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The Trans-Caucasian Migration of the Rusi Tribes

by Victor Kachur, FMES

About Victor Kachur
Introduction

Three migrations are referred to in The Book of Vles, 1 thereby clarifying the puzzling antiquity of Eastern Europe:

1. Trek from Asia into Europe, across the Volga River, made under the leadership of Oriy ca. 630 BC.
2. The trans-Caucasian journey, under unknown leadership, to be discussed in detail below.
3. Migration of Prince Slaven' and his brother Scyth, at unknown time, from Asia to Europe after a long period of conflict.

The trans-Caucasian migration will be examined here in detail, since it provides one of the few direct links between Europe and the Middle East.

The Beginning

In The Book of Vles. Board (chapter) 6-C of Part II refers to Nabsursar or Nabusar, a major king in the Middle East. He is stated to have oppressed the Rusi tribes. This king ruled before the coming of the Persians to power; it was their victory which enabled the Rusi to depart, after long years of servitude, from the Middle East. The Rusi were evidently not on good terms with the Persians, since the scribes of The Book of Vles mistrust their intentions.

King Nabusar made war against the Prince (or land) of Egypt. From this bit of history we can identify Nabusar as Nebuchadnezzar, king of the Babylonian Empire. He came to the throne in 604 BC, and ruled until 561 BC. The Babylonian Empire was subsequently taken over by the Persian and Median armies in 539 BC. Somewhere near this time, the Rusi had taken advantage of political upheavals in the Empire, and departed hurriedly from the Babylonian Empire to the north.

How did these Rusi tribes come to be included within the Babylonian Empire in the first place? Their coming to -the region of Babylonia is described in Board 15-A of Part II: they had migrated from the Land-of Seven Rivers (Semi-rechie in Asia) to Mesopotamia, the Land of Two Rivers. On today's map of Asia, the Land of Seven Rivers is located just south of the big Lake Balkhash. This is where the family of Bohumir had settled (see Board 9 of Part II), in the days of Solomon’s rule over the Israelite tribes. The Rusi were descendants of Bohumir's youngest son, Rus; they exercised leadership over the related tribes.

Over 100 years after the start of this migration, they came to the Two-River Land — Mesopotamia, the region between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers. Here the Rusi had defeated the local dwellers through the skillful use of cavalry, and settled in the Assyrian land — the northern part of Mesopotamia.

When could the Rusi have settled in the lands of the mighty Assyrian Empire? This was possible only after the Assyrians had been weakened by domestic revolt, and defeated by their enemies. Two periods of extensive conflict are known between Assyria and the neighboring Media:

816 BC - The Medea overthrew the Assyrians, razed their city of Rehoboth on the Euphrates, and killed Sardanapal (otherwise known as Thonos Concolerus), their king. The Median royalty which came to power after this uprising had eventually led to Darius the Mede (House of Arbaces).
700 BC - Medes completed their second revolt against the Assyrian rule. This revolt brought to power the House of Deioces, the second group of royalty in Media.

In either case the Medes would have been glad to accept the help of Rusi as allies in fighting the Assyrians.

Finally, there was a major conflict in 612 BC, when the Medes and Babylonians captured Nineveh, Assyrian capital and the center of dynasty established by Tiglath-Pileser III in 745 BC. Assyrian Empire had been weakened by 6 years of internal revolt — 706 and 700 AD. However, by 660 BC the Empire had recovered sufficiently to attempt a conquest of India and Egypt. Further revolts had taken place by 621 BC, when the Calah dynasty fell. Babylonia was ruled by Nabopolassar at this time, from 625 to 604 BC.

The Rusi tribes would thus not have been able to settle in the Assyrian territory before 612 BC.

It should be noted that the period from 612 BC to 584 BC corresponds to the rule of Scythians in the northern Mesopotamia. These were the Japanese Scythians — otherwise known as the Magogite Scythians. The Medes had allowed them to rule for 28 years, as the price for the Scythian change of allegiance from Assyria to Medo-Babylonia in the crucial siege of Nineveh in 612 BC. In this uncertain situation, the Rusi could have readily settled in the upper Mesopotamia. Their settlement there would thus be dated around 600 BC.

