied by the present-day Slavs to a great extent, and it might be tempting to consider both haplogroups as Slavic-specic patrilineal lineages
^Goldblatt, Harvey (December 1986). "Orthodox Slavic Heritage and National Consciousness: Aspects of the East Slavic and South Slavic National Revivals". Harvard Ukrainian Studies. Harvard Ukrainian Research Institute. 10 (3/4): 336–354.
^Zdravkovski, Aleksander; Morrison, Kenneth (January 2014). "The Orthodox Churches of Macedonia and Montenegro: The Quest for Autocephaly". Religion and Politics in Post-Socialist Central and Southeastern Europe. pp. 240–262.
^The Cambridge Ancient History, Volume 3, Part 2: The Assyrian and Babylonian Empires and Other States of the Near East, from the Eighth to the Sixth Centuries BC by John Boardman, I. E. S. Edwards, E. Sollberger, and N. G. L. Hammond,
ISBN0521227178, 1992, page 600: „In the place of the vanished Treres and Tilataei we find the Serdi for whom there is no evidence before the first century BC. It has for long being supposed on convincing linguistic and archeological grounds that this tribe was of Celtic origin.“
^Florin Curta's An ironic smile: the Carpathian Mountains and the migration of the Slavs, Studia mediaevalia Europaea et orientalia. Miscellanea in honorem professoris emeriti Victor Spinei oblata, edited by George Bilavschi and Dan Aparaschivei, 47–72. Bucharest: Editura Academiei Române, 2018.
^An estimated 57.3% ethnic Czechs (2021) on an estimated 10,705,384 total population (2022) makes about 6.1 million. However, 31.6% was unspecified, so this may be far off the real figure.
"Czech Republic". CIA - The World Factbook. Retrieved 16 August 2022.
^Kolev, Yordan, Българите извън България 1878 – 1945, 2005, р. 18 Quote:"В началото на XXI в. общият брой на етническите българи в България и зад граница се изчислява на около 10 милиона души./At the beginning of the 21st century, the total number of ethnic Bulgarians in Bulgaria and abroad was estimated at about 10 million people."
^"Hrvatski Svjetski Kongres". Archived from
the original on 23 June 2003. Retrieved 1 June 2016., Croatian World Congress, "4.5 million Croats and people of Croatian heritage live outside of the Republic of Croatia and Bosnia and Herzegovina"
^This number is derived from the 2022 total population estimate of 3,816,459, multiplied by 0.501 based on the 2013 50.1% Bosniak share estimate. It is not certain that the Bosniak share was still 50.1% in 2022. The Factbook notes: "Republika Srpska authorities dispute the methodology and refuse to recognize the results."
"Bosnia and Herzegovina - the World Factbook". 18 August 2022.
^Topolinjska, Z. (1998), "In place of a foreword: facts about the Republic of Macedonia and the Macedonian language", International Journal of the Sociology of Language, 131: 1–11,
^Poulton, Hugh (1995).
Who are the Macedonians?. C. Hurst & Co. Publishers. p. 167.
ISBN1-85065-238-4. As often occurs with Yugoslav sources, there appears to be confusion about the numbers as there is about the numbers of Macedonians in Greek Macedonia at present: some Yugoslav sources put the latter figure at 350,000 but more sober estimates put it at 150–200,000.
^"Program političke stranke GIG". Do Nato intervencije na Srbiju, 24.03.1999.godine, u Gori je živelo oko 18.000 Goranaca. U Srbiji i bivšim jugoslovenskim republikama nalazi se oko 40.000 Goranaca, a značajan broj Goranaca živi i radi u zemljama Evropske unije i u drugim zemljama. Po našim procenama ukupan broj Goranaca, u Gori u Srbiji i u rasejanju iznosi oko 60.000.