The history of Khortitsa
аuthors: Galina and Maxim Ostapenko
photos: Vladimir Antipov
are historical areas which caused the surprise, fear and delight of
the people during thousands of years. Their natural beauty and unique
forced the people to become agitated while meeting them. Unfortunately,
the considerable part of the area was disappeared for ever in the hoary
waves of the Dnieper. And it is impossible to see the threatening rapids,
rocks and islands, the green expanses of the Velikiy Lug. But fortunately
the human memory exists. And forever will retain the most interesting
and brilliant pages of our history..
Khortitsa is a very beautiful picturesque island. It is washed by the wide and powerful Dnieper from two sides, is girdled with the high rocks, sandy banks, is covered with the green forest and is decorated with the bright flowers. The wonderful view and the glorious past attract attention of the inhabitants of Zaporozhye city and the travellers from the different corners of Ukraine and the whole world to Khortitsa. The island is glorified by the poets, painters, historians and regional ethnographers. Among the famous visitors we remember the great Ukrainian poet T.Shevchenko, "Kobzar", composer N.Lysenko, painters I.Repin and V.Serov, writers I.Bunin and A.Gorkiy, historian D.Yavornitskiy, regional ethnographers, Y.Novitskiy, A.Kaschenko.
In 2-nd century A.C. early Slavonic tribes began gradual colonization of the Southern Podneprovye. The population was occupied in agriculture, pottery, metal-working, servicing the crossing-place on the Dnieper which was a trade route. Since the 4-th century the different Turkic tribes: the Hunnes (from 4-th to 5-th cen.), Avars (from 5-th cen.), Hozars (from 8-th to 9-th cen.), Pechenegs (from 9-th to 10-th cen.), Polovans (from 11-th to beginning 13-th cen.) Mongol-Tatars (from 13-th to 15-th cen.) The prolonged staying of nomadic population on the territory of our parts had kept much archaeological monuments, the Turkic language toponimics and river names. At the end of the 19-th century there were 136 burial-mounts of different ages, on the whole area of the island. Up to the present there are about 50 burial-mounts.
The most brilliant pages of Khortitsa history are connected with Zaporozhian cossacks. The first Cossack fortification was built on the Smaller Khortitsa island by Dmitry Vishnevetshiy in 1556. He had fulfilled the campaigns on the Turkish fortresses and had protected the borders of Polish-Lithuanian state which included our region. Staying of the Cossacks beyond the Dnieper rapids had done much for settling of the fertile lands and reanimation of the economic activities. In the history of Cossacks gullies, ravines and gorges had the certain importance "as posts of gradual colonization of the fast, wild and lonely steppe plain: military force of Zaporozhye was the owner of these lands and had their own trades…". On the "Plan coping the Dnieper with Khortitsa island with indicating forests, meadows winter homes and other situations" (1788) there were indicated the places of winter homes of Ivan Shvets, Stepan Vergerin, Semyon Kravets, Vasiliy Knyshenko, Ivan Ptakha, Fyodor Shlyopka, Ivan Taran. Zaporozhians Dovgal, Kuchygura, Gromukha, Golovko and others lived on Khortitsa too. Velikiy Lug was beginning from the South edge of Khortitsa. Owing to these facts the Cossacks were ingaged hunting, fishing cattle-raising and others traders. Up to the present day only the floodlands of Khortitsa remind about the past wealth of Zaporozhye area, the remaining part of Velikiy Lug floodlands had disappeared under the waters of Khahovskoye artificial sea in 1955 to 1957 years.
A good deal of trials had fallen lot on our area in the first half of the 20-th century. Thousands of people have arrived since 1927 till 1932 years for building of Dnieprohes and industrial installations. Even existing geographical names on the islands were renamed because of the great stream of the settelers. Landscape of Khortitsa was damaged by the human activities. Taking into consideration historical and natural value of the island, since the 18-th of September, 1965 Khortitsa was declared as State historical-cultural reserve, and since the 5-th of April, 1993 had received status of the national reserve.
Khortitsa is 12.5 kilometers long and 2.5 kilometers wide, the total area is 650 hectares, the northern part is high, rocky, gradually is descending to the South and passing in floodlands. Khortitsa separates the river into two great currents New and Old Dniper (Rechische).
