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Valentyn Stetsyuk (Lviv, Ukraine)

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The Ethnic Composition of the Population of Great Scythia According Toponymy.


Experts have narrow and broad understanding of Scythia and its different division on parts. We will understand under Scythia space from the Don River up to tthe Prut River and from the Pripyat River to the shores of the Black and Azov Seas, in accordance with the areas of greatest prevalence of sites of the Scythian culture. The population of this space could hardly be ethnically homogeneous. The analysis of Pontic epigraphy showed that its composition was very diverse, and this diversity was increasing from Scythian times to the middle of the first millennium AD. (See. Scythian, Sarmatian, and Alan-Englo-Saxon Onomastikons).

Systematization of various substrate onomastics recorded in historical documents and monuments is practically impossible without an accurate idea of the prevailing ethnoses among the entire population of Great Scythia. The revelation of their presence in this country is possible by completely different methods than the phonological-morphological analysis of all the vast material on the basis of a preliminary idea of ​​the ethnic composition of Scythia, formed even when ethnology did only its first steps. The variety of substrate onomastics in the Northern Black Sea Region is such that many names can be deciphered by the languages ​​of peoples who never lived in the Northern Black Sea region, such as the Hittites, or who stayed there for a short time in insignificant numbers, such as Indo-Aryans, Thracians or Celts. Trying to decipher the substratum toponymy with the these languages, one of the researchers gives an explanation to the multitude of names of geographical microobjects, while it does not explain hundreds of names of large ones (SHAPOSHNIKOV ALEKSANDR KONSTANTINOVICH. 2007). The attraction of Iranian languages, whose speakers are generally accepted to popupate Scythia, only partially solves the problem. As a result, the question arises if not the Hittites, not the Celts, not the Thracians, not the Indo-Arians, and not even the Iranians, then who could have given the names to many of the large objects, as no doubt it happened in prehistoric times? Answer to this question cannot be given by phonological-morphological analysis. On the other hand, if several toponyms are decoded by one of the languages, then they should not be scattered on a huge space, but have to be concentrated in one place, which increases the probability of the correctness of made decryption.

We already know that most of this territory, namely the Steppe zone, Forest-steppe oh Right-Bank Ukraine, Carpathian Mountains, the small spaces in Hungary and Poland were inhabited mainly by Bulgars and then pjace names should confirm this. As we also know, ancestors of the modern Kurds, which are associated with Cimmerians, dwelled compactly in Podolia. Anglo-Saxons, that is, Neuroi and Melanchlainoi, cover a large territory on both sides of the Dnieper (see the section "Anglo-Saxons on the Ukraine". They also left their traces in the toponymy. Budinoi which are confidently identified with Mordvins by historians, left few traces in the toponymy, but the places of their settlements can be localized along the banks of the Sula and Psyol Rivers. Ancestors of the Ossetians (they were obviously Herodotus' Irycai, according to the similarity of this ethnic name to the self-name of Ossetians Iron) dwelled on the upper reaches of the Vorskla and Oskol Rivers. To the east, up to the Volga River was the territory of the Magyars, as we have agreed to call the ancestors of the Hungarians. Quite a lot of names on the territory of the Left-Bank Ukraine are decrypted by means of the Greek language. More or less compact, they are located around the city of Poltava and found scattered in neighboring areas (see. Map below).




Scythia at Herodotus' and the next time

On the map, the toponyms of Bulgarish origin are marked with a burgundy color, the azure names are of Anglo-Saxon, red Kurdish, purple Mordovian, green Ossetian, dark green Chechen, orange Hungarian, black Greek. The red line marks the border of Scythia of Herodotus.
The violet rhomb denotes the hillfort of Belsky near the village of Kuzemin, which some scientists associate with the ancient city of Gelon.
The red rhomb denotes a Scythian fortification near the village of Chotyniec in Poland.


