(Chapter XII, section 8)

The Living Slavs

(a) Czechs and Wends

Owing to the geographical distribution of living Slavic-speaking peoples, it seems advisable to divide them into four groups, to be treated separately and, as nearly as possible, seriatim. These are the central and western Slavs, including the Czechs, Slovaks, and Wends; the northern and eastern Slavs, from the Poles across Russia to Siberia; the southern Slavs, living almost entirely in Jugoslavia, and the Bulgars, who will be treated with other peoples of the Balkans. It will be recalled that the Slavs, the last of the great Indo-European-speaking peoples to expand, were, like all of the others who had preceded them, primarily Nordic in race. Like all of the others they were destined to lose in varying degrees this original racial identification.

The republic of Czechoslovakia, with its pre-Munich population of some 15,000,000 was, until the events of October, 1938, one of the most ethnically varied of the post-war nations of central and eastern Europe. Only 50 per cent of its population was Czechish, and the other half was composed as follows: Germans, 23 per cent; Slovaks, 16 per cent; Magyars, 5 per cent; Ruthenians, 4 per cent; and Jews and all others, the remainder.79 The Czechs themselves are confined largely to Bohemia and Moravia. They are descendants of the early Slavic immigrants who pushed aside or absorbed earlier Keltic and Germanic settlers, and who, in the shelter of their mountain-hemmed plain, have resisted the Germanic thrust to the east, which began in the twelfth century and which since has almost surrounded them. Owing to this Germanic contact and to their isolation from the rest of the Slavic world, the Czechs are culturally western European, at least in outward respects, and have developed into a highly industrialized modern nation.

The pre-Christian Slavic grave material from Bohemia is almost entirely dolichocephalic. Although the principal racial type represented is Nordic, the early Bohemians, like the rest of the Slavs, included a minority of broad-nosed, low-orbitted individuals. Some of their crania, furthermore, were unusually large and heavy.80 Very few centuries passed, however, before the racial character of the Christianized Bohemians began to undergo a radical change.81 Only in the sixth century A.D. was the Slavic settlement of Bohemia complete; by the ninth the mean cranial index of the Czechs had risen from 75 or 76 to 77; by the eleventh or twelfth century it had reached 78. In the early sixteenth century it had reached only 80 or 81, but after the great plague of 1520 it began to climb rapidly, so that in the seventeenth century it had risen to 83.5, and in the eighteenth to 85. This complete alteration of head form in Bohemia is one of the most marked and best-documented phenomena of its kind in the racial history of the world. Most of it happened in modern times, under the eyes of writers and historians, but it remained virtually if not entirely unnoticed until the central European craniologists, well within the last fifty years, brought it to light. As in southern Germany, the change involved not merely the shape of the cranial vault, but facial and nasal measurements as well. There can be little doubt, that the same causes and the same mechanisms operated in both regions.

The living Czechs are, in a metrical sense, typically Alpine, and the Alpine race is, by the observation of individuals, seen to be the commonest

single type among them.82 They are little different in bodily build and in head and face dimensions from Bavarians. The mean stature of the Czechs is approximately 167 cm.; the mean cephalic index about 84. The commonest hair color is a medium brown, which includes some 47 per cent of the population; only 17 per cent have dark brown hair, and black hair is exceptional. Of the light brown and blond shades, the golden is commoner than the ashen. Some 38 per cent of the eyes are listed as brown, but light brown is commoner than dark brown; pure blue eyes are found among 18 per cent, and the rest are mostly light-mixed. The Czechs are as fair as most southern Germans. While Alpines and Norics are commonest in Bohemia, there is a strong concentration of Dinarics in Moravia, especially among the miners, who seem to form a special group with both racial and occupational peculiarities.

The snub-nosed, broad-faced, blond type commonly associated with Slavs is occasionally seen among Czechs, but is numerically rare. It seems to be commoner among Slovaks, although the Slovak-speaking population of Moravian Wallachia, in central Czechoslovakia, being composed of the Slavicized descendants of Rumanian Vlach colonists, is partly Dinaric.83 As far as one can tell, the Slovaks in general seem to be shorter than the Czechs, and smaller-headed, while equally brachycephalic. Their relationship seems to lie with the eastern Slavic world rather than with Bohemia.

Before turning to Poland, let us study for a moment the Slavic island of Wends who live in the Spreewald district of Mecklenburg.84 In the period between the eighth to twelfth centuries, at the time of the maximum Slavic expansion westward, and before the Germanic counter-thrust eastward, the Wends occupied much of present-day Mecklenburg. They were a long-headed people, with a mean cranial index of 76.6, mostly Nordic, but rather short-faced and mesorrhine. They resembled the contemporary Slavs in Bohemia, West Prussia, and Pomerania, and in subsequent centuries underwent a parallel brachycephalization. The modern Wends, inhabiting but a fraction of their former territory, have now a mean cephalic index of 84, and a stature of 167 cm. They are little different from the surrounding German-speaking population. Influences which have affected them have affected all in their neighborhood; the Wendish problem is no different from that of the rest of eastern Germany.


79 Census of 1930. It is too soon after the Peace of Munich to obtain accurate figures on the population components of what remains.

80 See Chapter VI, section 7, for an exposition of early Slavic racial history.

81 Czekanowski, 5., AnthPr, vol. 10, 1932, pp. 200-207.
Hellich, B., Praehistorické lebky v Cechách ze Sbírky Musea Království Ceského.
Malý, 5., AnthPr, vol. 3, 1925, pp. 156-176.
Matiegka, 5., MAGW, vol. 23, 1893, pp. 93-94; Crania Bohemica; AnthPr, vol. 2, 1924, pp. 183-210; vol. 4, 1926, pp. 163-219; RCA, vol. 2, 5, #42, 1896; also review in ABA, vol. 25, 1898, pp. 150-154.
Niederle, L., MAGW, vol. 22, 1897, pp. 82-85.
Pexiederova, M. R., AnthPr, vol. 9, 1931, pp. 276-319.
Szombathy, J., MAGW, vol. 52, 1922, p. 20.

82 Ehrich, R. B., unpublished measurements on Bohemians and Moravians.
Matiegka, J., CI, vol. 1, 1891, pp. 429-437, 533-540. See MAGW, vol. 22, 1892, "Sitzungsberichte," pp. 18-82.
Rehak, J., AnthPr, vol. 1, 1923, pp. 284-297. Schneider, L., MAGW, vol. 27, 1897, pp. 45-46. Suk, V., SPFM, #124, 1933.
Weisbach, A., MAGW, Suppl. 2, 1889. Willoughby, K. R., RB, vol. 5, 1933, pp. 690-705.

83 Suk, V., and Augusta, K., SPFM, #175, 1933.

84 Asmus, R., AFA, vol. 27, 1902, pp. 1-36.
Merkenschlager, F., Zur Volks und Rassenkunde des Spreewaldes. See V. Lebzelter's re-view in MAGW, vol. 44, 1934, p. 178.