The first announcements about the island and its ancient name are contained in treatise of the times of the empepor Konstantin Bagryanorodniy "About the empire governing" (952 year). According to the empery description after difficult crossing of the trade fleet over the Dipper rapids, Russes were passing through the ferry Krariya (later Kichkasskiy) and staying on the island of Saint Grigoriy (or saint Georgiy in other translation). "They bring their donation: there enormous oak-tree stands. They donate living birds, also thrust arrows, and lay the pieces of bread and meat according to the custom. Here they east lots to kill the birds and eat them or remain alive". Among pagan cults of the ancient population of Podneprovye it was widespread respecting of the sacred trees, animals and birds. Regional ethnographer of Alexandrovsk Y. Novitskiy in the 19-th century had wrote a recollection of the town old residents about the existence of the enormous oak-trees on the Khortitsa island. To South of the Mennonite colony (near Shantseva ravine) there was a high and bushy oak-tree, the tree was about fifty hundred years old, "the leaves on it were red in winter and had fallen in spring." Other oak-tree-giants were in the northern part of the island near the rock Vysshaya Golova, "under the bushes of this giant the whole herd of horses may hide at the hottest timeof the day. Until quiet recent times we had an opportunity to admire the lush crown of the seven hundredth year giant in Upper Khortitsa lowland.
Regional ethnographer V. Fomenko proposed an interesting version about the origination of the ancient name of the island. He connects the surname George (crop-grower in Greek language) with denomination of the Scythians-crop-glowers tribe, exactly "georga", who lived near Borisphen (Dnieper) and is mentioned by the Greek historian Herodoth in the 5-th century BC. It should be mentioned that waterway over the Dnieper "from Varyags to Greeks" was conducive to gradual penetration of the Christianity on Kievskaya Russ long before baptism by prince Vladimir in 988. It was confirmed by the archaeological researches: they found a foundation of a small temple from 9-th to 10-th centuries in floodland part of the island.
In Old Russian chronicles the island is mentioned under its modern name in connection with the march of Russian warriors against Polovans in 1103 "… And they went by horses and came lower the rapids and stayed in Protovcheh and in Khortichiy island." In different announcements the island is called as Khorchika, Khitritskiy, Khordetskiy, Ortinskiy, Kortitskiy, Gorodetskiy, Intrskiy.
Toponym "Khortitsa" for a long time attracted attention of many researchers. The scientists made a series of interesting versions with regard to origination of the name but not a single version is final. Here are the most widespread versions of the names originated from: Khortitsa - hound dog with smooth hair; khort - wolf from folklore source; Khors - sun God of Slavian-pagans, Greek "Khortos" - meadows, pacture; Turk "ort, orta"- "middle, located in the middle" of the river. Unfortunately, very few researches of Khortitsa attracted attention to three right-bank rivers opposite the island which are named as Upper (or Suhaya), Middle and Lower Khortitsa. The names of hydronyms arise earlier than the names of other objects. For linguist the hydronyms are the most ancient memorials of the language. Definite out-of-date words or words of disappeared languages had preserved in the toponyms. There are testimonies of the ambassador of Austrian emperor Lyasota who in 1594 was returning from Zaporozhian Cossacks: "on the fourth of July we passed two rivers named Moskovka and were flowing to the Dnieper from the Tartar side (left bank- note of author) the distance to the island is one mile… Then we put in to the bank lower, near the island of Smaller Khortitsa three rivers are flowing to the Dnieper from the Russian side (right bank - note of author), all these rivers were called Khortitsa and this name was given to the island too." Up to the 19-th century these rivers were although narrow, but enough deep and full of fish. And during the flood of the Dnieper the river Lower Khortitsa even was changed into lagoon. The region between the rivers Upper and Lower Khortitsa were covered with high grass and bushes, where there were many wolves. Names of the hydronyms reflect the natural particularities of the region where the river flows. From the riverbed, character of flow, particularities of soil at the bottom and on the coast, the vegetable kingdom and the animal kingdom and soon probably, the origin of the toponym "Khortitsa" should be searched for in the names of these right- bank rivers.
On the left from the Pillars the stones Two Stogs stand, which resemble the stacks of the straw. Up to the present more often it is possible to hear other names-Two Brothers, Twins. From the northern side of Khortitsa before Dnieprogess the Oak island is located, which quite often is called Medium, Topoliniy or Turtle was called in accordance of its form.
Sagaydachniy lowland was located on the left- bank of the Dnieper opposite Khortitsa. At one time it was wide spacious meadow surrounded with steep slopes, here there were lush trees. The name of the ravine is connected with the name of a Cossack commander Pyotr Konashevich Sagaydachniy, which at the beginning of the 17-th century ostensibly was restoring Sech on Khortitsa. But archaeologically this information is not confirmed. Old residents of Alexandrovsk told, that Cossack Sagaydack had lived at this place. He was killed in his dug-cut during the attack of tsarist troops at the end of 18-th century. Two rocks Durnaya and Medium (rock of Sagaydachniy) came forward before the lowland. According to a folk legend the Cossacks were being inflicted a punishment on Durnaya rock. In summer the rock was warmed up and was so hot, that is was impossible to stand bare feet. If a Cossack was at fault, he was being brought on the rock in the hottest time where he was punished. According to the words of the pilots, such name is given because of it sat down in the middle of the Dnieper at the wrong moment, stupidly. Other legends told, that the troops of Peter The First had executed Zaporozhian Cossacks on this rock for their joining to Mazepa and Carl 12-th (1709). That is why the rock was nicknamed as Durnaya. On "Plan №14 barrages of the island erected during the campaign of 1737, 38 and 39" Durnaya rock is indicated as site of plague - infected ("dangerous") field-ambulance during the war of 1736-1739.zaporozhians called infectious diseases as "durnye", that is say of that kind which are impossible to foresee as traumas and wounds. There fore the rock was called in such a way.
