The Slavic peoples are the most numerous ethnic and linguistic body of peoples in Europe, residing chiefly in eastern and southeastern Europe but extending also across northern Asia to the Pacific Ocean. Slavic languages belong to the Indo-European family. Customarily Slavs are subdivided into east Slavs (including Russians, Ukrainians, and Belarusians[?] and Lippovan[?] Russians), west Slavs (chiefly Poles, Kaschubians[?], Slovincians[?], Masurians[?], Czechs, Slovaks[?], and Sorbs and south Slavs (including Serbs, Croats, Bosnian Muslims, the Serbo-Croat groups Bunjevci[?] or 'Bunjewatsen' and Sokci[?], Slovenians, Macedonian Slavs, Bulgarians and the Pomaks.
Slavs historically were described as Venedes[?] or Wends, but their connection to Veneds mentioned by Tacitus, Ptolemy and Plinius, is uncertain, and similarity of name may be accidental. Controversial is connection between Lugii and Slavs, since some recent authors connect them with Slavs, some with Germans, some claim that Lugii were compound tribe, or confederation of tribes of different ethnicity.
The Lugii or Lygii had earlier Celtic elements and were actually recorded as a part of the Vandals in Magna Germania, which included territory of later Silesia (named for the Silingi-Vandals). It is possible that city of Legnica (Liegnitz) in Silesia was named for Lug, Ligo.
Later names of Slavs were recorded as Sclavens, Sclovene, Ants. Jordanes mentions that Venets are divided into three groups: Venets, Ants and Sklavens. Even origin of word "Slav" is unsure. In Slavic languages that word is "Slowianie" "Slovene" etc, with obvious similarities to word "Slowo" meaning "Word", so "Slowianie" would mean "people who can speak" as opposed for Slavic word for Germans "Niemcy" that is, "dumb", "people who cannot speak". Other obvious similarity is to word "Slawa", that is "glory" or "praise"(with common root with "Slowo"), however some linguists believe that that obvious connections are false despite the early translation of the Greek word "orthodoxos", i.e. "Correct/right , "Correct/right glorifying/praising" having its equivalent in "pravoslavni" with "pravo" meaning "right" or "correct" and "slavni" meaning "those who praise" or "those who glorify" [God]
Some Slavic peoples retain some linguistic connection to ancient non Slavic peoples with one fascinating connection between the Bulgars of antiquity and the Volga Bulgars, Crimean Tatars, and Tatars of today in some roots and personal names.
In religion, the Slavs traditionally divided into two main groups: those associated with the Eastern Orthodox Church: (Russians, most Ukrainians, most Belarusians, some Carpathorussians, Serbs, Bulgarians, Macedonians and those associated with the Roman Catholic Church, both Roman Catholic believers and Uniates Greek Catholic Church[?]): Poles, Sorbs, Czechs, Slovaks, Croats, Slovenians, some Ukrainians, and some Belarusians). The division is further marked by the use of the Cyrillic alphabet by the former (but including all Ukrainians and Belarusians) and the Roman alphabet by the latter with a few minor exceptions. Montenegrins are Eastern Orthodox who use a Latin script. There are also many minority religious groups, including both Sunni and Shiite Muslims incorporating numerous mystical sects, Protestants, and Jews.
Prehistorically, the original habitat of the Slavs, as of all Indoeuropeans, was Asia, from which they migrated in the 3rd or 2nd millennium BC to populate parts of eastern Europe. Subsequently, these European lands of the Slavs were crossed or settled by many peoples forced by economic conditions to migrate. In the middle of the 1st millennium BC, Celtic tribes settled along the upper Odra River, and Germanic tribes settled on the lower Vistula and lower Odra rivers, usually without displacing the Slavs there. Actually the land at the Elbe, Odra and Vistula Rivers was all recorded as Magna Germania 1900 years ago and later. Finally, the movement westward of the Germans in the 5th and 6th centuries A.D., necessitated by the onslaught of people from the Far East: Huns, Avars, Bulgars, Hungarians, started the great migration of the Slavs, who proceeded in the Germans' wake westward into the country between the Odra and the Elbe-Saale line, southward into Bohemia, Moravia, Hungary, and the Balkans, and northward along the upper Dnieper River[?]. When the migratory movements had ended, there appeared among the Slavs the first rudiments of state organizations, each headed by a prince with a treasury and defense force, and the beginning of class differentiation, who pledged allegiance to the Frankish and Holy Roman Emperors[?]. Numerous Slavic place names of the Peloponesus date to the second century C.E.
There were two theories in history about original homeland of Slavs: first, called autochtonic, was based on assumption that Slavs had lived north of the Carpathian Mountains since 1000 BC. Second, called allochtonic, assumed that Slavs came there in 5th-6th century AD. Both theories were used as tools of political propaganda by Germans and different Slavic nations, with great harm to science. Some scientists consider both theories absurd (e.g. Kazimierz Godlowski[?] or Zdenek Vana[?]), because they think that Slavs as such appeared and differentiated from other tribes after AD. There is theory that there were two waves of Slavs: Proto-Slavs[?], called Wenetes or Veneds, and Slavs proper, and that two groups created today's Slavs. That theory at least tries to deal with very complicated question arising from archeological findings in the area. Nobody also is sure where was Slavic homeland before they start their big expansion. Slavs have first been recorded in the Pripjet Marshes area but a considerable number of Southern Slavic words are Indo-Iranian.
In the centuries that followed, there developed scarcely any unity among the various Slavic peoples although a faint kind of Slavic unity sometimes appeared. In the 19th century, Pan-Slavism developed as a movement among intellectuals, scholars, and poets, but it rarely influenced practical politics. The various Slavic nationalities conducted their policies in accordance with what they regarded as their national interests, and these policies were as often bitterly hostile toward other Slavic peoples as they were friendly toward non-Slavs. Even political unions of the 20th century, such as that of Yugoslavia, were not always matched by feelings of ethnic or cultural accord and were essentially hegemonial in favor of certain groups; nor did the sharing of communism after World War II necessarily provide more than a high-level political and economic alliance
Adolf Hitler and Nazi Germany claimed the racial superiority of the Germanic people, particularly over the Semitic and Slavic peoples. One major goal of the Nazi's ethnic programs was the enslavement of the Slavic peoples, and reducing their number by killing majority of population. Hitler's aim, as evidenced in Mein Kampf, was for the Slavs to serve the Third Reich as a permanent slave class.
See also: List of famous Slavs