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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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Anglo-Saxons in East Europe


In 1215 Magna Carta Libertatum (“Magna Carta”) was adopted in England, which laid the foundations of human rights in the state and and which is still in effect. 800 years ago, the Anglo-Saxons showed such political maturity, which some European nations don’t have so far. It may seem that the democratic spirit is congenital in the Anglo-Saxons. But it is not so. At the time of the adoption of the Charter, they already had almost two thousand years of active history and, accordingly, a great political experience.


At left: The space of the Germanic languages in II BC.


The Urheimat of the Anglo-Saxons, determined by the graphical-analytical method, lay in the ethno-producing area between the Teterev, Pripyat, and Sluch Rivers. The initial English and Saxon dialects began to form there. Other Germanic peoples had their settlements near along the Pripyat. The catchment of left tributaries of the Dnieper was populated by various Iranian tribes. That was four thousand years ago.

The Anglo-Saxons migrated from their Urheimat in different directions as along the banks ot the Dnieper River, as eastward and westward of it. This is convincingly evidenced by geographical names (see the section Ancient Anglo-Saxon Place Names in Continental Europe ). There are in Eastern Europe a lot of geographical names, which decryption by means of the Old English or Old Saxon languages can be confirmed by the features of the surrounding terrain. Especially the Irpen, Mius, Wolfa, Witebet Rivers etc have transparent Anglo-Saxon explanation. For example, the Irpen River has broad swampy flood plain, so earfenn, composed by OE ear 1. “a lake” or 2. “earth” and OE. fenn “swamp, silt”, can be translated for the name of the Irpen as "muddy lake" or "wetlands". This interpretation fits the more because in ancient times the floodplain of the river has to be more swampy than now.


At right: The Irpen River.
Photo fron the site Foto.ua


There is on the right tributary (rt) of the Irpen the town of Fastow. This name, clearly not Slavic, obviously originated from the OE fǽst «strong, hard, fast». The name of the city of Zhitomir can be explained as "protecting border" (meaning from the Scythians) based on OE scyttan "to shyt, close" and meræ "border". In total, more than a thousand place names have been found in continental Europe, which can have Anglo-Saxon origin. Of these, three-quarters are located in Eastern Europe. Below are just some of the most convincing examples from The complete list.


Avratyn, villages in Volochisk district Khmelnytski Region and in Lubar district of Zhitomyr Region – OE ǽfre "continual", tūn "village".

Boratyn, three villages of this name in Ukraine – in Sokal district of Lviv Region, in Lutsk district of Volyn Region, and in Radyviliv district of Rivene Region. The village of the same name is in Subcarpathian Voivodeship of Poland – OE bora "son", tūn "village".

Boryatino, three villages in Russia in Kletnya district of Bryansk Region, Sheksna district, Vologda Region, Shemysheyka district, Penza Region, Russia – OE bora «son», tūn «village».

Bryansk, a city in Russia, Russia - OE bryne "fire".

Farafonovo, villages in Oryol, Novgorod Regions, and Udmurtia, a village Farafonovka in Tver Region – OE faran "to drive, go", faru “journey”, fōn "to take, beginn, do something".

Fenevychi, a village at the bank of the upper Teteriv River – OE fenn "swamp", wīc “house, village”.

Kyrdany, a village in Zhitomir Region – OE. cyrten “nice”.

Myrutyn, a village in Slavuta district of Khmelnytski Region – OE mære "border", tūn "village".

Resseta, a river, rt of the Zhizdra River, lt of the Oka River – OE rǽs "running" (from rǽsan "to race, hurry" or rīsan "to rise") and seađ "spring, source".

Rikhta, a river, lt of the Trostianycia River, rt of the Irsha River – OE riht, ryht “right, direct”.

Romodan, a town in Myrhorod district and a village in Lubny district of Poltava Region, Ukraine, a viilage in Alekseevskoe district, Tatarstan, Russia – OE rūma „space”, OE dān „humid, humid place”.

