People's names — part of people's history

В. Н. Алмантай (Иванов). Культура суваро-булгар. Суваро-булгаро-чувашские имена и их значения. — Чебоксары, 2014. — 350 с., ил.

If you are betrayed in battle by your tried and true people, if you are surrounded by the enemies, and you are left alone, — don't give up! You will never stay alone! There is forefather's blood in you veins. It's blood of noble men! This blood will never betray you and will always save you! Do your duty and don't betray the blood of your ancestors!

Forefathers' Blessing

Ethnic personal and geographical names speak about the culture and the mode of life of the peoples, their historical ties with other peoples. As the result of lasting contacts of people of different cultures the names were borrowed. And they took root in the languages and life of other peoples.

Thus the names became international. But at the same time these names remained the national symbols of the people, they were borrowed from. Each family had the name, which passed from one generation to another. For example, the parents gave their child the name of its grandfather, because he had been respected in the family. That's why the new-born child was given a name connected with the family, the Motherland and the nature.

Suvar-Bulgar names had semantic meanings and the hidden power. If a new-born child was given the right name, he also got the forefathers' blessing with it. ( the Chuvash for 'pekhil'). They believed, that the blessing would guarantee the best human characters to the child in future, such as: valour and courage, decency and honesty, love and unselfishness, health and beauty. But if the name, given to a new-born was not right, it could ruin his life.

Since ancient time people thought, that the name of a person was of a great importance to him. That is why they used to change the name when they grew older. Thus, in China of those days little children used to have a "milk name", but when they became schoolchildren, they changed it into another one. And after the marriage the person changed his name again. As far as an official was conсerned, he was supposed to have his office name. Our forefathers believed, that if an outsider happened to know one's personal name, it would bring trouble upon him. That is why, the majority of primitive tribes used to keep their real names in secret. Thus the members of the tribes were given other names in their everyday life. There is also a practice, which remounts to antiquity — to give the newborns the names of the relatives, who are gone. This practice is called: 'names relay'. When speaking about the Tajik people, they give the forefather's name to a new-born, if only nobody among the relatives alive has it. Giving forefathers' names to newborns, people believed

in rebirth. The practice to give the names of grandparents to newborns is widely spread nowadays. Having a great influence on the man, the name determines his fate and even becomes his talisman. Ethnic names and culture were the fundamental pillar of the civilizations. They gave an idea about their Motherland, influenced the ethnic fate of the people and their further development. That is why the task of prime importance of the missionaries was rooting out ethnic cultural traditions.

Loosing the proper and generic names of the ethnos meant the loss of the ethnic self-consciousness and its independence.

The people, which lost its historical ethnic symbols and names, has no more heart and soul, as if it were an orphan without past and present.

The famous Russian historian and ethnographer Vasiliy Magnitskiy was interested in Chuvash proper names. He spoke about ten thousand five hundred and eighty-two male names and nine hundred female names. But the list of names is not full. The fact is that the neighboring peoples, having Suvar-Bulgar personal names, were not mentioned in his scientific study. The book by Magnitsky is called: 'Chuvash Pagan Proper Names'. It is based on the materials of the first general census of the population of Cheboksary district in 17181722, and of the census records of this very district of 1782 and 1795. The researches of the scientists of the 19th century and the acts collected by S. Melnickov were also used in this book.

At the beginning of the 18th century the missionaries of the Middle Volga region began to use the terms: 'yazychnik' (the English for 'a pagan' and 'yazychestvo' (the English for 'pagandom'), when speaking about indigenous dwellers (Salmin, 2007. p. 5-6). The origin of the terms is the word 'yazyk' (the English for a 'tongue'. So the meaning of the word 'yazychnik' ( the English for 'a pagan') is close to the words: 'govorit','molvit' (the English for 'to speak', 'to say'). The terms 'yazychnik' and 'yazychestvo' were used in the missionary literature till 1917. But then the positive meanings of the words were lost. Even the famous educator of the Chuvash people Ivan Yakovlev translated the term 'yazychnik' into Chuvash as 'suya ten' ( the English for 'false religion').