The highest density of Bulgarian place names is observed in western Ukraine. Bulgars dwelled here since the time of the Corded Ware culture (CWC) and became successively creators of Komarsv and Vysotska cultures. They also have to be referred with early sites of the Scythian culture. Settled in a while Carpathians, Bulgars also mastered the Tisza basin, which has become the contact zone of the Scythian and the Hallstatt cultures (the group of Kushtanovitsia sites). Then Bulgars moved along the banks of the Tisza River into the territory of Hungary, as evidenced by the band of Bulgarish olace names, which stretches from the Transarpathian towards Lake Balaton. However, archeology does not confirm the mass penetration of carriers of the Scythian culture into the territory of Hungary, although its typical features are found among many sites of that time.

Poland's territory was also inhabited by Bulgars since the time of CWC, but Scythian settlements are absent here. They are concentrated mainly in Eastern Poland, where in 2016 a Scythian hillfort was discovered near the village of Khotyniec, dating by radiocarbon analysis of the 8th century BC. The archaeological finds of the Scythian type in the rest of the territory can be left by the Scythians during single robbery raids. A large concentration of finds of the Scythian type is observed in Transylvania, but place names does not indicate the mass Scythian penetration here. Scattered place names on the Romanian territory, decrypted by means of the Chuvash language may refer the middle of the first millennium AD.

For more details Bulgar as Iranian, Finno-Ugric, and Anglo-Saxon place names are considered in the relevant sections, which are constantly updated with new data. Here we consider the issue of settling the steppe zone of Grea Scythia out of its peripheral areas as the most problematic.

We know that moving from western Ukraine to the east, the Scythian-Bulgars reached the Dnieper River and this movement is marked by a chain of names of Bulgarian origin from the city of Chervonohrad in Lviv Region up to Kirovohrad and Cherkassy. Space of Chornolis culture and place names indicate that they first settled the Vorskla basin, and then pupulated the steppe part of the Left-Bank Ukraine. According to ancient historians, most of the Scythian settlements were located just here. We can assume that some of them retained their names till present days, despite the "Great Migration" and the subsequent migration waves, which lasted until the middle of the second millennium. However, the new migrants were mostly nomads and not anough numerous to form their own permanent settlements. Historically, people settled in convenient natural conditions and the aliens did not make sense to look for new places, so they settled there, where human already dwelled before. It is very often the name of the settlement remained the same, despite the change of linguistic identity of its inhabitants. The same applies to other geographic features. In addition, there were always such remote places, where nomads did not get and indigenous population remained there until the time of mass invasion of new migrants. The difficulty lies in the fact that when searching Scythian settlements, we use the Chuvash language, which belongs to the Turkic group, but the Turks among the newcomers were quite a few. Tribes of Pechenegs, Cumans, Tatars inhabited the steppes of Ukraine in turn, Turkic-speaking Greeks, the so-called Urums inhabit the coast of Black Sea till now. All they could leave their traces in the toponymy. To distinguish them from place names of Bulgarian origin can be difficult. For example, the names of settlements Temyrivka, Kardash or river Ingul and Sura can be deciphered as by means of the Chuvash and other Turkic languages. However, the Chuvash language is sufficiently different from other Turkic ones phonologically and its vocabulary has a lot of the original words, which are absent in other Turkic languages. Conversely, some clearly Turkic names have no good Chuvash matches (Saksagan', Tashlyk). This fact facilitates the search, however some of the place names, which can be decrypted only by means of the Chuvash language, can occur since the time of the Khazar Khaganate, when the Bulgars populated the same place as their ancestors. Additional research should and can separate out of all place names such which refer to Scythian times. Everything this can be added that during colonization of the steppe immigrants from other places could bring names of their previous settlements. For example, the name of the city of Chuguev has its respective Chuguevka in the steppe. This is additional complexity, but such cases are a little bit.

