The Encyclopedia Americana (1920)/Slavs

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The Encyclopedia Americana
Edition of 1920. See also Slavic peoples on Wikipedia, and the disclaimer.

SLAVS, slạvz, the general designation for a group of peoples inhabiting eastern and central Europe and forming one of the most important branches of the Indo-European family of nations. The name is derived from the native term Slovenia, the origin of which is obscure, some connecting is with slovo, word, speech, and others with slava, glory. In support of the former etymology is the fact that the Slavic term for foreigner is nientsy, dumb, marking the differentiation between those whose speech was intelligible to the Slav ear, that is, the Slavs themselves, and those who made use of an incomprehensible tongue. The connection between Slav and slave, though supported by the analogy of servus and Serb, is nevertheless merely fanciful. The Slavic group comprises the following nationalities: Russians (including the Great Russians, the Little Russians, or Ruthenians, and the White Russians), Bulgarians, Serbo-Croatians, Slovenians, Czechs (comprising the Bohemians, the Moravians and the Slovaks), Wends or Sorbs (consisting of the inhabitants of Upper and Lower Lusatia, and Poles with the allied Kashubes). The Polabians, a Slavic people formerly living on the Elbe, have been extinct since the middle of the 18th century. The early history of the Slavs is veiled in obscurity, and only an approximate idea as to their original home is to be obtained. In Pliny and Tacitus the name Venedæ (whence the modern Wenden) appears as the designation of a group of non-Germanic tribes living to the northeast of the Carpathian Mountains and extending to the shores of the Baltic and the lake country of the Finns. Ptolemy in the 2d century of our era gives a description of the peoples residing between the Vistula and the Don which would undoubtedly tend to connect a part at least of these tribes with the Slav family. Roughly the home of the Slavs in the first centuries of the Christian era may be given as extending from the Vistula and the Carpathians northeastward to the headwaters of the Volga and along that stream to its junction with the Oka, and southeastward to the Bug and Dnieper, comprising thus the southwestern third of the present Russia. South and southeast of the Baltic, however, were the Lithaunians, a non-Slavic people, though nearest to the Slavs of all Indo-European stocks. In the 6th century Procopius and Jardanes speak of two great Slavic nations, the Sclaveni and the Antes, as established on the left bank of the Danube and to the north. From this it would seem that in the 3d or 4th century the Slav peoples began to migrate from their homes southward, and westward, under pressure probably of the Baltic tribes to the north. In the 5th century they took possession of the country between the Vistula and the Elbe, left unoccupied by the southward migration of the Germanic Burgundians, Goths, Suevi, etc. Slav tribes entered Bohemia and Moravia about the same time, while others advanced from beyond the Carpathians and made themselves masters of western Hungary, whence they passed into Styria, Carinthia and Camiola. At the beginning of the 7th century the Slavs on the Danube crossed into Mœsia and overran Thracia and Macedonia. At the same time Serbs and Croats made their homes in the ancient Illyricum and Dalmatia. A second great wave of Slav migration, starting from the original home north of the Carpathians, spread east and north, pushing the Finns before them. Under Scandinavian rulers these tribes became the nucleus of the Russian nation. Of this wide area of conquest they have lost in the process of time the regions of the Oder and the Elbe, Upper Austria and part of Carinthia and Styria, of all of which they were deprived by the Germans; large parts of Transylvania and Hungary which fell to Rumanians and Magyars; and parts of the regions south of the Danube which later passed to the Greeks and the Turks.

