The Making of the Slavs: History and Archaeology of the Lower Danube Region, c. 500-700

By Florin Curta | Go to book overview

Chapter 3
THE SLAVS IN EARLY MEDIEVAL SOURCES
(c. 500–700)

A major, still unresolved, problem of the modern historiography of the early Middle Ages remains that of defining the settlement of the Slavs in the Balkans. On the assumption that the Slavs originated in an Urheimat located far from the Danube river, nineteenth-century historians used the concept of migration (Einwanderung, Auswanderung). They were followed by modern historians under the influence of the concept and the historiography of the Völkerwanderung. More recently, a linguist searching for the original homeland of the Slavs even spoke of reconquista.1 Palackýand Šafárřik also insisted, a few years before the Slavic Congress in Prague (1848), that the migration of the Slavs was a peaceful one, quite unlike the brutal Germanic invasions. As a consequence, some modern historians and archaeologists prefer to write of colonization or of Landnahme and imagine the early Slavs as a people of farmers, travelling on foot, “entire families or even whole tribes, to the promised land.2 Noting, however, that such a Landnahme was completely invisible to early medieval sources, Lucien Musset called it an obscure progression, a tag quickly adopted by others. After World War II, particularly in Communist countries, the acceptable terms were “infiltration” and “penetration”and the favorite metaphor, the wave. Others, more willing to use the perspective of contemporary sources, observed that more often than not, after successful raids, the Slavs returned to their homes north of the Danube. Current usage has therefore replaced “migration” and “infiltration” with “invasion” and “raid. 3

____________________
1
Trubachev 1985:204 and 1991:11. For the Slavic migration, see Schafarik 1844:I 11 and 42; Bogdan 1894:15. See also Lemerle 1980; Guillou 1973; Ditten 1978; Ivanova and Litavrin 1985; Pohl 1988:95. For Völkerwanderung, see Goffart 1989.
2
Gimbutas 1971:14. Peaceful migration of the Slavs: Schafarik 1844:I, 42; Palacký 1868:74–89. Slavic Landnahme, see Evert-Kapessowa 1963; Zasterová 1976; Weithmann 1978:18; Braichevskii 1983:220. For the historiography of the Landnahme, see Schneider 1993.
3
Obscure progression: Musset 1965:75, 81, and 85, and 1983:999. See also Pohl 1988:95. Infiltration: Comşa 1960:733; Cankova-Petkova 1968:44; Tăpkova-Zaimova 1974:201 and 205; Popović 1980:246; Velkov 1987. See also Cross 1948:7 and 28. Slavic “wave”: Skrzhinskaia 1957:9; Vá[w2]a 1983:39. The wave metaphor is still in use: Avramea 1997:79–80. For Slavic “invasions” and “raids, see Ensslin 1929; Fine 1983:29; Ferjančić 1984; Whitby 1988:85–6 and 175; Pohl 1988:68; Fiedler 1992:6; Stavridou-Zafraka 1992.

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