Russian version

Copyright © 1999 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.


by Sergei V. Rjabchikov

The most ancient Russian Cyrillic inscription (beginning of the 10th century) is written down on an earthenware pot discovered at the site Gnezdovo, near Smolensk; this vessel was manufactured at the Crimea or in the region of Tmutarakan' (Simonov 1977: 22-3, fig.5). This record is presented in the figure 1.

Figure 1.
The text reads G-O-R-O-U-H-SHCH-A. The letter N is written under the text; four short lines are represented below. The combination O-U reads as the sound u in Old Russian records. In my previous works (Rjabchikov 1998a; 1998b; 1999a) I have proved that the vowels could be omitted in the early Russian inscriptions on the vessels (first and foremost the letter a is absent). So the letter N reads na 'on; toward; to', and the words N G-O-R-O-U read na goru 'to a mountain'.

Now one can decode the strange word H-SHCH-A. Recently I showed that the Russian word kazak 'Cossack' descended from the words registered as k''ush''h'ech'es 'mountain-dweller' and k''ush''h'e 'mountain' in the modern Circassian language (cf. also the old place name Kasahia known in the Greek sources and denoting the Old Circassian territory) (Rjabchikov 1999b).

The etimology of the Circassian word k''uysh''h'e 'mountain' is justified (Shagirov 1977a: 236-7): it consists of k''ue 'ravine; gorge; valley' and sh''h'e 'head; top'. Besides, the term k''ue has a variant, h''uat 'ravine; hollow; narrow' (Shagirov 1977a: 231). Interestingly, the sounds k and h are interchangeable ones in several Circassian words (I have found several examples in Shagirov 1977a, 1977b). On the strength of these data the word H-SHCH-A is associated with the name of the ancient Kasahia and with the modern k''ush''h'e, k''uysh''h'e 'mountain' (1).

What do the four short lines mean? Such lines were used for the count in the Russian texts taken down on the vessels from Tmutarakan' and Belaya Vezha (Sarkel) (Rjabchikov 1998b). One line denotes edin 'one'. This word signifies 'day' in certain texts in Church Slavonic (Diachenko 1993: 170). These marks mean 'the four days' and denote the time of the trip from the ancient town Tmutarakan' (Tamatarha) located on the Taman' peninsula (now it is a part of Krasnodar Territory, Russia) to the mountains of Kasahia.

Thus, a report about the contacts between the ancient Russians and Circassians is preserved.


1. Cf. the name of Koshchei (Kashchei) Bessmertny, a character of the Russian fairy tales.


Diachenko, G., 1993. Polny tserkovno-slavyansky slovar'. Moscow: Izdatel'sky otdel Moskovskogo Patriarkhata.

Rjabchikov, Sergei V., 1998a. Tainstvennaya Tmutarakan'. Krasnodar: Torgovo-promyshlennaya palata Krasnodarskogo kraya.

Rjabchikov, Sergei V., 1998b. Delovye zapisi drevnikh russov. Dusha moya, September 1998, Nr 18(35), p. 8.

Rjabchikov, Sergei V., 1999a. I Have Found an Autograph of Saint Nikon. "Tmutarakan', an Outlying Land" Home Page.

Rjabchikov, Sergei V., 1999b. "Ancient Cossacks" Home Page.

Shagirov, A.K., 1977a. Etimologichesky slovar' adygskikh (cherkesskikh) yazykov. Vol. 1. Moscow: Nauka.

Shagirov, A.K., 1977b. Etimologichesky slovar' adygskikh (cherkesskikh) yazykov. Vol. 2. Moscow: Nauka.

Simonov, Rem A., 1977. Matematicheskaya mysl' Drevney Rusi. Moscow: Nauka.

Copyright © 1999 by Sergei V. Rjabchikov. All Rights Reserved.

Published 24 August 1999.

Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.

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