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and Gumilev

Updated on October 30, 2015

Central Asia and ...Lev Gumilev


Hebrew, Greek, Central Asia and .... Lev Gumilev


in connection with my Hebrew studies in Israel, I developed an interest in the word "Yavan," which means Greece. I remembered hearing about a small town of the same name located in the Southern Tajikistan. It is in that very town archeologists found material culture artifacts related to the era of the  Greco-Bactrian kingdom, which included the territory of modern-day southern Tajikistan. During my time in Israel, I discussed this fascinating discovery with a professor who spent some time in Tajikistan. This professor unequivocally rejected my hypothesis. However, I continued to believe in the stubborn science toponymy; I waited for the new evidence to support my hypothesis.


Upon my arrival to the United States, I shared my ideas with a Harvard professor who used to work in Israel. He advised me to look into publications regarding Jewish inscriptions in Afghanistan and Khotan. However, something continuously held me back from further research in that direction.


The next person I shared my notes on this issue was a Moscow academician who dedicated his entire life to the excavation of monuments of Central Asia. I did not get much support from him either, but some instinct told me that sooner or later I will find my answers.


Finally, luck was on my side: in the last work of Gumilev, Rhythms of Eurasia, I found the irrefutable proof of my conjecture. In the chapter called "Two Traditions of the Ancient  Tibetan Cartography," the author explains the origins of the land with a strange name, "The People-Thieves Who Walk Across the Sky," located between Baluchistan and Bactria, which could be interpreted as Greco-Bactria. There, the Greek colonists settled in mountain fortresses and practiced predatory forays into India and Iran, developing slave trade. L. Gumilev notes that this is also supported by the fact that another country, Ionia, located in the far Northwest, near the sea, also bears the same name. This very name was attached to the Greeks in Persian and Indian languages: Yavana/ionyane (Rhythms of Eurasia, 1993, p. 441).


The map and its description can be traced to the 2-3 century BC, i.e., practically the same time frame in which discoveries were made in the south of Tajikistan in the Yavan settlement of Garavkala, where excavations started in 1963. While the excavation results  have not been published, the majority of the discoveries were presented at the Antiquities of Tajikistan exhibition at the Hermitage in 1985 and in the exhibition catalogue. Among the items is a fragment of a vessel with a Greek inscription from the above mentioned settlement. An eight-character inscription of a proper name in Bactrian?


Thus, the Garavkala settlement of Yavan supports our firm belief in the presence of the Greeks and the Greek culture in the region in question. The fact that a Persian word made its way into the Hebrew language (or, perhaps, the other way around) is not accidental, but rather logical. It is known that the kingdom of Bactria and Damascus, which included Palestine/Israel, were separate satrapies of the Achaemenid Empire, which existed before the Greek invasion. Bactria was the sixth satrapy, and Palestine/Israel was the fifth. It is not an accident that in the Indian language the word for Greeks is Yavana (as noted by L. Gumilev): the northern part of India, Gandhara, now Pakistan, at some point was also a part of the Greco-Bactrian kingdom, and then later of the Kushan Empire.


Thus, we received enough necessary evidence to understand the origin of the word Yavan and its modern altered interpretation, which, under close examination, reveals its  ancient significance. It is supported by irrefutable evidence, and first and foremost, thanks to the genius of Gumilev.


If in the beginning all could be seen is an artificial interpretation of the word, it later became apparent that the true name of the settlement in the south of Tajikistan's history is closely connected with the ancient culture and not only that of the Greeks.


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