With these considerations, a work has been begun for searching "dark" place names, incomprehensible for Ukrainians, in the steppes of Ukraine, by means of the Chuvash and later Old English languages. Such geographical objects were found more than two hundred. We may speaf more confident about the origin of their names when settlements are located in clusters or form chain. Several of such chains are seen on the map. No doubt they mark the path of migrants and give an idea of its course. We can assume that the relocation had long-term nature by small groups, and there was no movement of large numbers of people simultaneously. Settlements in turn were based in convenient locations at a distance of 15-20 kilometers from each other, and sometimes even less. Thus settlers tried not to lose contact with each other. Obviously, none led this process and direction of movement was determined by geographical conditions mainly by watersheds. Clusters of settlements often consist of three or four units. The only case of a large agglomeration is a group of settlements in the Donbass, which center lies near the city of Stakhanov. Here, 15-20 settlements and four rivers that have clearly not Slavic names are located an area of approximately 1000 square kilometers. First the Chuvash language was used for description, but all of a sudden, it was found that the name of the village of Vergulevka in Perevalsk district of Luhansk Region corresponds well to the OE. wergulu "nettle". Origin of the word F. Holthausen notes as "vague" (HOLTHAUSEN F. 1974: 391), but we can assume that it is related to the Latin. *vĭrgĕlla "a little twig", which W. Meyer-Lübke restores according to several Romance languages (MEYER-LÜBKE W. 1992: 782). Since traces of Romance languages in the toponymy of Donbass were not found one may assume that the name of the settlement that once existed on the site Vergulivka was given by Anglo-Saxons. Their presence nearby, namely in the Kharkiv Region is confirms by toponymy. As for the origin of the Old Engilsh word, it should be considered as Italic substrate on common ancestral home of Italics and Anglo-Saxons.

Following the discovery of the reliable Anglo-Saxon place-name attempt was made to find near others. They were found, although not in large numbers, most surely we can talk about the Anglo-Saxon origin of the name of the Mius River.


Ar left: The Mius River
Photo of lga GOK. Rostov-on-Don.


Anglo-Saxon offers us the word mēos "moss, swamp" which may be suitable for the name of the river with the marshy floodplain. Name of the river is in common with the Greek name of the Azov Sea Meotian lake or swamp (Μαιῶτις λίμνη). The same root is present in the name of the Kalmis River, but it could be named by analogy later as Anglo-Saxon place names were not found on its banks and near.

Other toponyms of possible Anglo-Saxon origin will be discussed in the sequel. It has to be recalled that our goal is to establish the ethnic composition of the population of the steppes, rather than a desire to find an explanation for all confusing names which can have most diverse origins what is of great interest to local history. Accordingly, it is assumed that some of the place names, especially isolated, may have a different interpretation. Only the clusters of names decrypted be means of one language can be taken into account but some of them may be coincidence. Thus, most interpretations are probabilistic in nature, if clear crrespondence of names with local environmental conditions are absent.

To explain the methods of search and decoding of names let us consider a specific example. There is in Sinelnikovo district of Dnepropetrovsk Region a village of Katrazhka. Chuv. katrashka "a clot", "uneven, lumpy" is suitabl for decryption. However Ukrainian word of uncertain origin katraga "a hut" and a diminutive of it katrazhka are known. Perhaps the word was borrowed from the ancient Bulgars, but the settlement could be called both Ukrainians and Scythians. Searching logical explanation whivh of the names is more suitable for the village has no sense, because we will never know about the motivation of the people who gave the name. This case was considered doubtful until it turned out that it is part of the chain of Bulgarian place nanes, and therefore its Bulgarian origin was considered more likely. Mentioned chain begins by the village of Bulahovka in Pavlograd district of Dnepropetrovsk region. There are in Ukraine, Poland, Russia settlements with or similar many: Bulakh, Bulakhiv, Bolekhiv, Bolekhivtsi, Bolokhovo, Bolechów, Bolehówice, Bolkhov. All of them can be decrypted by Chuv. pulăkh "fertility". Further down in the chain, which stretches to the south, such village are:


Ozhenkivka Chuv. ăshshăn "warm, affably".

