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European Kingdoms



Slavic Tribes (North Indo-Europeans)
Incorporating the Souobenoi & Stauanoi

Any study of the origins of the Slavs is fraught with problems, not least because those origins are extremely obscure and open to interpretation (and a great deal of misunderstanding). Various myths and legends are bandied around as fact, and various facts are openly misinterpreted, sometimes for nationalist or ideological reasons.

FeatureGetting to the core of truth under these circumstances is extremely difficult, and even the most basic appraisal of Slavic origins will be subject to much doubt and debate. Due to the minefield of problems which can develop from the smallest statement, any exploration of Slavic origins may be wordier than almost any other, and is covered in detail in the accompanying feature (see link, right). Only basic details are included in this introduction in order to provide a framework for the timeline below.

MapIt is generally accepted that Slavic origins in Eastern Europe are tied in with those of Indo-Europeans (IEs) in general, and especially with the migrations of the Yamnaya horizon. Initially the proto-Slavs were closely related to the proto-Balts, and both seem to have been far less mobile than most other IE groups.

Their initial lack of movement is explained by their not being located along the main migration paths. As a result they failed to join the general West Indo-European migration (see the map link, right, for general locations of the various tribes in Europe of the first centuries BC and AD).

FeatureEventually, a dividing line did emerge between two halves of this forest-dwelling population, forming the basis for proto-Slavs (to the south) and proto-Balts (to the north). This long isolation may also account for some peculiar aspects of Baltic and Slavic religion (see feature link).

The southwards group gradually expanded further southwards in the direction of the northern Black Sea coast, while the northwards group gradually migrated further northwards. A possible pressure point for this division and subsequent drift could have been, at least in part, the divergent migratory route of the proto-Germanics on their way towards Scandinavia which may have interrupted the isolation of the forest-dwellers.

The proto-Germanics seem not to have had much to do with them though, not culturally or linguistically, at least. This can be proven by the lack of a presence of the cult of Rte in Baltic and Slavic culture. Just why these two groups - R1a Y-chromosome satem speakers just like the Indo-Iranians - did not have the otherwise widespread Rte cult can be explained by their very isolation in the forests to the north of the Pontic-Caspian steppe.

The Balto-Slavic division itself took place around 2500 BC, towards the end of the Indo-European migrationary period, after which the Balts carried on drifting northwards until they reached the south-eastern shores of the Early Baltics. The Slavs themselves generally remained incubated in forest territory well above the northern coast of the Black Sea (largely falling within modern northern Ukraine, plus the southern edges of Russia and Belarus).

The precise location of the proto-Slavic homeland is little more than conjecture. Most estimations centre on a region bounded by the River Bug to the west, the Pripjat to the north, the Don to the east (feeding into the Sea of Azov on the Crimea's eastern coast), and the Dnieper to the south.

The Slav name first appeared in the historical record in the form of 'Sclavenes', although even today there is no agreement on etymology. It was first attested, almost simultaneously, by Procopius of Caesarea (in Greek) and Jordanes (in Latin), although Ptolemy had already mentioned the otherwise obscure Souobenoi and Stauanoi in the mid-second century AD (plus the Serboi).

Old Church Slavonic first records 'Slaviane' in tenth-century texts which were produced in imperial Bulgaria, but these are preserved only in much later manuscripts. Many linguists are now of the opinion that the name was initially a Slavic self-designation for an individual group on the sixth-century Danubian frontier with the Eastern Roman empire, which would mean that it had to have been derived from a place name, much like other ethnic Slavic names with an '-ene' ending.

FeatureTheories about the name deriving from Slavic words for 'fame' or 'word' are now largely discredited (and for a more detailed examination of the Slav name, see the feature link, right).

FeatureJonas of Bobbio's Life of Saint Columbanus and the Chronicle of Fredegar are the first Latin sources to mention Sclavenes under another name - 'Wends'. This was also noted in various other forms (some of them far older), including Veneti, Venedi, or Winedi (see feature link for more), but ascribing to the Venedi any Slavic heritage is a mistake.

The Venedi were in place along the Vistula and elsewhere in that region long before the Slavs began to migrate out of their original incubation zone (or were forced out by various external occupations such as those of the Huns and Avars). The Wends were not Slavs, but they did come to be dominated by Slavs after the fourth century AD.