The ancient Slavs were almost exclusively an agricultural people, averse to all war, and living in complete tribal independence under a fully developed patriarchal system which at a later time became blended with a communal form of government. They were the latest of all the European peoples to enter the sphere of modern civilization, their religion and their literature being, as compared with the other nations, of recent date. The eastern branch of the Slavs received its civilization and religion from Byzantium, the western Slavs from Rome. Christianity made rapid headway among them in spite of the fact that they seem to have possessed a well developed nature-cult about which, however, we possess no definite information. Our materials are limited to the names of various deities worshipped among the northern Slavs, while as to the mythology of the southern branches of the race even such data is wanting. Among the gods of the Russian Slavs were Pernu, identified by some with Thór, the northern god of Thunder, Dazbig (the day god), Wolos, Stribog and others. Svintovint or Sviatovit was the great god of the Baltic Slavs (Rügen), and some who maintain that along with their idol-worship the Slavs possessed a belief in a supreme God would assign to Svintovint that rôle. Grimm erects Svintovint, Pernu and a god named Radegast into a trinity with functions corresponding to the classic Jupiter, Vulcan and Mercury respectively. Other deities worshipped by the Slavs were Prava, the god of justice; Rugevit, of war; Triglaw; Lado and Lada, divinities of order and love; Dievana (Diana), goddess of the woods, and Prija, the Scandinavian Freya. Among the Silesian Slavs the principles of light and darkness were typified by the Bielobog and the Chornobog, the white god and the black god. The mythology of the Slavs was rich in deities of a lower order, in nymphs, naiads and mountain sprites, in goddesses of birth and fate, divinities of the hearth and the field, in evil demons and vampires. The forms of the Slavonic deities recall to mind those of India. Svintovint was represented as four-headed, Pernu as four-faced, etc. There is some testimony to a belief entertained by some of the Slavs in the immortality of the soul and a resurrection beyond the grave. Their principal celebrations were the kobiada, a feast held at the beginning of the year, when an interchange of presents was customary; the kupalo, a feast that took place in honor of the sun at the time of the summer solstice; and the trizna, celebrated in honor of the dead. The functions of priest and ruler were combined in the same person.

From available data it is quite a hopeless task to fix, with any degree of certainty, the number of Slavs in Europe. Official statistics — where issued — are not always reliable, and independent authorities differ widely, even on the question of how many Slav languages there are. It was not until the first quarter of the 19th century that any serious attempt was made to estimate the Slav populations. Schaffarik in 1826 arrived at a total of 55,270,000; in 1842 he made it 78,000,000; basing his calculations on these figures and those of the Russian historian Pypine, Prof. Louis Leger of the Institut de France struck a total of 79,550,000 in 1868. Zarianko's Russian geography (1891) gave a total of 101,724,000, while Schrader's atlas showed only 97,000,000. M. Niederle, a Bohemian authority, estimated 139,000,000 in 1900, and reduced it to 138,500,000 in 1905. In 1907 a distinguished Russian scholar, M. Florinsky, arrived at 147,146,000 and calculated that, the annual birthrate of the Slav race being 1.7 per cent, it would increase by 2,500,000 per year and would in consequence number 186,000,000 in 1915 and 200,000,000 in 1920. Taking such figures as are available, according — in each case — to the last census, we find the Slav population of Russia given as 92,089,733; Austria, 16,959,095; Hungary, 5,380,190; Serbia (subjects only) 2,890,602; Bulgaria, 3,203,810; Montenegro about 500,000: a grand total of 121,023,430. Most of these statistics, however, were compiled in 1910 and do not include the German Poles nor the other Slavs residing in Germany, Rumania, Turkey, Great Britain, etc. Only one census has been taken in Russia — in 1897. During 1913 and 1914 there were 1,079,677 emigrants to the United States from countries in Europe having predominant Slav populations, mainly Russia and Austria-Hungary, while between 1911 and 1915 Canada received 144,792 from those countries, and numbers also went to South America. In the United States alone there are nearly 4,000,000 Poles, over 2,000,000 Czechs and Slovaks, and some 2,000,000 Jugo or Southern Slavs, besides Russians, Serbs, etc. The European War and the Balkan wars of 1912-13 exacted a heavy toll of Slav blood. The great losses of Russia on the battlefields and in the anarchy following the revolution; the casualties among the Slavs of the ill-fated Austro-Hungarian armies; and the practical extermination of Serbia, besides Bulgarian and Montenegrin losses, must inevitably exert a seriously weakening influence upon the Slav race and disturb the value of statistics. These factors should be borne in mind with regard to the following table, collected in 1918:

Russians 100,000,000
Little Russians 30,000,000
Poles 20,000,000
Czechs and Slovaks 10,000,000
Slovenes 1,300,000
Croats 2,500,000
Serbs 4,000,000
Bulgars 4,500,000

