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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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Cimmerians in Eastern European History


The Iranian identity of the Cimmerians is in no doubt. The historically attested names of the Cimmerian leaders are unambiguously considered Iranian, but they have no reliable interpretation. Meanwhile, the Kabardian language provides such an opportunity: teushcheben "crush" (Teushpa), lIygъe "courage, bravery" and dame "wing, wings" (Ligdamis). An authoritative expert on the history of Cimmerians, Askold Ivanchik, regards the Cimmerians as a mysterious people since not everything is clear enough with it (IVANCHIK A.I. 2005). Obviously, the issue will become clear if a reason can be found for connecting the Cimmerians with any of the modern Iranian (or non-Iranian) peoples.

Preliminary studies have shown that the appearance of the Cimmerians in Asia Minor is not associated with the process of migration of Iranians from Europe to Asia. The first Iranian tribes appeared in Iran in the 11th – 10th centuries. BC, i.e. long before the invasion of the Cimmerians, therefore the topic of the migration of Iranian tribes is considered separately.


At left: Cimmerians
Painting on an Etruscan vase of the 6th century BC. Copy from an older Greek vase painting.


There is an opinion that the Cimmerians came to the Black Sea region from Central Asia or, more generally, “from the depths of Eurasia,” but this opinion is vigorously disputed, therefore it makes no sense to dwell on this topic, given that the ancestral home of the Iranians was in Europe and for migration to Central Asia, and then back the Cimmerians simply would not have time. In historically reliable times, the Cimmerians inhabited the Black Sea region and left traces of their stay in the steppes of Ukraine and the North Caucasus in archaeological sites that are combined into one Cimmerian culture. It is logical to assume that it should continue the tradition of the Zrubna culture, which we identified as an Iranian (STETSYUK VALENTYN. 1998: 82-83) and this tradition is seen by Ukrainian archaeologists in the funeral rite of the Cimmerians:


The late Cimmerian culture developed in the tradition of the Zrubna culture… what can be traced in the funeral ceremony (Arkheologiya Ukrainskoy SSR., 1986: 23)


The appearance of the Cimmerians in Asia, according to cuneiform sources, related to the end of the 8th century BC, and the Scythians are known in Iran "not earlier than 670", what contradicts Herodotus' statement about persecuting the Cimmerians by the Scythians. In general, the sources report mainly on the Cimmerians, and the Scythians have been mentioned for several years, and then only by their actions in Iran. (MEDVEDSKAYA I.N. 2000)

According to Assyrian sources, in the late 8th B.C., the king of Urartu Rus declared “I was defeated in battle by the army of the Gimirrai people which were attested by historians to be the Cimmerians (MASON RICHARD, Ed., 2004: 13-15). In 679/678 the Cimmerians were defeated by the Assyrians, their leader Teushpa was killed in that battle but nevertheless, later they attacked Phrygia, Lydia, and Cilicia, under the leadership of their new leader, Ligdamis:


… Akkadian sources allow us to establish that in 644 B.C., the Cimmerians’ most successful raid was on Lydia, in which King Gig was killed. Apparently, this raid affected not only Lydia, but also Ionia, and that is what Greek sources meant when they report the same raid by the Cimmerians. The same Akkadian sources describing the death of Ligdamis/Dugdamme dating it to 641 BC, i.e., three years later (IVANCHIK A.I. 2005: 123).


Until now, the question of the cases of the joining of the Cimmerians with the Thracians for conquest campaigns to Asia Minor from the Balkans is controversial. Information about such a campaign "from the Bosphorus to Ionia" is available from Strabo, but for some reason, he attributes this event to the time of Homer or a little earlier (STRABO. 1964, I, 1-10). Certain prerequisites for the assumption of the possibility of a military alliance between the Thracians and the Cimmerians are given by uncertain evidence of the presence of the Cimmerians in Hungary, probably inspired by the same message from Strabo:


The presence In Hungary of some horse people, identified with the Cimmerians, is established on the basis of finds of bronze objects of harness and iron bridles, bronze boilers, weapons (swords and daggers). (SHUSHARIN V.P. 1971: 23).


The doubt about the Cimmerian affiliation of the finds is caused by the obvious penetration of Cimmerian products into the territory of Hungary by trade routes since the Thracian culture was still dominant here. In the best case we can assume a special Thracian-Cimmerian period from 750 to 550 years (Ibid, 24). In addition, the possibility of joint action by the Thracians and Cimmerians in Asia Minor is completely excluded after studying the Middle Eastern sources. A. Ivanchik found in them only information about the rivalry between the Thracians and the Cimmerians in the struggle for possession of Bithynia, which ended in the complete expulsion of the latter (IVANCHIK A.I. 2005, 131-132).

The assumptions made are supported by toponymy, which indicates that a large part of the Cimmerians penetrated into Asia Minor precisely through the Balkans. When searching for toponyms of Iranian origin, it was found that their large accumulation is located in Right-Bank Ukraine in Podolia and they are deciphered for the most part using the Kurdish language (see Iranic Place Names). Here the Kurds dwelled in close proximity to the Turkic tribe of the ancient Bulgars (the ancestors of the modern Chuvash), as well as the Anglo-Saxons, whose ancestral home was defined in the area between the Pripyat, Teterev, and Sluch rivers


At left: Map of the Kurdish habitat in Podolia

Kurdish place names are indicated by dots in black, Bulgarish – in red, Anglo-Saxon – in purple. The movement of the Kurds is indicated by arrows.


The proximity of the Kurds with the Bulgars is explained by the fact that moving to the west, a part of the Bulgars stayed in Western Ukraine(see the section Türks as Carriers of the Corded Ware Cultures). When considering this topic, it was found that in the Chuvash language there are quite a few words that can be found in the Iranian languages or even in several of them at once.