The Avars did indeed play a vital role in the development of the Slavs. There is general agreement among western scholars that the Avars were instrumental in the introduction of Slavs into the historical record. Just as the Huns caused the Germanic peoples (along with the Iranian Alani) to migrate and to develop new political groups, so too did the Avars cause the Slavs to move and to develop.

In fact it would seem to be the Avars who were responsible for initiating any Slavic outward movement at all, after which they began to head west, south-west, and north for the most part. The east saw far less Slavic intrusion in the early centuries, perhaps with the Volga Bulgars providing too solid a frontier for them to cross.

Steppe plains of Ukraine

(Information by Peter Kessler & Edward Dawson, with additional information from the International Encyclopaedia for the Middle Ages-Online (Supplement to LexMA-Online), from The Horse, the Wheel, and Language: How Bronze-Age Riders from the Eurasian Steppes Shaped the Modern World, David W Anthony, from The Origin and Deeds of the Goths, Jordanes, from Geography, Ptolemy, and from External Links: The Slavs and the Avars, Omeljan Pritsak, and the Linguistics Research Centre, University of Texas at Austin and the College of Liberal Arts, and the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences (personal sites) at the University of Florida, and Brepolis Medieval Encyclopaedias Online, and History of the Langobards, Paul the Deacon (Full Text), and The Balts, Marija Gimbutas (1963, previously available online thanks to Gabriella at Vaidilute, but still available as a PDF - click or tap on link to download or access it).)

c.1300s BC

The proto-Baltic sphere becomes divided into several zones of influence during the Bronze Age. The western zone is under the influence of the Central European metallurgical centre. In the eastern or continental zone, amid the forests which extend from eastern Lithuania and Latvia to the upper Volga basin, the people retain an archaic character, with some influence from their proto-Slav neighbours in southern Russia.

This division continues throughout the remaining prehistoric period, with the eastern Balts being in active contact with the Finno-Ugrians, Cimmerians, proto-Scythians, and early Slavs.

Cimmerian warriors
This image shows Cimmerians battling early Greeks - prior to the advent of accepted 'Classical' Greece - with the mounted Cimmerians warriors apparently being accompanied by their dogs (republican Romans did much the same thing)

c.1200s BC

From an early date, certainly before their existence is recorded - and the 1200s BC has been mentioned as a likely period - a large proportion of the early Slavs in the Middle Dnieper basin fall under the domination of the Scythians. The Finno-Ugric tribes and the eastern Balts living in the forested areas to the north remain outside the orbit of strong Scythian influence.

7th cent BC

The Pomeranian culture cultivates cereal crops, but imports from the south are generally lower than with the preceding Lusatian culture. Warfare seems unlikely as an adequate reason for such a drop as the region produces less hill forts now than the Lusatian had done.

Pomeranian culture is probably influenced by the Germanic groups of southern Scandinavia, at least in part, while a theory based on recent DNA evidence suggests the emergence of a pre-Slavic/Germanic mix which culturally influences the later Western Slavs.

Pomeranian jars
A Pomeranian culture or Pomeralian Face-Urn culture tomb chest which was constructed at a time of greater metallurgy skills but with weaker ceramic skills when compared to the preceding Lusatian culture

625 BC

Herodotus says that Huwaxshatra of Media reigns for forty years including the period in which his people are dominated by the Scythians, but virtually all historians agree that what is meant is forty years excluding the Scythian domination. At the beginning of his reign, Huwaxshatra is considered a vassal of the Scythians until he throws off their yoke in 625 BC.

The Scythian ruler, Madys, and his fellow leaders are massacred by the Medians while his defeated people flee back into Scythia, abandoning their former territory to the south of the Caucasus mountains. Once there they begin the reconquest and renewed domination of the 'lesser' Scythian tribes. Presumably included amongst this number are the Slavs.

600 - 500 BC

The Scythians reach the southern borders of the western Baltic lands, seemingly due to their becoming involved in wars against the Persians who are invading Scythia from the south.

Herodotus describes these wars in Book IV of his history, these being the earliest surviving written records concerning the history of Eastern Europe, at the end of the sixth century BC. Apparently, though, the Scythians do not succeed in penetrating farther north largely, it would seem, thanks to Baltic resistance.

