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The German term Völkerwanderung (lit. The Migration of Peoples), is used in historiography for the so-called "Migrations Period", of Germanic, Slavic and other tribes on the European continent during the period AD 300–900.
German historians in the 19th century used the term Völkerwanderung to describe the migrations of the Goths, Vandals, Franks and other Germanic tribes triggered by the incursions of the Huns. They saw these migrations as a contributing factor leading to the break-up of the Roman Empire. Scholars today hold that a great deal of the migration did not represent hostile invasion, but rather tribes taking the opportunity to enter and settle lands already thinly populated and weakly held by a divided Roman state whose economy was shrinking.
The expansion of Germanic tribes into France, England, Northern Italy and elsewhere allegedly indicated the energy and dynamism of those so-called "barbarian" peoples. This became associated with 19th century German nationalism and the Eastern expansion of Germany (Drang nach Osten, Urge to move East), and later contributed to the Nazi ideology of Lebensraum, or "living space", the theory that the Germans had a mission to expand their population beyond the national borders of Germany.
Modern historians divide the migration movement into two phases. The first phase, between AD300 and 500, saw the movement of Germanic, Turkish and other tribes and resulted in putting Germanic peoples in control of most areas of the former Western Roman Empire. (See also: Ostrogoths, Visigoths, Burgundians, Langobards, Angles, Saxons, Jutes, Suebi, Alamanni).
The second phase, between AD 500 and 900, saw Slavic, Turkish and other tribes on the move, re-settling in Eastern Europe and gradually making it predominantly Slavic. See also: Avars, Huns, Arabs, Vikings, Varangians. The last phase of the migrations saw the coming of the Hungarians to Pannonia.
Other migrations that happened later in the history of Europe generally did not give rise to new states (except for Turkey, for example) and comprised mainly temporary invasions.
For a discussion of prehistoric migrations, see Human migration.
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