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The early Slavs were an Indo-European peoples who lived during the Migration Period and the Early Middle Ages (approximately from the 5th to the 10th century AD) in Central, Eastern and Southeast Europe and established the foundations for the Slavic nations through the Slavic states of the Early and High Middle Ages. The Slavs' original homeland is still a matter of debate due to a lack of historical records; however, scholars believe that it was in Eastern Europe, with Polesia being the most commonly accepted location.
The first written use of the name "Slavs" dates to the 6th century, when the Slavic tribes inhabited a large portion of Central and Eastern Europe. By then, the nomadic Iranian-speaking peoples living in the European Pontic Steppe (the Scythians, Sarmatians, Alans, etc.) had been absorbed by the region's Slavic-speaking population. Over the next two centuries, the Slavs expanded west to the Elbe river and south towards the Alps, and the Southeast Europe, absorbing Illyrian and Thracian peoples in the process, and also moved east in the direction of the Volga River. Between the sixth and seventh centuries, large parts of Europe came to be controlled by Slavs, a process less understood and documented than that of the Germanic ethnogenesis in the west. Yet, the effects of Slavicization were far more profound.
Beginning in the 7th century, the Slavs were gradually Christianized (both Greek Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism). By the 12th century, they were the core population of a number of medieval Christian states: East Slavs in the Kievan Rus', South Slavs in the Bulgarian Empire, the Principality of Serbia, the Duchy of Croatia and the Banate of Bosnia, and West Slavs in the Principality of Nitra, Great Moravia, the Duchy of Bohemia, and the Kingdom of Poland. The oldest known Slavic principality in history was Carantania, established in the 7th century by the Eastern Alpine Slavs, the ancestors of present-day Slovenes. Slavic settlement of the Eastern Alps comprised modern-day Slovenia, Eastern Friul and large parts of modern-day Austria.