Map of Scythian Lands around 500 BC
This map attempts to show the Scythian lands at their greatest extent, failing to extend northwards thanks to the Balts (click or tap on map to view full sized)

Allusions to some tribal names may be regarded as references to Baltic and Finno-Ugric tribes. Herodotus describes an expedition undertaken by the Persian King Darius against the Scythians in 515 BC. He mentions and approximately locates the seats of the Neuri, Androphagi, Melanchlaeni, Budini, Agathyrsi, and Tauri who are living to the north of Scythia (the Budini at least are linked with the Yukhnove culture).

The Neuri dwell beyond the Scythian farmers who inhabit the land to their south, at a distance of a three day journey towards the east and an eleven day voyage up the Dnieper, starting from Hylae on the Black Sea.

From this it appears that the land of the 'Scythian farmers' occupies the lower and middle Dnieper basin. From the archaeological point of view, this land coincides with the distribution of the Chernoleska culture which, while strongly influenced by the Scythians, shows clear continuity with the preceding culture in Podolia and the middle Dnieper basin.

It is known by the names 'Bilogrudovka' for the late Bronze Age, 'Komarov' for the middle Bronze Age, and 'Bilopotok' for the early Bronze Age. For over a millennium this culture had persisted until the Scythians had destroyed it by conquest. There can be no other explanation than that the 'Scythian farmers' and their predecessors are the ancestors of the Slavs.

River Dnieper (Ukraine section)
The River Dnieper - the Borysfen to Herodotus, the Danapris to the Romans - long provided a conduit between the Black Sea and the Baltic lands to the north with the Neuri living around its headwaters in modern Belarus

2nd century BC

The changeless life of the eastern Baltic tribes in the Dnieper basin is disturbed by the appearance of the Zarubintsy culture, assumed to be Slavs (the name originates in Zarubinec Cemetery to the south of Kyiv on the River Dnieper, excavated in 1899).

The Zarubintsy people progress into the lands of the Milograd people along the River Pripet and up the Dnieper and its tributaries, and the southern territories which are inhabited by the people of the Plain Pottery culture.

21 BC - AD 1

The Quadi end their southwards migration by settling in Moravia and what is now western Slovakia, alongside the far more numerous Marcomanni to their immediate west. Early Slavic tribes can be found to the north-east of them, but in this period they remain small and unimportant.

Western Slovakia
The landscape of western Slovakia offers a dramatic contrast in landscape, making the region protectable, but also very verdant and productive

c.8 - 6 BC

Various Germanic tribes can be located within the area of the Przeworsk culture at this time, including the Lugii, Vandali, and Venedi. The Burgundians are also linked to the region prior to their migration.

Arguments have existed for some time over whether the Przeworsk is the result of Germanic, Slavic, or Celtic influence. The truth is probably that all three contribute. The Lugii especially are known to cross the boundary between Germanic and Celtic, while little is known of the Slavs except that they first emerge between southern Poland and western Ukraine.


Ptolemy, who writes in the mid-second century, mentions two tribes in the form of the Souobenoi and Stauanoi, both of which have been interpreted as possibly the oldest historical attestations of Slavs. Both tribes are otherwise obscure but, given Ptolemy's diligence in recording other groups on the far side of the Vistula, it is likely that they are genuine.

Tombstone of Tacitus
The tombstone of Tacitus once marked the final resting place of one of Rome's most important authors, who not only chronicled the creation of the empire, but also listed the many barbarian tribes of Europe and the British Isles (External Link: Creative Commons Licence 4.0 Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike International)


A tentative footing for the origins of the Croats comes with the earliest mention of the name as Horovathos (modern Hrvatske/Hrvat or Hrvati/Horvat) which can apparently be traced on two stone inscriptions in Greek, dating from around AD 200.

These are placed in the seaport of Tanais on the Sea of Azov (now part of Crimea). One of the confluents to the River Don near the region of Azov is still called Horvatos. This area is close enough to the proto-Slav homeland in what is now northern Ukraine to make a proto-Croat presence feasible.


The last ruler of the Ostrogoths for generations to remain free of Hunnic vassalage, Vinithar leads the free remnants of his people to Pannonia where they apparently resist the Huns for a few brief years.

