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Iranian Place Names in the Ukraine


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Iranian Place Names in the Ukraine.

There are on the areas of the Urheimat Iranian tribes relatively few corresponding place names. The situation is better on the Urheimat of the Kurds in the area between the Upper Desna and Upper Oka, as well as in adjacent areas. There are several place-names presumably of Kurdish origin. The following list may have accidentally consonant words, but there are quite convincing interpretations:


The village of (v.) Atiusha to the north-east of the town of (t.) Baturyn in Chernihiv Region – Kurd ateş “огонь”;

the river (r.) Beryshka, the left tributary (lt) of the Kleven’, the right tributary (rt) of the Seym, rt of the Desna, lt of the Dnieper – Kurd birûsk “lighting, thunderstorm”;

r. Esman’, rt of the Ret’, lt of the Desna, r. Esman’, rt of the Kleven’, rt of the Seym, r. Osmon’, rt of the Svapa, rt of the Seym – Kurd e’sman “sky”.

r. Navla, rt of the Desna – Kurd newal “valley”;

r. Resseta, rt of the Zhizdra, lt of the Oka, rt of the Volga – despite the good phonetic compliance with Kurd. reş "black" and setî "meanness" such name for the river is doubtful; yet Kurd. reş-în "to splash" and ta "thread" can be considered;

r. Ret’, lt of the Desna, r. Retik, rt of the Ret’ – Kurd rêtin “to pour”;

r. Tuskar’, rt of the Seym – Kurd tûz “a birch”; karî “a mushroom”;

r. Kharaseya, rt of the Svapa, rt of the Seym – Kurd xarû “clear”, eşîya “a thing”, xur “swift stream”; com. Ir xur, xor “the sun” and saia “to shine”;

v. Vorgol on the river Vorgolka, rt of the Kleven’, rt of the Seym – Kurd war “place”, gol “lake”; the village lies really on the bank of a lake;

r. Zvan, the strait between the Kleven’ and Seym, the name is consonant to Zhvan in the West Ukraine – Kurd jwan “meeting” or cwan “beautiful”.

There were found on the Urheimat of the Ossetians in the basin of the Sozh, the rt of the Dnieper only such compliance: r. Sozh - Osset. soj “fat, lard," r. Resta, rt of the Sozh - Osset rast “strait”. In Sogdian (Yagnobi) Urheimat between the Desna and Iput’ flows the Obesta, lt of the Kleven’, rt of the Seym. This name is good explained by common Iranian ab, ob "water" and Yagn asta "noisy". Kurd. zong "swamp" and leyi "a strem" correspond good to the name of the town of Zamglai and the river Zamglai, the tributary of the Desna above Chernigov, but this area is the Urheimat of the Sogdians. Similar words are not found in the Yagnobi language, but no large language dictionaries of Yagnobi are at our disposal.

Place names of the presumably of Iranian origin in the more southern ranges of the common Iranian territory were also found, but no definite system in their spread was observed. Frequent changes of the population resulted to the loss of old names, or, at best, contributed to their transfer of one object to another. One can confidently speak about Iranian place names only in selected cases. For example, a funny name of the small river Tarapunka, rt of the Liutenka, lt of the Psel can be translated as "black mushroom" because common Iranian ​​tar(a) means "black" and pongo, ponka, fank - any round object. Earlier the word meant simply "mushroom", and it is present in this sense in many languages ​​(except for Iranian also Lat fungus, Mord panga, etc.), but only Iranian word Iran is well suited to its attribute. There is near the town of Zolotonosha in Cherkasy Region the rivers Irkley, lt of the Dnieper, and the village Irkleyiv on it, and almost opposite another Irkley flows into the Tiasmin, rt of the Dnieper. Both rivers flow in the ravines, so the Kurd erq "a ravine" and leyi - "a stream" approach to natural conditions very well. This is the area of ​​the Afghans, but similar words were not found as in Pashto and in other Iranian languages. The name of the village of Shengury, located near the village of Kobeliaki in Poltava Region, can be associated not only with the Kurds. şengari "good" or Pashto šəngara "a girl who ran away to marry a loved one", but also with other similar words of Finno-Ugric language family (eg Moksha siangiaria "green"). This village is located in the area of ​​formation of the ancient Persian language. Different variants can be in such situation. Whether the similar word was not found Persian, or the areas of the formation of some Iranian languages ​​were defined inaccurately, or the village founded by the Iranian migrants from more northern areas and was given its name by, or the word is of Finno-Ugric origin, as Mordvinians Moksha inhabited these places at some time? Maybe, quite unexpected explanations are also possible. In a situation where statistical data is very scanty, it is risky to made far-reaching explanation.

