Majority: Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia,
Montenegro, Serbia, Slovenia.
Minority: Albania, Greece,
Republic of Kosovo
Republic of Kosovo (disputed status),
Romania, Germany, Netherlands, Turkey, Italy, Poland, Hungary,
Slovakia, Austria, Russia, Ukraine
East South Slavic languages:
West South Slavic languages:
Serbo-Croatian (Bosnian, Croatian, Montenegrin, & Serbian) and
Orthodox Christianity (Bulgarians, Serbs, Macedonians, and
Slovenes and Croats),
Pomaks, and Torbešis)
Related ethnic groups
Other Slavs, especially East Slavs
Slavs are a subgroup of Slavic peoples who speak the South
Slavic languages. They inhabit a contiguous region in the Balkan
Peninsula and the eastern Alps, and in the modern era are
geographically separated from the body of West Slavic and East Slavic
people by the Romanians, Hungarians, and
Austrians in between (largely
due to the border changes after World War I). The South
include the nations of Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonians,
Serbs and Slovenes. They are the main population of the
Eastern and Southeastern European countries of Bosnia and Herzegovina,
Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro,
Serbia and Slovenia.
In the 20th century, the country of
Yugoslavia (lit. "South Slavia")
united the regions inhabited by South Slavic nations – with the key
Bulgaria – into a single state. The concept of
Yugoslavia, a single state for all South Slavic peoples, emerged in
the late 17th century and gained prominence through the 19th century
Illyrian movement. The Kingdom of Serbs,
Croats and Slovenes, renamed
to the Kingdom of
Yugoslavia in 1929, was proclaimed on 1 December
1918, following the unification of the State of Slovenes,
Serbs with the kingdoms of
Serbia and Montenegro.
2.1 Early South Slavs
2.2 Middle Ages
2.3 Early modern period
2.4 19th century
2.5 20th century
3 Peoples and countries
4.1 Orthodox Christianity
4.2 Roman Catholicism
7 See also
11 Further reading
Slavs are known in Serbian, Macedonian and Montenegrin as
Južni Sloveni (Cyrillic: Јужни Словени); in Bulgarian as
Yuzhni Slavyani (Cyrillic: Южни славяни); in Croatian and
Bosnian as Južni Slaveni; in Slovene as Južni Slovani. The Slavic
root *jugъ means "south". The
Slavic ethnonym itself was used by
6th-century writers to describe the southern group of Early
West Slavs were called Veneti and
East Slavs Antes. The
Slavs are also called "Balkan Slavs", although this term does
not encompass the Slovenes.
Another name popular in the
Early modern period
Early modern period was "Illyrians", the
name of a pre-Slavic Balkan people, a name first adopted by Dalmatian
intellectuals in the late 15th century to refer to South Slavic lands
and population. It was then used by the Habsburg Monarchy, France,
and notably adopted by the 19th-century Croatian nationalist and
Pan-Slavist Illyrian movement. Eventually, the idea of Yugoslavism
appeared, aimed at uniting all South Slav-populated territories into a
common state. From this idea emerged Yugoslavia, which however did not
Early South Slavs
Main articles: Early
Slavs and Sclaveni
The Proto-Slavic homeland is the area of Slavic settlement in Central
Eastern Europe during the first millennium AD, with its precise
location debated by archaeologists, ethnographers and historians.
None of the proposed homelands reaches the
Volga River in the east,
over the Dinaric
Alps in the southwest or the
Balkan Mountains in the
south, or past
Bohemia in the west. Traditionally, scholars put it
in the marshes of Ukraine, alternatively between the Bug and the
Dnieper, however, according to F. Curta, the homeland of the
Slavs mentioned by 6th-century writers was just north of the
Lower Danube. Little is known about the
Slavs before the 5th
century, when they began spreading in all directions.