But the Chuvash-Kurdish lexical parallels are the most numerous. Table 1 shows some of them sometimes with matches in other Iranian languages:


Table 1. Chuvash-Kurdish lexical parallels


Kurdish and other Iranian Chuvash
bet “a bustard” větel “woodkock”
kere “butter”, Gil kəre “butter” kěrě "fat"
kerdî “furrow” kěrche “wrinkled”
qarîk “a raven”, qarîtk “a partridge” karăk “a wood grouse”
qure “proud” küren “to be offended”
nar “fire”, Pers nar “fire” nar “blush”
pek “suitable” pek “like, similar”
sap “a ladle” sapa "basket"
saman “riches" semen “riches”
stûr “thick”, and other Ir. satur “strong”
soma “pupil of eye” săna “to observe”
sor “red”, Pers sorx “red” sără “paint”
sehre “sorcery, witchcraft” seхre "fear";
semer “darkness” sěm “darkness”
çal “a pit”, Pers čal “a pit” çăl “a well, source”
çîrt “pus” çěrt “to let rot”
çîban “a pimple” çăpan “a furuncle”
çêl “a cow” çile “udder”
tar “a pole” tar “a poplar”
taw “a downpour” tăvăl “a storm”
tobe “an oath” tupa “an oath”
toraq “cheese” turăx “fermented baked milk”
xumar “morose”, xumari “darkness” xămăr “brown”


When studying the Scythian problems, the Sarmatian onomasticon was used, based on Petrov’s data (PETROV V.P. 1968: 118-143) and in the process of this work, about four dozen names were found corresponding in varying degrees to words of the modern Kurdish language and more than twenty have correspondences only in Kurdish (Αβαβοσ , Αρδαρισκος , Αρδοναγαρος, Βαιορασπος , Βιστησ, Βουλαστησ, Διζαρον , Μαμμαροσ , Ολθακοσ, Σαυανων , Ροιμηταλκασ , Χοαροφαδιος, Χοδαινος, Χοφρασμοσ a.o.). Together with toponymy, these data allowed us to make an assumption that some parts of the Scythian population spoke the dialect of the Proto-Kurdic language what was already noted in other works published earlier (STETSYUK V.M., 1999: 89-93; STETSYUK VALENTYN, 2000: 23-28).

The presence of the ancient Kurds on the Dnieper right bank immediately raises the question of how they got there. According to the general movement of the Iranian tribes from their initial settlements between the Dnieper and the Don eastward and southeastward, it can be assumed that the ancestors of the Kurds came to the Azov steppes, and from there crossed the Dnieper and later moved northwestward, displacing more ancient settlers – the Thracians to the south-west and the Bulgar to the west. The band of Kurdish settlements from the town of Gaysin and further along the Dniester River on the west may mark the path, but the presence of names of Kurdish origin in Chernihiv, Kyiv, and Zhytomyr Regions gives the warrant to consider an option when the ancestors of the Kurds from their Urheimat went – downstream of the river Desna to the Dnieper River, crossed it and moved westward. This migration could last a long time, and some of the inhabitants of new sites were retained, whilst others went away. They could keep the names of villages and rivers for a long time.

The name of the city of Zhmerynka in Vinnytsia Region, where a large number of Kurdish place names have been preserved, according to some experts, could have come from the ethnonym Κιμμεριοι "Cimmerians" (VASMER MAX 1967, 58). It was in those places along the middle reaches of the Dniester, where the accumulation of Kurdish toponyms is observed, twice, in 1878 and 1897, treasures of gold objects were found in the village of Mikhalkiv, Ternopil Region, on the right bank of the Nichlava River. Treasures are dated back to the 6th cent. BC, that is they are two centuries older than the finds from the famous Scythian barrows Kul Oba and Chertomlyk. The treasures with a total weight of more than seven kilograms include a diadem, a hryvnia, five bracelets, 12 brooches, seven badges, a pyramid pendant, four bowls, and other items [PETROVS'KIY OLEKSANDR., 1993: 8].

At one time, the Polish professor Tadeusz Joseph Sulimirski identified the Western Podilsky local group among sites of the Early Scythian time (see the map below).



Sites of Western Podolian Group of Early Scythian Time

The map is composed on the data of Galina I. Smirnova (SMIRNOVA GALINA IVANOVNA, 2004: 411, Fig.1)
The red line drows around the aglomeration of place names os Kurdish origin in Podolia.
These sites are marked by numbers: 1. Bratyshiv. 2. Beremiany. 3. Horodnytsia. 4. Lysychnyky. 5. Rakiv Kut. 6. Novisilka of Hrymayliv. 7. Sukhostav. 8. Myshkivtsi. 9. Nyvra. 10. Shydlivtsi. 11. Zalissia. 12. Ladychyn. 13. Bilche Zolote. 14. Sapohiv. 15. Ivane Puste. 16. Zozulyntsi. 17. Perebykivtsi. 18. Vikno. 19. Novosilka (near Chernivtsi). 20. Ivakhnivtsi. 21. Zavadyntsi. 22. Servatyntsi. 23. Skipche. 24. Shutkivtsi. 25. Tarasivka. 26. Verkhni Panivtsi. 27. Vrublevtsi. 28. Verkhniy Olchedaiv. 29. Loyivtsi. 30. Dolyniany (kurgans). 31. Dolyniany (settlement). 32. Kruhlyk. 33. Oselivka. 34. Lenkavtsi. 35. Ivanivtsi. 36. Selyshche. 37. Neporotiv. 38. Bilousivka.


