More than simply a catch-all, the “Black Sea” pulls together the multiple civilizations that have populated the littoral, ranging freely from Bolgars on the Danube with the “relatives” on the Volga, to Genoese traders, to the short-lived kingdom of Trabzon.
Kurgan is a Turkish word for “castle” that translates as “mound,” “tumulus,” or “barrow,” a reference to the particular burial method of building mounds atop pit-graves. Kurgan culture evolved from the fifth millennia BC, from the Northern Pontic and spread across Central Europe, crossing the Dnepr and moving as far as Kazakhstan, home of the Issyk Kurgan. A practice rather than an ethnicity, kurgan culture united many of the peoples who occupied what became the Russian Empire. Scythians ae perhaps the best known who followed these burial practices because of the spectacular golden items found in many of their kurgans. The most culturally advanced kurgans are complex structures with reinforced walls and numerous internal chambers, and many still lie unexcavated across the steppes.
This is central to Russian identity; it provides the connection to Antiquity by its interactions with Greek traders, as it also gives Russians an historical foothold on the Black Sea littoral as they began to claim Scythian ancestory.
Located on private lands northwest of Nikopol in present-day Ukraine, this enormous barrow was hoped to provide as rich a find as the Tsar Kurgan. But I. E. Zabelin’s initial forays, beginning in 1862, revealed that the site had been raided centuries ago. There did remain, however, remain a thin gold lining with decorations identified from the Trojan War. Therefore, it belongs to both Scythia and Greek antiquity. In 1652, a Cossack sech’ had been founded in the area.
One of the Greek colonies on the northern shore of the Black Sea, Olvia lies close to the Borysthenes, the main river that gave it commercial meaning by connecting the fertile Ukraine to the sea. The Scythians later called this waterway the Dānu apr, or the name it bears today, the Dnepr. Herodotus wrote of Olvia,and Strabo also mentioned it.
Located on the lower Kuban River, because of the number of kurgans, this was thought to be the burial grounds of 7 Brothers. Although most had been vandalized for the gold treasures they held, nos. 2 and 6 were untouched when Tizengauzen began his excavations in 1876. The Greek and Scythian artefeacts dated from the 5th and 4th centuries BCE.
This find on the East bank of the Dnepr contained two royal tombs, and was especially noteworthy because it confirmed one of Herodotus’s accounts, dating back to the second half of the 5th Century BCE. Excavated first by N. I. Veselovskii 1912-1913, Boris Farmakovskii descried it as both “his apogee and his swan song.”
In 1792 the “Tmutarakan’ Stone,” mentioned in the Lay of the Igor Campaign, was discovered on the Taman Peninsula. The inscription, credited to Prince Gleb made it the first source of an epigraphical history of Russia. President of the Academy of Arts A. I. Musin-Pushkin published the inscription in 1794, and its authenticity still remains a source of controversy. Tmutarakan was the capital of a 9th-century kaganate, Russian-Varangian, that controlled a trade route in defiance of Khazar dominance in the region that would become New Russia.
A professor of Slavic philology at New Russia University, Poruzhenko specialized in Bulgaria; emigrating there during the Civil War, he taught Russian literature at the University of Sophia and was active in emigre circles. He had served as secretary of the Odessa Society, 1890-192.il War
Ignatii Stelletskii, after graduating from the Kiev Spiritual Academy, took a position at the Nazareth teaching seminary in Palestine. From here he made an unconventional jump to the Moscow Archive of the Ministry of Justice, where Samokvasov took him under his mentorship in excavating kurgans. Stelletskii combined the two with a paper on “The Scythian Invasion of Palestine,” read at the 14th Congress. Indeed, Palestine provided his main area of expertise, though he does not appear to have returned. He presented an equally controversial paper at the 15th Congress, on his latest interest, searches for the city’s “underground,” searches that he continued in other cities. During the Great War he found himself on the Caucasian front, from which Marr and Uspenskii and others were conducting excavations; he was appointed director of the archeological department of the governor-generalship of the occupied Ottoman territories. On a side note, Stelletskii became obsessed with the “missing” library of Ivan the Terrible, which he carried over into his Soviet years.