Romodanovo, a town in Mordovia, villages in Rybnoye and Starozhilovo district of Ryazan Region, a viilage in Glinka district of Smolensk Region, Russia – OE rūma „space”, OE dān „humid, humid place”.

Seym, a river, lt of the Desna River – OE seam "side, seam".

Wolfa, a river, lt of the Seym River– OE wulf “wolf”.

Wytebet', a river, lt of the Zhizdra River, rt of the Oka River – OE wid(e) "wide", bedd "bed, river-bed".

Yagotyn, a town in Kiev Region – OE iegođ „a little island”.

Zibrovo, villages in Serpukhov district, Moscow Region, Odoyevo district, Tula Region, and Dolzhansk district, Oryol Region, Russia - OE sibb "peace", rōw "quiet, calm".

Ziborovo, a village, Zolotukhino district, Kursk Region, Russia - OE sibb "peace", rōw "quiet, calm".

Ziborovka, a village, Shebekino district, Belgorod Region, Russia - OE sibb "peace", rōw "quiet, calm".


According to the place names, a part of the Anglo-Saxons moved to the left bank of the Dnieper River and settled there, forcing the Iranian tribes. They can referred to the Sosnitsa option of the Trzciniec culture. Just judging by the toponymy, south, namely, on the banks of the Sula, Psel, and Vorskla Rivers, their settlements had Mordovian Moksha tribes, which forced Iranians from the east. There was widespread the Bondarikha culture that existed between 1200 – 800 years BC associated with the previous Maryanovka sites which are also found on the Desna, Seym, Sula, Vorskla, Sev. Donets, and Oskol Rivers (BEREZANSKA S.S. 1982: 41). The Bondarikha culture goes beyond the Maryanovka culture in the area between the Desna and Sula Rivers. Lebedovskaya culture, that evolved from the Sosnitsa one, was distributed later here. Over time, the Anglo-Saxons drove Mordovians beyond the Sula River, and perhaps also assimilated their remains, as reflected in otherwise unexplained lexical correspondences between the English and Mordovian languages (see "The Expansion of the Finno-Ugric Peoples ").

The Mordovians are associated by many scientists with the tribe Budinoi described by Herodotus. This assumption has some justification and decoding the name of Budins using Old English confirms it. Βουδινοι, ie Boudinoi, perhaps even "Wudinoi", according to Herodotus, were residents of the forest country. In this case, Eng wooden suits by meaning and phonetically perfectly. Similar word was not noted in Old English but it had widu, wudu "tree, forest" therefore wuden could exist.

Listing peoples inhabiting Scythia in order from west to east, Herodotus called the Nueroi as the second after the Thracians-Agathyrsians. He points out that they left their homeland and settled among Budinoi (IV, 105). OE neowe, niowe means "new", and comparative adjective neower "more new" could be used for calling newcomers. Anglo-Saxons could not call themselves newcomers, so it is logical to assume that such name could be given by the Anglo-Saxons, who moved to the left bank of the Dnieper earlier. These Anglo-Saxons can be connected with the Melanchlainoi, which were named by Herodotus next to the Neuroi and were placed by him to north of the Royal Scythians and he explained their name as "dressed in black" (Gr. μελασ "black"). In fact, it is Old English name, as ancient Angles had a proper name Mealling, originated from OE a-meallian "to get furious" (see HOLTHAUSEN F. 1974: 216), which together with OE hleonian "to protect" was used by the newcomers for calling their relatives. One might think that they were especially militant.

Moving from the Sosnitsa culture space to the north-east, a part of the Anglo-Saxons settled in some time the actual Moscow, Vladimir, and neighboring Regions and even advanced further north-east and north to the shores of the White Sea. Evidence for this we have in the toponymy of these places:


Berkino, villages in Moscow and Ivanovo Regions, Berkovo, a village in Vladimir Region – OE berc "birch".

Dydyldino, a village, Leninskiy district, Moscow Region – OE dead "dead", ield "people, men".

Firstovo, two villages i Nizhniy Novgorod Region and one in Moscow Region – OE fyrst "first".