Historian Diodorus of Sicily relates (Book II, 34) about an extensive but historically obscure conflict in this area between the Medes, the Parthians, and the Sacae; the last would be the Scythians, since in the Persian sources used by Diodorus the Scythians are called Sacae. These Scythians would be the Caucasians — not the Magogites; they were ruled by a queen named Zarina, whereas the Magogite Scythians were being ruled by the first Emperor of Japan, who was also known in history as Zoroaster ("Seed of Ishtar"). After many years of warfare, an inconclusive peace had been reached. The woman-ruled Scythians apparently withdrew north of the Caucasus.

Expansion of Babylonia

Arab historian El-Masudi (Meadows of Gold and Mines of Gems, Vol. 1, London, 1841) wrote around 950 AD that "El-Bokhta Nassar, governor of el'Irak and the Arabs, under the king of Persia, who was then residing in Balkh, the capital of his empire, marched against the Israelites..." This refers to Nebuchadnezzar when he was yet only a general, under his father Nabopolassar; Masudi calls the latter "the king of Persia" instead of Babylonia. Nebuchadnezzar warred not against the Israelites as such, but against the state of Judah. The ten-tribe nation of Israelites had been conquered by the Assyrians back around 720 BC. Masudi records that the Israelite tribes had separated into a group of 10 (Israel) and a group of 2 (Judah).

The Chaldean army from Babylonia had captured the territory of Judah in 604-603 BC, and went on to capture the major Philistine city of Ashkelon. They were now on the border of Egypt. In 604 BC Nebuchadnezzar became the king.

Masudi further records (Ibid., pp. 118-119) that "El-Bokhta Nassar made a campaign against Egypt, and killed Firaun (Pharaoh) the Lame, king of Egypt. Thence he went westward, and conquered many towns."

The defeat of Egypt took place during 570-567 BC. Nebuchadnezzar began the campaign; his generals finished it.

Rusi in Servitude

The Book of Vles shows (Board 6-C, Part II) that the Rusi tribes were conquered by the cavalry of Nebuchadnezzar before his attack on Egypt. They would thus have been added to the subjects of Babylonia sometime before 570 BC. Their liberation would then have come near 539 BC, with the successful Medo-Persian attack on Babylon. The Rusi would thus have spent at least a full generation (about 30 years) under the Babylonian rule.

From 585 BC to 573 BC Nebuchadnezzar had conducted a siege of Tyre, the famous center of commerce on the eastern shore of Mediterranean Sea. This interval of time falls into the period of servitude for the Rusi. Is there a mention of Tyre in The Book of Vles?

The early names of Tyre were the following:

 Dara — Egyptian
Shurru — Assyrian
  Sarra — early Latin
Turos — Greek
  Tsor — Hebrew

The Book of Vles refers to the Rusi giving their young men into the army, paying a tax on the fields, and providing a "tahendlo do Chursoi"; the last phrase is transliterated as "a tribute to (or for) the Chursa". .Here may be the obscure reference to the long siege of Tyre, with the actual linguistics still waiting to be deciphered. The word "tahendlo" may be better rendered as a "contingent", since another word is routinely used in The Book of Vles when referring to "tribute".

Migration of the Rusi across the Caucasus

With the downfall of Babylonian Empire, the Rusi took their families and belongings, and went northward. The Persians did not pursue them, being preoccupied with their conquest of Babylonia.

The journey made by Rusi is given further in Board 15-A of Part II: "And then we went through the Great Mountains, through snow and glaciers."

Their northward flight took them to the lofty, snow-covered Caucasus Mountains. With the possibility of Persian pursuit not far behind, the Rusi had no choice but to go though the mountains during or near the winter. This is in agreement with the fall of Babylon in the late autumn or early winter, in 539 BC.

