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

THE INTERPRETATION OF AN ANCIENT TMUTARAKAN' TEXT

by Sergei V. Rjabchikov

According to a legend, a Cossack heard the following song of witches on the Lysaya hill (near the town Kiev) (Sakharov 1885):

Kumara,
Nih, nih, zapalam, bada.
Eshohomo, lavasa, shibboda.
Kumara.
A. a. a. -o. o. o. -i. i. i. -e. e. e. -u. u. u. -ye. ye. ye.
La, la, sob, li, li, sob, lu, lu, sob!
Zhunzhan.
Vihada, ksara, guyatun, guyatun.
Liffa, prradda, guyatun, guyatun.
Nappalim, vashiba, buhtara.
Mazitan, ruahan, guyatun.
Zhunzhan.
Yandra, kulaynemi, yandra,
Yandra.

I suppose that it is a distorted ancient Russian text composed in the Tmutarakan' Principality. The word zapalam compares with the name of the fortress Polamrar, otherwise with the name of the town Tmutarakan'. The word bada may be compared with the name of the town Bata (it was registered by the Greek geographer and historian Strabo; modern town Novorossisk). The word nih compares with the name of the town Nikopsis (it was registered by the Byzantine Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus).

The word kumara (k umara) means 'to a the death/sea', i.e. near the Black Sea, cf. the name of fairytale river Smorodina < *S moro 'the river Kuban' (lit. 'Near the sea/death').

Let us research the string of the words nappalim, vashiba, buhtara, mazitan. The word nappalim is name of the town Anapa indeed. Here the word lim corresponds to Greek limen 'landing-stage; harbour'. The word buhtara corresponds to the form *bah-tar(i) 'a large shore' reconstructed by O.N. Trubachev (1977: 19) from the terms bagtari, tarmagno and place names Aktar, Ahtarsky. I think that the terms bagtari and tarmagno give the form bag tar(i) magno wich correlates with the expression buhtara, mazitan. So the latter means 'A large shore (or bend/shore) - the river Kirpili'. The name Mazi (magno) tan signifies 'the river Kirpili', cf. Old Indian magna 'to dive; to sink (participium perfecti passivi)' and majjani 'to sink; to flow into'. Interestingly, the word tan 'river' is the reflex of a Scythian (Iranian) word. The word vashiba from the examined string of the words may be a place name, too. The name of the village Vyshesteblievskaya might replace the ancient name. Notice that this village is located on the bank of the estuary Zokur reflected in the expression do kur Tmutorokanya 'to the cocks of the town Tmutarakan'' in Slovo o polku Igoreve (The Song of Igor's Host), a masterpiece of the earliest Russian literature.

Now one can decode the following segment: Vihada, ksara, guyatun, guyatun. Liffa, prradda, guyatun, guyatun. I read the words vihada ksara as vyhod k Sara 'the exit for (the place Sara)', cf. the name of the place Saraka at the river Vardan (Kuban) (Trubachev 1977: 22). Then the Sindian inscription so-ra may denote this place name. Moreover, the expression vihada ksara may be read as vyhod Kasara 'the departure of the Khazars'. Since the signs for the letters p and ya are similar in some variants of the ancient Slavonic/Scythian writing system cherty i rezy, I think that the word guyatun is the misreading of gupa tun 'the river Kuban' (1). Here the word tun is the reflex of the Scythian (Iranian) word 'river'. The segment Liffa, prradda, guyatun, guyatun contain the word prradda, cf. Russian brodnik 'ancient Russian inhabitant of the Tmutarakan' Principality'. What does the word liffa signify? I think it is connected with Russian lihoy 'dashing', as sometimes the sound f in the South Russian dialects corresponds to the sounds h and hv in the Russian language. The expression liffa prradda signifies 'a dashing, brave brodnik'.