Associated with Vinithar by Jordanes are the second of three great groups of professional warriors, an early Slavic tribal polity known as the Antes (the others being the Venedi and the yet-to-be-instituted Sclaveni warriors, the later Slavs).

Ermanaric's death
In the face of an unstoppable and destructive Hunnic invasion, the final act of the Ostrogothic King Ermanaric was a (probable) ritualistic death ceremony in which he ended his own life

Once free of Gothic control, the Antes expand across the Black Sea coast from an area to the north of the lower Danube across to the sea of Azov. Also in the fourth century, and most likely towards its end, West Slavs begin to migrate into Bohemia and Moravia, a process that is more or less completed by the sixth century.

5th century

The strong cultural centre of the Baltic tribes, with influences extending across north-eastern Europe, comes under threat from around the end of the fourth century or in the early part of the fifth century, as eastern Slav expansion reaches the Baltic lands in what is now western Russia. The gradual influx of Slavs continues right up until the twelfth century and onwards.

The earliest stages of the Slavic expansion northwards is still being established in a satisfactory manner by actual archaeological finds. It seems that the area between Kyiv and Novgorod is occupied in consecutive waves by different tribal groups between the fifth and eighth centuries.

Szybowcowa Hill in Lower Silesia
Slavs migrated outwards to occupy areas of Europe which had previously been home to the Germanic Vandali and the Celtic Naharvali before them, including the rolling hills of Silesia

Early traces of Slavs - identified with the Krivichis Slavics - in the north are found in the area of Pskov, east of the Estonians and tribes which include the Lats and their neighbours, and also south of Lake Peipus in the basin of the River Velikaja.

West Slavs first enter central Poland and Galicia towards the later part of the century, filling the void left by the greater part of the departed eastern Germanic tribes in regions such as Lusatia and Silesia.

Masuria is also reoccupied after parts of it have been abandoned by the Vidivarii and their preceding Willenberg culture ancestors, with the West Baltic tribe of the Galindians moving in. They and the newly-arriving Slav populations are still neighboured to the north by surviving Vidivarii populations which are gradually subjugated.

c.488 - 525

The region around Carinthia is settled by tribal Slavs. There is no overall regional control, and Carinthia soon becomes a border zone between the Avars and the Bavarii during the sixth and seventh centuries.

The modern southern Austrian region of Carinthia marked the upper edge of the Adriatic hinterland, and the southern borders of Samo's seventh century Slav kingdom, one of the earliest Slav states to appear


The Kutrigurs are enlisted as allies by the Gepids, whose kingdom is now under threat by the Langobards and Eastern Romans. Emperor Justinian immediately brings into action his own allies, the Utigurs, cousins of the Kutrigurs, and the Kutrigurs are forced to abandon their mission and return to defend their homeland on the north-western shore of the Black Sea.

Thurisind of the Gepids is forced to contract the Sclaveni (a general name for the early Slav arrivals in the Balkan region) as backups, ferrying them across the Danube.

At the same time, the Gothic writer Jordanes, a bureaucrat in the Roman capital of Constantinople, completes his sixth century work, entitled Getica. Among many other things, it provides an account of the origins of the Sclavenes or Sclaveni (Slavs, but various translations produce the two different plural suffixes seen here).

The Avars pictured here are on their way to conquer Sirmium from the Eastern Romans, which they successfully managed in AD 582, fourteen years after the confirmed founding of their khaganate in the Carpathian Basin

In relation to them he mentions two other kinds of professional warriors, the Antes (an early Slavic tribal polity) and 'Venethi' or 'Venethae'. The latter are the Venedi, who are probably undergoing a gradual absorption by newly-arriving Slav groups.

The Antes are linked with King Vinitharius of the Ostrogoths. No specific deeds with regard to the Sclaveni are ascribed to any Gothic ruler, showing that they are essentially a post-Gothic institution.

6th century

The West Slavs of Poland gradually subjugate the remaining Germanic and Baltic populations in the north of the region. It is in the early part of this century that isolated remains from cultures influenced by Rome last appear, mostly the remnants of Germanic tribes that have traded directly or obliquely with the former empire.

Germanic populations survive in Pomerania. The Polans occupy the central region of Greater Poland, and during this century a dominant if largely undocumented kingship appears to emerge.

