Great Moravian State

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Great Moravian State


Moravian (Great Moravian) Principality, an early feudal state of Western Slavs of the ninth century to the beginning of the tenth. Preconditions of the formation of the Great Moravian State were the intensified process of feudalization and the necessity for defense against German expansion.

At the height of its power, the Great Moravian State encompassed the territory of Moravia, Slovakia, the Czech lands, Lusatia, Pannonia and, apparently, Little Poland, as well as part of the Slovenian lands. The capital was the city of Velehrad, whose precise location has not yet been established and is the subject of discussion. Numerous excavations by Czechoslovak archaeologists (V. Hruby, J. Poulik, and F. Kalousek) in the territory of Moravia testify to an advanced agricultural culture in the Great Moravian State, the flourishing of commerce, and the development of handicrafts such as pottery, ironworking, glassmaking, and jewelry-making. Judging by archaeological finds, there were close commercial links with Byzantium, Kievan Rus’, and the Black Sea city-states.

The economic and political life of the Great Moravian State was concentrated in grady (fortified strongholds and residences of the nobility), which were the centers of trade and commerce. The most important of them were Staré Mësto, near the city of Uherské Hradtété; Mikulcice, near the city of Hodonín; Pohansko; Nitra; Devinska; and Nova Ves. Archaeological excavations in these places have uncovered remains of churches, dwellings, and extensive burial sites, where numerous ornaments and everyday objects were found.

The first prince of the Great Moravian State known to history was Mojmir I, who ruled from 830-846. He added the Nitra principality to his land in 833; during his reign Christianity began to spread. The reign of Mojmir’s successor, Rostislav (846-870), was a time of consolidation of the Great Moravian State. Rostislav carried on an active struggle against German aggression and concluded an alliance with Byzantium in 862. In 863, Cyril and Methodius—missionaries to the Slavs—came to the Great Moravian State from Byzantium at Rotislav’s request. They created a Slavic church independent of the German episcopate (869 or 870), which strengthened the political independence of the Great Moravian State. During the rule of Svatopluk (870-894), when the Great Moravian State annexed the Balaton principality (around 874), the state reached its largest size. Along with the intensification of the feudal system of land tenure toward the end of the ninth century, the appanage princes grew stronger, especially in the outlying areas. After the death of Svatopluk, the Great Moravian State was divided between his sons Mojmir II, who became the chief prince, and Svatopluk II, who received the appanage of Pannonia. During their rule the Czech lands (895) and the lands of the Lusatian Sorbs (897) were separated from the Great Moravian State. In 906 nomadic Magyars ravaged and occupied most of the Great Moravian State, ending its existence.


Tret’iakov, P. N. “Novye dannye o Velikomoravskom gosudarstve.” Voprosy istorii, 1961, no. 5.
Velikaia Moraviia, Tysiacheletniaia traditsiia gosudarstvennosti i kul’tury. Prague, 1963. (Translated from Czech.)
Magna Moravia—Sborník k 1100: Vÿroči příchodu byzantské misé na Moravu. Prague, 1965.
Magnae Moraviae fontes historici I. Prague-Brno, 1966.
Poulík, J. Pevnost v lužnim lese. Prague, 1967.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.