Genetics speaks – Who is who on Balkans

When it comes to genes one thing is certain – it is every man for himself. There is no such thing as a genetically pure nation. However, certain patterns appear when we trace the haplogroups of the Y chromosome. Recently I came across a very interesting chart of haplogroups in European countries and I would like to share it here with you. Note that I am by no means an expert in genetics but luckily this chart is simplified enough and quite easy to understand.

The full chart, as well as the list of all the sources used to compose it, can be found at the following link:

But before you check out the page, let me give you the basics of how it works. Haplogroups are divided by the most common ethnicities in which they are present today (simplified). Also, they are divided by the age in which they appear on the world stage: Mesolithic, Neolithic and Bronze Age.


I2a2 haplogroup

The beauty of this chart is that just like in an Excel spreadsheet, you can sort all the data by columns. So let’s see what happens when we sort it by the I2a2, Dinaric, Danubian genes of Mesolithic Europe.


As you can see, our top 10 list would look something like this: 1. Bosnia 2. Sardinia 3. Croatia 4. Serbia 5. Montenegro 6. Romania 7. Macedonia 8. Moldova 9. Slovenia 10. Bulgaria

If you are surprised to see Sardinia here, you can read on some possible connections in my article: Bes, Egyptian God that is not Egyptian

As for the rest of the list, we can clearly see that this Mesolithic, Dinaric and Danubian haplogroup is still quite present in modern-day Balkans. There can be two logical explanations for this:

  1. Modern Balkan nations are direct descendants of the tribes of Mesolithic Europe (Bosnia has whopping 55-71 of I2a2)
  2. Slavs absorbed local population in the VI century AD when, according to some, they had settled on Balkans for the first time.

R1a haplogroup

However, there are a few issues with the second option. “Slavic haplogroup” R1a appears in the Bronze age and comes from Yamna culture of modern Ukraine. It was the Scythian and Sarmatian tribes brought it to Europe. Today it is clearly dominant in countries like Poland, Belarus, Russia, and Ukraine. But even though it is a second dominant haplogroup with Southern Slavs, it is still not so significant. You will see Balkan countries quite further down on this list.


One logical explanation for this could be that in the VI century AD a small group of Slavs mixed with the largely indigenous population of Balkans. Slavs influenced them with culture and language to the point that just a few centuries later, when Old Church Slavonic language has been institutionalized, there were literally no traces of these ancient cultures left.

We do know from Byzanthian chronicles that once the Roman armies had retreated from Balkans the land was quite empty and desolate, that is why Heraclius allows Serbs to settle here.  This theory could somehow explain the easy takeover of the Slavic language, but not the dominant I2a2 presence in Serbs!

So we come to the second important component, the language. But the problem here is that we do not know where the Slavic language first originated. You see, according to the mainstream theory, the answer is pretty much – nowhere! (?) Let me illustrate what I mean by that:

  1. It is not East (officially). Scythians and Sarmatians had spoken an Iranian language, closest to the modern-day Ossetian – Iron language!
  2. It is not South. In the Balkans, indigenous tribes like Illyrians and Thracians had languages presumed to be totally different.
  3. It is not North, as Northern Europe was the homeland of Celts and Gauls, not Slavs.

No theory (that I am aware of) explains how Slavic language could spread so quickly and so far, trough such a vast area occupied by modern Slavic nations today. Slavs are, as we just saw, genetically mainly descendants of Sarmatians in the North and East and indigenous tribes of lower Danube in the South.

The map of R1a migration bellow shows that one of the first and oldest migrations of R1a went from Ukraine to the lower Danube in 4200-3000BC. (click to enlarge)

R1a migration

R1a migration from Neolithic to the Bronze age

This is very interesting as in the period of this migration in lower Danube existed a highly developed civilization, known today as “Vinca culture” or “Old Europe”, as labeled by famous Maria Gimbutas. Official dating of Vinca culture is from 5700BC to 4200BC. The later date is exactly the moment when Sarmatian tribes will appear according to the genetic map above.

Maria Gimbutas was surely not aware of this genetic study, she relied solely on results from archaeology. However, I doubt that this analysis would have been anything new to her, as she claimed that “Old Europe was invaded and destroyed by horse-riding pastoral nomads from the Pontic-Caspian steppe (the “Kurgan culture”) who brought with them violence, patriarchy, and Indo-European languages.”

As for the Indo-European languages, there are two main hypotheses, Anatolian and Steppe hypothesis. Whatever way you look at it, as far as Europe is concerned, Vinca culture is the epicenter of these two waves.


Two possible theories on the development of Indo-European language. Source here.

