The New Student's Reference Work/Slavs
Slavs (slävz) or Slavonians (slȧ-vō'nĭ-anz), the name of a group of nations belonging to the Aryan family, living in the eastern parts of Europe and northern Asia. The earliest history represents them as living around the Carpathian Mountains and spreading to the Baltic, the Elbe and over the whole peninsula between the Adriatic and the Black Sea. Since the 7th century they have become settled and gradually formed into independent states. There are two divisions, the southeastern and the western. The Russians, Bulgarians and Illyrians belong to the first division; the Poles, Silesians and Pomeranians, called Lechs, the Czechs or Bohemians and the Slavonic tribes of north Germany make up the western division. The only people that have preserved their language are the Wends or Serbs of Saxony and Prussia. The whole Slavonic population is about 100,000,000. They are represented by ancient writers as an industrious race, living by agriculture and having flocks and herds. The government, at first patriarchal, was gradually usurped by the chiefs and the people were reduced to serfs. There was no middle class between the nobility and the peasants. See Languages and Literature.