Skip to main content Skip to Search Box

Definition: Slav from Philip's Encyclopedia

Largest ethnic and linguistic group of peoples in Europe. Slavs are generally classified in three main divisions: the East Slavs (the largest division) include the Ukrainians, Russians, and Belorussians; the South Slavs include the Serbs, Croats, Macedonians, and Slovenes (and frequently also the Bulgarians); the West Slavs comprise chiefly the Poles, Czechs, Slovaks, and Wends.


Summary Article: Slav
from The Hutchinson Unabridged Encyclopedia with Atlas and Weather Guide

Member of an Indo-European people in central and Eastern Europe, the Balkans, and parts of northern Asia, speaking closely related Slavonic languages, some written in the Cyrillic and some in the Roman alphabet. The ancestors of the Slavs are believed to have included the Sarmatians and Scythians. Moving west from central Asia, they settled in eastern and southeastern Europe during the 2nd and 3rd millennia BC.

The Slavs may be divided into three groups: the eastern, western, and southern Slavs. The western Slavs took part in the European historical experience, whereas the eastern and southern Slavs had little contact with Europe and were subject to Mongol and Turkish rule.

Originally the Slavs were farmers and herders. The government had a patriarchal basis, and chiefs or princes were chosen by assemblies. The religion of the early Slavs seems to have been a kind of nature worship. During the 9th century they adopted Christianity, introduced by Cyril and Methodius. Today the eastern Slavs are members of the Eastern Orthodox Church; the western and southern Slavs belong to the Roman Catholic Church.

History The present Slavonic nations emerged around the 5th and 6th centuries AD. By the 7th century they were the predominant population of eastern and southeastern Europe. In the course of the Middle Ages they were expelled from the area of former East Germany. There was a short-lived and politically unsuccessful pan-Slavic movement initiated by intellectuals in the 19th century. Today national politics and identities prevail.

© RM, 2018. All rights reserved.

Related Articles


Full text Article Slavs
Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World

The first writers to notice the Slavs—or Sclavinians, as they were often called—were Jordanes and Procopius, in the middle of the 6th century....

Full text Article SLAVS
Cassell's Peoples, Nations and Cultures

The largest group of European peoples to share a common ethnic and linguistic origin. The principal modern Slav peoples are the BELORUSSIANS , ...

Full text Article Slavs
The Macmillan Encyclopedia

Peoples of E Europe and parts of W Asia. There are three groups: Eastern Slavs (including Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarussians); Western...

See more from Credo