White Croatia

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Locations of White Croatia and White Serbia in the 6th century (around 560), according to the book of Francis Dvornik.

White Croatia (also Chrobatia) is the ill-defined area "somewhere in Central Europe, near Bavaria, beyond Hungary, and next to the Frankish Empire"[1] from which the White Croats crossed the Carpathians and migrated in the 7th century into Dalmatia (modern-day Croatia). In the Slavic tradition, the colour white designates "north", thus the name of the region means "Northern Croatia". According to George Vernadsky, the adjective white in case of White Croats denoted the fact of them being unbaptized.[2]

Written sources[edit]

In his work De Administrando Imperio, Constantine Porphyrogenitus mentions the White Croatia (originally Βελοχρωβάτοι i Χρωβάτοι, Belokhrovatoi i Khrovatoi) as the place from which, in the 7th century, part of Croatian tribes started their journey to the Balkans (more specifically, today's Croatia and Bosnia-Herzegovina) after they were invited there by the Byzantine Empire (emperor Heraclius) to protect its borders. This migration was described by Adam Naruszewicz in his work The History of Polish Nation:

"The Chrobats were known even in the 9th century under Constantine Porphyrogennetos rule, who describes them in his work De Administrando Imperio in these words: The Chrobat lived in that times (meaning, times of emperor Heraclius) close to Babigorea where Belo-Chrobat family is now, while others, those who went to Dalmatia living close to the Franks, called Belo-Chrobat, belo meaning white, as they had their own Prince. They pay hommage to Otto the Great, the ruler of Franks also being Saxon. Being pagans they ally with Turks. Those Chrobats who in Dalmatia reside, derive from the non baptized ones, ones allied Turks living near Franks and with Serbians bordering." Then he also states: "[...] the great Chrobatia which as the white is called, till this very day baptised is not, same as their neighbours Serbians. Cavalry and infantry has it as much as Christian Chrobatia, all for frequent Franks' invasions."

According to Nestor the Chronicler, White Croats were progenitors of Lendians. In his work from 1113 AD called The Primary Chronicle Nestor describes how in the early Middle Ages White Croats, Serbians and Karantanians (most likely part of the tribes) were forced to leave their lands due to Italian invasion. After that they settled along the river Vistula, calling themselves Lendians, later dividing into Polans, Veleti, Masovians and Pomeranians.

"After many years had passed, Slavic people settled on the Danube, where Hungary and Bulgaria are now. From those Slavic tribes they spread to many lands, calling themselves with many names which were from grounds they stayed on. And so, leaving on the Morava River, they called themselves Moravians, and another as Bohemians. Yet another Slavic people were White Croatians, and Serbians, and Karantanians. Those, when oppressed by Italians who invaded that grounds, embarked towards Vistula and stayed there calling themselves Lendians, and later Polans, Veleti, Masovians and Pomeranians."

Other authors from those times did not call Croatians "White". The Bavarian Geographer does not mention them either (same as Polans) (845 AD).

North of the Great Moravia is where Alfred the Great states as Croatian lands (890 AD). In his Geography of Europe relaying on Orosius, Alfred the Great says:

"To the north-east of the Moravians are the Dalamensae; east of the Dalamensians are the Horithi (White Croats), and north of the Dalamensians are the Servians; to the west also are the Silesians. To the north of the Horiti is Mazovia, and north of Mazovia are the Sarmatians, as far as the Riphaean mountains."

Nestor in his Primary Chronicle mentions Croatians (but not calling them "White") as one of the Rus' tribes. In 907 AD they allied with Oleg of Novgorod and took part in his military expedition against the Byzantine Empire. It is also mentioned there that Vladimir I of Kiev fought the Croatians in 992 AD. In addition, the names "chrowati et altera chrowati" is mentioned in the so called Prague Charter from 1086 AD as the frontier of the Prague diocese. (That statement was used centuries later as the propaganda to justify the annexation of Galicia during the partitions of Poland.)

Cosmas of Prague in his Chronica Boëmorum describes the territory of the Prague diocese in these words: "[...] The border of which towards the West are as following: Tuhošť, which stretch from the middle of Chamb River, Sedlčané, Lučané, Děčané, Litoměřici, Lemuzi, until the forest which the Bohemian border is. Next, the northern borders, are: Pšované, Croatians and other Croatians, Silesians, Trzebowianie, Bobrzanie, Dziadoszanie, up to the middle of the forest which the Milceni are surrounded. From there to the East the rivers of Styr and Bug are its borders, together with Cracow and its land name which is Wag and all the lands belonging to the mentioned Cracow. Then it stretches along the Hungarian marches up to the mountains which are called Tatras. Next, in the part which stretches towards the South, when joined with Moravian lands, it reaches the Wag river and then Mure, being the name of the forest and the river bordering Bavaria."