Procopius and other late Roman authors provide the probable
earliest references to southern
Slavs in the second half of the 6th
Procopius described the
Sclaveni and Antes as two
barbarian peoples with the same institutions and customs since ancient
times, not ruled by a single leader but living under democracy,
while Pseudo-Maurice called them a numerous people, undisciplined,
unorganized and leaderless, who did not allow enslavement and
conquest, and resistant to hardship, bearing all weathers. They
were portrayed by
Procopius as unusually tall and strong, of dark skin
and "reddish" hair (neither blond nor black), leading a primitive life
and living in scattered huts, often changing their residence.
Procopius said they were henotheistic, believing in the god of
lightning (Perun), the ruler of all, to whom they sacrificed
cattle. They went into battle on foot, charging straight at their
enemy, armed with spears and small shields, but they did not wear
Slavs invaded and settled the
Balkans in the 6th and 7th
centuries. Up until the late 560s their activity was raiding,
crossing from the Danube, though with limited Slavic settlement mainly
through Byzantine foederati colonies. The
was overwhelmed by large-scale Slavic settlement in the late 6th and
early 7th century. What is today central
Serbia was an important
geo-strategical province, through which the
Via Militaris crossed.
This area was frequently intruded by barbarians in the 5th and 6th
centuries. From the Danube, the
Slavs commenced raiding the
Byzantine Empire from the 520s, on an annual basis, spreading
destruction, taking loot and herds of cattle, seizing prisoners and
taking fortresses. Often, the Byzantine Empire was stretched defending
its rich Asian provinces from Arabs, Persians and others. This meant
that even numerically small, disorganised early Slavic raids were
capable of causing much disruption, but could not capture the larger,
fortified cities. The first Slavic raid south of the
recorded by Procopius, who mentions an attack of the Antes, "who dwell
close to the Sclaveni", probably in 518.
Sclaveni are first
mentioned in the context of the military policy on the
of Byzantine Emperor
Justinian I (r. 527–565). Throughout the
Slavs raided and plundered deep into the Balkans, from
Greece and Thrace, and were also at times recruited as
mercenaries, fighting the Ostrogoths. Justinian seems to have used
divide and conquer and the
Sclaveni and Antes are mentioned as
fighting each other. The Antes are last mentioned as
anti-Byzantine belligerents in 545, and the
Sclaveni continued to raid
the Balkans. In 558 the Avars arrived at the Black Sea steppe, and
defeated the Antes between the
Dnieper and Dniester. The Avars
subsequently allied themselves with the Sclaveni, although there
was an episode in which the
Daurentius (fl. 577–579), the
first Slavic chieftain recorded by name, dismissed Avar suzerainty and
retorted that "Others do not conquer our land, we conquer theirs [...]
so it shall always be for us", and had the Avar envoys slain. By
the 580s, as the Slav communities on the
Danube became larger and more
organized, and as the Avars exerted their influence, raids became
larger and resulted in permanent settlement. Most scholars consider
the period of 581-584 as the beginning of large scale Slavic
settlement in the Balkans. F. Curta points out that evidence of
substantial Slavic presence does not appear before the 7th century and
remains qualitatively different from the "Slavic culture" found north
of the Danube. Byzantine re-assertion of the
Danube defence in the
mid-6th century and thereby lesser pillage yield (economic isolation)
amidst external threats (Avars and Byzantines) resulted in political
and military mobilisation and the itinerant form of agriculture
(lacking crop rotation) may have encouraged micro-regional mobility.
7th-century archaeological sites shows earlier hamlet collections
evolving into larger communities with differentiated designated areas
(for public feasts, craftmanship, etc.). It has been suggested
Sclaveni were the ancestors of the
Serbo-Croatian group while
the Antes were that of the Bulgarian Slavs. The diminished
pre-Slavic inhabitants (including also Romanized native peoples[a])
fled Barbarian invasions and sought refuge inside fortified cities and
islands, whilst others fled to remote mountains and forests and
adopted a transhumant lifestyle. The Romance-speakers within the
Dalmatian city-states managed to retain their culture and
language for a long time. The numerous
Slavs mixed with and
assimilated the descendants of the indigenous population.