When Sarmatian nomads arrived, Vinca was a blooming civilization with its own language and (probably) the first writing system. Its people lived in cities and traded as far as Anatolia and the Middle East. Could this also be the place where Slavic language had developed?

In this case, we also have two possible scenarios:

  1. People of Vinca had spoken some form of Proto-Slavic, that got developed and spread further with the arrival of Sarmatian tribes.
  2. Sarmatians had spoken some form of Proto-Slavic (not Iranian) and they mixed it with the indigenous language of Vinca.

This theory is (of course) just hypothetical. However, it would provide for enough of a timeline for Slavic language to spread to all these areas where it is present today. We cannot be sure until (if ever) Vinca script gets deciphered. But as mentioned many times on this blog, almost all medieval Slavic sources do point to Balkans as the place where Slavs originated. Surely there had to be some reason for that.

E1b1b haplogroup

On the side note, some theories point to Albanians as the descendants of Illyrians. However, as you can check on the above list, the presence of I2a2 in their DNA is quite insignificant. This means that they are not an indigenous tribe, neither that they had mixed too much with the indigenous tribes at some later date.

Their most dominant haplogroup is E1b1b, which appears on Balkans later in Neolithic. It comes from Near East and North Africa. Together with J2, Bronze age Greco-Anatolian, Mesopotamian and Caucasian, they contribute to 50% of their DNA material. The other significant part goes to the mix of Celtic R1b and indigenous I2a2. So it seems that Albanians are indeed present on Balkans for a long time but as a mix of 4 different groups. Definitely not long enough to be the indigenous people.


As you can see, this is a really long and complex story. I am trying to keep these articles short and readable, but I do encourage you to make further research yourselves. Here are some good links to start with:

More on I2 haplogroup

More on R1a haplogroup

Y DNA maps



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  1. Pozdrav. Pošto sam i ja krenuo da radim nešto slično ovom članku, možda mogu pomoći sa “malo” genetike, mislim da bi bilo vrlo produktivno i korisno. Čisto da upotpuni i zaokruži priču… a možda i nešto više!

  2. If you take a closer look look at the entire story about I2a haplogroup at Eupedia (which, by the way, is, in its greatest part, a product of author’s imagination), you will notice that the “label” I2a in the chart does not stand for I2a2, but for I2a1 Dinaric. The explanation above the chart “I2a2: Dinaric, Danubian” is undoubtedly a mistake. This is also confirmed by the studies from which the data for the chart were obtained. For example, Mirabal et al. 2010. which provided the data for Montenegro. The haplogroup I2a2 is not a significant part of the Balkan populations gene pool (less than 2%).
    If you are a from ex-Yugoslavia, I also suggest that you read a book called “Genetika, istorija i bajke” (available on the net). If nothing else, it will give you an unbiased, non-political perspective on the issue.

  3. Thank you for this article which is a really nice introduction to this complex subject. It clearly shows that the only way the people of Balkans will begin to sort out their differences is ineed through science. However, this kind of research would have to be conducted with a much larger samples and scientists from different groups which would need to be supervised by a highly ethical, impartia and foreign institution in order to ensure full compliance with research ethics. Otherwise this whole line of investigation will become shamples as different ethnic groups will use science as they have history to support their twisted excuses for violance, domination and subjugation.

  4. We are wery sorry that we came from mars and took over your lands! Hopefully they will figure out a way to make mars once again habitable so we Albanians can go back and you slavs don’t have to try so hard to prove that you belong to Balkans not Karpathes! Greetings from Martians (Albanians whos DNA is completely diferent from what you have in your chart)

    • That was not the point of this text. The E haplogroup is indeed what differentiate less than 50% of population, the other bigger half has the same genetics as the rest of Balkans.

      • Haplogroup E-v13 dissociated (formed) on the BaLKans around Thessaly and the Epirus about 9000 years ago. Haplogroup E is from Africa, but so are all haplogroups, as the DNA Adam was in Africa. The only other Y DNA haplogroup older than E-v13 is I2a1 which dissociated around the Danube delta in the previous smaller and lower Black Sea previous to the Flood about 14 000 years ago. Kosovars have 47% of E-v13 while Albanians have 27% and BuLGarians/ BuRGarians have 24% – it is the major haplogroup among those nations.

  5. You say : ‘Thracians had languages which are presumed to be totally different’ Well key Word here is : PRESUMED I ask : who presumed it? We, people of Balkan did not. I can give you list of 43 dictionaries who call Croatian (or Serbian, it is the same) Iliric language. Real name for our language is Iliric language. We call it by that name since allways.