In the 12th century, Presbyter Diocleas in his History of the Kingdom of the Slavs uses the term White Croatia with reference to North Dalmatia.

Wincenty Kadłubek in his Polish Chronicle (book II, chapter 12), describes the deeds of Bolesław I the Brave who "conquered Selencja, Pomerania, Prussia, Rus', Moravia, Bohemia, which he has left his successors as fiefdoms. The city of Prague was called the second capital of his kingdom. He ruled many tribes of Huns, Hungarians, Croatians and Mards."

Dispute about location of White Croatia[edit]

The location of White Croatia which was established by Constantine is a bone of contention among historians. We can learn from the text by Constantine that it was under the rule of Otto I the Great and it was located somewhere between Bavaria, Hungary and White Serbia. Constantine describes the White Croatians as pagans, their territories must have been located out of reach of the Christian world.

Nestor claims that the White Croatians settled down on Vistula bank. At this point, Constantine says about march northwards, while Nestor about marching southwards – probably the facts being distant in the time. So White Croatians of Nestor and Constantine may have nothing common with each other.

On account of establishing the north border of Great Moravia difficulty, it is hard to explicitly interpret the notes of Alfred the Great. It can be interpreted on the grounds of information that Vistulans used to occupy to the east of Moravia. However, interpretations of Prague Document point at a location in Bohemia or in Silesia.

Popular Encyclopedia by Samuel Orgelbrand from 1864 provides information that the name of Croatian comes from Carpathian Mountains: Croats (Krroat, Kroata), in fact Croatians in Czech: Charwati, in Croatian: Herwati (Hrwati) is the name of numerous Slavic tribes which partly is still keeping up. All tribes’ the oldest headquarters are lands of the Tatras called (by Constantine Porfyrogenita) the Great or White Croatia, coming from Carpathian Mountains […] The memento of them has kept up in some local names in the eastern Halicz (Chrewi, Charwin, Charzewice) and folk name of the Carpathians: Horby (Chryby, Cherby). Adam Szelągowski (after Pavel Jozef Šafárik) also draw their name from word chrb (a mountain) and added: today still in eastern Galicia the name for the Carpathians (Chorby)

The Hervarar saga ok Heiðreks as translated by Christopher Tolkien (Oxford University, Trinity College) is another source which correlates to and supports the "Harvaða" mountains as being the Carpathian mountains. This corroborates to the territories of White Croatia in other early middle ages sources, the Carpathians being the hypocentre of the earliest Croatian tribes. Tolkien in his Introduction, Notes and Appendices writes that "Harvada" is the same name in origin as Carpathian...a relic of extremely ancient tradition" harkening back to the 4th century battles between the Goths and Huns. The Croatian ethnonym being etymologically connected to Harvaða/Carpathians.[3] This falls in line with the information found in De Administrando Imperio where Constantine Porphyrogenitus mentions the northern Great and White Croatia and that "...Croats (Greek: Χρωβάτοι) in the Slav tongue means 'those who occupy much territory'." This indicates and correlates to the areas in and around the Harvaða/Carpathian mountains,[4] extending to also among the East Slavs of Kievan Rus'[5] (It is interesting that in this same source of De Administrando Imperio, the Byzantine Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos goes on to record the later Serb ethnonym origins in Chapter 32; "...'Serbs' in the tongue of the Romans is the word for 'Slaves', whence the colloquial 'serbula' for menial shoes, and 'tzerboulianoi' for those who wear cheap, shoddy footgear. This name the Serbs acquired from their being slaves of the emperor of the Romans".[6]

Gutenberg's Stories and Ballads of the Far Past, 'Saga of Hervör and Heithrek' (Translated by Nora Kershaw Chadwick in 1921) the Carpathian mountains are translated as "...'Neath the Mountains of Harvathi''.[7]

In the Proceedings of the Philosophical-Historical Class of the Imperial Academy of Sciences commissioned by A. Hölder in 1887, the same conclusions are found, ie; The name for the Carpathians in the early common era centuries preceding the Gothic wars against the Huns was 'Harvaða' [8] and that the Croats endonym national name through the following Folk etymology of those early Slavic speaking Croats it became 'Hrvat/Hrvati'.[9]

A Czech version of the Lech, Čech, and Rus legend involves two brothers and was recorded in the middle ages. As described by Alois Jirásek in Staré pověsti české, (Ancient Czech Legends) the two brothers came to Central Europe from the east as Čech and Lech. Čech is identified as the founder of the Czech nation (Češi pl.) and Lech as the founder of the Polish nation. In the legend the two brothers who founded the early Czech and Polish nations lived in Charvátská země.[10] (pronounced Harvatska, ie: Harvatska country) Alois Jirásek believed that this was the original homeland of the Slavs - north of the Tatra Mountains and the basin of the Vistula. The first chapter of the Old Czech Legends begins: In the Tatras, in the plains of the river Vistula, stretched from time immemorial Charvátská country, the initial part of the great Slavic homeland. (Czech: Za Tatrami, v rovinách při řece Visle rozkládala se od nepaměti charvátská země, část prvotní veliké vlasti slovanské)[11] This would be the territory Bili Chorvati[12] (White Croats) that ranged from Ostrava to Lviv and eventually to Kievan Rus'.