Subsequent information about Slavs' interaction with the
early Slavic states comes from the 10th-century De Administrando
Imperio (DAI) by Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, the
7th-century compilations of
Miracles of Saint Demetrius
Miracles of Saint Demetrius (MSD) and
History by Theophylact Simocatta. DAI mentions the beginnings of the
Croatian, Serbian and Bulgarian states, from the early 7th to the
mid-10th century. MSD and
Theophylact Simocatta mention the Slavic
tribes in Thessaly and Macedonia at the beginning of the 7th century.
Royal Frankish Annals
Royal Frankish Annals (RFA) also mention Slavic tribes
in contact with the Franks.
By 700 AD,
Slavs had settled in most of the Central and Southeast
Austria even down to the Peloponnese of Greece, and from
the Adriatic to the Black Sea, with the exception of the coastal areas
and certain mountainous regions of the Greek peninsula. The Avars,
who arrived in Europe in the late 550s and had a great impact in the
Balkans, had from their base in the Carpathian plain, west of main
Slavic settlements, asserted control over Slavic tribes with whom they
besieged Roman cities. Their influence in the
diminished by the early 7th century and they were finally defeated and
disappeared as a power at the turn of the 9th century. The
Slavs in Greece, the Sklavinia, were Hellenized.
Romance-speakers lived within the fortified Dalmatian city-states.
Traditional historiography, based on DAI, holds that the migration of
Croats to the
Balkans was part of a second Slavic wave,
placed during Heraclius' reign. These two peoples were said to
have been invited into the Empire to protect it from the Avars.
Inhabiting the territory between the
Franks in the north and Byzantium
in the south, the
Slavs were exposed to competing influences. In
863 the Christianized
Great Moravia sent for the two Byzantine monks
Cyril and Methodius
Cyril and Methodius from Thessaloniki on missionary work. They created
a Slavic written language, Old Church Slavonic, which they used to
translate Biblical works. At the time, the West and South
spoke a similar language. The script used, Glagolithic, was capable of
representing all Slavic sounds, however, it was replaced in the
Cyrillic in the 11th century. Glagolithic
survived into the 16th century in Croatia, used by Benedictines and
Franciscans, but lost importance during the
Latin replaced it on the Dalmatian coast. Cyril and Methodius'
disciples found refuge in Bulgaria, where the Turco-Tatar idiom of the
Bulgars would become extinct, and the
Old Church Slavonic
Old Church Slavonic became the
ecclesiastical language of all Orthodox Slavs. The earliest Slavic
literary works were composed in Macedonia, Duklja and Dalmatia. The
religious works were almost exclusively translations, from Latin
(Croatia, Slovenia) and especially Greek (Bulgaria, Serbia). In
the 10th and 11th centuries the Church Slavonic separated into
regional idioms– Slovenian, Croatian, Serbian and Bulgarian.
Under the Bulgarian state, the religious centre of Ohrid and political
centre of Plovdiv were important points of literary production.
Bogomil sect, derived from Manichaeism, was deemed heretical, but
managed to spread from
Bulgaria to Bosnia (where it gained a
Carinthia came under Germanic rule in the 10th century and came
permanently under Western (Roman) Christian sphere of influence.
What is today
Croatia came under Eastern Roman (Byzantine) rule after
the Barbarian age, and while most of the territory was Slavicized, a
handful of fortified towns, with mixed population, remained under
Byzantine authority and continued to use Latin. Dalmatia, now
applied to the narrow strip with Byzantine towns, came under the
Patriarchate of Constantinople, while the Croatian state remained
pagan until Christianization during the reign of Charlemagne, after
which religious allegiance was to Rome.
Croats threw off Frankish
rule in the 11th century, and took over the Byzantine Dalmatian towns,
after which Hungarian conquest led to Hungarian suzerainty, although
retaining an army and institutions.
Croatia lost much of Dalmatia
to the Republic of Venice which held it until the 18th century.