    • It really is a tough one. I don’t see anything that says the Illyrians could not have been slavs. We pretty much know what happens when a significant non slavic populace takes on a slavic language by looking at the grammar of the Bulgarian and Macedonia languages. It seems absurd that a mass populace of Balkan people took on a slavic language with such precision to have the Serbian, Croatian and Slovenian slavic languages. Either the Illyrians were slavic or there really was a mass migration. Those two opposite options seem the most likely to me.

  6. For a while now I am entertaining the idea that Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian are actually not Slavic language but a variant of Illyrian. And that the Slavs are not speaking Slavic but variants of Illyrian that spread during christianization of Slavs. Old Church Slavonic was a version of Illyrian. Mainstream theory claims that Cyril and Methodius standardized a language that “slavic tribes living around Thessalonica” spoke (later called OCS) and invented a Glagolitic script for it and then translated the Bible into it in order to go a mission to Great Moravia. And all this during a half a year – year period which is ludicrous for a presumably unwritten tribal language consisting of a very complex grammatic and 7 cases.

    My theory is that they were actually Illyrians so they just used their mother tongue and existing glagolitic script (not the one they invented – why should they invent an inferior looking script when they could simply modify latin or greek letters) and then went to Moravia. And they were chosen for this because Moravian were already christianized by missionaries from Italy and Illyrium so they already used Illyrian in processions.

    It is interesting that for example that Emperor Justin I was of Illyrian or Thracian origin and the name he was given at birth was a “thracian name” Istok which means east on Croatian/Serbian/Bosnian.

    The entire mainstream theory is full of holes and the idea that Slavs passed the entire Pannonia to invade and settle the Balkans which are a mountainous and difficult terrain and in the process literally genocided a quite warlike people (hints: Illyrian wars, Great Illyrian Revolt, Equites Dalmatae…) that were living there is for me completely ludicrous. Also Slavs are first mentioned using a Greek word for slaves… So many holes its incredible.

    • Slavs and Slave are two different words. Slavs are Slav nations, Slavs consisting of or in slovakian- sloven speach meaning word or glory. No way for slaves which is other value. Each of us could be slave.

      • Slaves comes from Sklaveni (Sclavus), which comes from the Greek kleos and Latin gloria, that is the Slavic slava (glory). Sklaveni most probably was the version the Romai (Byzantines) used for the previous Getae (Goths/ Gythones in Prussia, Gutsuls in Ukraine). The Sanskrit gayte, similar to Getae, means to praise, that is proSLAVyam in Sclavo=BuLGarian/ BuRGarian. At some point onviously the Roams started using sclavus (slaves in English) for subdued people. It has no other meaning in Greek or Latin. What is more the Slavic slava (glory) and slovo (word) come from the same Indo European root word klew (clue in English) meaning knowledge. .

        • After the Germanic tribes living in eastern Germany and Poland, like the Goths, the Vandals and the Burgundians, invaded the Roman Empire, the Slavs living further east filled the vacuum. Following the collapse of the Western Roman Empire in 476, the Slavs moved in the Dinaric Alps and the Balkans. By the 9th century, the Slavs occupied all modern Slavic-speaking territories, apart from the eastern Balkans under the control of the Turkic-speaking Bulgars.

          Nowadays northern Slavic countries have between 9% (Poland, Czech republic) .A Serbi i ostali Balkanski Slaveni trebaju da znaju da pripadaju sub Kladi S17250 i L 142 koja je stara samo 1800 godina ,a V13 je staro 9000 hiljada godina i neprekidno zivjelo na tlu iliriskog poluostrva ,ovako kaze studija koja Autor artikla prestavio samo delimicno .

          Puno pozdrava i razumjevanje .iz SAD.

    • Cyril and Methodius with their students worked at the Polychron, Mysia in Asia Minor at the feel of Olumpus near Prusa (Bursa). How do you know Old Church Sclavonic was a version of Illyrian? Thechnically it must have been a Thracian. The Saloniki dialects are of the Rodope ones. Illyrians lived from Albania Northward. The region of Saloniki was settled by Thracian tribes.It is said it was the word of the Thracian Bessi from the Rodope Mountains (home of Orpheus) of Biblia Bessica which was used for the Old Church Sclavonic religious texts translation. The sources mentioning the Biblia Bessica are mentioned here:Библия_Бесика#cite_ref-3 Justinian was from the region of Macedonia. His name does not mean Iztok (East) but Istina (Justice, Truth). The word sclavus (slaves) does not mean anything else in Greek and Latin but subdued, servant, which means it is a loanword. Actually the Slavs were first known as Sklaveni who came from across the Danube together with Huns and BuLGars/ BuRGars. They most probably were the Getae (Goths/ Gythones in Prussia/ Gutsuls in Ukraine). Sklaveni, which the chroniclers used perhaps comes from the Greek kleos and Latin gloria – that is the Slavic slava (glory).