In modern times, the hazards of crossing the Caucasus Mountains in the winter had resulted in the decimation of an entire Turkish army! During the First World War, the Turkish government had sent, late in 1914, a 100,000-man army to drive the Czarist Russian forces from the Caucasus. A capable Turkish general, Hassan-Izzet-Pasha, declined to lead this undertaking without an adequate preparation. He was speedily replaced by Enver-Pasha, who then proceeded to lead the march. Once in the mountains (up to 3,500 meters high), waist-deep snows were encountered by the army. The temperature dropped down to 20-25 degrees Centigrade below zero. In about one month, some 80,000 Turks had perished on this march. By the middle of January, 1915, the army was no longer a serious threat to their enemy.2

Rusi in the Plains

The Rusi had made their difficult journey through the mountains, and came out into the plains o n the other side – the warm lowlands between the Caspian and Azov Seas. There they had soon encountered the A s c u f i -- a related tribe group, with their big herds of cattle.

Ascufi (compare with Assyrian term-- Ashguzaa)
Ontibi — the Anti in Europe
Rusi (descendants of Bohumir
Borusi (compare with Oarus, the ancient name of the Volga River, but called Rai River in The Book of Vles
Surenzhi (known to be in Eastern Europe at the time of Atilla the Hun)
Board 7-G of Part II gives the five related tribe groups: Ascufi (compare with Assyrian term -- Ashguzaa) Ontibi — the Anti in Europe Rusi (descendants of Bohumir) Borusi (compare with Oarus, the ancient name of the Volga River,   but called Rai River in The Book of Vles) Surenzhi (known to be in Eastern Europe at the time of Atilla the   Hun).

Rusi represent here the tribes descended from Bohumir — a group of five major tribes; their name is thus a very general one!

The Borusi are a related group of tribes that had migrated from Asia into Europe by crossing the Volga River. This was the migration under Oriy's leadership, around 630 BC. It had thus occurred some 90 years earlier. Oriy's leadership was over another branch of the Rusi; evidently not all of the five tribes had gone previously into Mesopotamia, but remained in the steppes north of the Caspian Sea. We may assume, for identification purposes, that those Rusi who took the Mesopotamian route were the agricultural settlers; the steppe-dwelling groups were strictly the nomads.

In this connection, it is interesting to note that Vles himself is a deified ancestor who had introduced agriculture to his people (Board 20 of Part II). He would thus be associated with the Mesopotamian group.

The Ascufi tribes were already dwelling in the plains, between the Caspian and Azov Seas, and north of the Caucasus Mountains. They are therefore expected to be among the original tribes in that area. The following tentative identification is proposed:

Ashkenaz (son of Gomer, grandson of Japheth)

Ashguzaa (Assyrian name for Ashkenaz)

(A)scufi (called so in The Book of Vles)

Scyths (called so by the Greeks — but one should first determine carefully which ones).

Significantly, the prophet Jeremiah places the nation of Ashkenaz in the vicinity of Caucasus Mountains, near Armenia: "Set ye up a standard in the land, Blow the horn among the nations, Prepare the nations against her, Call together against her the kingdoms of Ararat, Minni, and Ashkenaz..." (Jer. 51:27, Masoretic text)

Ashkenaz tribes are thus located with the kingdom of Ararat — ancient Urartu, which was in the region of Lake Van, between the Caucasus Mountains and Northern Mesopotamia.

We cannot rely on the name "Scyths" as such, because this term eventually came to represent the multitude of nations dwelling in the Eurasian steppes. The various Scythians had thus ranged from white-skinned Europeans to yellow-skinned Asians. Any particular "Scythians" being discussed must be identified further, to avoid confusion on a continental scale.

The Ascufi Scythians are those ruled around this time by queens. This distinguishes them from the Magogite Scythians — a racially different group of people who were ruled by emperors.

The Book of Vles mentions Ascufi again Board 20 of Part II, in a fragment of an old, broken original: "...The Ascufi and Sur'mi (ACKYFE A CYP'ME) became united for ten hundred years..."