Croatia through a duke, and the coastal towns through
a ban. A feudal class emerged in the Croatian hinterland in the
late 13th century, among whom were the Kurjaković,
Kačić and most
notably the Šubić. Dalmatian fortified towns meanwhile
maintained autonomy, with a Roman patrician class and Slavic lower
class, first under
Hungary and then Venice after centuries of
Ibn al-Faqih described two kinds of South Slavic people, the first of
swarthy complexion and dark hair, living near the Adriatic coast, and
the other as light, living in the hinterland.
Early modern period
After Ottoman expansion on Byzantine territories in the east in the
first half of the 14th century,
Bulgaria and the crumbling Serbian
Empire stood next. In 1371, the Ottomans defeated a large Serbian army
at the Battle of Maritsa, and in 1389 defeated the Serbian army at the
Battle of Kosovo. By now, Serbian and Bulgarian rulers became Ottoman
vassals, the southern Serbian provinces and
Bulgaria holding out until
annexation in the 1390s. The Ottomans conquered Constantinople (1453),
Serbian Despotate (1459) and Bosnia (1463). Much
Balkans was under Ottoman rule throughout the Early modern
period. Ottoman rule lasted from the 14th century up until the early
20th in some territories. Ottoman society was multi-ethnic and
multi-religious, and confessional groups were divided according to the
Millet system, in which Orthodox Christians (Greeks, Bulgarians,
Serbs, etc.) constituted the Rum Millet. In Islamic jurisprudence, the
Dhimmi status, which included certain taxes and lesser
rights. Islamization led to the forming of Slavic Muslims, that
survive until today, in Bosnia, south Serbia, Macedonia and Bulgaria.
In the 16th century, the
Habsburg Monarchy controlled what is today
Croatia and northern Serbia. The Kingdom of Croatia, which
included smaller parts of what is today Croatia, was a crown land of
the Habsburg emperor. The
Early modern period
Early modern period saw large-scale
migrations of Orthodox
Slavs (mainly Serbs) to the north and west. The
Military Frontier was set up as the cordon sanitaire against Ottoman
incursions. There were several rebellions against Ottoman rule, but it
was not until the 18th century that parts of the Balkans, namely
Serbia, were liberated[disambiguation needed] for a longer period.
Pan-Slavism has its origins in the 17th-century Slavic Catholic
clergymen in the Republic of Venice and Republic of Ragusa, it
crystallized only in the mid-19th century amidst rise of nationalism
in the Ottoman and Habsburg empires.
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Peoples and countries
Slavs are divided linguistically into eastern (Bulgarian, and
Macedonian) and western (Slovenes, Croatian, Bosnian, Serbian, and
Montenegrin), and religiously into Orthodox (Serbs, Bulgarians,
Macedonians, Montenegrins), Catholic (Croats, Slovenes) and Muslim
Bosniaks and other minorities). There are an estimated 35 million
Slavs and their descendants living worldwide. Among South Slavic
ethnic groups (that are also nations), are the Serbs, Bulgarians,
Croats, Bosniaks, Slovenes, Macedonians and Montenegrins. Bosniaks,
Croats are the constituent nations of Bosnia and
Montenegro is historically regarded a Serb nation, while
Macedonia likewise a Bulgarian. Among South Slavic minorities or
self-identifications are the
Yugoslavs (former Yugoslavia), Muslims
(former Yugoslavia), Torbeshi (R. Macedonia),
Greece) and Gorani (Kosovo). The Catholic
Bunjevci and Šokci
concentrated in northern
Serbia and eastern
Croatia are divided
between a Croat or own identity. There are also smaller communities of
West and East Slavic peoples in northern Serbia.