The word ruahan is written between the names buhtara mazitan (the river Kirpili) and guyatun (the river Kuban). I think that this word corresponds to the name of the character Ravana from Ramayana, an Old Indian epic. This poem tells that the god Indra of the Indo-Arians waged war with Ravana, the king of rakshasa, and his son Meghanada (Toporov 1991: 534). The latter name resembles the word mazi- (magno) from the song. It is well known that Meghanada won a victory over Indra. Indra was taken away to the island Lanka. Then the god Brahma and other gods beged of Meghanada to let Indra loose. I think that this report is a memory about an ancient war. After it the Indo-Aryans went to India. But the Sindi - descendants of the ancient Indo-Aryans - stayed in the Northern Caucasus partially (Trubachev 1976; 1978). I believe that word rakshasa is a designation of the Proto-Slavs (ancient Russians) (2). Then the island Lanka is the Tmutarakan' island (now it is the Taman' Peninsula, Krasnodar Territory, Russia). Actually, I have read the term Lan on the coins of a merchant from the town of Tamatarha (Tmutarakan'). The name of the Russian Prince Bravlin (Bravlan) means '(The Prince) owning (conquering) the island Lan'. Besides, the Alani might be named for the island Lan/Lanka (Tmutarakan'), as they lived there.

The word zhunzhan is associated with Russian zhuzzi 'buzz!'. It is a hint of a bee, otherwise a designation of Tmutarakan' in the Russian folk poetry (Rjabchikov 1998: 18); here a bee is requested by the Russians of the central zone to fly from oversea (from the Taman' Peninsula, former Tmutarakan'):

Ty pchyolychka yaraya,
Ty vyleti s zamorya,
Oy lyalyo-lyalyo,
Ty vyleti s zamorya!

The exclamation lyalyo-lyalyo resembles the string of the words la, la, sob, li, li, sob, lu, lu, sob! of the mysterious song. Here the word sob corresponds to the words s zamorya 'from oversea' and reads s Ob 'from Ob (from the region of the Taman' bay)', cf. Opissas 'the Taman' bay', Sindian *opitia- 'back' (Trubachev 1977: 21).

The string of the words yandra, kulaynemi, yandra, yandra reports about the god Indra. The word kulaynemi reads k ulay nemi 'to a beehive - dumb'. So the god Indra incarnated in a bee (Ivanov and Toporov 1992: 355) is a dumb god. This text informs about a victory of the Proto-Slavs Ravana and Meghanada over the Indo-Arian god Indra.

Now one can examine the string of the words eshohomo, lavasa, shibboda. They are in my opinion the place names. The word shibboda is comparable with the name of the place Sibensis near the town Tamatarha (Tmutarakan'). The word lavasa is comparable with Old Indian lavan 'salt; salted'; it may be the description of an estuary. The word eshohomo is comparable with Old Indian aksa 'eye' and homa 'sacrifice (in fire)'. Really, the cult of the fire/sun is registered in the Sindian inscription on the Maikop slab. Furthermore, the fragment of a Tmutarakan' amphora contains the word sush 'dryness' and the picture of an eye (Rjabchikov 1998: 22-3).

NOTES

1. Cf. Russian gubit' 'to undo; to destroy'.

2. This word is associated with word Rocas 'the people near the Black Sea' (it was registered by the Gothic historian Jordanes) < Sindian *rokas 'light-coloured' (Trubachev 1977: 22). On the other hand, Russian Rus' 'Russia' came from Indo-Aryan ruksa- 'light-coloured' (Trubachev 1981: 11).

REFERENCES

Ivanov, V.V. and V.N. Toporov, 1992. Pchela. In: S.A. Tokarev (ed.) Mify narodov mira. Vol. 2. Moscow: Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya, pp. 354-6.

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

Sakharov, I.P., 1885. Skazaniya russkogo naroda. St. Petersburg.

Toporov, V.N., 1991. Indra. In: S.A. Tokarev (ed.) Mify narodov mira. Vol. 1. Moscow: Sovetskaya Entsiklopediya, pp. 533-5.

Trubachev, O.N., 1976. O sindakh i ikh yazyke. Voprosy yazykoznaniya, No 4: 39-63.

Trubachev, O.N., 1977. Lingvisticheskaya periferiya drevneyshego slavyanstva. Indoariytsy v Severnom Prichernomor'e. Voprosy yazykoznaniya, No 6: 13-31.

Trubachev, O.N., 1978. Nekotorye dannye ob indoariyskom yazykovom substrate Severnogo Kavkaza v antichnoe vremya. Vestnik drevney istorii, No 4: 34-42.

Trubachev, O.N., 1981. Indoarica v Severnom Prichernomor'e. Istochniki. Interpretatsiya. Rekonstruktsiya. Voprosy yazykoznaniya, No 2: 3-21.


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

Published 27 November 1999.

Sergei V. Rjabchikov, Krasnodar, RUSSIA.


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