Mesiarkin, Adam. The name of the Slavs: etymology and meaning

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Tags: historiography, Slavs, Sclavi, slovene, ethnonym of Slavs, Slavic identity, Slavic ethnogenesis, Slavic studies, Procopius of Caesarea, Jordanes, Barbaric world, Commentarii / Articles, MESIARKIN A.

Title of the article The name of the Slavs: etymology and meaning
Authors Mesiarkin, Adam — Ph. D. in History, Assistant Professor, Institute of Social Medicine and Medical Ethics, Faculty of Medicine, Comenius University in Bratislava, Slovakia, This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.,Scopus ID 57195246498
In the section Commentarii / Articles 
Year 2017 Issue 1 Pages 3-20
Type of article RAR Index UDK; BBK UDK 94(367) Славяне; BBK 63.3(2)41 Index DOI 10.21638/11701/spbu19.2017.101
Abstract
The name is the main constitutive element and the most important identification sign of a barbaric community. The fixation of the name Σκλαβηνοί in the 6th century by Procopius of Caesarea and Jordanes as a designation of one of the groups of the trans-Danubian Barbaricum is the chronological boundary that separates the Slavs of prehistoric times from the historic Slavs. For a long time it was believed in historiography that the Slavs as a «people» or «cultural community» existed long before the 6th century, thus hiding in sources under other names. Of these names, the most important was the name Venethi / Venedi. However, the Slavs became Venethi, as well as the Venethi became Slavs, only thanks to Jordanes. The author of the article tends to the opinion that the name Σκλαβηνοί was originally a designation of only one barbaric group, and then, due to various intellectual and ideological factors, it was transferred to other communities until it acquired the meaning in which it is understood today. Linguists, as well as historians, based on linguistic facts, a priori interpreted the self-name of the Slavs as based on the common language — on the word *slovo. It followed from this that this ethnic community arose on the basis of the language community. The thesis about the Slavs as «clearly speaking», that is, about the existence of an ethnic group, whose members determined themeselves through a common language already in the 6th century or even earlier, still occupies a strong position in Slavic studies. However, according to the author of the article, the picture according to which the formation of the group name «Slavs» was a result of the members of this group rational awareness that they use the unique «Slavic language» is not convincing. The connection between the name of the Slavonic community and the (Slavonic language) basis *slovo as well as the perception of the Slavs as the «people of the word» emerged much later: the linguistic interpretation of the ethnonym Slavs is the core of the intellectual and religious concept that took shape in the second half of the 9th century, being connected with the mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius in Moravia and Pannonia. For this reason, the author of the article prefers the etymology of the name «Slavs» proposed by the Polish linguist Zbigniew Babik because, in the author’s opinion, it is Babik’s etymology, and not the traditional linguistic view that reflects the reality of the Barbaric world of the early Middle Ages in more adequate way.
Keywords ethnonym of Slavs, Slavic identity, Slavic ethnogenesis, Sclavi, slovene
Full text version of the article. Article language English
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