From Slavic Leader to National Ruler: A Modern Discursive Construction of the Early Medieval Rulership of Pribina († 861)


Pribina was a Slavic leader of unknown origin from the 9th century who was expelled by the Moravian prince (dux) Mojmir I. However, his rank in the territory north of the Danube before exile is a matter of an ages-long scholarly debate. This article presents an analysis of historiographic discourse which has resulted in the national scholarly construction of an early medieval, hypothetical Slovak/Nitrian rulership of Pribina. The aim is to illustrate the gradual progression of scholarly concepts regarding this rather shadowy Slavic leader and his supposed ethnically distinct north-Danubian domain, which is typically presented in historiography as “The Nitrian Principality.” In this study, the genesis of historiographic narrative about the putative “first ruler” of modern Slovaks’ ethnic ancestors, adopted mainly by Slovak historians, archaeologists and intellectuals in general is traced. A discourse analysis of intellectual writings about Pribina and Nitra is used to demonstrate how the particular narrative of “national ruler” unambiguously correlated with modern socio-political transformations during the political creation of Slovakia after the First World War. The article suggests that the notion of Pribina as original independent ruler emerged in the late 19th century and was cemented in the scholarship only after 1918 due to the formation of Czechoslovakia and subsequent need for an official version of distinct Slovak history.