Fundrikovo, a village in Nizhniy Novgorod Region – OE fundian "strive for, wish", ric "domination, government, power".

Fursovo, seven villages ib Kaluga, Ryazan, Tula, and Kirov Regions – OE fyrs "furze, gorse, bramble" (the plant Genísta).

Kotlas, a town in Arkhangelsk Region – OE cot "hut, cabin", læs "pasture".

Linda, a village in the town district Bor od Nizhniy Novgorod Region, Lindy, a village in Ivanovo Region – OE lind "linden".

Moscow (Moskova in chronicle), the capital of Russia, Moskva, villages in Tver and Novgorod Regions – OE mos "bog, swamp", cofa "a hut, cabin".

Murom, a town in Vladimir Region – OE mūr "wall", ōm "rust".

Ryazan, a city – 1. OE rāsian "explore, investigate". 2. rācian "rule, lead".

Shenkursk, a village in Arkhangelsk Region – OE scencan "o pour, give to drink, present", ūr "richness, wealth".

Suzdal, a town, the center of the district, Vladimir Region – OE swæs "peculiar, pleasant, beloved", dale "valley".

Yurlovo, thre villages in Moscow Region – OE eorl "noble man, warrior".


The expansion of Anglo-Saxons was directed also to the south-east, and so they got to Donbass. A cluster of Anglo-Saxon place names was found between the cities of Kramatorsk and Stakhanov north of the town of Debaltseve just near deposits of copper ore. People mined it here since the Bronze Age. There was a powerful mining and metallurgical center in Eastern Europe, which is composed of about thirty copper mines. Now melting copper from local ore is uneconomical, but at Scythian times deposits can still be inconclusive and therefore, people settled in the immediate area to profitably engage in mining ore. One of the major mines was mine not far from the railway station Kartamish. This name can be explain by means of Old English as "devastated wasteland" (OE. ceart "wild public land" and myscan "to ruin"). In this case, the name fits well, because the terrain here could really be exposed to human impacts in the extraction of copper ore.



Copper mine Kartamish at present


Among other Anglo-Saxon place names in the Donbass can be these: Borzhikovka, Vergulevka, Golmovsky, Gladosovo, Dyleyevka, Kartanash, Kramatorsk, Kumshatskoye, Schetovo. We can speak with the most confidence about the origins of the name of the Mius River. Old English offers us the word mēos «moss, swamp», which may be appropriate for the name of the river with swampy floodplain. This same root is present in the name of the Kalmius River, but it could be named by analogy later because near the Anglo-Saxon place names not found.


At left: The Mius River
The photo of Îlga GOK. Rostov-on-Don.


In Donbas the Anglo-Saxons came into close contact with the Scythians and took an active role in the life of the North Black Sea region, as evidenced by explanation of some of the realities of the Scythian times, which were recorded by Herodotus and other ancient historians. For example:


Σκυθαι (Scythians), Greek name of Scythians stands for good using OE. scytta "a shot". The Scythians were the best archers and Greek ethnonym "Scythian" was considered synonymous with the archer.

ακινακεσ (akinakes), a short iron Scythian sword – OE. ǽces «an ax» and nǽcan «to kill».

σαγαρισ (sagaris), battle-ax, weapon of the Scythians – OE. sacu "war" and earh “arrow”.

The names of the Scythian clothing σακυνδακη and big fish αντακαιοι can also have Anglo-Saxon origin. Similarly, a lot of proper names and titles of the peoples of the Scythian and Sarmatian times can be decrypted using the Old English or Saxon. All they are summarized in Alan-Anglo-Saxon Onomasticon and some excerpts from it are given below:


Αγαθιρσ (agathirs), Αγαθιρσοι (agatirsoi) – according to Herodotus Agathyrsos was a son of Heracles and gave rise to the tribe of the Agathyrsians – OE đyrs (thyrs) "a giant demon, a magician" is well suited for both the name and the ethnonym. For the first part of the name, we find OE ege "fear, terror", and the whole means "terrible giants or demons". However, OE āga "owner", āgan "to have, take, receive, possess" suite phonetically better. Then the ethnonym can be understood as "having giants". Below, we decipher the ethnonym the Thyssagetai (see Θυσσαγεται) as a nation of giants in the north of Scythia. Thus, we can suppose that the Agathyrsians subdued the Thyssagetai