The partial coincidence of the territories of distribution of the sites of the Western Podolsk group and Kurdish place-names suggests that these sites were left by the Kurds, if we take into account the specific features that distinguish them from others sites of the early Scythian time:


… the use of stone with the tree in the construction of the burial chambers; the complete absence of horses in the graves of graves accompanying the dead; gray-clay circular ceramics, which existed only in this area of the Scythian forest-steppe; the use of certain types of jewelry, unknown or little known in other regions … (SMIRNOVA GALINA IVANOVNA, 2004: 419)


Slavic-Iranian Language Connections and, especially, separate Kurdish-Ukrainian lexical correspondences give reason to assume that some part of the Kurds dwelled on the territory of Ukraine before the Slavs appeared here. The same is evidenced by the data of the epigraphy of the Northern Black Sea region, therefore, one of the peoples mentioned by ancient historians, in particular, Herodotus, can be associated with the Kurds. Apparently, such a people could have been the Alizons (Alazones), whom Herodotus placed somewhat south of the Scythian plowmen in the area where the Dniester (Tiras) and the Southern Bug (Hypanius) are not very far from each other (HERODOTUS, IV, 52). It is in this place that the largest accumulation of Kurdish place names is located (see the map above, where both rivers are highlighted in blue).


The epigraphy also testifies that among the inhabitants of Olbia there were Circassians, i.e. they had to live in close proximity to the Alazon Kurds. The Greeks could call the entire non-Greek population not only near Olbia, but also the entire Northern Black Sea region by one name. And that name was Cimmerians. A similar name for the Cimbri had that part of the Kurds that went to the west (see the section Cimbri). Both ethnonyms could come from Kurds. kimber "belt, sash".

Simultaneously with the movement to Central Europe, the Kurds crossed over to the other side of the Carpathians and entered the territory of modern Hungary. Toponymy gives reason to say that their further path lay through Hungary to the Balkans. Here are just a few of the many place names:


Dévaványa, a town Békés county – Kurd. dêw "daeva, evil spirit", wanî "similar".

Kecel, a town in Bács-Kiskun county – Kurd. keçel "bald".

Felgyö, a village in Csongrád county – Kurd. felg "curl".

Senta, a town in the North Banat District of the autonomous province of Vojvodina, Serbia – Kurd. semt 1. "side", 2. "land, district".


Right: Kurdish toponymy in Hungary and the Balkans


Temerin, a town in the South Bačka District of the autonomous province of Vojvodina in Serbia– Kurd. temirin 1. "go out, extinguish", 2. "put out".

Pančevo, a city in the autonomous province of Vojvodina – Kurd. penc 1. "hand", 2. "bunch of fives".

Čačak, a city in central Serbia – Kurd. çê "best", çak "good".

Niš, a city in Serbia – Kurd. niș "thick, sediment", av "water".

Mezdra, a town in northwestern Bulgaria – Kurd. mezre "sowing, field".

Hisarya, a town in Plovdiv Province, Bulgaria – Kurd. xisar "lesion, loss".

Haskovo, a city in the region of Northern Thrace, Bulgaria – Kurd. hesk "scoop".

Vize, a town in the Marmara Region of Turkey. – Kurd. wezî "location, establishment".

Thus, there is reason to assert that some part of the Cimmerians moved from Hungary to the Balkans, but did not stay there for a long time, because there are no noticeable Cimmerian traces on the territory of Bulgaria (MELUKOVA A.I., 1979: 6).

At present, the prevailing opinion is that the Cimmerians moved to Southwest Asia mainly through the Derbent Pass and the Belorechensky Pass (see map below). The path through the Derbent Pass could have been used by the ancestors of the modern Talysh and Gilanians, as well as the ancestors of the closely related to them Baluchis and Mazanderans. Balochis now live in Pakistan, but it is known that they came here from the southern coast of the Caspian Sea (FROLOVA V.A. 1960: 68, ORANSKIY I.M. 1979, 89), that is, earlier (in the 5-6th centuries AD), their settlements were not far from the settlements of the Gilyans and Talysh (Mazanderans still live in these places). The migration route of the Baluchis from north to south is marked by a chain of enclaves of the Baloch language (see Map of the distribution of modern Iranian languages). The map below shows that the Scythians moved through the Derbent Pass, but earlier that Iranian tribes, who settled on the southern coast of the Caspian Sea, went by the same road.


Left: North Pontic region and Southwest Asia in the era of the Cimmerian and Scythian migrations (VII-VI cen. BC) (The map from MASON RICHARD, 2004, 27).


The flow of Cimmerians to Asia Minor through the Belorechensky Pass and further along the Black Sea went through the habitat of the Adyghe tribes, so it can be assumed that this was the second ethnic group of Cimmerians. The decrypted names of Teushpa and Ligdamis confirm this assumption.

In addition, an impressive number of names clearly deciphered by using the Kabardian language (Αβροαγος , Αργουαναγος , Γαγγαιος , Ιαζαδαγος, Ιναρμαζος, Καφαναγος, Κουκοδων, Ναυαγοσ, Ουαμψαλαγοσ, Οχωζιακοσ, Ρηχουναγοσ, Χοζανια) was found in the representative sample of Sarmatian onomasticon. The names of some tribes of the Northern Black Sea region (Zacatae, Ζuardani) also may have the Adyghe origin.