They lived by cattle-herding, and dealt with the Greek traders. This is sufficient to confirm their residence in the Black Sea area.

Who, then, were the Sur'mi? They are not mentioned in the list of related tribe groups (Board 7-G, Part II). History knows of Sarmatians, who became established near the Don River, and remained there for at least 500 years. Diodorus tells us about the alliance established between the Ascufi, the Medes, and the Parthians. The Sur'mi were obviously either the Medes or the Parthians. The time when this alliance was made is dated to the days of King Astibaras (the House of Arbaces) — sometime between 624 BC to 584 BC. In round numbers, the 1000-year alliance would thus have lasted from 600 BC to 400 AD. It was around 449 AD that the Parthians-Israelites had finally departed from the Eastern and Central Europe, and went to Britain to escape the rule of both the Roman Empire and Atilla the Hun.

Sons of Gomer

The Ascufi are now identified as the nation descended from Ashkenaz, son of Gomer and thus a grandson of Japheth. Gomer had two other sons, Riphath and Togarmah (Gen. 10:3). Descendants of Riphath are generally stated to have lived in the Riphean Mountains, far to the north of Palestine. Later, the location of Riphean Mountains was given by the ancient cartographers as being north of the Sea of Azov -- though there are no mountains there!

That whole problem and confusion seems to have come about when the Caspian Sea was falsely considered as the southward bay of the Arctic — the northern Ocean. In the real geography, the Ural Mountains (modern name) are situated between the Caspian Sea and the Arctic; there is a small White Sea that does represent a southward bay of the Arctic. But, once the Caspian became falsely connected to the Arctic Sea, the Urals became a lost mountain range, with no secure place on the map. We may thus identify the modern-day Ural Mountains with the Riphean Mountains of antiquity. The settlement of Riphath’s descendants is therefore placed in the vicinity of the Ural Mountains.

Togarmah, is stated to have had ten sons, whose descendants thus gave rise to a multitude of tribes. Among the nations who descended from Togarmah were the Khozars, who are prominently mentioned in The Book of Vles. One of the ten sons was Savour, from whom descended the Sabiri; they left a prominent landmark in the steppes of eastern Ukraine -- the Savour Grave-mound, whose name has been preserved through the centuries in Ukrainian folklore.

The old name of Volga River is, in The Book of Vles, called Ra or Rai. Another name, from the classical maps, is the Oarus River. This name is evidently derived from B o r u s. On the basis of the linguistic and geographic similarity, the Borusi in The Book of Vles may be identified as the descendants of Riphath. Since they are closely associated with the nomadic Rusi tribes, the latter would also be the descendants of Riphath.

The Book of Vles mentions the "ancestor of Rusi" in the Dedication Board, though not by name -- a very unfortunate situation! He had two daughters, and had some problems in finding suitable husbands for them. If they had indeed lived in the frozen north, what bachelor would want to leave the comfortable climate of Mesopotamia to go there!? Eventually the daughters were married. Their descendants would thus be expected to form two major tribe groups. The association of Rusi and Borusi is thus explained, together with their geographical location. The unnamed ancestor of the two tribe groups is thus concluded to be Riphath, son of Gomer.

This leaves Togarmah as the last son of Gomer whose descendants are not known. Board 7-G includes the otherwise unknown Ontibi and Surenzhi. Togarmah was a well-known personality in the history of the post-Flood Europe; he did much traveling, ranging from the Middle East to Spain, Italy, and back to Asia. His descendants lived in Europe, but later migrated into Asia. Whether the Ontibi and Surenzhi are included among them is still to be examined. The latter name appears to represent a geographical term, equivalent to "the Southern dwellers".

Descent of the Rusi from Gomer is confirmed by the clear statement in The Book of Vles that their ancestors were the Cimmerians (KIMORIE), who made both the Greeks and the Romans tremble (see Board 6-F, Part II).

