The Origins of Hutsuls. A Migration from the Carpathians to the Island of Rügen

by Prof. Dr. Valentin Taranets (Author) Inna Stupak (Author)

Scientific Essay 2016 11 Pages

Russian / Slavic Languages




1 Formulation of the problem

2 Structural analysis of the word Hutsul
2.1 Ancient roots in the ethnonym
2.2 The meaning of prefix hu -
2.3 Semantics of the root – tsul

3. Migrations of Hutsuls
3.1 Analysis of Hutsul texts
3.2 Related tribes on Rügen island
3.3 The return of Hutsul to Carpathians



Abstract . The article presents the author’s considerations regarding the origin of Hutsuls, which is believed to stem from Galician tribes in the Carpathian region. After their migration to the island of Rügen, part of the Galicians returned to the Carpathians and went up to the mountains. They are traditionally referred to as Hutsuls-highlanders (shepherds) as opposed to Podolyan Galicians (Ruthenian).

Key words: Slavic tribes, migration of Slavs, Galicians, Hutsuls, Ruthenian.


Hutsuls belong to the group of ancient Ukrainian speaking tribes, as evidenced by the many signs of similarities of Hutsul dialect in relation to the modern Ukrainian language (M. P. Lesjuk, G. K. Kozholjanko, V. G. Zai'c'). The origin of its name, which is embodied in the ethnonym hutsuly also confirms the ancient age of Hutsul ethnic group. Peculiarities of its usage are reflected in its ambiguous understanding of the genesis and primary motivation of this ethnonim.

1 Formulation of the problem

The oldest studies on the origin of the word hutsuly include the article written by Polish researcher K. Milevskiy («About Hutsuls», 1825), who derived this ethnonym from the verb ʻroamʼ. L. Golembjovs'kyj (1830) examined the origins of the word hutsuly from kochul, kuchul or gocul while considering Hutsuls to be ukrainianized Poles. Some researchers (M. Kazanovych, Je. Kaluzhnjans'kyj, I. Ogonovs'kyj) deduced the ethnonym hutsuly to be from the root of mold. goc, guc or rom. hoţul which meant ʻthief, bandit, evildoerʼ, considering Hutsuls to be ukrainianized Romanians.

Among the domestic researchers a folklorist and anthropologist Ivan Vagilevich should be named, who derived the word hutsuly from the name of Turkic uziv-uciv tribe, which could settle down in Carpathian Mountains and become ukrainianized. This opinion was shared by Yuriy Fedkovich, Austrian poet Ernst Neubauer.

There are many hypotheses and approaches regarding the meaning of ethnonym hutsuly, but to date there is no one common understanding of its origin. (Hudash 1998; Mel'nichuk/Hg./ 1982: 31). The reason for this is the lack of written evidence, and when they appeared, they were of the later dates. M. Hudash considers anthroponym Guc and its derivatives Gucov, Gucko, Guckovych, to be the oldest of its forms, which were also encountered in the memorials from the XV cent., and believes, that ethnonym hutsuly comes from “proto-Slavic proper noun Hutsul, which became the name of the Slavic clan-tribe unio (Hudash 1998: 315). “And in our times, - writes O. Masan, - etymology of the name hutsuly is not fully clarified, although its Slavic origin is undoubtful” (Masan 22003: 180).

2 Structural analysis of the word Hutsul

In this situation, in our opinion, a special approach is required, which would give us the opportunity to extract the semantic units from the existing form hutsuly, and allow us to view their origin from primary sources. The review of aforementioned lexeme in the indo-european (ide.) light gives the opportunity to make the conclusions more convincing, than it would be possible if analyzing isolated word. In our observations, we follow three positions on ethnonim hutsuly, to which R. F. Kayndl drew attention, they are: 1) The origins of Hutsuls community are Slavic (“Hutsuls are Slavs by languages, customs and traditions” (Kajndl' 22003: 8). 2) compared to other lexical layers the terms agriculture and gardening are Slavic [same, p. 9], which indicates their original agricultural characteristic and 3) synonymous with the name hutsuly is word Rusyns [same, p. 7]. These three semantic features of Hutsul community are the basis of our research of the name hutsuly.