The Kurds traveling from Western Ukraine through Hungary and the Balkans constituted the third stream of Cimmerians. At the beginning of VII BC, having crossed the Bosphorus, the Cimmerian Kurds, together with the Thracians who joined them, moved along the Mediterranean coast, deep into a country called Maeonia. Along the way of their movement, they founded settlements, the names of which have survived to our time:

Sakarya, a province in Turkey – Kurd. sakar "basket";

Derbent, a neighborhood in the Iznik district of Bursa Province, a township in the Turgutlu district of Manisa Province, a village in the Buldan district of Denizli Province in Turkey – Kurd. der "gorge, canyon", bend 1. "thread", "band", 2. "hedge, dam";

Manyas,a town in the Marmara Region of Balıkesir Province, Turkey – Kurd. manaş "hindering, reluctant";

Soma, a town of the Manisa Province in the Aegean region of Turkey – Kued. soma "pupil, apple of the eye";

Sart, a village on the site of the ancient city of Sardis in the Manisa Province – Kurd. sard "cold, chilly";

Kaş, a small town of Antalya Province of Turkey – Kurd. kaş "mountain road".

The invasion of foreigners caused the consolidation of local tribes under the leadership of one of the leaders named Giges (Guggu). With the help of the Assyrians, he organized military operations against the newcomers and expelled their warlike part, while the peaceful Cimmerians were to remain in place and eventually merge with the local population. Leaving Maeonia behind and calling it in their own way Lydia (cf. Kurd. lidû "behind"), the exiles, moving further in search of a place for settlement, met certain difficulties on their way, as evidenced by the following names of settlements in southern Turkey:

Hadim, a town in the Akdeniz district of Konya Province – Kurd. hadimîn "to brak, wrack", "perish";

Tekeli, a town in Mersin Province – Kurd. tekil "mix, blend";

Leaving their garrisons in these towns, the Cimmerians reached the country on the Mediterranean coast, surrounded by the mountains of the Central Taurus (see the map below)


The Movement of the Cimmerian Kurds in Asia Minor


The name of the country and mountains are confirmed by their Kurdish origin:

Cilicia, a geo-cultural region in southern Turkey – Kurd. kēlak "side, bank";

Taurus Mountains in southern Turkey – Kurd. tawer "rock".

In Cilicia, the Cimmerians stayed for a long time. Surrounded on all sides by mountains from external enemies, Cilicia was a convenient place for settlement. Such geographical names of this country still preserve traces of the Cimmerians staying here:

Tarsus, a historic city in south-central Turkey – Kurd. ters "crooked, oblique", "rough, sharp";

Adana, the administrative seat of the Adana Province – Kurd. adan "profitable, productive";

Mezretli, a neighborhood of the town of Kadirli the Osmaniye Province – Kurd. mezre "sowing, field, cornfield";

Peyas – Kurd. peya "on foot", possibly "at the foot" (of mountain), taking the meaning of Kurd. "foot".

There is no doubt that before the arrival of the Cimmerians, Cilicia was inhabited by people of Semitic origin and their language (Akkadian) had a certain influence on Kurdish. However, the territory of this country was too small to provide a dignified existence for the growing population. Therefore, part of the Cimmerian Kurds moved further east, periodically waging hostilities with the Urarts, Assyrians and Medes.


In accordance with historical evidence, the Scythians invade Western Asia 50-60 years after the Cimmerians appeared here. Obviously, this means the Cimmerians who came from the North Caucasus. Unlike the Kurds, who slowly and peacefully advanced from the west, the North Caucasian Cimmerians and Scythians used cavalry to move, which was a novelty in Asia Minor and had the effect of a sudden invasion. Having passed through Derbent, the Scythians settled in Azerbaijan and founded their kingdom here in the interfluve of the Kura and Araks rivers, that is, somewhere near the lake Sevan. And only then they first encountered the Cimmerians, and the Cimmerians conceded to the Scythians. There is evidence that the Scythians even reached Iran. Near-Asian sources recall the Scythian kingdom back in the late 90s of the 6th cent. BC, after which there is no longer any data about them in history.



Northern Black Sea Region and Asia Minor in the VII-VI cen BC (The map from MASON RICHARD, 2004, 21).


It is believed that after the defeat of Lydia in the war with Media and Novo-Babylonia, the Cimmerians and Scythians who supported Lydia, under the terms of a peace agreement, “should have gone where they came from, i.e. to the Northern Black Sea Region” (ARTAMONOV M.I. 1974: 34). Obviously, the Cimmerians supported Lydia because it was partially inhabited by their fellow tribesmen. The above-mentioned Cimmerian raid on Lydia was made by the North Caucasian tribes. One way or another, part of the Cimmerian Kurds moved along the eastern coast of the Black Sea and reached the Taman Peninsula. Their further fate M.I. Artamonov, based on the archeology of the Kuban burial mounds of the Scythian time, defines as follows:


Settling in Maeotian country, the Cimmerians due to their higher culture and the organization took a leading position in the Kuban region, but remaining in the minority, they were unable to preserve their ethnic identity and eventually merged with the native population. It is possible that the direct descendants of the Cimmerians were the Sindi people represented the most progressive part of the population of the Lower Kuban – the Taman Peninsula and the adjacent part of the Black Sea coast (ARTAMONOV M.I., 1974: 62).


It is unknown who the mentioned Sindi were, but according to toponymy data, ancient Balts could have had their settlements here (cf. Anapa – Lith. anapus "on that side, on the other side"; Panticapaeum – Lith. pentis "heel (foot)", kāpas "tomb" ao.)The presence of the Balts in the Northern Black Sea and Azov regions is confirmed by anthroponymics. The proper names of people, deciphered with the help of the Baltic languages, can be found in the dark places of the creations of ancient historians and epigraphs left by participants or witnesses of real events:


Αρτινοιη (artinoie:) – Lith. artinti „to approach”.

Βαλωδισ (balo:dis) – Let. baluodis, Lith. balandis “a pigeon”.