What Else Did Masudi Write?

El-Masudi, Arabic historian and traveler, wrote his books around 950 AD -- close to 1000 years ago. The information he presents is expected to be 1000 years closer to the events depicted in The Book of Vles, in comparison to our modern (biased and censored) history books. Masudi wrote within perhaps 75 years of the latest events given in The Book of Vles.

In chapter 9 of his book, Masudi mentions that the Scythians called themselves Gots, or Goths. Slavonians, on the other Hand, were the Getes and Tyragetes. Thus, according to Masudi, there is no reason to expect that the Gots are the same as Getes, unless the Slavonians are also one part of the Scythians. Another name for the Slavonians was Sakalibah — the Sakae (chapter 8).

The history of Goths had been written by Jordanes, who goes back to identify them with the Getae of antiquity. On the other hand, Jordanes does mention briefly a numerous nation of the Lesser Goths who lived in the region of the lower Danube by cattle-herding. Unlike the other Goths, they were not war-like, and preferred a life of relative poverty. These may be the Slavonian Getae referred to by El-Masudi.

One problem in the works of Masudi is his lack of knowledge about the exact geography of the Pontic (Black Sea) regions. Not having visited there in person, he relied on the writings of ancient authors and geographers. The overall geographic picture thus turns out to be confused. A similar confusion is also encountered in the writing of Herodotus, the Greek traveler and historian, who wrote nearly 1400 years before Masudi.

El-Masudi calls the Black Sea "Nitus", which is evidently a corruption of "Pontus" (=Black). He associates with the vicinity of the Black Sea three "nations of Turkish origin": Targhiz Rusi Nagaïz.

Elsewhere, Masudi calls the Turks by the name of Ouhoun; The Book of Vles has many references to Y e h u n i, a major people of and from Asia, who warred with the Rusi and drove them out o£ Asia in the time of Oriy. The Ouhoun of Masudi may thus be identified as the Yehuni in The Book of Vles.

In his chapter 17, Masudi identifies the abode of the Targhiz as being near the closest approach of Don River to the Volga River. He writes that Don is a branch of the Volga that falls into the Sea of Azov ("Mayotis"); this bit of geographical confusion is also found among the Byzantine writers. The control of the entire Black Sea is assigned to the Rusi -- including the navigation and the coastal settlements.

The Rusi are also placed near the Khazar city of Itil, the second capital (the first one having been Semender). With them are said to live the Sekalibah -- the Sclavonians. Both nations practice cremation of their dead, and have their own religion within the Khazar Empire. Both the Rusi and Sclavonians serve in the standing army, and in the household of the Khazar king. No wonder that Sviatoslav, prince of the Rusi, was able to destroy the Khazar Empire with a campaign that lasted only about one year (964-965)! This radical change in the history of Eastern Europe occurred too late to be mentioned by Masudi.

There is some question as to whether the Targhiz and Bulgars are the same people. They are probably not. The Targhiz represent the Volga Bulgars, while the other Bulgar group lived at this time on the Danube.

Finally, Masudi gives "El-Kaïkh" as the name for the Caucasus Mountains. The Persian name for Caucasus is "Gaw Koh", the Bull Mountain. The Grecized name "Taurus" is obtained from this as a translation. According to Jordanes, "the Scythian (person) names it Caucasus and Rhipaeus, and at its end calls it Taurus" (Par. 7). Jordanes was describing the entire system of mountain ranges between India and Europe -- and he has thus given the wide geographical extent of the Slavo-Scythian influence.

(December, 1972)

______

  1. The Book of Vles (Vles-Knyha) - Historical document from Eastern Europe (1000 BC - 875 AD). Translated from the Old Slavonic by Victor Kachur, Illustrated Research Edition, 80 pp., large format (8½ x 11 inches), Columbus, Ohio, 1973.
  2. P. Kandiskaliv (1964), Dolyna TroyandiSmerty (The Valley of Roses and Death). in Ukrainian; unpublished book, Appendix #13.