In 'Hervarar Saga', Snorre Sturlason's Edda, which plays out in the Gothic world of the 4th century, the Carpathians are called 'Herevati', which in Gothic means 'Heights' (Here) and 'Crossing' (Vati), which indicates that it purportedly refers to the cross-over from east to west between Greater Carpathia and Lesser Carpathia along river Tisza. The Croatians endonym name 'Hervati' seem to point to the same source of origin. In such case, 'white' (cardinal direction north) would be somewhere at the upper Vistula/Slovakian Paradise, while 'black' Croatians would have lived in Lesser Carpathia.[citation needed]

Historians often point to Bohemia, Silesia, Lesser Poland or Ukraine as the places where White Croatia happened to be located.

Some historians suppose White Croats as the predecessors of the Rusyn people.[13]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Curta, Florin. Southeastern Europe in the Middle Ages, 500-1250. Cambridge University Press, 2006. ISBN 0521815398. Page 138.
  2. ^ Vernadsky, G.. Voice from the Hungarian Ruthenia. Russkaya Mysl. 1880
  3. ^ http://vsnrweb-publications.org.uk/The%20Saga%20Of%20King%20Heidrek%20The%20Wise.pdf Tolkien: 'Hervarar Saga ok Heidreks Konungs'. C.J.R. Tolkien (Oxford University, Trinity College). B. Litt. Thesis. 1953/4. [Published 1960]
    • The Battle of the Goths and the Huns. Christopher Tolkien, in Saga-Book (University College, London, for the Viking Society for Northern Research) 14, part 3 (1955-6), pp. [141]-63.
  4. ^ 'Constantine Porphyrogenitus de Administrando Imperio' By Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (Emperor of the East). Chapter 32. https://books.google.ca/books?id=3al15wpFWiMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=De+Administrando+Imperio+Croats&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eGvIVNf9B9amyATelICgBA&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Croats&f=false/
  5. ^ Slavs of Kievan Rus' http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/8/89/East_Slavic_tribes_peoples_8th_9th_century.jpg
  6. ^ 'Constantine Porphyrogenitus de Administrando Imperio' By Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (Emperor of the East). Chapter 32. https://books.google.ca/books?id=3al15wpFWiMC&printsec=frontcover&dq=De+Administrando+Imperio+Croats&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eGvIVNf9B9amyATelICgBA&ved=0CCcQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Croats&f=false/
  7. ^ Kershaw, N. (2013). pp. 242-3. Stories and Ballads of the Far Past. London: Forgotten Books. (Original work published 1921). https://www.gutenberg.org/files/33471/33471-h/33471-h.htm
  8. ^ 'Revisiting the Poetic Edda: Essays on Old Norse Heroic Legend'. https://books.google.ca/books?id=hZXUGvXii4UC&pg=PA245&dq=Harvada+fjollum&hl=en&sa=X&ei=WD_mVOCICMakyATJhoKwDQ&ved=0CBwQ6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Harvada%20fjollum&f=false
  9. ^ 'Proceedings of the Philosophical-Historical Class of the Imperial Academy of Sciences' commissioned by A. Hölder in 1887. https://books.google.ca/books?id=lTUJAAAAIAAJ&pg=PA499&lpg=PA499&dq=Harvadir-ar&source=bl&ots=WaHujG8Ul8&sig=q2W-Bs4Rp-QJjG-lFNmNMySU4LA&hl=en&sa=X&ei=eoWfVP7cKpH2yQTPlYCgAw&ved=0CB8Q6AEwAA#v=onepage&q=Harvadir-ar&f=false
  10. ^ Charvátská_země http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/Charvátská_země
  11. ^ Staré pověsti české/O Čechovi http://cs.wikisource.org/wiki/Staré_pověsti_české/O_Čechovi
  12. ^ Bílí Chorvati http://cs.wikipedia.org/wiki/B%C3%ADl%C3%AD_Chorvati
  13. ^ THE CARPATHO-RUSYNS, by Paul Robert Magocsi and Carpatho-Rusyn American - Vol. XVIII, No. 4, Winter 1995 [1]

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