Also the Russian word 'pogany' (the English for 'very bad') came from the term 'pagan'. According to the author of the book 'Suvar-Bulgar Culture' by Yuriy Yuvenalyev these terms should not be used when speaking about Suvar-Bulgars.

The fact is that Suvar-Bulgars believed in One God. Although they believed in kind and evil spirits, they didn't use the word 'Tura' when mentioning them.

Belief in One God has nothing in common with pagandom. So Vasiliy Magnitskiy was not right, using the word 'pagan' in the title of his book.

The native religion of Suvar-Bulgars has much in common with Zoroastrianism. The major foundations of Zoroastrian religious philosophy are: One God and the faith in two opposing forces: Good and Evil. The man strives after harmony in his life, fighting against everything that is evil in it.

In the 19th century Suvar-Bulgars kept the ancient culture alive. It is reflected in the statistical table of the Kazan Governorate of 1868. According to the table there were 353760 orthodox Chuvashes and 6812 Zoroastrians. Zoroastrism they held on was influenced by fetishism and shamanism. Some researches considered, that the number of Zoroastrians was even more. (From the ethnographical materials of Russia). As the cultures of Suvar-Bulgars and Zoroastrians were alike, they were hardly differentiated from each other.

The wealth and health of nations depend on the fact, whether they have the historical memory or not. And it is the ethnic religion that strengthens the historical memory of the people, which should never forget its origin. The Suvar for 'religion' is 'ten'. (One shouldn't confuse it with the English number 'ten'). But this very word has one more meaning: 'axis'. So religion may be interpreted as axis of culture. Being a complete person is impossible without the ethnic environment. Only in this case the man can keep the culture for the future generations.

Suvar-Bulgar personal and mythological names have much in common with those of the neighboring peoples. For example: Akar (the English for 'God of Earth') and Aker (the Egipthian 'God of the Earth'); Ama Turash (eng. 'mothergoddes') and Amatura (Mesopotamia); Lupataka (eng. 'a ram') and Lubadaga (Hurrian God) — (eng. 'the temple's protector'); Martak (eng. 'God of oblivion' and Marduk ( Mesopotamia — Supreme God); Savatar — eng. 'god of justice' and Savitar (Ancient Indian — 'Sun God of Happines'); Savushka, Savash (eng. 'to love') and Shavushka/Sa (w) -uska (Hurrian — 'Goddes of love and fertility'); Sekhmet (eng. Goddes of war') and Sokhmet (Egypthian 'Warrior goddess'); Khayamat (eng. 'demon of hell') and Tiamat (Mesopotamia — 'Demon of darkness'); Shemike, Shemaka (Suvar-Bulgar ethnic name) and Shimige (Hurrian — Goddess of the Sun), Shamash (Sumerian-Akkadian 'Goddes of the Sun') etc.

There are Suvaro-Bulgar proper names, which coincide with the first parts of Hurrian names (Khu- Teshub, Nik-Teshub, Sherpi-Teshub (Se-er-pi), Ligi-Teshub, Kipi-Teshub, Ankhite-Teshub, Shilva-Teshub,Tatu-khepa, Pudu-Khepu, Shuvar-Khepa, Tish-atal). Some of them have typical Hurrian endings 'pi' (Suvar-Bulgar: Entepi, Savnepi, Kherpi etc. Hurrian — Anish — Khirpi). The ancient God of Mesopotamia Ashtapi and the Sumerian princess

- the priestess Puapi had names which such endings. There are also Suvar-Bulgar names which coincide with the names of the people of Subartu: Stbi, Sebbu (Suvar- Bulgar — Sheppi).

