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Stratum plus. 2001-2002. №5

R. V. Terpilovskii (Kiev, Ukraine)

Some Debatable Issues of Archaeology and History of the Early Slavs

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Pages: 420-430

The article is dedicated to some debatable issues of archaeology and history of the Early Slavs. At the moment, historiography distinguishes three main directions attracting researchers seeking correspondences to the ethnic groups mentioned in written records among the bearers of archaeological cultures found in the Eastern Europe. The first one, “Cherniakhov” or “Southern” direction, interprets the Ants as bearers of the Cherniakhov culture. The second one, “Zarubintsy” or “Northern” direction, interprets the Venedi as bearers of the Zarubintsy culture, and the Ants as tribes of the Kolochinskaya or Penkovskaya cultures genetically tied with the “post-Zarubintsy” groups. The third, a “compromise” one, recognises polyethnicity of the Przewor and Cherniakhov cultures, rather than being purely “Venedi” or “Ants”, yet author links the main line of the Slavic ethnic genesis with the specific elements of these cultures.
A comparison of evidence provided by the written records, archaeology and linguistics enable the author to draw the following conclusions: the Cherniakhov sites with Wielbark tradition can belong to the Goths, the tribes of the Kiev culture can correspond to the Slav-Venedi, and be direct ancestors of the Slavic groups of VI c. egistered by Iordannes and Procopius. The period during which the Cherniakhov-Wielbark and Kiev tribes contacted in the Middle Dnieper basin embraces the early IV c. and in general lines coincides with the period of military clashes between the Venedi and Hermanarich’s Goths reported by Iordannes. Later in the same period the Cherniakhov-Wielbark population practically drives the Kiev tribes away from the forest-steppe area. A part of the Slavic population is likely to have fallen into political and economic dependence on Hermanarich’s holdings, which seems to have led to cultural and ethnic assimilation of these Venedi groups. Besides, the period witnesses “Slavicisation” of the Cherniakhov population which happened to be on border of these two communities, as well as advancement of the Cherniakhov imports and, probably, also some small groups of the population into the Kiev area. This archaeological situation can be connected with the war of “Boz’s Ants” and Vinitharius’ Goths.
The first half of V c. saw decay of the Cherniakhov culture, with the Visigoths, and later the Ostgoths and a number of other tribes leaving westwards inside the Empire. It also saw the end of the Kiev culture, which gave birth to the early medieval Kolochinskaya and Penkovskaya cultures. Other sites located in the basin of the Pripyat’ river and related to the Kiev ones served as a foundation for development of the Prague culture. Later the sites of the Penkovskaya and partly the Prague cultures reached as far as the inner parts of the forest-steppe and occupied most of the former Cherniakhov area, for the Byzantine writers to report appearance of the Sklavins and Ants on the left bank of the Danube already by the early VI c. The period saw expansion of the Prague and Penkovskaya cultures westwards and south-westwards into the Central Europe and Danube basin, and the Kolochinskaya northwards, into the Dnieper river head.
By the early VII c. the names of the Venedi and the Ants given to these tribal unions by their neighbours were merged into their own ethnic name “Slavs”, which got spread over the whole Slavic world. A confluence of cultural and economic complexes, common language, development of identity enable the author to speak about the completed process of the Slavic ethnic genesis by the middle of I millennium A.D. From then on, one can deal with the ethnic history of the Slavs, concurrently with the ethnic genesis of the Eastern, Southern and Western Slavs, and later about the ethnic genesis of the Ukrainians, Russians, Byelorussians and other modern Slavic peoples.


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