It is striking that mostly hydronyms have Iranian origin than place names, examples of which include:

T. Balakleja in Kharkiv Region and a village of the same name in Poltava Region - the first part of the word from Kurd. belek “white”б leyi - “a stream”; but rather the word has Ukrainian origin (Ukr balakliy “a chatterbox”;

v. Varva on the river Uday near the town of Pryluky – Afg. varva “carrion-eagle”;

v. Keleberda on the bank of the Dnieper in Čerkasy Region - Kurd. kele “head”, and berd “stone” suit phonetically good, but rather one have to find an attribute to Afg. kālə “a house”;

t. Merefa in Kharkiv Region – com. Ir. mar- /mer- “to die, dead” and Pers afy “a snake”;

v. Murafa near the town of Bohodukhiv in Kharkiv Region – words mor/mur/mar and afi/api have the same meaning in Iranian;

t. Nizhin in Chernihiv Region – Afg niҳan, Pers nišan „a sign, mark“;

v. Shaboltasivka to the south-west of the city of Novhorod-Siverski – Afg šabel “an afge, point” and Pers tus “birch”.

The place names Zheved’, Kerbutivka, Evminka, Belmachivka can have Iranian origin too.

However, particularly in subjects of the Iranian place names, we need to talk about place names of possible Kurdish origin. While analyzing unclear place names in Ukraine about 250 of them turned be having Kurdish roots, and most of all they are located in Khmelnytsky, Vinnytsia and Ternopil Regions (48, 44 and 38 units respectively).

Toponyms of Kurdish origin are mostly found in a relatively small afforested land area with black soil, bordering the Dniester in the south and clearly marked by large forest tracts in the west and north. As is clear on a forest map of the area, the river Zolota Lypa borders the western forestland, while a strip of forest stretches from the town pf Zolochiv to the north-east up to the town of Kremenec’, whence it extends eastward through the town of Shepetivka to the city of Zhitomyr1. Though the eastern forest tract is not articulated as clearly now, the territory to the south of Vinnycja and Khmel’nyc’kyj Regions remains significantly more wooded than Ternopil’ Region and the western part of Khmel’nyc’kyj Region. The cluster of names that may have Kurdish origin (Bachmanivka, Cylikya, Mirutyn, Naraivka, Honiakiv, Maniatyn) is located on the treeless area beyond forest north strip to the north of the town of Shepetivka.

The fact that the ancient Kurds settled the treeless area, is confirmed by the numerous names of villages of Ukraine, Belarus and Poland having the name of Maidan, which, although located in a wooded area, but on open areas. There are several such villages and forested parts of the Khmelnytsky Region (Maidan, Maidan of Alexander, Maidan Verbetsky, Maidan-Golenishchiv). The word Maidan is spread in the Ukrainian language and means not only "area", but also "lowland surrounded by forest". In Russian, this word means "forest glade." It is believed that this word is borrowed from the Turkic languages2, but ​words with initial m are extremely seldom in the Turkic languages, they are either borrowed or derived from the initial b. Sure, the Turks have borrowed this word from the Iranian languages, where this word is very common, it has the form of meydan in the Kurdish language.

Let us briefly consider some place names that have been recorded on that territory. There are in Ternopil and Vinnytsia Regions several settlements having stem juryn, there is also the river Jurin, lt of the Dniester, and this gives us reason to allow the origin of the names of the Kurd. çoran "to flow" Another left tributary of the Dniester Barysh with slow flow can origin from Kurd bariş "calm, quiet”. The village on the banks of the river has the same name. Yet the names of several villages match the names of nearby rivers or streams. There are in Khmelnytsky Region villages, Baglai, Buglai, and, Baglayky. These names can stem from Kurd. beq "a frog" and leyi "a stream”. Afg buglaj "a heron" fits too, but other place names having probable Afghan origin on the Right Bank Ukraine are just ones (eg the name of the town Shpola suits good to Afg. špol "corral", "fence" or the name of the village just south of Zhytomyr Singrury - cf Afg. šəngara "the girl who ran away to marry a loved one").