Αναχαρσισ (Anacharsis), he was known as an alleged Scythian traveler and sage. However, Anacharsis was not a Scythian. It can be concluded from the phrase of Herodotus: "Now the region of the Euxine upon which Dareios was preparing to march has, apart from the Scythian race, the most ignorant nations within it of all lands: for we can neither put forward any nation of those who dwell within the region of Pontus as eminent in ability, nor do we know of any man of learning having arisen there, apart from the Scythian nation and Anacharsis". (HERODOTUS, IV, 46 ). Anachars was the son of Gnuros, the son of Lycos, the son of Spargapeithes. All these names can be decrypted by means of Old English. Then, an Old English match must also be found for the name Anacharsis: Old Saxon. āno "without", OE hors/hyrs "horse" (ie, "Horseless").

Ατεασ (Atheas) was by Strabo an mighty Scythian king, united under his rule all Scythia – according to Abaev "true" (Av haiθya-, Old Pers. hašya-, Os äc-, äcäg-, which phonetically are faulty). Better, according to Holthausen, occurred in names OE æđ, going back to æđele "noble, honourable, glorious" (Holthausen F, 1974, 13)

Βορυσθενεοσ (Boristheneos), the Dnieper River – OE. bearu, Gen. bearwes „forest”, đion „to grow”.

Γνυροσ (gnuros), the son of Lykos, the father of Anacharsis – as Shaposhnikov asserts, the name has no features as of Indo-Iranian and Eastern-Iranian origin (SHAPOSHNIKOV A.K. 2005, 39), but cf. OE gnyrran "to grind". Akin Germanic words mean "to roar, growl." These senses do not seem suitable for a name, but derived nouns from these verbs could be the name of a beast. Ukrainian, Belorussian, Russian, Polish words knur, knur mean "a male pig". Moreover, in the same languages, as well as in Slovak and Lusatian, there are words close to the Greek form of the word (Ukr., Rus. knoroz, Blr. knorez, Slk. kurnaz, Pol. kiernoz, Up.-Lus. kundroz – all "male pig"). In the etymological dictionaries of the Ukrainian and Russian languages, explanations of the origin of all these words are considered unsatisfactory, not quite clear or onomatopoeic (A. VASMER MAX. 1967: 264-265 and A. MELNYCHUK O.S., Ed. 1985: 474) as a corresponding root is absent in the Slavic languages. It can be assumed that in Old English there was the word gnyr "boar, wild boar" and it was borrowed by the Slavs in this sense. Thus, the name of the king's grandson could mean "wild boar". Cf. Θυσκεσ. How the Slavic languages have got also the Greek form of the word, it is necessary to find out, because such word is absent in the Greek language. Perhaps, in the language of the Greeks who inhabited Ukraine in Scythian times, it existed, being borrowed from the neighboring Anglo-Saxons.

Θυσσαγεται , the Thyssagetai, one of the folks in Northern Scythia mentioned by Herodotus, or Thyrsagetae (by Valery Flaccus) – V.I. Abayev explains this name as "fast deer" (Pers, Kurd. tūr "rabid"), Os sag "a deer". The presence of the morpheme getai/ketai (Μασσαγεται, Ματυκεται, Μυργεται) in the names of several tribes is noteworthy . In addition, the Thracian tribes Getae (Γεαται) are known in history. We can suppose that this word means "people". The closest to it is the Chuv kĕtỹ "a flock, herd". Then Thyssagetai were "unruly people" (OE đyssa "rowdy”). If the form of Valery Flaccus is more correct, as it is likely, since it echoes the name of the Agathyrsians. (see Αγαθιρσ, Αγαθιρσοι), then the Thyrsagetae means "the people of giants and wizards" (O. Eng đyrs "a giant, demon, wizard").