Suvar-Bulgar names were known since the 6th century (Suvar kingdom), the 7th century (The Great Bulgaria), the 8-9th centuries (the Khazar state) and the 9-14th century (Danube Bulgaria and Volga Bulgaria). But the people Chuvashes did not exist at that time. The word 'Chuvash' appeared in the time of Khanate of Kazan. The reason of it is the following: during the long period of the Tatar-Mongol yoke the ethnonyms 'Suvar' and 'Bulgar' were forbidden in Chingisids' states.

Ил. 6. Халапри Аçтаха сăнарĕ. 2013 ç. Кĕмĕл. Сувар ÿнерçисем — В. Николаев, А. Николаев, Г. Максимов.

Мифологический образ Ажидахи на украшении. 2013 г. Серебро. Художники-сувары В. Николаев, А. Николаев, Г. Максимов.

Mythological image of Azhidakhy on the ornament. Silver. Suvar artists: V. Nikolaev, A. Nikolayev, C. Maximov. 2013.

Ил. 7. Ал ĕçĕнче. 1974 ç. Сувар-ÿнерçĕ — В. Агеев. За рукоделием. 1974 г. Художник-сувар В. Агеев. Needlewoman. Suvar artist V. Ageyev. 1974.

Among Suvar-Bulgar proper names one can come across those, which are identical to Hunnic names in the written sources of the Middle Ages. For example: Attila — the Suvar name is Atila; Azintey (Hunnic military leader)

- Suv. Asentey; Anikisiy — Suv. Aney, Anika, Anisa, Onika, Onikey, Onisey, Oniska, Onisa etc; Zamur (Batbayan's commander) — Samur, Samursa Kerka (Attila's wife) — Krika, Krinka, Krylka, Kherkka etc. Irnak (Attila's son) — Yernuka, Ernuk; Rekana — Reka, Rika; Elak (Attila's son) Yelyak etc. The given examples speak about close ties between Suvar-Bulgars and Hunnas.

In the 30th and 40th of the 7th century the Savirs (the Suvars), the Alans, the Kutugurs, the Utugurs, the Onogurs and other allied peoples joined the population of the North Caucasian Asov Sea region of Great Bulgaria got the common ethnonym Bulgaria (Suv. pulkar — 'be united'). Since that time they were called Bulgars.

The names of Bulgarian rulers (Kuvrat, Asparukh, Batbai, Bayan, Tervel, Umor, Krum, Telets, Sovineh, Sevar, Omortag, Avitohl,Dulo, Irnik, Kormisosh, Tarkan, Yemiar Kaluterkon, Kuviar, Chakar, Sandilh, Khinial Sursubul, Talib, Chigat etc.) are of Proto-Bulgar origin and almost all of them have parallels with Suvar-Bulgar names. The list of these names was made by Vasiliy Magnitsky in

1905. ( Esperuk, Tervel, Karam, Sarvin, Saviney, Savar, Torkhan, Ermi, Kavar etc.) And the name of the prince Sevar was connected with the ethnonym 'Savir' (Suvas, Suvar).

In accordance with the materials by Vasiliy Magnitskiy the names of the tsars of Volga Bulgaria (X-XIII centuries) coincide with the ethnic names of Suvar-Bulgars: Almush — Almet,Elmush,Almit,Elmush; Dzhafar — Safar, Aydar -Aytar (there is the village Aydarovo, where the descendants of Suvar-Bulgars live nowdays); Mumin — Mumikey, Tuki — Tuka, Tukach, Tukta, Tuptul ( there is the village Tukasy, and the surnames Tuktanov, Tuptov are also wide spread); Talib — Tala, Talik; Shimun — Shimka, Zabir — Sapir, Supar, Sapar ( these names are close to the ethnonym Suvar); Said — Sait, Seit; Selim — Selik, Seli,Selin, Selit, Selyuk; Murat — Murat, Murta; Mikail — Mika, Ilgam — Ilka, Ilkey, Imet; Bulat — Pulat etc.

