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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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Cimmerians


In progress.

The sequel to Iranian Tribes in the East Europe during the Bronze Age


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. Restoring the paths of the Iranian movement to modern habitats in comparison with the paths of the Cimmerians' campaigns will help to approach the answer to this question.

The topic of the migration of Iranians do not make sense at all if we proceed from the assumption of the existence of the so-called Indo-Iranian community of the Aryans without an exact idea of ​​its location. Meanwhile, there are still discussions about whether the Aryans are autochthons in the places of their current residence (WITZEL MICHAEL. 2012). In their own way of interpreting the selected set of linguistic, anthropological, archaeological, and ethnographic data, scientists actually come to the question of what and to what extent determines the ethnos. Accordingly, tracing the migration paths of speakers of languages, anthropological types, and cultures, they cannot come to a common opinion and, using formal logical methods, end up engaging in scholasticism. In our research, we focus on the issue of migration of speakers of Iranian languages without regard to their racial type.

The reasons forcing the Irano-Aryans to leave their original habitats between the Dnieper and the Don may be different. Perhaps the transition of the Balts and the Anglo-Saxons to the left bank of the Dnieper set in motion the local Iranian population of the Zrubna culture. However, we can think about other reasons. Steppe areas could be abandoned due to climate change, which led to a decrease in the productive possibilities of the steppe. In any case, archaeological data indicate a temporary desolation of the Azov and Black Sea regions:


… in the 12th -10th BC comparing with the previous period the steppes between the Don and the Danube reveal a tenfold decrease in the number of settlements and burials. The same trend of decline in population is manifested in the Pontic steppe also in the subsequent Cimmerian era, which is confirmed by the absence of settlements and stationary burial grounds in this area (MAKHORTYKH S.V., 1997: 6-7).


Thus, the Iranian tribes moved in search of dwelling places with more favorable conditions. Evidenced fact is that their presence has been historically recorded in Central Asia at the end of the second millennium BC:


Iranian names appeared in the Assyrian written sources in the 11-10th cent. BC, and are associated with regions of Western Iran that were in the sphere of the political activity of the Assyrian empire. What happened further east at this time – in the Central and Eastern Iran – is not reflected in these sources (ARTAMONOV M.I., 1974: 10).


Left: Historical regions in Central and Southwest Asia during the time of the Achaemenid (7th-4th century B.C.)


Historical regions are shown on the map at right, help to restore the migration routes of Iranian tribes from Eastern Europe to Central Asia

Two points of view exist about the Iran-Aryans incursions to the Near East – a) the way through Central Asia or b) the way through the Caucasus (PIANKOV I.V., 1979). In North Ossetia, there are a number of toponyms containing the element of Gimara, which goes back to the ethnonym of the Cimmerians (TSAGAEVA A. Dz. 2010: 5). However, one cannot exclude the possibility of migration of Iranians to Asia Minor through the Balkans, which is reflected in Hittite sources (SOKOLOV S.N., 1979-2: 235).

Obviously, the resettlement of the Iranians went in several waves and paths, but the main route of movement of most of the Iranians was along the eastern coast of the Caspian Sea, and further along the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers to the south and southeast, as Kuzmina describes (KUZ'MINA E.E., 1986: 203-204), although the route through the Caucasus could also be used. Given the location of the territories of settlements of Iranian-speaking peoples at the present time (EDELMAN D.I., 1968: the map 1) and on the historical ancestral home in Eastern Europe (STETSYUK VALENTYN. 1998: 76, Fig. 17), certain assumptions can be made. The last in the chain of transmigrators around the Caspian Sea were the Sogdians (the ancestors of the modern Yaghnobians) since they occupied the extreme northern region of the modern settlements of Iranians in Central Asia, adjacent to the Afghans, who were their northern neighbors also in their historical ancestral home. Their other neighbors in their ancestral home, the Ossetians, now populate the mountains of the Caucasus and, undoubtedly, have never been to Central Asia.

Some part of migrated Iranians remained in southern Kazakhstan in the foothills of the western Tien Shan among local Turkic population, as evidenced by the local place names: Madikent/Mankent, Orungent, Syutkent, Chimkent, having a partial word Ir. kent "town, village, space" (POPOVA V.N., 2000, 53). This word was accepted by Turks and was used for the names of settlements with Turkic components (for example, Tashkent out of taš "stone"). However, Shymkent settlement had to be founded by Iranians, likely by Sogdians (Yagn. čim "meadow, grass"). This interpretation is supported by the name of the Lugovoi village (Russian "on meadow"), also located in this area, evidently covered by thick grass at that time. There are also Iranian terms of orography of South Kazakhstan darbaza/darvaza "gate, entry, passage", dašt/dešt "steppe, plain, desert", zax/zexab "source, spring" (ibid).