 Total 172,300,000

Languages. — The Slavic tongues have been the subject of much controversy and varied classification. On this point, as on that of vital statistics, several authorities — themselves Slavs — differ. Josef Dobrovsky, a learned Czech (d. 1829), counted nine living languages and as many Slav nations in 1822; Schaffarik in 1842 found six languages and 13 dialects; Sreznevsky in 1843 discovered nine and Schleicher in 1865 counted eight. Jagitch made it eight in 1898, while Miklositch and Florinsky (the latter in 1907) came back to nine. According to more recent research, however, considering the numerous separatist tendencies, the number of Slavic languages has been raised from 11 to 14, without reckoning those which are extinct. According to Niederle there are (1) the Russian group, regarded as two nations, the Great Russians and the Little Russians, the latter including the southern Russians, Ukrainians and Ruthenes; (2) the Polish group; (3) the Lusatian-Serb group, divided into High and Low Lusatian; (4) the Czech group in Bohemia and Moravia, from which the Slovaks of Hungary are more or less divided according to political views; (5) the Slovene group, without separatist tendencies; (6) the Serbo-Croatic group, representing Serbs and Croats; and (7) the solid Bulgarian group, homogeneous except for the Macedonian Slavs, of which some lean to the Bulgarians, some to the Serbs, and others who, until 1913, claimed a separate or Macedonian nationality. Another method of grouping is as follows: (1) Bulgarian; (2) Serbo-Croatic; (3) Slovenian (2 and 3 sometimes being given as one group); (4) Russian, including Great Russian, Little Russian and White Russian; (5) Czechish with the closely related Slovak; (6) Sorb or Wendish; and (7) Polish, Bulgarian, Serbo-Croatian and Russian have sometimes been classified into a Southeastern Slav group as against a Western group consisting of all the others. To the latter group should be added the extinct Polabian. The oldest of the Slavic tongues is the old Church Slavic or Old Bulgarian, which is still the ritual language of the Greek Orthodox Church in Russia, Bulgaria and Serbia. The Slavic languages are marked by a richness of vowel sounds and sibilants and a high degree of inflection, which in the noun possesses seven cases, and in the verb, in spite of a restricted number of tenses, a large number of modal and effective auxiliaries rendering possible the finest distinctions of meaning. The so-called Cyrillic alphabet is used in the Russian, Bulgarian and Serbian, but the Old Church Slavic makes use also of the Glagolitic alphabet (q.v.). The Polish, Croatian, Czech, Slovenian and Sorb employ the Roman characters.

Slavic Music — Sentiment, which forms so prominent a trait in the Slav character, renders the members of that race peculiarly subject to the influence of music. In Russia the origins are found in the folk-songs which were greatly influenced by the music of the Church. In the 17th century western influences entered the country and especially the Italian, which lasted well into the 19th century, when we have the use of a national school with the appearance of Glinka (q.v.). The prevailing characteristic of Russian music, whether classic or popular, is an all pervading tone of melancholy which has found its fullest expression, perhaps, in the works of Tschaikowsky. Polish music, in many respects resembling the Russian, differs from the latter in a greater vivacity of movement and spirit. The Bohemian is the third important national school of Slavic music and one which in recent years has surpassed the Polish in productivity and held its own with the Russian. For the leading names in Russian music see in addition to those already mentioned, Dargomyzshky; Balakirev; Borodin;

Rimsky-Korsokoff; Rubinstein; Arenski; Taneyeff. For Poland see Chopin; Moszkowski; Paderewski. For Bohemia see Smetana; Dvorák*.