Κυρηακοσ (Kyreakos, the name is found repeatedly in the Northern Black Sea Coast (Andrey Vinogradov. 2015. Cherson. Epitaph of Kyriakos,.. IV–Vth centuries C.E.)) – Lith. kūrėjas «creator».

Παταικοσ (Pataikoc, name, identity not established, Gorgippia) – V. Abayev connects the name with Os. fætæg "leader" (ABAYEV V.I. 1979: 298), It is unlikely that a simple resident would be called a leader. Rather, the name should be associated with Lith. pataikus "obsequious".

Σαυαγ (Savag, the names of three persons on the sites of the Taman Peninsula and Panticapaeum (Andrey Vinogradov. 2015. Taman peninsula, Azov sea shore) – the name is connected with Os. saw "black" together with the assumed suffix -ag (ABAYEV V.I.. 1979: 395), but according phonology the Baltic origin of the name is more likely (Lith. sauga «protection», suaugęs "adult").

The topic of migrations of the Baltic tribes is considered separately, but here we will only point out that the Balts of the Kuban region did not lose contact with their ancestral home and the path they laid here from the Baltics was used at different times by other peoples.


The fact that the Cimmerians could really populate the Kuban area, says the fixed ethnonym Δανδαριοι (the name of a people at Low Kuban and the Maeotia). As the lower part of the Kuban region lies between the Azov and Black Seas, Kurd. derya/darya "sea" and dan "inside", i.e., "surrounded by the sea" suits perfect for explaining the name of this people. This assumption is supported by the accumulation of place names on the Taman Peninsula, which can be decrypted using the Kurdish language:

Gostagayevskaya, a stanitsa (village) in the municipality of Anapa, Krasnodar Krai – Kurd. hosta "nap, slumber", heyîn "to be, being".

Jemete, a town in the Anapsky district of the Krasnodar Kray – Kurd. jêmêtin "suck out".

Jiginka, a village in the municipality of Anapa, Krasnodar Krai on the bank of the Jiga channel – Kurd. cihê "separate".

Taman', a rural locality (a stanitsa) in Temryuksky District of Krasnodar Krai, – Kurd. tam "house", anî "face, front".

In ancient times, the Greek city of Hermonassa was located on the Taman Peninsula, but a people Zikhi prevailed among the local population (Kurd. zîx "bold", kind", strong"). The Principality of Tmutarakan' existed here later. The name of the principality is also deciphered using the Kurdish language: Kurd. tarî "dark" (corresponds to the meaning of the first part of the name in Slavic), kanî "source, spring." The Tmutarakan' prince Mstislav Vladimirovich in 1024 became the prince of Chernihiv and resettled to the Seversk land many families of the steppe peoples, among whom were the Zikhi-Kurds. Their presence in those places is confirmed by place names. On the left bank of the Dnieper above Kyiv stood the chronicled city of Tmutarakan, and the names of many settlements of the Left Bank Ukraine are deciphered using the Kurdish language.

Most of the Kurdish place names fall on the territory of the Chernihiv principality in the same places where there are place names of Chechen origin. According to the chronicle, the Chernihiv principality was often "ruled by the Cumans", who also took part in the campaigns of local princes against Smolensk and Kyiv (ISTORIYA SSSR v 12 tomakh. 1966, 593). In fact, these were not Cumans, but inhabitants of the steppes of different ethnicity, among whom there were many Kurds, and the naming of all of them Cumans should be considered a generalized name for all "pagans". Obviously, over time, the Kurds were assimilated by the Ukrainians, but their original names have survived among the Ukrainians to this day:

Sereda, 15037 carriers throughout Ukraine, most of all in Kyiv (806), Kharkiv (864), Zaporizhia (319), Dnipro (318), Sumy (266), Donetsk (247), Cherhihiv (215), Lviv (205), Kryvyi Rih (200) – Kurd. serede "older". A small number of surnames come from Ukr. sereda "Wednesday" (of all surnames by weekday most of all surname carriers Monday – 275).

Havrysh, 7560 carriers, most of all in Kyiv (504), Dnipro (250), Kharkiv (197) – Kurd. havrīs "juniper".

Gura, 4522 carriers, most of all in Kyiv (293), Kharkiv (243), Dnipro (137), Kryvyi Rih (93), Horlovka (87), Donetsk (84) – Kurd. gur 1."wolf", 2. "strong, fast".

Lewandowskiy, Lewandowskaya, Lewandiwskiy, 2184 carriers, most of all in Kyiv (173) – Kurd. lewand "beautiful, handsome".

Gunchenko, 1044 carriers, most of all in the city of Kamenske, Dnipropetrovsk Region (69), Dnipro (68), Kharkiv (58), Gunchak, 801 carriers, most of all in Chernivtsi (66), Gunchyk, 151 carriers, most of all in the city of Kamin'-Kashirsky Volyn Region (51) – Kurd. gunc "pot".

Chechel', 1730 carriers, most of all in Kyiv (117), Zaporizhia (102), Dnipro (96) – Kurd. çê “good, best", çêlî "kin, offspring".

Murga, 1658 carriers, most of all in Kyiv (196), in the city of Malin in Zhytomyr Region – Kurd. murǧ “bird".

Chepel', 1604 carriers, most of all in Kharkiv (110), Zaporizhia (63) – курд. çepel “dirty" or çepilî "left-handed".

Fisun, 1365 carriers, most of all in Zaporizhia (135), Kharkiv (109), Dnipro (83) – Kurd. fisûn "magic, witchcraft".