There are in Khmelnitsky and Vinnitsa Regions two rivers Zhvan and yet Zhvanchyk and several villages of the same name. Kurdish jwan means "meeting, appointment". Phonetic match is full, but the motivation of naming is questionable. Kurd. cwan "beautiful" is suited better. It is also not entirely clear motivation the naming of the river Seret, which has the tributaries of the Seret Left and Siret Right. Kurd. sereta "beginning" is not really suitable for the name of the river, but at the opposite end from the origins of the Seret, on the whole periphery of the Kurdish territory, there are at least three villages named Kitaygorod (Kytai-town), which can be "extreme, borderline settlement" stemming of the Kurd. kutayî "ending, the end." On the other hand, the name of the Seret can have Thracian origin (serita) from Indo-European root *ser- “to flow”3. However, there is in the Kurdish language yet the word siret "path", which also may be suitable for the name of the river. The names of villages Nara, Naraivka in Ternopil, Khmelnitsky and Vinnitsa Regions can be understood as a "family home" considering Kurd. nar - "fireplace" or “hearth” and e'yal "family."

Some scholars believe the name of the town of Zhmerynka derives from ethnonym "Cimmerians". M. Vasmer finds this explanation unconvincing (Vasmer Max, 1967, T2, 58), but considering the other facts, it seems plausible, especially because the modern Kurdish language has a lot of words like this place name such as gemaro "siege", qemer "month" etc. Not far from Zhmerinka flows the river Murafa, the etymology of the names discussed above.

As we cannot consider all place names of Kurdish origin in detail here, only a few additional examples are given below:

T. Avratin, northeast of Volochys’k in Ternopil’ Region – Kurd. afret, “a wife, woman”;

v. Baznikivka, to the south-west of Kozeva in Ternopil’ Region – Kurd. baz, “a falcon,” nikul, “a beak”;

v. Balakiry, east of Horodok in Ternopil’ Region – Kurd.bala, “top,” kûre “hearth”;

v. Chepeli near Brody in L’viv Region and northeast of Khmel’nyk in Vinnycja Region, and the village of Čepelivka in Khmel’nyc’kyj Region in the suburbs of Krasilov – Kurd. çepel, “dirty”;

v.Hermakivka (Germakivka), southeast of Borščev in Ternopil’ Region – Kurd. germik, “warm place”;

v.v. Velyki and Mali Dederkaly on the outskirts of Kremenec’ in Ternopil’ Region – Kurd. dederi, “a tramp,” kal, “old”;

v. Dzhulynka, to the north-east of Bershad’ in Vinnycja Region – Kurd. colan, “cradle”;

v. Kalaharivka (Kalagarivka), to the south-east of Hrymajliv in Ternopil’ Region – Kurd. qal, "to kindle,” agir, “a flame”;

v. Kilikiyiv, to the north-east of Slavuty in Khmel’nyc’kyj Region – Kurd. kelek, “ferry”;

v. Kokoshynci to the north of Hrymayliv in Ternopil’ Region – Kurd. kok, “fat”  “soup”;

v. Kokutkivci to the north-west of Ternopil’ – Kurd. ko, “curve,”kutek “cudgel;”

v. Mikhyrinci to north-east of Volochys’k – Kurd. mexer “ruins”;

v. Palashivka to the west of Čortkiv in Ternopil’ Region – Kurd. pelaş, “straw”;

v. Tauriv to the west of Ternopil’ – Kurd. tawer, “rock;”

v. Zamekhiv to the east of Nova Ushycja in Khmel’nyc’kyj Region – Kurd. zome, “nomadic community ”, hév - “to lead”.

The band of Kurdish place names extanded along the left bank of the Dniester to Mogyliv Podilsky and then turns to Haysyn and it becomes network in the right-bank forest-steppe after Uman.

Undoubted presence of the Ancient Kurds on the Right Bank Ukraine immediately raises the question of which way they got there. With the general movement of the Iranian tribes from the territory of their initial settlement between the Dnieper and the Don to the south and south-east can be assumed that the ancestors of the Kurds came to the Azov steppes, and from there crossed the Dnieper and later moved to the northwest, displacing more ancient settlers that is the Thracians in the south-west, and the Bulgars - to the west. The band of Kurdish settlements from Haysyn and further along the Dniester westward could mark this their way but the presence of the names of Kurdish origin in Chernihiv, Kiev and Zhytomyr Regions gives warrant to consider another variant. The Ancient Kurds went with the stream of the Desna from their Ueheimat to the Dnieper, crossed it and moved to the west. This migration could last a long time and some part of the migrants stayed sometimes at intermediate sites, who they kept their own names of settlements and rivers. This can explain the presence of Kurdish place names in the Anglo-Saxon area where Kurdish villages remained among alien population for a long time. More or less sure we can talk about the Kurdish origin of these place names:

