Slavic Europe or simply Slavs are the largest Indo-European ethno-linguistic in Europe. They live in Central Europe, Eastern Europe, Southeast Europe, North Asia and Central Asia. They speak the Indo-European Slavic languages, and share, to varying degrees, certain cultural traits and historical backgrounds. From the early 6th century they spread to inhabit most of Central and Eastern Europe and Southeast Europe. Over half of Europe's territory is inhabited by Slavic-speaking communities. Present-day Slavic people are classified into West Slavs, East Slavs and South Slavs.
Modern Slavic nations and ethnic groups are considerably diverse both genetically and culturally, and relations between them – even within the individual ethnic groups themselves – are varied, ranging from a sense of connection to mutual feelings of hostility.
The East Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking East Slavic languages. Formerly the main population of the medieval state of Kievan Rus, by the seventeenth century they evolved into the Russian, Ukrainian and Belarusian peoples.
The West Slavs are Slavic peoples speaking West Slavic languages. These are the current Slovaks, Czechs, Kashubians, Poles and Sorbs. The northern or Lechitic group includes, along with Polish, the Kashubian and extinct Polabian and Pomeranian languages. The languages of Upper and Lower Lusatia have features in common with both the Lechitic and the Czecho-Slovak group.
Culturally, West Slavs developed along the lines of other Western European nations due to affiliation with the Roman Empire and Western Christianity. Thus, they experienced a cultural split with the other Slavic groups: while the East Slavs and most South Slavs converted to Orthodox Christianity, thus being culturally influenced by the Byzantine Empire, the West Slavs along with the westernmost South Slavs (Slovenes and Croats) converted to Roman Catholicism, thus coming under the cultural influence of the Latin Church.
The South Slavs are a subgroup of Slavic peoples who speak the South Slavic languages.
They inhabit a contiguous region in the Balkan Peninsula, southern Pannonian Plain and eastern Alps, and are geographically separated from the body of West Slavic and East Slavic people by the Romanians, Hungarians, and Austrians. The South Slavs include the Bosniaks, Bulgarians, Croats, Macedonians, Montenegrins, Serbs and Slovenes. They are the main population of the Central and Southern European countries of Bulgaria, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Croatia, Republic of Macedonia, Montenegro, Serbia and Slovenia. Their territories are separated from the rest of the Slavic nations since the 15th century by the modern non-Slavic states of Austria, Hungary, Romania and Moldova, leading to a differing historical progression for the South Slav nations in relation to the West and East Slavs.
In the 20th century the country of Yugoslavia (lit. "South Slavia") merged the vast region to which most South Slavic nations are autochthonous (with the key exception of Bulgaria and the Bulgarians) into a single state. The concept of Yugoslavia, as a single state for all South Slavic peoples, emerged in the late 17th century and gained prominence through the Illyrian movement of the 19th century. The name was coined (by whom?) as a combination of the Slavic words jug (south) and sloveni (Slavs).