Top Widely Believed Myths About the Slavs

Igor Ozhiganov

It is hard to know and see truth in history if several different groups write in same time from their perspective. Naturally Slavs being the largest ethno-linguistic community in Europe also have various misconceptions in history about them and their existence. Early history of Slavs is still debated to this days and we, mere mortals, can at least try to clear some popular misconceptions about Slavs.

Mostly peaceful farmers

Probably the most common myth about Slavs is them being a peaceful farming etno-linguistion community. This is by far one of the hardest myths to swallow, because such a large ethnic community couldn’t have conquered such vast European territory in a peaceful way or diplomatic way. For each part of the new land that Slavs have today they had to fight for it and show high military prowess to do so. Just I millennium BC Slavs already captured and conqured most of the Eastern Roman Empire and formed various Slavic states. In later history Romans started to even depend on Slavs in order for them to defend the dying Roman empire from Avar raids. Also the fact that the Ottoman military elite, the Janissaries, were all recruited from Christian families, mostly Slavs from Bosnia, Serbia, Croatia and similar.

Fair-haired and fair-skinned Slavs

Today there is a popular trend to look at all historic ethnic groups as some garden of Eden people, where they are all blonde, fair-haired, blue-eyed and fair skinned. This is however only a thesis supported by radical groups promoting some sort of Aryan perspective on history. Truth is Slavs were just like other Europeans (including Scandinavians) mostly brown light-haired. There is plenty of dark haired Slavs, and among southern areas of Russia, Ukraine or Balkan Slavs dark hair and darker shade of skin pigmentation is common as it would be expected. There are even Slavic ethnic groups as Pomaks that aren’t exactly what you would imagine how ancient Slavs used to look according to some of those myths.

Slavs were Slaves

Western historians (shockingly) found out that the word “Slavs” and the word “slave” (slave) have the same root. This hypothesis is not new at all, it has been popular in the west as early as XVIII century. This is a view that gave an idea that Slavs, the largest European ethnic group, has often been a subject of the ill Slave trade in Europe. Today this thesis is seen as incorrect because the English term is “the slave”, German “to Sklave”, Italian “Schiavo” while on the other hand Polish “słowianie”, Croatian/Serbian “slaveni”, Kashubian “słowiónie”, in other words they are not linguistically interconnected. Linguistic analysis shows that the word “slave” in the middle Greek comes from the Greek verb σκυλεύειν (skyleuein) – meaning, “to extract the spoils of war, loot,” the first person singular which looks like σκυλεύω (in Latin transliteration skyleúō.), The other σκυλάω (skyláō) option.

Slavs didn’t write before Glagolitic and Cyrillic script

You must have already heard Slavs had no written language until the Cyrillic and Glagolitic script. The Historian Leo Prozorov as evidence of the existence of written Slavic language finds in an agreement fragment with Byzantium Oleg Prophetic. It deals with the consequences of the death of a Russian merchant in Constantinople where it was written “if the merchant dies, it should deal with his property as he wrote in his will.” Indirectly, the presence of writing is confirmed by archaeological excavations in Novgorod. Writing-cores have been found, which is applied to the inscription on clay, plaster or wood. These tools are letters that dated to the middle of X century. Similar findings were found in Smolensk, Genzdovo and elsewhere. What kind of writing was this, it was fairly hard to say but some historians write about the syllabic letter, but there are also supporters of the Slavic runic letters. German historian Conrad Shurtsfleysh in his dissertation in 1670 wrote about the Slavs in German schools, where children were taught the runes. As proof, he cites the sample Slavic runic alphabet, similar to the Danish runes XIII-XVI centuries.

Slavs the Scythians

You will often hear: “Yes, we are Scythians!”. In many history works you will still come upon a notion that Scythians were the ancestors of the Slavs but there is a lot of confusion on that note. Byzantian chronicles state Scynthians could have been Slavs, Alans, Khazars and Pechenegs. In the “Tale of Bygone Years” it is states that Oleg of Kiev went in war against the Greeks and took a lot of Vikings and Slavic tribes such as Chud, Krivichy, Meyrueis, Drevlyane, Radimichi, Vyatichi, Croats – these all were called by Greeks as “Great Scynths”. Today, the most reliable recognized hypothesis for the ancestral home of Slavs is Vistula-Dnieper. According lexical material found, the ancestral home of the Slavs was away from the sea, in the forest area of ​​the plains with swamps and lakes within the rivers flowing into the Baltic Sea. Scythians at that time already existed and took an active part in the historical process. After the invasion in the III century, they are likely to have gone to the mountainous Caucasus region and one of the modern languages related ​​to the Scythians is Ossetian language.

Tell us are there any more Myths you know of?

What do you think?

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  1. Slavs did write before the Cyrillic letter! The Glagolitic letter was also called ILLYRIC letter, Etruscan – Rasenian letter is Slavic! Greeks came to Balkan in the 8th centuary B.C, Herodotus (the father of Greek history) said that himself

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