V. Avratin in the southern suburbs of Ljubar in Žitomyr Region – Kurd. afret, “ the wife, the woman ”;

t. Berdychiv in Zhytomyr Region - the most plausible interpretation, based on the Kurdish language: Kurd. berd "stone", çew "sand" is not only well suited phonetically, but also correspond to the peculiarity of the terrain around the town where for long are mined sand and gravel, there are in the town several companies of the stone processing industry;

v. Byshiv in Makariv distruict of Kiev Region - Kued bişav “solution”, bişêv “to liquefy”;

v. Devoshin to the northwest of Ovruch – Kurd. dewa, “medicine,”şîn, “to the mountain”;

v. Kichkiry to the south of Radomyshl in Zhytomyr Region - Kurd keç “a daugther”, kerî “a part”;

v. Narayivka to the soth-east of Yemychyn in Zhytomyr Region (yet three villages in other pegions) - Kurd nar – “fire”, e'yal “family”;

t. Narovla in Belarus at the Low Pripyat - Kurd. nar "fire", ewlî "holy", the Iranians are known for their cult of fire, but this place name is fairly isolated, so it may have Anglo-Saxon origin;

v. Pyrky to the north of the mouth of the Prypiat – Kerd pîrq “laugh”;

v. Singury to the south of Zhytomyr (see also above Shengury) - Kurd. sing "a stake" , ûre "seeds" or Kurd. şengari "good";

v. Teklivka to the north-west of Ovruch, next to Devoshin, v. Teklanivka to the north-west of Radomyshl in Zhytomyr Region - the name of the villages may be derived from the Ukrainian woman name Tekla but the names of villages stemming of women's names are rare, and therefore can be considered a Kurd tekil "mixture", têkel "mixed";

v. Termakhivka to the north-west of Ivankiv in Kyiv Region – Kurd germ “warm”, term, “body, corpse”, ax, “ground”.

The band of Kurdish villages, which stretches along the Dniester River on the east may indicate that the Kurds were obviously moved simultaneously with the Bulgars in the direction of the Dnieper River, forcing the remnants of the Thracians beyond the Dniester, and then turned to the Black Sea steppes, where they became known in history as the Cimmerians. Later, most of them, perhaps under pressure from Scythian Bulgars, walked through the Balkans to Asia Minor, and stayed some time in Cilicia. But a part of them remained near the Black Sea, because some names among the Scythian epigraphy can have good Kurdish interpretation.

Above the etymology of the name of the town of Berdichiv was considered with the assistance of the Kurd. çew "gravel, sand" which was borrowed from the Mordvin language (Mok., Er. kev "stone"). There are in the Ukraine several names of settlements with a similar ending - Zolochiv, Zhydachiv, Tyachiv, Mukachevo which origin is rather unclear, but at least the suffix may be Slavic. But there are reasons for the wider considerations. Somewhat higher the town of Halyc, the river Limnytsia flows in the Dniester, which has still the people's name the Chva. At the same the place name Zachev was registered in the village of Zalukva on the left bank of the river Lukwiya and one kilometer from the mouth of the Limnytsia. The local people explain this nas as "Beyond Chva." This kind of place names are found in the villages of Western Ukraine very often. In this connection, it may be assumed that the original name of the Limnytsia was not the Cha but the Chev, because for the name of the river in Ukrainian is better suited just Chva. Because banks and bottom of the Limnytsia are abundantly covered with gravel this assumption seems plausible. However, other possible place names of Kurdish origin are absent in this area. If we take into account that the town of Tyachiv in the Transcarpathian has deposits of high-quality sand, the name of the city can also have Kurdish çew. These facts must still be kept in mind.



1 GENSIRUK S.A. (2002); Lisy Ukraїni. L’viv. – (In Ukrainian) – Forests of the Ukraine. Lviv.

2 MELNYCHUK O.S. Ed. (1989): Etimologіchniy slovnik ukraїns’koї movi. K. – (In Ukrainian) – Etymological Dictionary of Ukrainian Language. K: 361.



3 YANKO M.P. 1998. Toponimchniy slovnik Ukraїni. K. Znannya. – (In Ukrainian) – The Dictionary of Place Names of the Ukraine. K. Znannya: 117.


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