Katrazhka Chuv. katrashka "a clot", "uneven, lumpy".

Mazhary Chuv. mushar "firm, strong".

Begma Chuv. pĕk "to incline", măy "neck".

Garasivka (Harasivka) Chuv. karas "honeycomb", kărăs "scanty, poor".

Basan' Chuv. pusă "to suffer".


Now back to the Stakhanov agglomeration around for considering clearly not Slavic place names having also no explanation in the Turkic languages other than in Chuvash, but can be interpreted by means of the Chuvash, Old English or Ossetian languages. Noteworthy is that some dark names relate to the railway station:

Avdakovo, a railway station in the town of Brianka Os. awd "seven", tag 1. "thread", "strip", 2. "forest belt, grove".

Borzhykivka, a railway station near the town of Debaltsevo OE. borg debt, fualt, ēce eternal, endless.

Sentyanivka, a railway station on line Luhans'k Lysychans'k Os. synt "raven", syntæ "net, snare". This appellative is often found in the toponymy of Ossetia, but it can have a different meaning for place names (TSAGAEVA A. Dz. 2010: 460).

Obviously, when laying railway, names for train stations were given accordind names of villages that have not evolved in the city because of the lack in these areas of coal deposits, which extraction began in the Donbas in the 19th century. But nearby are deposits of copper ore that was mined by people ever since the Bronze Age. There was a powerful mining and metallurgical center in Eastern Europe, which is composed of about thirty copper pits. Now smelting copper from the local ore if uneconomical, but at Scythian times the deposit could be not exhausted so people settled in the immediate area. One major place is Kartamishy Mine near the train station Kartamishy. This name can be understood by means of Old English as "devastated wasteland" (OE. ceart "wild common land" and myscan "to break, ruin"). In this case, the name fits well, because the terrain here could really be subjected to human impacts in the extraction of copper ore. There are near-by the Kartamish River and two villages in Ukraine, which have similar names, but located far from the copper mines.



Copper Mine Kartamysh


There is a few kilometers to the east of Kartamyshy the railway station Kartanash, the first part of its name is also OE. ceart "wild common land" and the second one can be seen as OE. næss "ness, cliff, headland". Following place names of Bulgarian origin may be as follows:

Muratovo, a village on the left bank of the Siverskyi Donets River Chuv. marata weir-basket, coop.

Pakhalivka, a illage opposite Muratovo Chuv. pakhal to appraise, evaluate.

Toshkivka, a village on the right bank of the Siverskyi Donets River Chuv. dial. tăshka to mix.

In our agglomeration can see some chain of names that begins Carpathian village. By title Mountains locals called the settlement could not, moreover, that the village of the same name is in the Ulyanovsk region, close to the Chuvash Republic, and Chuvash in the village live. Obviously, for decoding the name can be considered Chuv. car "to fence off, block" and pat "at all, absolutely". The name of the station Brazol near the town of Lutugino can be understood as "full well" (Chuv. pĕr "full", çăl "well"). This place-name for the nomadic peoples are very believable and has a similar name Brazolove village in the Dnipropetrovsk region.

There ore on the opposite side of the mine Kartamishev also a few cryptic names. Names Bakhmut, Kurdyumivka and Kodema, obviously have Bulgarish origin, and to the Anglo-Saxon could be considered the following:

Kramatorsk OE crammian "to press something into something else". The previous name Kram was added by the name of the Torets River.

Holmivs'kyi, a twon in Donetsk Region OE. holm wave, sea, water

Hladosove (Gladosove), a twon in Donetsk Region OE glæd shining, gracious, kind, ōs pagan divinity.

Dyliivka, a twon in Donetsk Region OE. dyle dill.

Korsun', a village and a river in Donetsk Region OE cursian to plait.