There are seven countries in which South
Slavs are the main
Bulgaria (85.0% Bulgarians)
Serbia (83.3% Serbs, 2.3% Bosniaks, 0.8% Croats, 0.5%
Montenegrins, 0.3% Macedonians, 0.3% Bulgarians)
Croatia (90.4% Croats, 4.4% Serbs, 0.9% Bosniaks, 0.2% Slovenes,
0.1 Montenegrins, 0.1 Macedonians)
Bosnia and Herzegovina
Bosnia and Herzegovina (50.1% Bosniaks, 30.8% Serbs, 15.4%
Macedonia (64.2% Macedonians, 1.8% Serbs, 0.9% Bosniaks, 0.1%
Croats, 0.1% Bulgarians, 0.02 Slovenes)
Slovenia (83.1% Slovenes, 2% Serbs, 1.8% Croats, 1.1% Bosniaks,
0.2% Macedonians, 0.1% Montenegrins)
Montenegro (45% Montenegrins, 28.7% Serbs, 8.7% Bosniaks, 3.3%
Muslims by nationality, 0.9% Croats, 0.1 Macedonians, 0.1 Slovenes)
In addition, there are local South Slavic minorities in non-South
Slavic neighbouring countries such as:
Albania: (Bulgarians, Macedonians, Serbs, Montenegrins)
Austria: (Croats, Slovenes)*
Greece: (Slavic-speakers of Greek Macedonia, Pomaks)
Hungary: (Bulgarians, Croats,
Slovenes and Serbs)
Italy: (Slovenes, Croats, Serbs)
Kosovo: (Serbs, Bosniaks)
Romania: (Croats, Bulgarians, Serbs, Macedonians)
Turkey: (Bulgarians, Bosniaks, Montenegrins, Macedonians, Pomaks)
The religious and cultural diversity of the region the South Slavs
inhabit has had a considerable influence on their religion. Originally
a polytheistic pagan people, the South
Slavs have also preserved many
of their ancient rituals and traditional folklore, often intermixing
and combining it with the religion they later converted to.
Today, the majority of South
Slavs are Orthodox Christians; most
Montenegrins are Orthodox
Croats are Roman Catholics. Bosniaks,
other minor ethnic groups (Gorani, Muslims by nationality) and
Torbesh and Pomaks) are Muslims. Some South
atheist, agnostic and/or non-religious.
See also: Orthodox Slavs
See also: Catholic Slavs
See also: Muslim Slavs
Main article: South Slavic languages
The South Slavic languages, one of three branches of the Slavic
languages family (the other being West Slavic and East Slavic), form a
dialect continuum. It comprises, from west to east, the official
languages of Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Montenegro,
Serbia, Macedonia, and Bulgaria. The
South Slavic languages
South Slavic languages are
geographically divided from the rest of the
Slavic languages by
Germanic (Austria), Hungarian and Romanian.
South Slavic standard languages are:
Serbo-Croatian varieties have strong structural unity, and are
regarded by most linguists as constituting one language. Today,
language secessionism has led to several standards: Serbian, Croatian,
Bosnian and Montenegrin, although the latter has historically and
traditionally been called Serbian and is still undergoing
standardization. Bosnian was officially established in 1996. These
Serbo-Croatian standards are all based on the
group. Other dialect groups, which have lower intelligibility with
The dominance of
Shtokavian in the Western
Balkans is due to
historical westward migration during the Ottoman period. Slovene is
grouped into South Slavic, but has many features shared with West
Slavic languages. The
Prekmurje Slovene and
Kajkavian are especially
close, and there is no clear delienation between them. In southeastern
Serbia, dialects enter a transitional zone with Bulgarian and
Macedonian, with features of both groups, and is commonly called
South Slavic languages
South Slavic languages are Bulgarian and Macedonian.
Bulgarian has retained more archaic Slavic features in relation to the
other languages. Bulgarian has two main yat splits. Slavic Macedonian
was codified in Communist
Yugoslavia in 1945 and was historically
classified as Bulgarian. The Macedonian dialects, divided into three
main groups, are overall regarded transitional to Bulgarian and
Serbo-Croatian. The westernmost
Bulgarian dialects (called Shopi)
share features with Serbo-Croatian. Furthermore, in
Greece there is a
notable Slavic-speaking population in Greek Macedonia and western
Balkan Slavic form a "Balkan sprachbund" of areal features with other
Slavic languages in the Balkans.
"Admixture plot" of automosal SNPs in 7 major population groups,
Balkans and Eastern
Balkans (middle columns).
