‘Slavic’ is a term that represents a settlement of the Central Indo-European people as a whole. They are deemed the largest Indo-European ethnolinguistic tribal group in Central Europe. The Slavic tribes are a homogeneous mixture of Celts, Germanics, Hungarians, Pannonian Avars, and Prussians. They are further divided into East, West, and South Slavs. The East includes Ukraine, Russia, and Belarus while the West includes the Czech Republic, Slovakia, and Poland. The South Slavs include Bosnia and Herzegovina, Bulgaria, Croatia, Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia, and Slovenia.
The earliest mention of the Slavs was found in the 6th Century AD records. They were earlier referred to as Veneti but later came to adopt the ethnonym ‘Slavs.’ The name is considered a derivation from the word ‘slovo’ which means ‘people who speak the same (language).’ They first appeared in Byzantine records in the 6th century under the names of the Antes and the Sclaveni. These tribes were known for their constant migration as they always moved and lived in scattered housing while in a settlement.
Although all Slavs are grouped together as one ethnic minority, there is a wide diversity among the Slavs. This is because of the rich history of war and migration that caused people to interact with other nations within and outside the region. It is truly a melting pot of people.
Let us first read the history of the Slavic nations to understand their genome better.
The Rich History of the Slavs
There are many theories regarding the origin of Slavs and their settlement in Europe. The Eastern Homeland Theory, the most widely accepted theory in this regard, states that Slavic tribes were in confederacies with each other and resided mostly in the Eurasian border.
The Slavs came to Europe when the Germanic tribes like the Goths, Vandals, Angles, and Saxons moved westward to flee the Huns. These Slavs occupied the areas abandoned by the Germanic Tribes. This started the Great Migration between 500 and 700 AD, whereby scores of Slavs moved westward.
Slavic expansion in Europe is estimated to have occurred steadily between 500 and 1000 AD. These Slavs interacted with the Germanic, Baltic, Finno-Ugric populations and were influenced by their culture and languages. Inter-marriages affected the gene pool. At the close of 6th Century AD, the Slavs had become settled in the Alps Region.
A research study indicates that the ancestors of today’s Slavs migrated to central and eastern Europe much earlier than it was originally told. After the migration concluded, the first Slavic state was established around the 7th Century. The Slavic and Bulgar alliance led to the establishment of the first Bulgarian kingdom, and the South Slavic language was adopted as the official language.
The Eastern and Western Slavs were distinguished from the Southern Slavs after the first Slavs from the east separated and settled in different areas. In the following centuries, Slavic empires emerged all over Europe, such as the Kievan Rus’, the Serbian Empire, the Second Bulgarian Empire, the Kingdom of Poland, the Kingdom of Croatia, Duchy of Bohemia and Banate of Bosnia.
At the dawn of the 19th century, there remained merely four Slavic states:
- The Russian Empire
- Principality of Serbia
- Principality of Montenegro
- Principality of Bulgaria
The Slavs also constituted about 23 percent of the population of Austria-Hungary; however, they were not recognized in the state, and there were general unrest and dissatisfaction among the Slavs regarding this issue. This is one of the major factors that triggered World War I. As an aftermath of World War I, several Slavic nations declared independence, aiming to establish a state for the Slavic people. These included Czechoslovakia and Yugoslavia. After World War II and the following Cold War, several more Slavic nations re-emerged by breaking off from the Soviet Union. These included the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Serbia, Slovenia, Croatia, Bosnia, Montenegro, Belarus, Ukraine, and Herzegovina.
How did this affect the genome?
It is true that compared to other ethnicities, Slavic speaking populations have the closest genetic relation to the Western, Eastern, and Southern Slavs. Research has found that Eastern and Western Slavs are more like each other when compared with Southern Slavs. Eastern and Western Slavs are also genetically closer to the Baltic and Estonian populations. This is because the Southern Slavs were confined to the Balkan region, while the Eastern and Western Slavs are more widespread, encouraging more intermingling.
Determining Your Ancestry
You can check your ancestry and determine how much Slavic influence you have by taking a DNA test. Several companies offer this service, such as ancestry.com, 23andMe, MyHeritage DNA, and others.
Before choosing a company, you must know how many ethnicities they support, the price and ease of its use. On this site, DNA test accuracy, comparing 23andme vs myheritage, you’ll be able to choose the test that’s right for you, mainly depending on how many ethnicities the company is capable of testing. We find that each has its pros and cons, so select your option based on your needs and budget.