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

By Florin Curta | Go to book overview

CONCLUSION: THE MAKING OF THE SLAVS

As its title suggests, the subject matter of this book is not the Slavs, but the process leading to what is now known as “the Slavs. ”This process was a function of both ethnic formation and ethnic identification. In both cases, the “Slavs” were the object, not the subject. The preceding chapters have presented a series of perspectives on the history and archaeology of the Lower Danube area during the sixth and seventh centuries. Each approached a different aspect of the process of constructing a Slavic ethnie and each highlighted specific themes and arguments. This chapter will review those themes, but will also attempt to string them all together into a tripartite conclusion. In doing so, it will focus on the major issues presented in the introduction: the migration and the making of the Slavs. Though in agreement with those who maintain that the history of the Slavs began in the sixth century, I argue that the Slavs were an invention of the sixth century. Inventing, however, presupposed both imagining or labeling by outsiders and self-identification.1


MIGRATION

A brief examination of the historiography of the “Slavic problem”yields an important conclusion: the dominant discourse in Slavic studies, that of “expert” linguists and archaeologists, profoundly influenced the study of the early Slavs. Though the evidence, both historical and archaeological, presented itself in a historical light, historians were expected merely to comb the written sources for evidence to match what was already known from the linguistic-archaeological model. Because this model was based on widely spread ideas about such critical concepts as culture, migration, and language, the basic assumptions on which the model was based were rarely, if ever, questioned. One such assumption was that

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1
Ivanov 1991c and 1993.

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