On the Medium rock in the thirtieth years of the 19-th century you could see original stone named "Lyulka" similar to real pipe, "Lizko" or "Sagaydak's armchair" was there, probably, worked up stone with gouged hollow for lying man. In 1883 two inhabitants of Alexandrovsk blew up "Lizko" and no stone stayed there. On the Medium rock archaeologists have found an encampment of Neolithic epoch with the remains of dishes crocks, retouching silicon, bones of fish and animals. Durnaya and Medium rocks were significantly damaged during the building of Dnieproges and locks.
The huge rocks on the island majestically coming forward the Dnieper astonishes. The three highest rocks on the island are called The Head: in the northern part -Higher, on the eastern bank - Medium and Lower in the floodlands. From the Northern side of Khortitsa under the overhanging boulder of the Higher Head rock one can see the so-called Snakes cave. Its length is four meters, width one meter and height - five meters. During the exploration of the cave, in 1879, several bones of animals or birds, crocks of molded dishes, silicon knocks were found. Still earlier local fisherman had found there rotten smooth woolen cloth, saddle, arms of the Cossacks times National legend connects the cave with the enormous dragon which had lived there during the Cossacks-Zaporozhians times and every night had lighted the Dnieper. Still in the 19-th century the inhabitants had told each other the stories about great numbers of snakes in the cracks of the rocks. Runners and snakes with yellow bellies with length more than 1 meter you can see on the island in our times.
Along the eastern and western coastline Khortitsa is indented with numerous gullies. On the northern edge of the island Chavunova gully is located, where zaporozhian fisherman Chavun had his camp. The gully was small, earlier it was wooded, and in our tomes it is covered with bushes. The modern inhabitants call this gully as Setch Gate, explaining that it was the way to Setch. There, ostensibly the Cossacks had moored their "Chaikas" and had arranged the tests for their new ones. This name appeared in the fiftieth and sixtieth years of the 20-th century, when the interest to national history was regenerated and state historical and cultural reserve was created on Khortitsa.
Since 1900 this picturesque place was turned into a quarry. In consequence of these works a little gully Holodnaya disappeared. Archaeological researches in 90-th years of the 20-th century had found Scythian site of ancient settlement on the rock (from the 5-th to3-rd century BC). It had a form of abnormal quadrangle with size 160x120 meters and had fixed with earth walls with fence and ditches. The Southern side of the site of the ancient settlement was fixed with the second earth wall with width from eight to ten meters, on the top of the fence. During the excavations it was revealed a great number of happy finds. Sovutinskoye site of the ancient settlement carried out the control over transportation from the left coast to the island. On Khortitsa it were discovered seven settlements and several burials of the Scythian period, among them it was distinguished funeral commemorating complex on the elevation "Kanfarka" in the northern part of the island.
Opposite to the rock Sovutina in the river- bed of the New Dnieper one can see stones Skoptsev and Pereyma, called according to the surnames of the Cossack pilots perished there. These stones are the remains of the Small Oak island, washed off with the great flood in 1845. In the first part of the nineteenth century one can notice on this island fortification of Field - Marshal Minikh of the Russian - Turkish war from 1736 to 1739. On the place of the modern navigable riverbed of the New Dnieper between Sagaydachniy lowland and Small Oak Island the narrow channel existed, not far from there was an impassible forest with rush, fish lakes and marshes.
The ravine Velikaya Molodnyaga was one of the finest ravines of the North-Eastern coast of Khortitsa, in the old days it was called as Bragarnya. Velikaya Molodnyaga was the coast, which was situated below and has received the name because of growth of black poplars and its numerous new thickets. The folk legend says that here there was a training camp where young Cossacks learned to shoot, to ride. Toponym "Bragarnya" has no monosemantic explanation for today. Possibly, it was originated from the making of "bragget" in this region The French engineer Giyom Levasser de Boplan (beginning of the 17-th century) noted that among the Cossacks "everyone also can brew beer and make "gorilka". The geographical names of the Ukraine it was often reflected development of trade, manufacturing of different goods, crafts: Bondarnya (from coopers who manufactured barrels, buckets), Potashnya (manufacturing of potash), Brovarnya (brewery). Name of Bragarnya ravine exists from the times of Mennonites, thus, it is not excluded that the root of this word occurred from the German "bruch": destruction of the ship (in the mouth of the ravine ships and their parts from the time of the Russian- Turkish war and also the remains of the soldier dug- cuts were found).