Bits and pieces of interesting information: history, languages

Here you will find some information about things which I found to be interesting. I hope they will be interesting to you too... For some part, I don't remember where I got these data. I guess in some cases there exist different speculations on the same subject. This means also that I do not guarantee the correctness of these statements. As you will notice, some of the items will center around the Lithuania, because I like learning about my roots.

  1. Things which I am interested in is history of the olden times, and also languages. So here goes the first bit. What is the origin of the word hussar (name for cavalryman in some countries)? This word originates from the name of nomad Turkic people Khazar, good horseback riders.
  2. What is the origin of the word ogre (one of the horrible fairy-tale monsters, akin to trolls and similar folks)? I read somewhere that it is a distorted word Uighur which is a name of another Turkic tribe which used to invade Europe until 1000 A.D. together with other tribes, such as Huns. Presently Uighurs live in the Eastern part of China. See also 16.
  3. Interestingly enough, Estonians call the Russians Vene, which originates from the tribal name Veneti, used by Graeco-Roman historians to name people who used to live in that part of the Europe in the beginning of the Modern Era.
  4. In a similar development, Estonian name for the Swedes is Rootsi (Ruotsi in Finnish). Well, some scholars believe that the present day Russians borrowed the name "Russians" from Swedes who were called in the time of Vikings Ross, in other words, Vikings were Russians in old times. This curious confusion probably comes from the fact that for some time Viking kings ruled what is present day Russia. Vikings even used to sail Russian Rivers to trade with Byzantium. At that time probably each of the several Slavic tribes had their own name, which is seen also from the following example.
  5. The Latvian name for the Russians, in their turn, is krievi, which stems from the name of the Slavic tribe Krivichi.
  6. The old Lithuanian name for the Belorussians (Belarusans), their Eastern Slavic neighbors, is "gudai" which is nothing else but Goths (Greek Ptolemy called the Goths gutai, Romans called them gutones). Which means that roughly 1500 years ago Goths used to be the Eastern neighbors of Lithuanians.
  7. The Lithuanian name for the German man is vokietis (Germany - Vokietija), which some originate from the Gothic tribe vagoths, originally living in Gotland Island in the Baltic Sea. Few other Germanic tribes are thought to originate from Gotland.
  8. Estonians call Germans simply Saksa, i.e. Saxons.
  9. Of the living languages, Lithuanian language is the closest to the Sanskrit, the sacred ancient language of India, which in its turn is close to the proto-Indo-European language. I guess this doesn't mean Lithuanian is the best, it just means it is a very archaic language. The reason for this peculiarity of Lithuanians is that people living in the present day Lithuania didn't move anywhere during the great movement of peoples in the time of the Roman empire, neither any people moved to the territory of Lithuania, therefore, no intermixing occurred. However, not all Balts were so lucky.
  10. The Baltic hydronyms (names for the rivers, lakes) can be found from the Vistula river in the West to the Oka River near Moscow in the East. It is considered this area was inhabited by Balts at around the birth of Christ. The Eastern Balts were gradually assimilated by Slavs which moved in from the southwest during one of the movements of nations. As late as 12th century chronicles report Baltic tribe Galindians (Golyad in Slavic) not far from Moscow. Interestingly, there was another tribe named Galindians in the western end of the Balt inhabited territory, a subset of Prussians. Baltic root gal- means end, edge, bordering.
  11. The last Prussian perished in the beginning of 18th century (due to bubonic plagues/ germanization/ assimilation). What is left of this group of this language is the name of the region and some toponyms. This land was known also to the ancient world as Borussia. (Soccer fans should know this name).
  12. Lithuania was first mentioned as Litua in the Quedlinburg annals in 1009. Linguistically, root liet- means "to pour". Actually, geographically Lithuania's name is derived from the name of 11 km long rivulet Lietava. The river gave its name to the province (land) Lietuva, and here it goes, the whole country is called that name. Lithuania in Lithuanian is Lietuva. There is also an argument that the name of Lithuania is can be originated from the name of the duke's convoy/army in olden times (as in a probable phrase uttered by appalled neighbors: "Lithuania is coming!!!" - meaning army). The same root can be found, for example, in a German word Geleite - "military escort" and English lead. More details can be found in an article by Simas Karaliunas, written in Lithuanian though.
  13. It is the last land to be baptized in Europe. Lithuania remained pagan until the end of 14th-beginning of 15th century.
  14. The Kingdom of Poland and Grand Duchy of Lithuania eventually formed a united state which had a simple name: Republic (Rzeczpospolita in Polish). Despite the name, the state was ruled by kings. Listen to this: the parliament of the state had a veto rule, which meant that a single vote against by any member of the parliament would rule down the proposal. No wonder that Russia, Prussia and Austria were able to take over Poland and Lithuania without much difficulty: there was a nobleman (his name is known to history) who voted against resistance to invasion.
  15. Proto-Indo-European, the ancestor of all Indo-European languages, refers to very very old times. Ever wondered what was even earlier? Scholars talk about hypothetical Nostratic language, from which Indo-European, Semitic, Sino-Tibetan and some language groups descended. Nostratic proto-language descended from even more mysterious language dubbed Borealic. (For some more sober opinion, look at this article.)
  16. Remember Huns, the terror of the Roman Empire? They have a direct relation to the birth of two European states: Hungary and Bulgaria. Actually, Huns was probably union of Ugric and Turkic tribes. I read of the following etymology of the word Hungary : on ogur - ten arrows in Turkic, meaning ten tribes. At the and of the first millennium AD this union of tribes moved to the central Europe. Mostly Ugric part settled finally in the present day Hungary, the Turkic part settled in what is now Bulgaria (called after their previous homeland Bolgar on the banks of the Volga River). The Bulgarians had wide contacts with Southern Slavic people and gradually became slavicized.
  17. Origin of Romania. Romania became a place of exile for people Roman Empire law enforcement agencies wanted to get rid of. Remember, Romans genocided Dacians who lived there before, so this land became sort of empty. The inhabitants of this country considered themselves Romans. I wish I had a time machine to see all what happened. Boredom never again! Unless using time machine would also become institutionalized:)
  18. In a huge work on the Roman Empire I found an interesting fact, which sort of made me feel the connections between different nations were closer than now. There is a mountain range in the territory of present day Germany named Harz. The Romans called that place Hercinia. The name originates from the old Celtic name Perkunia. In Lithuanian this word means "thunderclap", but, more importantly, it is related to the name of god Perkunas, a powerful Baltic god of thunder. In a different yet related case, Latin word quercus means "an oak tree". One of differences between Latin and Baltic languages is that sometimes "qu" in Latin corresponds to Baltic "p", for example Latin quinque vs. Lith. penki "five". Thus quercus becomes perkus. I will remind you that oak trees were considered to be sacred by pagan Balts and Celts.
  19. I was wondering if my last name Kairys which means left-handed has a similarly sounding word with similar meaning in other languages. What I was able to find was Scottish Gaelic cearr which also means left-handed.