The Christianization of Suvar-Bulgars began in the time of Ivan the Great, but it took place only in the north of the country. Just at this period of time tsar officials called Suvar- Bulgars and other peoples of the Volga region, which had their own ethnic religion 'Yasachnye chuvasha' (eng. 'pagan Chuvashes') — see V. I. Dal 'Explanatory Dictionary of the Living Great Russian Language', 1882.

G. A. Nikolayev (Candidate of Historical Sciences) states the fact, that 'Yasachnye Chuvasha' (The Mordvins, the Mari, the Udmurts, the Tatars, the Russians) were the serfs of Middle Volga region. At the beginning of the 18th century the process of further Christianization led to disappearing of Bulgar-Suvar names and their traditions. Ethnic personal names of Suvar-Bulgars, names of settlements and place names were outlawed. Suvar-Bulgars were christened in groups and their names were changed. Thus, such ethnic names as: Alapay Mametov, Enter Ivatkov, Etrivan Olivanov, Ytmar Pikmetov, Anuk Tekeshova, Narspi Kasanova were changed into ortodox Russian names (for example: Ivan, Vasiliy, Proskovya...). So the Russian Orthodox Church had negative influence on the ethnic ties of Suvar-Bulgars.

Inthemiddle ofthe19thcenturytherussiangovernment continued the policy of distributing Christianization. The preachers and the priests visited all the pagan villages with the purpose to christen the population, but they met with a resounding rebuff. To avoid the christening, the people hid in the forests and cellars, others took up arms. At that time a doleful song about the events was composed, and it was written down by the Hungarian specialist in folklore Dyula Mesarosh in the village of Ulkhash. Here is the text of the song in English:

The Russian government made us forget the faith of our ancestors.

But we did not want to obey the new laws.

We wanted to adhere to the faith of our forefathers. Our Tsar let us keep our beliefs and we appreciate him for it.

As it was told to Dyula Mesarosh by the old people of the village of Ulkhash, a man was sent to the Tsar with the request to stop the violence of the missionaries and the Tsar heeded the request.

The Christianisation of the Chuvshes (as the Suvar- Bulgars were called at that time) gave them the new nickname: Vasiliy Ivanovich. They say, that the hieromonk Veniamin Putsek-Grigorovich used to christen the Chuvashes in groups and gave them one and the same name 'Vasiliy Ivanovich'. In the course of time these russian proper names were transformed into chuvash names: Vanyuk (from Vanya), Vashchka, Vashcha (from Ivan), Ninuk (from Nina), Kalat (from Klavdiya), Khevetle (from Fyokla) etc.

Unfortunately, these Chuvash names are uncommon in our life. We should take care of the Chuvash culture, keep the cultural traditions of our ancestors and be proud of our native language. We should not forget the Chuvash names but revive them. Many kind ethnic ceremonies and traditions are dead and gone. For example the fine national tradition of mutual assistance (nime) is not often kept nowadays. Neglecting Chuvash culture leads to the change of the spiritual life of our people. The life in Chuvash villages has changed greatly. Since the beginning of time the Chuvashes were known as a hard-working nation. At present the villagers often don't want to earn an honest livelihood, they envy their country-men, who are more successful in life. Such negative qualities as laziness, lie and greed are their nature. The problem of drunkenness is still actual in chuvash villages. Such is the spiritual life of our people now. One can't look without regret at our countrymen, who do nothing to change their life, who forget the best traditions of our forefathers. The path they follow, leads to catastrophe. 'The Ivans, who don't remember their relationship', — this is how such people are said about. It is useful to remember the wisdom of our ancestors. The outstanding philosopher Laozi said: 'An ethical person should not be smooth-talking, but if he is — he is a liar'. I'd like to see my home people being moral persons.


В. Н. Алмантай (Иванов). Культура суваро-булгар. Этнические имена и их значения. — Чебоксары, 2014. — 272 с., ил.