Lech, Czech and Rus
The legendary brothers, Lech, Czech and Rus, were the eponymous founders of the Polish, Czech, and Russian nations, shown here in Viktor Vasnetsov's 'Warriors', 1898

6th century

Much of Thuringia's original territory is lost to incursions by the Avars and Slavs. Further Slav groups in Central Europe probably absorb the Lugii tribe, subsequent to its defeat by Rome.

Slavs also migrate into the area around the Caucasus, to the north and east of the Black Sea, to merge with proto-Bulgarians who have been there since the fifth century. A little farther west, more Slavs settle to eventually form Serbia.

The Germanic Warini are crushed by the Franks in 595 and are apparently assimilated by subsequent Slav settlers in the region who themselves are called the Varnes, adopting the name of the people they now dominate.

The northern Slavic expansion does not immediately wipe out the eastern Balts. They persist in smaller and larger enclaves for many centuries. It is highly probable that before the Slavic Krivichis, Dregovichs, and Radimichs come to dominate the upper Dnieper basin, there exists a Baltic population whose culture is particularly closely related to the Lets in what is now eastern Latvia.

Gutmanala cave in Latvia
Gutmanala, close to Riga (to its north-east), was an ancient cult site of the Livs, neighbours of the Lets, which remained in use right up to the nineteenth century

7th century

The Baltic tribes enjoy what could be termed a 'second golden age', buoyed by rapidly-expanding Viking trade networks which are reaching far the west and deep into Eastern Europe to establish contacts with the Eastern Roman empire at Constantinople.

It's not all peaceful trade, however. The Vikings see the Balts as a viable target for raids, little realising at first how good are the Balts at defending their territories and even striking back at Viking targets.

To the south the Slavs also pose a threat, but the well-equipped cavalry of the southern Baltic tribes, especially it must be assumed the Galindians and Yotvingians, serves to prevent the Slavs from penetrating into core Baltic lands.

c.623 - 658

The 'Slav Kingdom' of Carinthia, Pannonia, and Moravia is formed, stretching from the borders of the Frankish empire in the west along to Moravia in the east. The Eastern Alpine Slavs join this kingdom by 626.

Although its short history is very cloudy - as are its exact borders - it seems to follow the line of the Danube almost from its westerly beginnings to a point east of which it turns south towards the Balkans. The kingdom does not survive the death of its only ruler, instead fragmenting into a Slav principality in Carinthia (Austria), while the Avars resume control of Pannonia (Hungary).

Three Old Prussian gods
The gods of the Old Prussians were Patrimps, Parkuns and Patolls (sounding like modern Latvian names in the compulsory 's' at the end of each name) who were related to the principle cycles of human life - birth and growth, maturity, and ageing and death

c.626 - c.641

Slavs which include the Croats are invited by Eastern Roman Emperor Heraclius to help him fight the Avars. The Croats receive their present-day lands to settle as a reward, with further Slav groups also settling Slovenia (as Slovenes).

The Slav presence in Dalmatia and Istria leads to the destruction of churches, and Pope John IV, a Dalmatian, is forced to pay large sums of money to free prisoners. The relics of some of the more important Dalmatian saints are interred in Rome.


Towards the end of the life of Dagobert I of Austrasia, possibly around AD 634, he appoints one Hruodi to command the River Main region from its capital at Würzburg. For almost a century now, Franks have been settling along the course of the Main, gradually securing more territory towards the east.

Early in the seventh century, Slavs begin settling to the north-east, so Hruodi's appointment is an attempt to stabilise this eastern area of Austrasia that is gradually becoming known as Franconia.

River Main at Wurzburg
This photo shows the River Main passing under Würzburg's oldest bridge - and its only bridge until 1886 - sitting under the watchful gaze of Marienberg Fortress, itself built during the sixteenth to eighteenth centuries to replace older fortifications dating back since well before the beginnings of Franconia


Despite his mental illness and the regency being provided by his adoptive brothers, Aione leads the forces of Benevento against Slavic raiders who attack Siponto on the Adriatic coast. During the clearance operation, his horse falls into the defensive pit that has been dug around the Slavic camp and Aione is surrounded and killed.


