Avars, early medieval equestrian people; occupied the Carpathian Basin in 568 and also ruled over vast regions of Central and Eastern Europe until the beginning of the 7th century. Their rich archaeological legacy is found in the Carpathian basin on and its periphery, in Austria mainly in the Vienna basin and in northern Burgenland. The archaeological finds point to very strong equestrian nomadic traditions as well as Germanic and Byzantine influences. Against the backdrop of this formidable Avar power, the Slavs settled in what is now Carinthia, Styria and Lower Austria. After their unsuccessful siege of Constantinople in 626, the Avars lost their position of supreme power. During this period of weakness, the Frankish businessman Samo established a Slavic realm in Bohemia and Moravia, possibly also reaching what is now Austria. The Alpine Slavs, called Karantanians in the 8th century, probably also freed themselves of Avar rule at this time.
In the 8th century, the Avars apparently attempted to regain their supremacy in the Alpine region. The Carantanians therefore submitted to the Duke of Bavaria and accepted Christianisation.
Duke Tassilo III sought support from the Avars against Charlemagne. His defeat was followed by the Avar Wars (791-796), which ended with the destruction of the Avar kingdom. Established by the Carolingians, a dependent principality of Avars existed until at least 728 "between Steinamanger and Carnuntum" under Christian Khagans.
Further reading: F. Daim, Das awarische Gräberfeld von Leobersdorf, 1987; W. Pohl, Die Awaren, 1988; Reitervölker aus dem Osten. Hunnen und Awaren, exhibition catalogue, Halbthurn Castle, 1996.