Panslavism. — This name was originally given to the agitation carried on by a great party in Russia with the object of uniting the Slav peoples of Europe under Russian rule or influence. The movement originated about 1830, when the Polish revolution aroused Slavic national consciousness; it received increased strength from the second Polish revolt in 1863. Congresses of Slav representatives from the different European countries were held at Prague in 1848 and Moscow in 1867. Outside of Russia the ideals of Panslavism were favorably received by the Slavs in Bohemia, Silesia and Croatia-Slavonia, where the members of that race felt their national existence threatened by the repressive policy of the government, Austrian, Hungarian or German as the case might be. Panslavism was largely responsible for the outbreak of the Russo-Turkish War of 1877-78, when Russia entered the lists as the champion of the Balkan Slavs who suffered under the tyranny of Turkish rule. Russia defeated the Turks with the assistance of Rumania (non-Slav); Bulgaria, Serbia and Montenegro, Slav nations. Though the Berlin Congress demolished the Treaty of San Stefano, the four nations were made practically independent of Turkey, and Russia became the recognized protector of the Balkan Slavs. It must be added, however, that this “big brotherly” policy was not unconnected with the old Russian ideal of paving the road to Constantinople. Moreover, this Balkan policy of Russia ran counter to the interests of the Austro-Hungarian monarchy, also a great Slav power. This antagonism rendered impossible any rapprochement between Russia and Germany, the latter being Austria's ally. In this may be recognized the seeds of the European War. Nothing short of an absolute renunciation by Russia of her Panslav policy in the Balkans could remove the possibility of an ultimate rupture with Austria. In course of time, Panslavism broke out in a direction that was perhaps not anticipated by Russia. As the Balkan states grew stronger under the stimulus of national consciousness, fostered by the creation of national armies and more or less democratic institutions, they gradually realized their ability to shape their own destinies. While fully willing to accept all the advantages which the protection of Russia offered, they were not prepared to fall under Russian dominion. Stambuloff, in Bulgaria, pursued a strong anti-Russian policy, and the Serbs cast longing eyes upon the vision of an independent Greater Serbia including the Austrian provinces of Bosnia-Herzegovina and their nationals in Macedonia — then still Turkish territory. Not improbably, they also counted on the inclusion of Croatia, Slavonia and the Dalmatian coast line after the long-prophesied break-up of the Austro-Hungarian empire. Bulgaria likewise had designs on Macedonia; Bohemia clamored for her ancient rights as a kingdom, and the Poles sought the restoration of their country, partitioned between Russia, Germany and Austria — an ambition at all times rigorously suppressed by those three powers. Russia stood to lose comparatively little by an all-round fulfilment of these national aspirations; to Austria-Hungary it meant a dissolution of the monarchy. Hence the general principle may be accepted that Austro-Russian rivalry, plus the conflicting aims of Austria and Serbia, provided fully one-half of the direct causes of the European War, and that Germany contributed the other moiety by utilizing this antagonism to further her own ambitions. The situation was thus summarized by President Wilson on 14 June 1917: “The war was begun by the military masters of Germany, who proved to be also the masters of Austria-Hungary. . . . The demands made by Austria upon Serbia were a mere single step in a plan which compassed Europe and Asia. . . . It contemplated binding together . . . Czechs, Magyars, Croats, Serbs, Rumanians . . . Bohemia . . . the stout little commonwealths of the Balkans. . . . These people do not wish to be united. . . . They ardently desired to direct their own affairs, would be satisfied only by undisputed independence.”

By the summer of 1918 the Panslav movement had attained gigantic proportions. Though entirely diverted from its original aims of unification into a revolutionary scheme of independent separatism, based on nationality, no more appropriate title could be applied to it. A powerful impetus to the cause was the official sympathy extended to its representatives in France, America, Italy and Great Britain. On 22 Jan. 1917 President Wilson declared in favor of an autonomous Poland; the Czecho-Slovak and Jugo-Slav agitation in the Austrian Parliament spread throughout the monarchy and was enthusiastically supported by their nationals scattered throughout the allied countries. Already at the beginning of the war thousands of Austrian Slavs — whole regiments — had gone over to the Russians. Large numbers escaped from the country and joined the Allies in France and Italy. On 6 Jan. 1918 a congress of Czech deputies reasserted their claims at Prague; in April a similar gathering was held at Rome; disorders spread throughout Bohemia and other districts of the monarchy leading to a state of siege around Prague and the establishment of martial law among the Slovenes and Slovaks. On 4 May 1918 the Austrian Reichsrat was abruptly closed by the emperor. Anti-German demonstrations were severely suppressed and thousands interned. Barracks and public buildings were set on fire and German newspaper offices sacked. A Slovene regiment mutinied and killed its German officers. Czecho-Slovak regiments fought in the Italian army and in Russia against the Bolsheviki. In New York, Kossovo Day was commemorated on 16 June 1918, attended by thousands of American Slavs.