    • I think that Glagolithic has some pre-Christian aspect Since the number characters were also letters, to me that is a form of rune past. Thus, it is old Slavic, or Illyrian origin. Also, in terms of the intermingling of culture, it is still common today in the era of nation-states. Compare the Pannonian basin or the Balkans to what life is like in the UK or US. Modern Balkan people and Hunarians, INCORPORATE family life. Languages mix. Give it enough time and the family language will have a core Croatian, Serbian, Albanian.. whatever.. but words will flow into the core from Italian, Spanish, English, making our new family members feel a part of the family identity. I think this is something that is maybe a clue to understanding how dialects and new identities developed without war or conquest, but through cooperation. I am from the Balkans and lived in Hungary and studied how the Magyars allowed local languages (mother tongue) to exist. Difference cultures (Avar vs. Magyar burial customs) coincided side by side for many years.. Through time, they integrated into a new Hungarian identity.

      • I’m a complete nubie to this and wow. The complexities are mindboggling. What you said makes sense: “A clue to understanding how dialects and new identities developed without war or conquest, but through cooperation.” I want to know more… Much more.

  7. Goⲟd wɑy of describing, and nice article to get facts regarding my preѕentation subject matter, whiсh i am going to convey in university.

  8. Kosovo has a high percentage because there has been a genetic drift there, so that should have been included into your analysis. Have you studied genetics or done proper research on this? (serious question, not trying to insult, I’m just curious).

    Albanians in Albania, as you can see, has a more or less similar % of E-v13 to Greece. Why did you decide to pick Kosovo, which is known to have experienced a genetic drift?:/

    E-v13 has been in Europe for at least 7000 years, confirmed by remains from a Neolithic site in Spain:

    It is generally assumed to have actually generated from Southeast Europe (the Balkans) given its low frequencies in the Levant: (search for E-V13)

    It also very likely spread in the Levant and other former Greek colonies etc. by Greek colonizers since the populations where it is present used to be Greek colonies.

    • Hello and thank you for your input. I agree about the genetic drift and have also read about the Neolithic E-v13 in Spain. Whether it came from Balkans or not it is debatable (could also be true). However, this haplogroup is the most dominant in Northern Africa and this is most likely the area where it originated. I did not pick Kosovo for any specific reason, just followed the chart given by Eupedia.

      • The fact haplogroup E is from Africa does not mean anything. All DNA can be traced back to Africa (the ape). E-v13 dissociated on the BaLKans, outside of Europe its numbers are very limited. In the Mid East and Africa they are different sub-groups of macro group E.

  9. The Trypillian culture of Ukraine (the old RChinese” Ying Yang conception) shows there must have been a common culture in BuLGaria/ BuRGaria, Romania, Moldova and Ukraine which carriers must have been of the I2a1 and E-v13 haplogroups. At the same time, there are a great number of Pre-Greek toponyms and terms which have a very good explanation in Sclavo=BuLGarian/ BuRGarian. For example Olympus, which was previously called Olump/us/ or Oulump/us/ and in the Iliad – Belus. The Sclavic word lom-ati (dialectally in BuLGaria/ BuRGaria lum-ati), that is to break, is a good way to explain the broken rocks off the highest peaks of the mountain. Belus could be from the Sclaviv for white, BRiGht, noble – bel, which perhaps is in the names of the PELasgi (BELastsi?) and PELa (BELa?) (Alexander the Great s capital city).

  10. Illyrians vanished before Albanians appeared from the Caucasus. Their language lacks coastal words meaning they are not from the region originally, although many Albanians are related to Greeks from Byzantine and antiquity-just like many Balkan peoples who had their borders artificially redrawn by the great powers. Otherwise all those areas would be part of Greece. They even called themselves Greeks in ottoman times (majority of south Balkan peoples).

    The Byzantines (most of whom wrote and identified with the Hellenes(Greeks) and romans, were the most literate and prolific writers of their day and never do they mention Albanians. The last mention of Illyrians, Dacians, and Thracians were centuries before Ben the arrival of the slavs to the area.

    Albanians aren’t the first occupants of Albania. It is historically more connected with Greeks and Greece who heavily colonized the area from ancient times.

    The overwhelming amount of mountaineering and shepherding vocabulary, coupled with the extensive influence of Latin makes it likely that the Albanians originated north of the Jireček Line, further north and inland than the current borders of Albania suggest.