The Fredegarii Chronicon records that in Pannonia (part of which now forms Khorushka's territory), a dispute arises between the Avars and a large, migrant population of around nine thousand Bulgars. A Prince Alcioka, seeks help from the Bavarii but his people are almost entirely slaughtered. A few hundred survivors enter the marca Vinedorum, the land of the Slavs (possibly the Slav Kingdom).

At around the same time, Asparukh of Great Bulgaria leads his people towards the northern coast of the Black Sea. In time they reach an area to the north of the Danubian delta known as the Ongal (precise location unspecified), from where they launch annual raids into Eastern Roman territory.

Map of the Frankish Empire in AD 800
This map shows Frankish domination around AD 800, but Khorushka's approximate borders are still visible, with Bavaria and the Avars engulfing them on either side (click or tap on map to view full sized)

These Danubian Bulgars also develop close bonds with the local Slav population which has been in the region for up to two centuries by now. This population is formed by the tribe or confederation of the Severians, along with what is known as the 'Seven Clans' or 'Seven Slavic Tribes'. This union of Slavs forms on the Danubian plain in the mid-seventh century, around the same time at which the Bulgars arrive.


Around AD 666, King Grimoald of the Lombards faces perhaps the biggest threat to his kingship while he is fighting the Eastern Romans in the Mezzogiorno. Having left Duke Lupus of Friuli as his regent in the north, the duke now revolts, usurping Grimoald's authority.

Grimoald is forced to return, and Lupus is thoroughly defeated and his duchy devastated by cooperative attacks by the Avars. Grimoald then hunts down Lupus' son, Arnefrit, and his Slav allies (quite possibly those of Khorushka), and defeats them in battle at Nimis. Arnefrit dies during the battle and Grimoald gifts the duchy of Friuli to Wechthari.

The new duke is an inveterate enemy of the Slavs, and almost immediately defeats a Slav raid from Khorushka (as outlined by Paul the Deacon and sometimes attributed to the year 664).

Emperor Constans II
This light solidus was minted during the eventful reign of Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II, with his face on the obverse

8th century

The Venedi gradually disappear between the sixth and eighth centuries. Pressure from Germanic groups to their west, but more especially from migrating Slavs from the east see them assimilated. The northernmost parts of their territory are absorbed by various natives which include the Prussians and Lithuanians. The majority of the north is slowly amalgamated by early Poland.

Thanks to that assimilation, Germans largely see the new Slav masters of the Venedi as being of the same group, and the Venedi name is transferred to them (although they don't use it to describe themselves).

In the German tongue they are called Wends (Wenden or Winden), while farther south the early Carinthians and Styrians (later to form part of Austria) refer to them as Windische. This helps to show just how great a territory had been settled by the Venedi in the millennium or more of their settlement east of the Vistula.

The vocabulary of the proto-Slavic language shows signs of adoption from multiple sources, with evidence of loan words from Indo-European languages of Eastern Europe. Naturally the Venedi have been suggested as one of those sources.

A personification of the early Wends was presented by a gospel book of 990 which showed them as the Sclavinia (early Slavs, of which the westernmost groups were known as Wends), plus Germania, Gallia, and Roma, all of whom were bringing tribute to Holy Roman emperor Otto III

Given the probable origins of the Slavs between the rivers Bug and Dnieper (the latter of which runs through Belarus and Kyiv in Ukraine before draining into the Black Sea), the two groups have probably interacted long before the Slavs now become dominant, in much the same way as Germans and Gauls interacted across the Rhine in the second and first centuries BC.

Across the eighth and ninth centuries, Slavic tribes migrate and settle in the region of Pomerania, occupying the territory between the Oder and the Vistula. They number at least ten tribes, two of which are the Pyritzans and the Volinians.

To the east of them are Baltic peoples, while to the west are the Veleti group of Celtic tribes which are rapidly becoming Slavicised, and the Obrodrites. Vast woodlands separate the Pomeranians from the Poles to their south, as this latter group of Slavs begins to form small states.

Stettin in Pomerania
Stettin in Pomerania was for a brief time controlled by Poland during one of that state's many forays into Pomeranian lands in an attempt to control the pagan natives (and possibly also to block similar German incursions)

FeatureThe Veleti Union has formed on the western edge of Pomerania, on the southern coast of the Baltic Sea and the western bank of the Oder, in modern north-eastern Germany. The name is the same as 'Galati' (see feature link for details), but without the 'w' to 'gw' to 'g' shift that long ago produced Galati.