Mihal, 602 carriers, most of all in Kharkiv (39), Khmelnytskyi (39), Kyiv (33), Makiivka (19), Kryvyi Rih (15) – Kurd. mihal "vain, empty", mihel "place, locality".

In addition to these surnames, in Ukraine there are many others phonetically similar to Kurdish words, which could be suitable for a person’s name, but the number of their cariiers does not allow us to speak with confidence about their old age. In the cases when they are common in settlements of the alleged Kurdish origin or in which other Kurdish surnames are present, they can be taken into account. On the whole, the data of onomastics indicate that the Kurdish population in Ukraine was much larger in its western part than in the eastern one. At the same time, other Kurdish surnames prevail in Western Ukraine:

Henyk, 903 carriers, most of all in Lviv (69), Dobromyl' (46) and Novoyavorivs'k (37) of Lviv Region – Kurd. hênik "cold, fresh".

Gera, 733 carriers, most of all in Kosovo district of Ivano-Frankivsk Region (389) – Kurd. gera "roe deer".

Maykut, 342 carriers, most of all in Lviv (36) – Kurd. meykut "big wooden hammer".

Fendyk, 244 carriers, most of all in Dolyna district of Ivano-Frankivsk Region (70), Fendak, 98 carriers, most of all in Drohobych district of Lviv Region (45) – Kurd. fend "cunning, crafty".

Germak, 312 carriers, most of all in Lviv (28) – Kurd. germ "cold, fresh".

The listed surnames are practically not found in the eastern part of Ukraine, while the surnames Lewandovsky, Chechel, Chepel, Mihal are quite common in Western Ukraine as well. The distribution of the names of the alleged Kurdish origin is presented on the map below.



Migration paths of Cimmerian Kurds in the mirror of onomastics

On the map, black dots indicate the settlements of the alleged Kurdish origin, the purple ones are of the Adyghe origin/
Red dots mark settlements of Ukraine where surnames of Kurdish origin are recorded.
The burgundy dots correspond to place names of Baltic origin.
The area of distribution of the culture of long kurgans is marked in gray. The sites of this culture are marked with blue dots.

Having information about the campaigns of the Chernihiv princes to the north, one can think that the militant Kurds could participate in them more than others, especially since the paths of these campaigns are marked with clearly defined chains of place names of Kurdish origin (see GoogleMyMaps above). It is characteristic that among them there are the names of the city Kimry in the Tver Region and the village Kimborovo in the Smolensk Region, corresponding to the self-name of the then Kurds, as mentioned above.


There is reason to believe that these campaigns influenced the course of history in Eastern Europe. Having deviated from the movement to the north, the Kurds, moving through the territory of Belarus, reached the settlements of the Lithuanians, who lived at that time in a tribal system. At the same time, it is characteristic that the chains of toponyms of Baltic and Kurdish origin overlap one another (see on the map above). Baltic place names mark the path laid by the Balts in the Black Sea region (see Ancient Balts Outside Ethnic Territories). Obviously, the Adyghe, who inhabited the neighboring territory in the North Caucasus, also moved along with the Kurds, and the path used is clearly visible on the chain of Baltic, Kurdish and Adyghe place names. Here are the Adyghe toponyms included in this chain in the direction from the North Caucasus to the Baltics (after the name of the settlement, the Kabardian words used for interpretation are given):

Azhinov (azhe “goat”, ne “eye”), Toshkovka tIoshchI “twenty”, qeukIa “killed”), Lypchanovka (Lepshch “god of blacksmithing”), Chuguev (shchygu “plateau”), Mezenevka (mez “forest“, en “whole“), Karyzh (kIeryzhyn “leak out“), Shalygino (shylegu “turtle“), Zhikhovo (zh'ykhu “fan“, out of zh'y “wind“), Unecha (uneshchIa “empty“), Vorga (uerq “nobiliary“), Great Sharypy (sherypI “mammal“), Budagovo (bydag “hardness, strength“).


As you can see, onomastics testifies that migrants from the south, most of them Kurds-Cimmerians, penetrated into the environment of the Baltic tribes at some time. So far, this is the only evidence of their possible influence on the development of historical events in the Baltics.

There is information in Polish and German chronicles about the Baltic tribes from the X century. Their economy (agriculture, hunting, fishing, bee farming) in wooded and marshy areas was poorly developed.


At left: Baltic tribes before the coming of the Teutonic Order (ca. 1200 AD).
(The map from Wikipedia)

The Eastern Balts are shown in brown hues while the Western Balts are shown in green. The boundaries are approximate.


The religious beliefs of the people who inhabited this area were associated with the worship of the forces of nature, some remnants of totemism remained among them. There were no cities, small settlements were scattered along the river banks. By the time when the Teutonic Order appeared here, the previously dominant primitive communal system began to disintegrate, apparently under the influence of the Cimmerians arriving from the south.

It can be assumed that facing the threat of the seizure of the territory by the Order, the Cimmerians consolidated the local tribes under their rule, and this laid the foundation for the creation of the Lithuanian state. The names of the first princes of this state are quite satisfactorily deciphered using the Kurdish language:

Mindaugas, Mendog, the first known Grand Duke of Lithuania and the only Christian King of Lithuania (1253–1263) – Kurd. mend "modest", awqas "so much" ("very"?);

Treniota, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1263—1264) – Kurd. ture “angry”, nêt “thought, desire”;

Vaišelga, Wojsiełk, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1264—1267) – Kurd. xwey "master", *şûlq "wave";

Švarnas, Szwarno, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1267/1268—1269) – Kurd. şarm "shame", "shyness" out of *şfarm as the metathesis of OIr. *fšarma "shame";

Traidenis, Tojden, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1269-1281) – Kurd. tureyî "anger", dên "sight";