    Those latin words are connected to Eastern Romance languages aka Romania, and the other loan words come from Slav languages.*

    Adding to this the several hundred words in Romanian that are cognate only with Albanian cognates (see Eastern Romance substratum), these scholars assume that Romanians and Albanians lived in close proximity at one time. The area where this might have happened is the Morava Valley in eastern Serbia.

    Not much is left of the old Illyrian, Dacian or Thracian languages, which makes it difficult to match Albanian with them.

    It is also uncertain whether Illyrians spoke a homogeneous language or rather a collection of different but related languages that were wrongly considered the same language by ancient writers. The Venetic tribes, formerly considered Illyrian, are no longer considered categorised with Illyrians. The same is sometimes said of the Thracian language. For example, based on the toponyms and other lexical items, Thracian and Dacian were probably different but related languages.

    The theory of an Illyrian origin for the Albanians is weakened by a lack of any Albanian names before the 12th century and the relative absence of Greek influence that would surely be present if the Albanians inhabited their homeland continuously since ancient times. According to Georgiev if the Albanians originated near modern-day Albania, the number of Greek loanwords in the Albanian language should be higher.

    Local or personal names considered Illyrian were not passed down to Albanian without interruption (for example Scodra > Shkodra, a loan from Latin, and various other toponyms and hydronyms in modern Albania such as Vlorë and Vjosë which are loans from Slavic).

    Although some Albanian toponyms descend from Illyrian, Illyrian toponyms from antiquity have not changed according to the usual phonetic laws applying to the evolution of Albanian. Furthermore, placenames can be a special case and the Albanian language more generally has not been proven to be of Illyrian stock.***

    Marine words in Albanian are borrowed from other languages also, suggesting that Albanians were not originally a coastal people like the illyrians.

    *John Van Antwerp Fine (1991). The Early Medieval Balkans: A Critical Survey from the Sixth to the Late Twelfth Century. University of Michigan Press. pp. 10–12.

    **Fine, JA. The Early medieval Balkans. Univ. of Michigan Press, 1991. p.11.

    ***Madgearu A, Gordon M. The wars of the Balkan peninsula. Rowman & Littlefield, 2007. p.146.

    Rani was the endonym used for Albanians when they first arrived in the Balkans in the 11-12th centuries by the Byzantine natives; The Georgians called the Caucasus Albanians Rani. Other people’s names for them:

    Greeks: Arvania
    Romans: Albania
    Armenians: Alvank
    Arabs: Al-Aran
    Parthians: Arthan/Aran
    Persians: Arran

    There is no mention of them previously nor of Illyrians who vanished long before by absorption into Greek and Latin peoples. This was around the time a famous Caucasian/Georgian-Albanian kingdom called Hereti/Rani fell and many Parthian words are to be found in Old Albanian-unlike Illyrian which isn’t even around but the few words we have don’t have a continual connection to Albania but came through Slav and Latin loan words. Their language is an amalgamation of many languages including Caucasian Albanian.

    On top of that the romans never considered most of Albania part of their Praefectura Illyricum province but included in Praefectura Macedonia. Only the northern parts were part of Illyricum.

    If Illyrians did survive then it’s most likely their descendants are the Vlachs, a Romance language-speaking peoples spread throughout the Balkans (the Illyrians were assumed to have been latinisés by the romans; Vlach is closest to Romanian).

    Two Austrian Viennese researchers also cast doubt about the connection between Albanians and Illyrians.

    Matzinger points put that when the few surviving fragments of Illyrian and Albanian are compared, they have almost nothing in common.

    “The two are opposites and cannot fit together,” he says. “Albanian is not as the same as Illyrian from a linguistic point of view.”

    Just as Vardarska/Skopje/FYROM was called paeonia and was greek speaking for millennia many of whom are still there are slavo/bulgophones; After the Balkan wars the great powers wanted Macedonia divided evenly despite the majority Greek speakers, because they feared Greece would lead the Balkans to revive a new Byzantine empire as the greek secret societies discussed; Russians had similar ideas for an orthodox empire ruled from Constantinople Thracian dna is not really around; they have burial samples. Region is Southern Europe/Slav and a couple other things. Albanians came from the Caucasus in the last few hundred years; there is a region and people called Albanian there.

    Skenderbeg, the so called father of Albania was in fact a Serbian noble, Skenderbegs father and brother are both interned at the Serbian Monastery in Hilandar Greece.

  11. Albanians claim to be “direct descendants of the Illyrians” in order to give themselves a more valid claim to the balkans; but as the GENETICS show, the Serbs actually have more dinaric and illyrian blood! Sneaky Albanians! Go back to the Caucasus where you can from!

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