The territory of modern residence of the Kurd, the other neighbors of the Sogdians on the ancestral home, gives the reason to suppose, that they have come to these places by some other way, then the first wave of Iranians, i.e., through the Caucasus or through the Balkans. If they moved around of the Caspian Sea, they should have left behind many other Iranian wandering groups – this seems improbable. We have already noted that the extension of the residence or the resettlement of ancient people went sequentially according to their mutual location on former habitats. According to B. Gornung, this important feature of migrated Indo-European tribes was noted already by Franz Specht (GORNUNG B.V. 1963, 53). As the forebears of the Kurd and the Sogdians had their areas being adjacent in adjacency on the ancestral home, therefore, at the movement in the same way, their new residences should not be so far one from another as we have this at present. The most plausible way of the resettlement of the ancestors of the Gilaki and the Talishi to the southwest coast of the Caspian Sea, where they have their residences at present, was the way through the Derbent pass. First, it is the shortest way. Second, the Talyshi residence is in the vicinity of the Gilaki’s habitat now and, what is very important, to the south of them, h.e. this is exactly the same location as on the Urheimat. The disposition of their habitats had to be other if they would move in some other way. But whatever the migration path of the ancestors of the Kurd, Talyshi, and Gilaki was taken to the Middle East we have reason to believe that until that time, they, as well as the ancestors of the Ossets, left their Urheimats under the pressure of the Balts and Anglo-Saxons. However, they still remained in Eastern Europe, when most deals of the Iranians migrated to Asia. The ancestors of the Baluchi and Mazandarani were among these Iranian tribes as their languages belong to the same north-western group of the Iranian languages as Kurdish, Talyshi, and Gilaki.


The beginning of the Iranian migration.

The names of the tribes having formed the first wave of the migration are marked by red color.


Thus, we can assume that the first wave of Iranian immigrants in Central Asia was formed by the ancestors of the modern Sarikolis, Pamir Iranians (Shugnans, Bartangs, Yazgulams, etc.), Persians, Afghans, and Sogdians (Yagnobi), i.e., the Iranian tribes that settled in the southern part of the common Iranian territory and in areas along the Dnieper. It is natural to assume that these habitats were once occupied by other Iranian tribes, who for some time remained in Europe and they should be connected with historical Cimmerians. The above-mentioned climate change, which led to a decrease in productivity of the steppe, can not lead to its complete abandonment. Another thing is that the newly arrived population to the steppe could not be numerous and to maintain its existence, except for economic activity, was to looting neighboring populations of the forest-steppe zone.


General picture of the Iranian migration in Minor and Central Asia


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 Azov and Black Sea steppes and left traces of their stay in the steppes of Ukraine and the North Caucasus in archaeological sites that are combined into a common 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 670-680", which contradicts Herodotus' statement about persecuting the Cimmerians by the Scythians. Moreover, there are facts that speak about their joint raids on the Assyrian province. In general, the sources reported mainly about Cimmerians but the Scythians were mentioned for several years and then only 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 allows 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 15 shows some of them sometimes with matches in other Iranian languages:


Table 15. 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 и др.). 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.

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]. M.I.


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 other monuments 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:


Right: Kurdish toponymy in Hungary and the Balkans.


Ibrány, a town in Szabolcs-Szatmár-Bereg county – Kurd. îbram "request".

Miskolc, a city in northeastern Hungary – Kurd miş "abundant, plentiful", qulç "corner".

Gelej, a village in Borsod-Abaúj-Zemplén county – Kurd. gelî "ravine".

Heves, a small city in eastern Hungary – Kurd hevs "fear", hevşî "sheep house".

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

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

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

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

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 second flow of Cimmerians to Asia Minor went through the Belorechensky Pass and further along the Black Sea in the region of the settlement of Adyghe tribes, so we can assume that this was the second ethnic group of the Cimmerians. The decrypted names of Teushpa and Ligdamisa 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 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 "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 districtt 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 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:

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".

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

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 many families of the steppe peoples to the Seversky land, among whom were 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 Left-Bank Ukraine are deciphered using the Kurdish language too. 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. havris "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.
Red dots mark settlements of Ukraine where surnames of Kurdish origin are recorded.
Burgundy dots correspond to place names of Baltic origin.

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, 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). It can be assumed that the Kurds 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”, endam “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", lawe (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", lawe (lo) "child, son".

Even the very name 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.

As you can see, the history of the ancestors of modern Kurds is very rich in events and requires serious study. The question of the ethnic composition of the Cimmerians is even more complicated. If we admit that among the Cimmerian detachments that flooded Asia Minor there were other Iranian tribes, as well as the Circassians, it cannot be ruled out that other peoples of the North Caucasus also made raids. This assumption is confirmed by the active participation of Chechens in the historical events of Eastern Europe in the 1st millennium AD. (see the section Pechenegs and Magyars). Summing up, it can be argued that the scanty information of historical documents should be supplemented with more onomastic data.