East Slavs

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The East Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the medieval state of Kievan Rus, by the seventeenth century they evolved into the Russian, Ukrainian, and Belarusian[1] peoples.




Relatively little is known about the Eastern Slavs prior to approximately 859 AD, the date from which the account in the Primary Chronicle starts. The reasons are the apparent absence of a written language (Cyrillic script, 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 Rus' 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 Sea and the Black Sea. These tribal unions were Polans, Drevlyans, Dregovichs, Radimichs, Vyatichs, Krivichs, Slovens, Dulebes (later known as Volhynians and Buzhans), White Croats, Severians, Ulichs, Tivertsi.


There is no consensus among scholars as to the urheimat of 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, Huns, Alans, Avars, Bulgars, and Magyars passed through the Pontic steppe in 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 Ages also 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.

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