The Slavs or Slavi (in the Slavic languages, Slovene, Slo-wianie, etc, names now commonly derived from slovo or stowo, word; hence, " peoples of one tongue") are one of the most numerous and powerful groups of nations of the Indo-European or Aryan race, occupying at present nearly the whole of eastern Europe and parts of northern Asia. They seem to have anciently been included in the names of the Scythians and Sarmatians. Roman writers refer to the Slavs under the name of the Venedi (Winds, Wends), and later writers under that of Serbs, both of which still designate branches of the race. In the most ancient times to which the history of the Slavs as such can be traced, their seats were around and near the Carpathian mountains, whence they spread N. toward the Baltic, W. toward the Elbe and Saale, and finally, after the destruction of the empire of the Huns, S. across the Danube over the territories of modern Turkey and Greece. With this extension the unity of the race ceased, and they split into a number of tribes, separated from each other by political organization and different dialects. The eminent Slavic scholars Dobrovsky, Kopitar, and Scha-farik divide the Slavs into the eastern and western or southeastern and northwestern stems.
The former of these contains three branches: 1, the Russians, who are subdivided into Russians and Rusniaks or Ruthenians (in W. Russia, E. Galicia, and N. E. Hungary); 2, the Illyrico-Servian branch, comprising the Serbs proper, the Rascians or Hungarian Serbs, the Bosnians, Herzegovinians, Montenegrins, Slavonians, Dalmatians, Croats, and Slovens or Winds; 3, the Bulgarian branch. The western or northwestern stem comprises: 1, the Lechian or Polish branch, to which belong the Poles, the Slavic Silesians, and an isolated tribe in the Prussian province of Pomerania called Kassubs; 2, the Czecho-Slovak branch, which embraces the Bohemians, Moravians, and Slovaks in N. W. Hungary; and 3, the Sorabo-Wendic or Lusatian branch, containing the remnants of the Slavs of N. Germany. A number of Slavic realms have perished in succession, as those of Bohemia, Moravia, and Poland; and at the beginning of the present century only one, Russia, was left, besides which Servia and Montenegro maintain a semi-independent position. - In modern times a Pansla-vic movement, aiming at a closer union of all Slavic tribes, has arisen and gained considerable political importance.
One of the first publicly to advocate it was the Czecho-Slovak poet Kollar, who published an address to all the Slavs, urging them to drop their numerous family feuds, to consider themselves as one great nation, and their related languages essentially as one. The idea was seized upon with eagerness by the Bohemians and other Slavs of Austria, who by a Slavic union hoped to prevent their being absorbed by the German and Hungarian races. It has since gained great strength in Austria by the endeavors of Scha-farik, Palacky, Gaj, and other eminent Slavists, and has also found many distinguished advocates in Poland and Russia, in literary as well as in political circles. From a federative union of all Slavs under a democratic form of government to a union under the sceptre of the czar, every possible form of future organization has found advocates, the movement being principally fostered by Russian, and according to circumstances also by Austrian, influence. In the Slavic congress of Prague, assembled in the spring of 1848, the revolutionary element prevailed, leading to a bloody conflict with the Austrian troops under Windischgratz, and the severe persecution of various members of the congress.
The opening of the Austrian provincial diets and central Reichsrath in 1861 was productive of new Panslavic manifestations. An important Panslavic gathering took place in Moscow on occasion of the ethnographic exhibition opened in May, 1867. The aggregate number of the Slavs was estimated by Schafarik about 35 years ago at about 80,-000,000, of whom about 39,000,000 were Russians, 13,000,000 Rusniaks or Ruthenians (in a wider sense, including the Little Russians), 10,000,000 Poles (including Silesians and Kas-subs), 4,500,000 Bohemians and Moravians, 3,500,000 Bulgarians, 2,800,000 Slovaks, etc. More recent estimates place the aggregate number of the Slavs nearer to 90,000,000. (See Europe, vol. vi., p. 787.) - The Old or Church Slavic (so called because it is still used in divine service) is the oldest branch of the Slavic languages. The Bible or parts of it were translated into it by Cyril and Methodius in the 9th century, the former of whom also invented an alphabet for it, which was called after him the Cyrillic, and is still used by the Serbs belonging to the Greek church, and in a modified form by the Russians, while the Poles, Bohemians, and others use the Roman alphabet. (See Glagolitio.) The church books written in Old Slavic are still used by the Serbs and Russians. Among the most important documents of this language are old gospels.
The oldest works of the Servian and Russian literature, as the works of Nestor, were also written in this language. There is a grammar of it by Miklosich (Vienna, 2d ed., 1854). Formerly this was regarded as the common language of the ancient Slavs and as the mother of all the present Slavic idioms, but modern investigations have clearly shown that it was only their elder sister. Where this idiom was spoken is a controversy not yet settled; but the best authorities favor the claims of Bulgaria, regarding the present Bulgarian as its direct descendant. It is no longer a living tongue, but its treasures are still an inexhaustible mine for its younger sisters. Of the living Slavic languages, the Russian, Polish, Bohemian, and Servian have considerable literature. These languages, as well as their literatures, are treated separately under their respective heads. Among the peculiarities of the Slavic languages are the following. They have three genders.. Like the Latin, they have no articles, with the exception of the Bulgarian, which suffixes one to the noun. The nouns, pronouns, and adjectives have seven cases. Some dialects have a dual.
The verbs are divided into perfect and imperfect, whose relation to each other is about the same as that of the perfect and imperfect tenses in the conjugation of the Latin verb. All the dialects are comparatively poor in vowels and deficient in diphthongs. There is a great variety of consonants, and especially of sibilants, but no f. proper is to be found in any genuine Slavic word. Slavic words very seldom begin with a, and hardly ever with e. The letters l and r have in some Slavic languages the value of vowels, and words like tvrdy, vjtr, are in metre used as words of two syllables. - The primitive religion of the ancient Slavs seems to have been a kind of monotheism, which gradually passed into polytheism, and lastly into pantheism. Yet the idea of one divine essence was never completely lost, at least among the priests. All Slavs worshipped as their highest god Sviatovist, beside whom the other divinities were accounted as mere demigods. Among these Perun and Radegast received the highest honors. In addition to their gods, they believed in good and evil spirits and demons of different kinds, in the immortality of the soul, and in a retribution after death. Worship was held by their priests in forests and temples, and sacrifices of cattle and fruit were offered.
The dead were burned, and their ashes preserved in urns. - See Schafarik, Slawische Alterthumer (2 vols., Leipsic, 1843); Talvi, " Historical View of the Languages and Literature of the Slavic Nations" (New York, 1850); Miklosich, Vergleichende Grammatik der slawischen Sprachen (Vienna, 1852-71), and Beitrage zur Kennttiiss der sla-wisclien Volkspoesie (1870); and Naake, "Slavonic Fairy Tales" (London, 1874).