The earliest genetic studies for population affinities were according
to 'classical markers', i.e. protein and blood group polymorphisms,
according to which Cavali-Sforza's team suggested several European
cluster groups, "Germanic", "Scandinavian", "Celtic", south-western
European and eastern European; the
Bulgarians were not
tested) did not group into any of the above but formed a group of
their own, attributed to internal heterogeneity.
According to a 2006 Y-DNA study, most South
Slavs clustered tightly
together due to high frequency of I2a, while northern and western
Croatians and Slovenians were instead clustered with neighbouring
Central European (West Slavic and Hungarian) populations, due to
higher frequency of R1a and R1b. A 2008 study concluded that
except for some isolated communities, Europeans are somewhat
genetically homogeneous, and individual population groups are often
closely related to their immediate neighbours (irrespective of
language or ethnicity). A study of 90 samples showed that
Western Balkan populations had a genetic uniformity, intermediate
between South Europe and Eastern Europe, in line with their geographic
location. Based on analysis of IBD sharing, Middle Eastern
populations most likely did not contribute to genetics in Islamicized
populations in the Western Balkans, as these share similar patterns
Wikimedia Commons has media related to South Slavs.
^ Prior to the advent of Roman rule, a number of native or
autochthonous populations had lived in the
Balkans since ancient
times. South of the
Jireček line were the Greeks. To the north, there
Thracians and Dacians. They were mainly tribalistic
and generally lacked awareness of any ethno-political affiliation.
Over the classical ages, they were at times invaded, conquered and
influenced by Celts, Ancient
Greeks and Ancient Rome. Roman influence,
however, was initially limited to cities later concentrated along the
Dalmatian coast, later spreading to a few scattered cities inside the
Balkan interior particularly along the river
Belgrade, Niš). Roman citizens from throughout the empire settled in
these cities and in the adjacent countryside. Following the fall of
Rome and numerous barbarian raids, the population in the Balkans
dropped, as did commerce and general standards of living. Many people
were killed, or taken prisoner by invaders. This demographic decline
was particularly attributed to a drop in the number of indigenous
peasants living in rural areas. They were the most vulnerable to raids
and were also hardest hit by the financial crises that plagued the
falling empire. However, the
Balkans were not desolate; considerable
numbers of indigenous people simply remained. Only certain areas
tended to be affected by the raids (e.g. lands around major land
routes, such as the Morava corridor). In addition to the
autochthons, there were remnants of previous invaders such as "Huns"
Germanic peoples when the
Slavs arrived. Sarmatian tribes
(such as the Iazyges) are recorded to have still lived in the Banat
region of the Danube. The mixing of
Slavs and other peoples is
evident in genetic studies included in the article.
^ Kmietowicz 1976.
^ Kmietowicz 1976, Vlasto 1970
^ URI 2000, p. 104.
^ Hupchick 2002, p. 199.
^ Kobyliński 2005, pp. 525–526, Barford 2001, p. 37
^ Kobyliński 2005, p. 526, Barford 2001, p. 332
^ Fine 1991, p. 25.
^ Curta 2006, p. 56.
^ Curta 2001, pp. 71–73.
^ James 2014, p. 95, Kobyliński 1995, p. 524
^ Kobyliński 1995, pp. 524–525.
^ a b c Kobyliński 1995, p. 524.
^ Fine 1991, pp. 26–41.
^ a b Fine 1991, p. 29.
^ Fine 1991, p. 33.
^ a b Živković 2002, p. 187.
^ James 2014, p. 95, Curta 2001, p. 75
^ Curta 2001, p. 76.
^ Curta 2001, pp. 78–86.
^ James 2014, p. 97.
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^ Curta 2001, pp. 47, 91.
^ Fine 1991, p. 31.
^ Curta 2001, p. 308.
^ Curta 2007, p. 61.
^ Hupchick 2004, Fine 1991, p. 26
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^ a b Fine 1991, p. 35.
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^ Curta 2001, p. 66.
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Slavic ethnic groups
Black Sea Zaporozhians
Slavic speakers of Greek Macedonia