Names of other settlements in the Donets Basin and neighboring Rostov region of Russia can also have Anglo-Saxon origin, such as Bataysk, Kumshatske, Kumshatskoye, Schotovo. Anglo-Saxon way to Donbass are marked by names of villages of Kartamishy and Volvenkovo. The latter can be explained by OE. fūl "dirty, spoiled", weng "field, meadow" what is in meaning near the neighboring Kartamishy.

Anglo-Saxon place names n the lower Dnieper are not found, only towards the Dniester River there are several place names, which could belong to the Anglo-Saxons, but they are quite a bit in order to speak confidently about their presence here at Scythian times. However, you should bear in mind the following names of settlements: Byrlivka, Holma, Rascov (three villages), Strutinka (two villages), Tulchin.

Pontic epigraphy and other data give reason to believe that the Ossetians were not among the Scythians, but in the Sarmatian time Iranian ethnic element in the steppes of the Black Sea, apparently begins to dominate. The analysis of the Sarmatian onomasticon shows that among the tribal leadership of the multinational population of the steppes the Iranians could be up to 40%, and among common people they could be more. Basically it could be Ossetians and partially Kurds. Obviously, in the Scythian time Ossetians populated the upper Vorskla and Oskol Rivers, but eventually they begin to penetrate into the steppe in two ways. One went along the course of the Vorskla River, and the other along the Oskol and Kalitva and then to the mouth of the Don River

Migration Path of the Ossetians from their ancestral homeland to the Caucasus is marked by the Ossetian toponymy. They left such place names in the eastern part of the Great Scythia:

Azov, Sea of Azov and a town Os. as "the size, number", "adult" (previously "big, large"). Obviously Ossetian word was borrowed from some Finno-Ugric languages where similar words (iso/izo/ots'/udts') have meaning either "large" or "small". The second part of the word transformed from *av/ov "water", presented in different forms in all Iranian languages. In the modern Ossetian it is contained in æfsurh euphemism for "water".

Bataysk, a town in the mouth of the Don River Os. bataiyn "to thaw, melt", "to be useful".

Kalitva, some villages and two rivers have this word in th names the root of Os kælyn "to flow" is added by the attributive suffix -t and *af/ov "water". See Azov.

Khalan', a river, rt of the Oskol River and two villages with similar names on it Os khalon "crow".

Kotelva, a town in Poltava Region Os. k'utu "barn", læuuyn "to stay, remain".

Oskol, a river, lt of the Siv. Donets River and two towns with similar names on it Os. as "size, quantity" (obviously former "large"), kælyn "to flow". Cf. Vorskla.

Tomarovka, a town in Belgorod Region of Russia Os. tomar "to rush".

Tsimlansk, a town in Rostov Region, Russia Os. tsym "cornel", lænk "valley, lowland".

Udy (Uda), a river, lt of the Siv. Donets River Os. ud (udy) "soul, spirit".

Vorskla, a river, lt of the Dnieper River Os. urs "white", kælyn "to flow".

Ziborovka, a village in Shebekino district of Belgorod Region of Russia Os. dzybyr "wooden plough".

As can be seen out of the distribution of toponymy, the Ossetians migrated to the places of their present habitat along the shores of the Azov and Black Seas. Obviously, they could not move directly because most of Ciscaucasia had been previously inhabited by Anglo-Saxons (compare the distribution of Anglo-Saxon toponyms on the map above). The area of the Anglo-Saxon settlement here is determined most convincing by such place names:

Yeya, a river flowing to Azov Sea and originated names OE. ea "water, river".

Sandata, a river, lt of the Yegorlyk, lt of the Manych, lt of the Don River OE. sand "sand", ate "weeds".

Bolshoy and Malyi Gok (Hok in local pronunciation), rives, rt of Yegorlyk, lt of the Manych, lt of the Don OE. hōk "hook".

Guzeripl' (Huzeripl' in local pronunciation), a settlement in the Maikop municipal district of the Republic of Adygea OE. hūs "house", " ", rippel "undergrowth".