The Slavs: Their Early History and Civilization

Francis Dvornik





The idea of publishing a book on early Slavic history and civilization originated in 1951 when I was giving a course on this subject in the Slavic Department of Harvard University. Professor Michael Karpovich, then Chairman of the Department, and his colleagues, especially Professor Roman Jakobson, asked me to make the lectures available in book form to a larger public. My original intention was to publish the course as it was given, with only slight additions, for the use of English speaking students. Professor Jakobson, however, urged me to develop the lectures quite extensively in order to make the book useful also to scholars not familiar with early Slavic history. I followed his advice the more willingly because there does not exist any study dealing with the mediaeval history of all Slavic nations and their relations with Byzantium, the Franks, and the Germans. By thus enlarging the scope of the original course of lectures I was able to make use of some of the material I had collected on this subject in recent years, and to realize, at least in small part, my idea, conceived in London during the war years, to write a mediaeval history of the whole of Central and Eastern Europe, a project which, for various reasons, I had to give up. My book, The Making of Central and Eastern Europe, published in 1949, was also a part of this original plan.


With the above brief outline of its background, the double character and purpose of this book becomes clear. It is intended to be a handbook on early Slavic history and civilization for students in history, as well as for a larger public, and, at the same time, to give to specialists in Slavic studies a succinct account of the present state of research on the many problems connected with the historical and cultural development of the Slavic nations, from their origins to the middle of the thirteenth century, when an important phase in their history came to a close.


In order to avoid unwieldy bibliographical data, I have limited myself to works written in non-Slavic languages, on the assumption





that it will be easy for any student desiring to consult works in Slavic to complete his bibliography from the works indicated, and I have thought it useful also to add a collection of the main sources for each chapter. The reader can thus, in each chapter, easily control the statements based on sources.


I am greatly indebted to the members of the Slavic Department of Harvard University for their encouragement and help. Professor Roman Jakobson kindly read the whole manuscript and gave me most valuable advice, especially in the field of Old Slavonic literature. Without his advice and help, for which I am very grateful, this book would not have been published in its present form. I am also grateful to the Chairman of the Department, A. B. Lord, for the interest he took in seeing this book through the press.


I wish to thank George Soulis who helped with the first draft of the maps and undertook the compilation of the Index. D. Obolenski, Reader in Mediaeval Russian and Balkan History at Oxford University, was kind enough to read a part of my manuscript.


I am obliged to The American Academy of Art and Sciences which agreed to publish my work, and to its editors, Professor Taylor Starek and Dr. Walter Muir Whitehill. The publication could not have been achieved without the subsidy provided by the Slavic Department of Harvard University, which decided to include it in the series, Studies in Slavic Civilization, financed by the Reisinger Fund and The American Academy. Although it should have appeared in 1954, as announced in the second volume of the Harvard Slavic Studies, unforeseen difficulties caused its delay.


I dedicate this book to the pious memory of my mother, who died in Moravia in June, 1951, while I was finishing my course at Harvard.


December 8, 1954

Dumbarton Oaks

Washington, District of Columbia



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