Daumantas, Dovmunt, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1282—1285) – Kurd. devam “long”, entam “limb”, “stature”;

Pukuwer, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1291—1295) – Kurd. pevketin “make peace, agree”, wêran “destroyed”;

Vytenis, Witenes, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1295—1316) – Kurd. wetîn "love", "wish";

Gediminas, Gedymin, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1316-1341) – Kurd. hedimîn 1. "to collapse, fall apart", 2. "perish";

Algirdas, Olgierd, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1345-1377) – Kurd. ol "creed, religion", gerd 1. "great", 2. "great man";

Jogaila, Jagiełło, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1377-1392) and the King of Poland (1386–1434) – Kurd. egal "hero", yê egal "heroic", law (lo) "child, son";

Kęstutis, Kiejstut, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1381-1382) – Kurd. key "king", and the second part of the name may come from the Indo-European root word meaning "to stand" that has disappeared from the Kurdish language (cf. Kurd. stûn "pillar");

Vytauta, Witold, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1392-1430) – Kurd. xwî "prominent, obvious", tawet "strength, power";

Švitrigaila, Świdrygiełło, the Grand Duke of Lithuania (1430-1432) – Kurd. swînd "oath", -r – the case suffix, egal "hero", law (lo) "child, son".

The presence of the Kurds in Lithuania is confirmed by the numerous place names of the country, deciphered using the Kurdish language:

Klaipeda (old name Kalojpeda) – Kurd. kala "goods, property", peyda, pêde "be found".

Telšiai – Kurd telaš 1. "yarn", 2. "sliver, shavings", 3. "effort".

Šiauliai – Kurd. şewl "a ray of light", "shine".

Kadikai – Kurd. kedî "accustomed", kaye "game". Cf. Kadıköy in Turkey.

Tarakonys – Kyrd. tarî “dark”, konî "spring, well".

Even the very name Lietuva (Lithuania), which does not have a satisfactory etymology, could be given by the Kurds (cf. Kurd. lûtf, litf "favor, mercy"). This Kurdish word is considered to be borrowed from the Arabic language. In fact, the Cimmerians should have borrowed it from Akkadian during their stay in Asia Minor. Akkadian is one of the oldest Semitic languages spoken by the Assyrians. The Baltic languages also have borrowings from Kurdish:

Lith. balvas, Let. balva "gift, bribe" – Kurd. belwa "temptation";

Lith. daba "nature, kind, way", Let. dāba "natural quality, habit, nature", Blr. doba "nature" – Kurd. dab "custom, disposition, habit", which, in turn, was borrowed from Akkadian (Ar. tabia “nature”).

Lith. ežeras, Let. ezers "lake, pond" – Kurd. zirē "lake";

Lith. galata "deceiver" – Kurd. galte "joke";

Lith. kūdikis "child" – Kurd. kudik "youngling, baby";

Lith. manga "lewd person, prostitute" – Kurd. mange "cow, she buffalo";

Lith. miškas "forest" – Kurd. mêşe, bêşe "forest, grove";

Lith. Nemunas "Neman" – Kurd. nem "wet, moist", yan "side";

Lith. vaisba "trading" – Kurd. bayi "trading";


Having settled in Lithuania, the Kurds continued their campaigns to the north. Through the territory of Latvia and Estonia, they reached the Gulf of Finland. The path of the Kurds to these places is marked by a chain of other Kurdish place names, among which the most convincing decoding is the name of the city of Izborsk in the Pskov region – Kurd izb "bachelor, single", ors "wedding". Both words are of Semitic origin, but their decoding does not raise doubts due to the close semantic connection between the constituent parts of the word. At the same time, this corresponds to the statement that the Kurds came to the Baltic States from Asia Minor. Moving north, the Kurds reached the Neva River, as evidenced by the name of the city of Gatchina (Kurd. hacet "tool, method") and the village of Tavry in the Koltushsky rural settlement of the Vsevolozhsk district of the Leningrad Region (Kurd. tawêr "rock"). The Kurds live in close proximity with the Baltic-Finnish tribes left its mark in borrowings from Kurdish in Vepsian, Finnish Estonian and other languages. Here are examples of Kurdish-Vepsian lexical correspondences with equivalents found in other Baltic-Finnish (see Table 2).

Table 2. Kurdish-Veps lexical correspondences


Kurdish language Veps and other Finnic langiages
bak "fear" Veps opak "fearful"
çeqandin "to stick" Veps čokaita "to stick"
çerk "drop" Veps čirkištada "to drop"
cirnî "trough" Vepskurn "gutter, chute"
e'ys "joy" Veps ijastus "joy"
e'zim "beautiful" Veps izo “pretty”, Fin. ihana "wonderful, beautiful";
hebhebok "spider" Veps hämähouk, Fin., Karel. hämähäkki "spider";
henase "breathe" Vepsheńktä, Fin. hengittää, Est. hingake "to breathe"
hîrîn "neighing" Veps hirnaita, Fin. hirnua, Est. hirnuma "to neigh"
xerez "speed" Veps hered "rapid"
kotek “hit” Veps kötkšta – "to slaughter";
kusm "страх" Veps h’ämastoitta "frighten";
miraz "wish" Veps mairiš "need";
pirtîn "trembling" Veps pirpitada "to shake"
semer "dark" Veps hämär "dusk", Fin. hämärä "twilight"
tikan – "to drop" Veps t’üukta "to drop"