Instead this 'Veleti' is either the original 'w' pronunciation (which seems most likely) or a Belgic-style 'w' to 'v' pronunciation (which is possible). What this 'Veleti' means is that the Venedi and other Celtic groups in this region are recorded not by tribal name but by ethnic identity, usually as Wends. These Celticised groups eventually adopt Slavic speech before being incorporated into the German empire.

9th century

From the beginning of the Slavic expansion to the formation of the three Slavic states, Novgorod, Ryazan, and Kyiv, in the ninth century and even several centuries later, there are considerable numbers of Balts in what is now Belarus and in the west of greater Russia. The process of Slavonisation which had begun in prehistoric times continues into the nineteenth century.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 862-882
Tradition states that in AD 862 Rurik was invited to rule at Novgorod, with other Rus princes at Izborsk and Beloozero, and in 882 Oleg seized Kyiv at the heartland of Eastern Slavic tribal lands (click or tap on map to view full sized)

In 830 the Great Moravian kingdom is established along the River Morava by the Slavic leader Mojmír. Mojmír's successors expanded it to include Bohemia (now western Czechia, Slovakia, southern Poland and western Hungary. The kingdom finds itself at the crossroads between the Germanic people in the west and Eastern Romans in the east. Out of this kingdom is formed the duchy of Bohemia-Moravia.

In 862 the Swedish Viking, Rurik, founds the Viking 'Rus' state with his headquarters at Novgorod with a population made up of Eastern Slav, Finno-Ugric, and Baltic people. This is soon followed by the rise of the Old Rus state (Eastern Slavs ruled by a Scandinavian nobility) as the dominant regional force.

Trading centres such as Grodno, Volkovosk, and Novogorodok are founded by the Rus on the former territories of the Lithuanians and the Yotvingians.

By this time the Slavic tribes on what will become Russian soil are fairly well established and stable. The Polyanians inhabit the open country on the west bank of the Dnieper between Teterev and Ros', with the Ulichs and the Tiverians as their southern neighbours towards the Bug and Dniester.

Amber beads
The amber trade of which the Balts were the masters meant that amber beads would end up in all sorts of places after travelling through the trade network - these beads ended up in the Near East

On the other, eastern shore of the Dnieper, between the Desna and the Sula, are the Severians beyond whom, to the north-west, are the Viyatihs on the southern course of the Oka. The Radimichs are located along the Sozh', and the Krivichis on the upper Volga and the watershed between the latter and the Dvina.

North of the Polyanians, the Dregovichs occupy the wooded country to the south of the Pripet', while beyond the Dregovichs to the north are Lithuanian and Finno-Ugric tribes which lay between the Niemen and Dvina. The settlers about Lake Il'men' are the only ones to employ the characteristic name of Slavs (Slovene).


A Swedish Viking called Ragnvald Olafsson establishes himself as head of the principality of Polotsk, a vassal Slav state within Kievan Rus territories, to the south-east of Pskov (within modern Belarus). This makes it one of the earliest Eastern Slav states.

Barely threatened at all by attack from outside Scandinavia during the medieval period, Sweden was able to develop into a strong regional state by the twelfth century


A Slavic principality emerges on the island of Rügen, the largest island belonging to modern Germany. The island had been settled by Germanic Rugii in the first millennium AD, probably from Scandinavia.

Slavs had arrived in the seventh century, mixing with the Germanic population which remained after the 'Migration Period' had seen many of their peoples head southwards. The Slavic principality fully emerges at the same time as Pomerania to the immediate south-east is being Germanised.


As the conclusion of the destructive events of 1167, Kyiv is sacked by the forces of Andrey Bogolyubskiy of Vladimir-Suzdal. The seat of the grand prince of the Rus is moved to Vladimir while Kyiv is gifted with a ruler named Gleb, younger brother of Andrey Bogolyubskiy.

This ends Kyiv's pre-eminence as the principle city of the Rus, but perhaps the greatest of all Slav states will rise from the ashes, centred on Moscow.

The Danes conquer Rugen
The Danish conquest of Rügen in 1168 ended more than a millennium of independence for the native people - a possible combination of Celts, Germanics, and Slavs - pulling down their gods in the process

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