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Czech ethnogenesis (long)

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  • Alastair Millar
    ... [snip]. ... To answer these, I will quote a chunk from an article by Dus an Tr es tik entitled simply The Czechs . Despite the length, I think it is
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 29, 2000
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      Bob/Svyatoslav wrote:
      >I understand that White Croats left what was recently
      >called Halychyna (Galicia)-SE Poland/W Ukraine...
      [snip].
      >Also , from where south did Slavs enter Bohemia?

      To answer these, I will quote a chunk from an article by Dus'an Tr'es'tik
      entitled simply "The Czechs". Despite the length, I think it is fairly
      concise given the complexity of the issues covered.

      Like other things which I have sent to the list, this article (translated by
      me) will be published in the big catalogue from Mannheim in the autumn. I
      make no apology for constantly using the same source - frankly, there is
      very little up-to-date material on Bohemia at this period available in
      English, and the catalogue will represent the "state of the art" to
      non-Czech speakers for at least the next decade.

      [quote]
      The arrival of the Slavs in the area in the 6th century... was - from the
      Central European perspective - simply the closing phase of the Migration
      period. The ethnogenesis of the newly-arrived Slavs was played out at more
      or less the same time as that of the contemporary Germans, Langobards and
      Bavarians - the whole region between the Rhine and the Tisza or Bug was for
      the first time finding its Medieval shape. During the 6th century the area
      between the Merovingian Empire and the Avar Khaganate became ill-structured
      in terms of power...

      The Slavs were not only new arrivals, but were an entirely new ethnos, which
      for reasons not clearly understood had formed rapidly and unexpectedly in
      the 4th-5th centuries somewhere between forest and steppe on the edge of the
      civilisational sphere of the Chernyakov culture in the Ukraine. In the first
      decade of the 6th century, they suddenly began (again for unclear reasons)
      to move. They attacked the Byzantine frontier across the lower Danube, while
      another wave moved westwards north of the Carpathians. The first wave of
      Slavic settlers - marked by Prague type ceramics (now termed Prague-Korc'ak
      ware) - arrived in Bohemia by way of Lesser Poland sometime between 510 and
      530. They passed through the Moravian Gates, and, having clashed with the
      Langobards in southern Moravia, turned back on the one hand to south-west
      Slovakia and on the other to Bohemia and beyond, to the lands between the
      Saale and the Elbe. This Slavic activity was unarguably a militarily
      organised migration of a whole people, and was certainly not some sort of
      gentle 'diffusion' by groups of agriculturalists from one forest clearing to
      another forest further west.

      Their settlement in the Bohemian Basin, however, did not lead directly to
      the ethnogenesis of the Czech "tribe"; this was rather the result of a
      complex history played out around the turn of the 7th century. At this time,
      a second wave (or waves) of Slavic settlers arrived from Avar Pannonia, and
      at the same time (c.626) a revolt against the Avars broke out among those
      Slavs led by the Frankish merchant Samo. The need for defence against the
      Avars and at the same time to smooth relations between the earlier settlers
      and the newcomers led to the origin of the tribe which probably at this time
      took the ancient (and thus etymologically uncertain) name of Czechs. This
      act, some sort of social contract between the earlier colonists and the
      newly arrived, ethnically diverse groups of Slavs is reflected in Czech
      myths about the Migration Period (Wandersage), which speak of the common
      interest in the lands at the centre, around the sacred R'ip Mount, the seven
      brothers who ruled "all" with equal and just acts and equal and just laws.
      [unquote]

      Note that the "first wave" included the 'Croats' who came in via Galicia.
      They occupied most of what is now NE Bohemia, as I have mentioned
      previously. Slightly later squabbles between the various tribes are a theme
      in some early Czech legends.

      FWIW, the Czech-Croat link has been accepted for a long time - an
      inscription added in the early 18th century to an older (late 16th
      century)painting now in the Cheb Museum collections reads:

      "/Dietrich Herr von Ralsko,/ und Vartenberg auB Croatie / mit Czech, und
      Lech in Boh= / men gekomen Ano 278. /...".

      ["Dietrich, lord of Ralsko and Wartenburg from Croatia with Czech and Lech
      enters Bohemia, anno 278"]

      >I have heard of Slavic settlements as far west as
      >Regensburg,Bavaria in the south, and even
      >supposedly Hamburg Bremen in the north!

      The monastery of St Emmeram in Regensburg played a major role in the
      Christianisation of Bohemia, being the first to found daughter houses in the
      region. I haven't heard of Slavic settlements there - but on the other hand
      I've not looked at the German material. Further north, up towards Hamburg,
      there were indeed Slavic tribes, linked to Bohemia through dynastic
      marriages by the early 10th century.

      More anon.

      Alastair

      ----------------------------------
      Alastair Millar <alastair@...>
      url: http:// www.skriptorium.cz
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