The pair semer-hämär is a particularly difficult case. M. Vasmer drew attention to the correspondence of Fin. hämärä "dark" to Ukr. khmara "cloud", but did not saw a possible connection between these words "for geographical reasons" (VASMER MAX. 1987. V. 4: 249). According to the phonology of the Baltic-Finnish languages, the original word should have been semer, and this may indicate the borrowing of Finnish words from Kurdish. In the etymological dictionary of the modern Finnish language, on the contrary, it is argued that the source of the borrowing is an ancient Germanic word, allegedly represented by Icelandic sámur "dark, dirty" (HÄKKINEN KAISA. 2007: 238). However, in the authoritative dictionary of Old Norse, the word sámr is considered to be borrowed from Finnish (CLEASBY RICHARD, VIGFUSSON GUDBRAND: 517). Kurd. semer can be connected with Kurd. samā "shadow", which is considered to be borrowed from Arabic sama "sky", "roof", "shadow"(TSABOLOV R.L. 2010. V. 2: 231), and the Kurdish xumar also means "hangover" and is associated with Ar. xumār "painful condition after drinking", "hangover" (ibid: 484). The Chuvash language has the word khamăr "brown", semantically close to Kurdish and Baltic-Finnish words. Ukrainian khmara could be borrowed from Bulgar or Kurd. xumar a modified semer influenced by the Finnish languages.

The correspondence of Finnish, Karelian and Ludic hämähäkki, Veps hämähouk, Estonian ämblik, Votic hämö, Livonian ämriki "spider" – Kurdish hebhebok "spider" is enigmatic. Borrowing from Kurdish or another Iranian language into Vepsian could not be, for this word in Kurdish is isolated and associated with Ar. hebbāk "weaver" (TSABOLOV R.L. 2001, 449). Finnish linguists did not notice this connection and consider the origin of the Baltic-Finnish words "dark" (HÄKKINEN KAISA. 2007: 237). Based on phonology, the word for naming a spider was formed from two roots ham and bōk of an unknown language which could be Slavic or Germanic. Given the semantics and phonetics, for consideration you can use Slav. pauk "spider" that can be associated with Ger Bauch "belly" (Gmc būk). This Germanic root can be connected with Slav. puzo "paunch" (KLUGE FRIEDRICH. 1989: 64). In the structure of the spider's body, the abdomen is clearly expressed, which must have a definition in the name of this arthropod. A suitable word is found in the Middle High German language hem "evil, crafty", then the name of the spider could be understood as "evil belly". There is no such word in German, but it could exist in one of the extinct Germanic languages, for example, in Gothic. How the Germanic word got to the Arabs is anyone's guess. In addition to these correspondences, there are several dozen words common to Kurdish, Vepsian, and three or more Iranian languages.

Coming from Lithuania, the Kurds brought to the north the custom of burial mounds (for more details see On the Issue of the Ethnicity of the Culture of the Pskov long Burial Mounds). Consideration of this issue made it possible to find in the area of ​​distribution of this culture also the Adyghe trace in toponymy. There are no other data on the presence of the Circassians in the Baltics and the surrounding area yet. To decipher the place names, the Kabardian language was used, the phonetics of which to a large extent differs from Indo-European, and this language itself could change significantly over time. Therefore, modern Russian names can be quite different from the original words of the language spoken by the ancestors of the modern Adyghe peoples. Examples of Adyghe toponyms in the basin of the upper reaches of the Western Dvina and the Velikaya River can be the following:

Alol', villages in Kuderev volost of Bezhanitsky district and in Alol' volost in Pustoshkinsky district of Pskov Region, a river, the tributary of the Velikaya River – Kabard. lale "lethargic, weak", -а is the prosthetic vowel.

Komsha, a village of Velikoluksky district in Pskov Region – Kabard. gumashchIe "kind-hearted, merciful".

Kurmeli, a village in Velizhsky District of Smplensk Region – Kabard. kurme "knot at the end of the string", -le is the noun suffix.

Opochka, a town and the administrative center of Opochetsky district in Pskov Region – Kabard. upIyshkIa "crumpled".

Reble, a village in Pustoshkinsky district of Pskov Region – Kabard. eru "fierce, cruel", ble "snake".

Sbezh, a town and the administrative center of Sebezhsky district in Pskov Region – Kabard. sabe "dust" -zh' – is the noun suffix that reinforces meaning.

Tekhomichi, a village in Sebezhsky district of Pskov Region – Kabard. tkhe "god", myshche "bear".

Usmyn', a villlage in Kunyinsky district of Pskov Region – Kabard. ues "snow", myin "small".

Velizh, a town and the administrative center of Velizhsky district in Smolensk Region – Kabard. urliy "ruler, lord" (from Akkadian) -zh' is the noun suffix that reinforces meaning.

V'ar'movo, a village in Krasnogorodsky district in Pskov Region – Kabard. ueram "street".

Zhadro, a village in Zvonsk volost, Opochetsky district of Pskov Region – Kabard. zhad "hen", -ru is the object suffix.

Zhiguli, villages in Verkhnyadzvinsk District of Vitebsk Region, Belorus and in Kunyinsky District of Pskov Region – Kabard. zhigeile "an area overgrown with oak trees". Zhiguli on the Volga of the same origin.

Upon the whole, you can see that the history of the Cimmerians is very complex and its restoration requires not only great imagination, but also painstaking searches. And this work is not only in the interests of truth but also in the interests of maintaining good relations between peoples. Recognizing that among the Cimmerian troops that flooded Asia Minor were the Adyge, Kurds, and other Iranian tribes, it cannot be ruled out that other peoples of the North Caucasus also raided Asia Minor. This assumption is confirmed, for example, by the active participation of Chechens in the historical events of Eastern Europe in the 1st millennium AD (see the section Pechenegs and Hungarians). Summing up, it can be argued that there is a lot of work ahead, but conscientious executants are needed.