Polish tribes

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Map showing an approximation location of Polish tribes

"Polish tribes" is a term used sometimes to describe the tribes of West Slavs that lived in the territories that became Polish from around the mid-6th century to the creation of Polish state by the Piast dynasty. The territory they lived on became a part of the first Polish state created by duke Mieszko I and expanded at the end of the 10th century, enlarged further by king Bolesław I at the beginning of the 11th century.

In about 850 AD a list of peoples was written down by the Bavarian Geographer. Absent on the list are Polans, Pomeranians and Masovians, who were mentioned later by Nestor the Chronicler in his Primary Chronicle (11th/12th century).

The most important Polish tribes were Polans, Masovians, Vistulans, Silesians and Pomeranians.[1] These five tribes "shared fundamentally common culture and language and were considerably more closely related to one another than were the Germanic tribes."[2]


The name "Poland" is derived from the most powerful of the tribes - the Polans. Their name, in turn, derives from the word pole - field. It was also used for the eastern Polans, an unrelated East Slavic tribe that lived in the region of the Dnieper River in Eastern Europe.


The słoneczko (lit. little sun) or, as it is known in Russia, the kolovrat (коловрат) is a symbol used by many Slavic neo-pagans to represent the Sun, allegedly of ancient origin.

The Polish tribes were polytheistic pagans and worshiped a pantheon of numerous deities, each representing a different but equally important aspect of life for the Early Slavs - such as Perun, god of lightning, or Kupała, goddess of fertility. Little is known about what their religion was really like, but the limited archaeological evidence as well as remnants of pagan beliefs that have survived in the folklore of Slavic countries show many similarities between the faith of Polish tribes and that of other Early Medieval Slavic societies leading historians to believe that a common Slavic mythology exists between all Slavic branches.


The tribes were organized on the basis of kinship groups. A tribe's territory was divided into opoles, which constituted a group of neighboring settlements.

Most members of a particular tribe were yeoman peasants, although a small group of aristocrats (nobiles or potentiores) was usually present.

List of Polish tribes[edit]

Approximate locations of some of the West Slavic tribes (around 9th-10th centuries)

The following is the list of Polish tribes that inhabited the lands of Poland in the early Middle Ages, at the beginning of the Polish state. They shared fundamentally common culture and language and together they formed what is now Polish ethnicity and the culture of Poland. This process is called ethnic consolidation in which several ethnic communities of kindred origin and cognate languages, merge into a single one.[3]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Raymond Breton, National Survival in Dependent Societies: Social Change in Canada and Poland, McGill-Queen's Press - MQUP, 1990, p. 106,ISBN 0-88629-127-5 Google Books
  2. ^ John Blacking, Anna Czekanowska, Polish Folk Music: Slavonic Heritage - Polish Tradition - Contemporary Trends, Cambridge University Press, 2006, p. 3, ISBN 0-521-02797-7 Google Books
  3. ^ Regina E. Holloman, Serghei A. Arutiunov, Perspectives on Ethnicity, Walter de Gruyter 1978, p. 391, ISBN 311080770X, 9783110807707 Google Books
  4. ^ Jerzy Strzelczyk [in:] The New Cambridge Medieval History, Cambridge University Press, 1999, p. 521-522 ISBN 0-521-36447-7 Google Books; Robert Machray, The Problem of Upper Silesia, G. Allen & Unwin ltd. 1945, p. 13 Google Books; Paul Wagret, Helga S. B. Harrison, Poland, Nagel, 1964, p. 231. Google Books
  5. ^ "Czeski Śląsk" - Montes Tarnovicensis, 05/2008

External links[edit]