IntroductionSlavs (slävz, slăvz) [key], the largest ethnic and linguistic group of peoples in Europe belonging to the Indo-European linguistic family. It is estimated that the Slavs number over 300 million in the world. They are usually classified in three main divisions. The West Slavs include the Poles, the Czechs, the Slovaks, and the Wends (also known as Lusatians) and other small groups in E Germany. The South Slavs include the Serbs, the Croats, the Slovenes, the Macedonians, the Montenegrins, the Bosniaks, and the Bulgars. The East Slavs, the largest group, include the Great Russians, Ukrainians, and Belorussians (or White Russians).
Religiously and culturally, the Slavs fall into two main groups—those traditionally associated with the Orthodox Eastern Church (the Great Russians, most of the Ukrainians, some of the Belorussians, the Bulgarians, the Serbs, and the Macedonians) and those historically affiliated with the Roman Catholic Church (the West Slavs, most of the Belorussians, some of the Ukrainians, and the Croats and Slovenes). The cleavage into Eastern Church and Western Church is symbolized by the use of the Cyrillic alphabet by the first group and of the Roman alphabet by the latter.
The Columbia Electronic Encyclopedia, 6th ed. Copyright © 2012, Columbia University Press. All rights reserved.
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