Ιδανθιρσοσ (Idantirsos), Scythian king – OE eadan "performed, satisfied” and đyrs "a giant, demon, wizard".

Τιαραντοσ (tiarantos), an unknown small river in Scythia – nothing better than OE tear "tears, drops" and andian "to envy, jealousy".


Having occupied area rich of deposits of copper ore, the Anglo-Saxons received an economic advantage over population of the Pontic Region and, consequently, political domination. Over time, they stood at the head of the mingled Alans Union (for details see the Section Alans – Angles – Saxons).

During the Great Migration, this part of the Anglo-Saxons, known in history as the Alans, together with other Germanic tribes set off on a long trek through Europe and after a short time they found themselves in Spain. These events are described in detail by contemporary historians. However, mass movement of the Anglo-Saxon had not been observed by historians since it was not so dramatic and stretched on for several centuries.




Anglo-Saxon place names in Eastern Europe

On the map, the most part of settlements of Anglo-Saxon origin are marked with dark-red points. The settlements of Markovo, Markino and similar have purple color. Hydronyms are marked in blue.

The ancestral home of the Anglo-Saxons is colored red, blue is the territory of the Sosnica culture, the green is the territory of the Rostov-Suzdal principality. Sarmatia is marked in yellow.


Nevertheless, a significant number of Anglo-Saxons remained in Eastern Europe, and this fact has historical evidences. In 970 the Byzantine Emperor John I Tzimisces (969 -976) had sent via ambassadors a message to the Kiev prince Svyatoslav (964 – 972), where wtote:


For I think you are well aware of the mistake of your father Igor who, making light of the sworn treaties, sailed against the imperial city with a large force and thousands of light boats but returned to the Cimmerian Bosporos with scarcely ten boats, himself the messenger of the disaster that had befallen him. I will pass over the wretched fate that befell him later, on his campaign against the Germans, when he was captured by them, tied to tree trunks, and torn in two (LEO the DEACON, 1988, VI: 10).


It is clear that we are talking about Prince Igor, martyred by the hands of the Slavic tribe Drevlians inhabiting the Anglo-Saxon area at that time. In this regard, the origin of the ethnonym "Drevlians" can be output from the name of a well-known Germanic tribe Turvin (YAYLENKO V.P., 1990: 116). The Drevlian tribe didn't belong to the ancient Rus’ state during long time. They were included into it at least in the 10 century, as it was repeatedly stressed by A.N. Nasonov (NASONOV A.N., 1951: 29, 41, 55-56). The fact that the Vikings could not include the adjacent to the Polans Drevlyans into the "Russian land" can say that they were the remains of the Anglo-Saxons mixed with the alien Slavic population. We find a similar picture on Volhynia, which was inhabited by the Slavic tribe of Dulebs (Dudlebs). According to some scholars this ethnonym is derived from W.-Gmc Deudo- and laifs (A. VASMER MAX. 1964: 551 and A. MELNYCHUK O.S., Ed. 1985: 144), that is, it can be translated as "the remaining Teutons", since the first part of the word means "Teutons" (actual Deutsche "German"), and the second – "rest of" (Goth. laiba, OE. làf). However, it is believed that Leo the Deacon made a mistake by writing Germanoi instead of Derewianoi, that is, the Derevlian. The possibility of such an error must be borne in mind.

In this regard, one can go further and suggest that the legendary Kievan princes Askold and Dir were also Anglo-Saxons. The names of the princes have no convincing decryption, therefore we can consider their Anglo-Saxon origin. Especially, Dir's name can be deciphered well – OE dieren "to value, praise", diere "expensive, valuable, noble". Askold's name can be deciphered as "elected prince": OE āscian "to ask", to call, choose, elect" and eald "old", ealdor "prince, lord". After the murder of Askold by Oleg a certain Olma set up the church of St. Nicholas at his grave. Perhaps he was a relative of Askold, because his name could also be Anglo-Saxon: OE. ulm "elm".

