Many peoples fleetingly passed through the country during the centuries until, one day, the wheel of fortune took hold of a new destiny. A tribe had come to stay. It was the mystical Slavs, the ancient and pagan people, who once danced, loved and united so freely around the trees, rivers and mountains of the land that is now Slovakia.
They stayed and miraculously outlived the many natural disasters and human follies that plagued the heart of Europe for centuries. These ancient Slavs live on in the blood of the modern Slovaks of today. Together they represent the region’s most continuous genetic line and culture.
Who are the Slavs?
Where did they come from and when? The truth is that we know very little about the people from the very heart of the most well-known continent in the world. Although we have dedicated much effort to studying the ancient Greeks, the spectacular Romans and even the faraway Egyptians, the Slavic heritage remains as elusive today as ever.
The commonly accepted story is that the Slavs came from beyond the Caucasus and entered Europe in the 6th century AD. Others argue that this theory is false, and that the Slavs staked their claim on the Eastern half of the old continent long before that. As the experts quarrel, ‘The Slavs’ remain Europe’s least documented ethnic group.
The mystery of the Slavs is partly down to the fact that Slavonic languages remained spoken, rather than written, for a very long time. This meant that their history and cultural traditions were conveyed orally. There are no written records that would help us understand the tribe. To make matters even more complicated, the Slavs left behind very few material traces for archeologists to puzzle over.
But there is also another reason why we, a species obsessed with knowing and exposing everything, know so little about the Slavs, even as we enter the 21st century. It was only very recently that the artificial barrier that separated the Slavs from the rest of the world was torn down. For much of recent history, the Iron Curtain not only brutally disrupted the connection between East and West, it also gave rise to an amnesia that people are just now slowly waking from.
Read more in SLOVAKIA: THE LEGEND OF THE LINDEN