Severians or Severyans or Siverians (Russian: Северяне;
Ukrainian: Сiверяни; Belarusian: Севяране; Bulgarian:
Сeверяни) were a tribe or tribal union of early East Slavs
occupying areas to the east of the middle Dnieper river, and Danube.
They are mentioned by the
Bavarian Geographer (9th century), Emperor
Constantine VII (956-959), by
Khazars ruler Joseph (c. 955), and in
Primary Chronicle (1113).
5 See also
The etymology of the name of
Severians is uncertain. One theory
propose derivation from the Slavic word for "north" (sěver; men of
the north), but the
Severians never were the northernmost tribe of
Slavs. Another theory proposes Iranian derivation from the name of the
Sarmatian tribe Seuer, with seu meaning "black". Some scholars
argued that the Yehudah called Sawarta from the
Kievian Letter (c.
930), written in Hebrew as SWRTH (read either as Sur'ata or
Sever'ata), which is derived from Slavic sirota (orphan; in the letter
sense possibly convert) or Magyar Savarti (black), can be connected to
Based on the 9th-century
Bavarian Geographer the ethnonym is connected
by some scholars to the Zeriuani, or
Sebbirozi (by some scholars
considered as the Sabirs).
It is considered that the
Severians continued the East Slavic tribal
union after the political disappearance of the Antae, and Dulebes,
along the middle Dnieper valley, independent or under the Khazar
policy. It is presumed they inhabited along the lower Desna and upper
Sejm and Sula. Their main center is considered to be in Chernihiv
("black city"). However, as the
Severians in the historical
sources inhabited both Dnieper and one part
Danube valley, and it's
said that the
Zeriuani realm was so great from it all Slavs traced
Henryk Łowmiański considered that the Ruthenian
Severians were Slavic mother-tribe.
Part of the
Severians was settled in the territory of present-day
Moesia Inferior and Scythia Minor).
According to Theophanes the Confessor, the
Bulgars subjugated the
so-called Seven Slavic tribes, of which the Severeis were re-settled
from the mountain pass of Beregaba or Veregava, most likely the Rish
Pass of the Balkan Mountains, to the East, while the other six tribes
to the Southern and Western regions as far the boundary with the
Pannonian Avars. In 767 by the Byzantines was kidnapped Severian
prince Slavun who made trouble in Thrace, indicating they retained
tributary relation with the Bulgars.
Severians had as neighbours the Radimichs,
Vyatichs in the north, and the
Derevlians and Polianians tribes in the
west. Those tribes along the Polianians and the Viatichians in 859
had to pay tribute to the
Khazars in the form of squirrel and beaver
skin. This suggests they lived in or near the north forests. In
Oleg of Novgorod
Oleg of Novgorod annexed their territory to the Kievan
Rus'. They had to pay a "light tribute", and according to
Oleg his activity was not against them, but the Khazars. It is
possible that the Oleg's rule was accepted by the payment of lower
Severians participated together with other East Slavic tribes in the
Oleg's campaign against
Constantinople in 907. In the 10th
Constantine VII in his
De Administrando Imperio
De Administrando Imperio recorded that
during the winter the Rus princes (archontes) moved and were
maintained in the lands of their tributaries
Krivichs. Finally, they became part of the Grand Principality of
Chernigov, and the last reference to them dates from 1024, when were
mentioned as part of the recruited troops by Mstislav of Chernigov
along his druzhina. They had a significant impact on the victory at
Battle of Listven (1024), precisely against the Varangians.
There is dispute among the scholars about the dating; some place Oleg
conquest in the 920-930s; the source by Khazar ruler Joseph (c. 955)
mentioned his empire ruled over Sever, Slaviun and Ventit; while
Constantine VII recorded that the
Severians paid tribue to the Rus in
circa 950, and not Khazars.
They were eventually known as Chernihovians, and gave their name
to the region called Severia.
Archaeologists have found numerous rural settlements, and burial
mounds with cremated bodies, of the 8th to 10th centuries which are
associated with the Severians. The
Severians like other East Slavs
were mostly engaged in agriculture, cattle breeding, hunting and
different handicrafts like production of pottery, weaving, and
metal. It is considered that trade was not very developed, and they
offered honey, wax, furs, and slaves. According to Constantine
VII, they didn't only provide tribute, but also transport with boats
made from single hollowed tree.
They were a tribal confederation ruled by clan or tribal leaders,
whose patriarchial figures even had the political authority of the
commune (zadruga), and met on tribal councils. The center of political
power was in the fortified grady which were placed in the forests or
elevated places, around which developed villages. Some
Saltovo-Mayaki forts were situated in the
Primary Chronicle is recorded that the Drevlians, Radimichs,
Severians had the same custom of violent lifestyle, and
there was no marriage among them yet lived in polygamy.
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