As shown by the analysis of Anglo-Saxon toponymy in Eastern Europe, the Anglo-Saxons settled on a vast expanse from the banks of the Dnieper to the Volga in the east and to the city of Veliky Novgorod in the north, which can be associated with the city of Novietun, mentioned by the Jordan (see. section Slavs: Territory, Dialectal Split). In this case, the Mursiano lake can not be anything other than the Ilmen lake which bank on Veliky Novgorod is located. The name of the lake, apparently, has Anglo-Saxon origin – OE murcian "to complain, care".

The highest density of Anglo-Saxon toponyms is observed on the territory of the former Vladimir-Suzdal principality. From time immemorial, these places were inhabited by Finno-Ugric tribes, and at the end of the first millennium AD Slavs advanced here too, and a hundred years later the Rostov-Suzdal principality suddenly emerged here, which quickly seized the leadship from Kiev. Even Russian historians are amazed at this. In particular, V.O. Klyuchevsky wrote that there is no clear answer to the question of where from the new Upper Volga Rus grew up (KLUCHEVSKIY V.O. 1956: 272). If, however, to agree that the most ancient towns of this region were founded by the Anglo-Saxons, it must be assumed that just they were who laid the foundations of statehood here, uniting under their domination disparate native tribes. However, during the heyday of the Vladimir-Suzdal principality, the Anglo-Saxons, apparently, were already fully assimilated by a larger local population.


The fact that the Anglo-Saxons stayed in their ancestral home before the arrival of the Slavs here is confirmed by some English-Slavic lexical matches:

Eng. child – ORus. chelad', Bulg. chelad, Cz. čeled "family, servants" and othe Slavic.

OE gnyrran "to crunch, croak", Eng. grunt – Rus., Ukr. knur, Blr. knyr "male pig", Pol. knur "boar", Cz. knourati "to whine" and other similar Slavic words.

Eng. scatter semantically close to "to spread out" and in this sense can be considered connection of this word with Rus., Ukr. skatert' "table-clouth". Both words have no reliable etymology. The Chuvash language has the word šatra "rash", "uneven, rough surface." Just its previous form was borrowed by the Anglo-Saxons from the Bulgars. They had no the sound š, so they articulated it as sk. Borrowed from the Anglo-Saxons word was used as skatert' for table-clouth.

Eng. scant – Rus., Ukr. skudnyi, Bulg. oskuden "scarce" a.o. Maybe here also Osset/ qyndy "scanty".

Eng. strum – Cz., Pol., Rus., Slv., Ukr. struna "to strum" a.o.

Eng. wolf – Rus. volkhv, Bulg. vlúkhva "a wizard", Sloven. volhva "a soothsayer".

Anglo-Saxon origin can be expected for Ukr., Rus. ataman, (Ukr also otaman, Old Rus. vatamanú), which etymology is controversial among linguists. If the initial consonant in the word vatamanú is assumed to be prothetic, then OE *atta (PN Atta, OHG atto) "father" and OE. mann "man, hero" phonetically and semantically suit well.

Among the similarities between English and Ossetian languages, which were discussed in the section " Germanic tribes in Eastern Europe in the Bronze Age", could be those which relate to the time when the Anglo-Saxons and the Ossetians were in the steppes of Ukraine. Highlighting them is difficult, but can be considered separate Anglo-Saxon-Ossetian matches or those which have no reliable Germanic etymology. For example:

Among the similarities between English and Ossetic, which were discussed in the section "Germanic Tribes in the Eastern Europe at the Bronze Age", may be those which refer to the time when the Anglo-Saxons and the Ossetians populated the steppes of Ukraine. Highlight them is difficult, but we can consider which do not have a reliable German etymology. For example:

OE. corđor "group, herd, multiplicity" – Osset. qord, "the same".

OE. ealuđ "beer" – Osset. äluton "beer".

OE. lođđere "a beggar" – Osset. lädär "good-for-nothing".


Alan-Anglo-Saxon Onomasticon.