2.1 Ancient roots in the ethnonym

Based on the research done by V. T. Kolomiec and our observation, we conclude, that in ancient times the structure of words matched morphemic and phonetic (syllable) limit (Kolomyec 1986: 41; Taranets 22009: 23). In the relation to the reviewed ethnonym we can distinguish the syllables hu - tsul in which under the stress is prefix h u -. Affricate /-ts/ appeared from ide. * ƙ - > *k’- as a result of palatalization of a velar consonant /k/ in ancient Slavic language (articulatory weakening), which took place in late proto-Slavic period. The next labial vowel after /ts-/, /u/ indicates the labial nature of the previous coronal /k-/, which in ide. Proto-language represented labial-velar * ƙṷ -. It’s obvious that the root of ethnonym h utsul y looked like indo-european * ƙṷ el-, meaning ʻfarmersʼ similar to the ethnonym Slavs, which was reviewed in one of our works (Taranets 22009: 197-199) .

2.2 The meaning of prefix hu -

On the other hand, we can separate from the word hutsuly its prefix hu -, which in time joined the root, creating modern root structure huts -. According to the research done by V. V. Luchik (Luchyk 1999), Ukrainian prefix *hu- originated from ide. *au- with the meaning of ʻmove away, disappearʼ and carries spatial meaning. Similar in form and meaning are German lexemes *hauhoz ʻmountain, mountainousʼ (Skeat 1983: 271), and ide. * hukwéri ʻover, on topʼ (Pokorny 2007: 3203). Initial prefix hu - has a function of attribute and clarifies original semantics of the word hutsuly that in general reflects the meaning of ʻmountainous-farmersʼ or ʻhighland-farmersʼ.

Since in ide. linguistics it is believed that prefix forms of lexemes are secondary to the root forms, we can assume the existence of a derivation of meanings in the ethnonym hutsuly: ‘farmers’ → ‘mountainous (farmers, shepherds)’. And that means that historically Hutsuls first engaged in agriculture and were living in the plains, and later moved to the mountains, adding on to their tribe name hu-tsuly ‘mountainous’ and became pastoralists due to the influence of their habitat.

2.3 Semantics of the root – tsul

Previous remarks give us a reason to examine the origins of protoname of tribe of Hutsuls from the initial ide. root * ƙṷ el-, which could be seen in the ancient ethnonym Halych a ny (without prefix hu -), related to the said root in the word hutsuly (Taranets 2013: 45-50). According to this, we can assume that proto-Halychany (Hutsuls) occupied the North-Eastern Carpathians territory. This proto-Slavs period is followed by their breakup of their ethnos and separation of invidvidual subethnic groups as evidenced by migrations to the north relevant to their ancestral home – north-easrtern region of the Carpathians (Taranets 2013).

According to the linguistic sources and the analysis of the Hutsul texts, the time and direction of this migration clashes with the evidences of the Hutsuls life below. Archaic language and ethnocultural features lets you the origins of Hutsul memories on the creation of their tribe, in particular their place of residence. Lets dwell on this side of the issues in more detail.

3.Migrations of Hutsuls

3.1 Analysis of Hutsul texts

Of particular value in our examination are observations of the scholars who researched the lives of highlanders in ancient times, when at least some traces of Hutsuls were still kept. However, even through the conversations with old Hutsuls, as noted by S. Vytvyc'kyj, we could not receive a satisfactory result on the origin of the latter, he usually was greeted with the typical response of: “We are here for a long time on these highland since we’ve settled” (Vytvyc'kyj 1993: 14) (meaning Carpathians), and say where they came from, they cannot.

In further search of ancient Hutsul dwellings S. Vytvyc'kyj again and again turned with this question to the old Gazda, but they, like everyone else, could not satisfy his intentions, only one of them once said: “our family on these highlands are since olden times, very old, from over the mountain and from over the seas” (Vytvyc'kyj 1993: 16). We would like to add another interesting obversation by S. Vytvyc'kyj on ancient Hutsul dwellings to the latter remark.

While going to the meadows on the Yuriy day, shepherds could, through the friction of two fire logs, achieve fire, that was called “live”. Observations show that the highlanders were very meticulous about following the old customs, which were supposed to promote good and successful fattening of their cattle. While on the meadows, they maintained the “living fire” throughout whole summer. Sitting around the fire, S. Vytvyc'kyj listened to a lot of legends from the mouth of Hutsuls, and also observed their customs. One of their legends author submits in this form.

After finishing the discussion, around midnight, while waiting for the daylight, their captain, writes S. Vytvyc'kyj, would stand on the hill facing northwest, squeezing his pipe, bareheaded and said plaintively, and all shepherds-Hutsuls would repeat after him: “Hey rocks, rocks, and mountains far-away. Hey sea, cold and icy, and very distant”. After that you can see tears in their eyes (emphasized by us – T., S.) (Vytvyc'kyj 1993: 14). Obviously such emotional recreation in the ethnic memory of past, handed down from generation to generation, eventually became a ritual act for the tribesmen and evidences its great importance for this ethnos. Ritualism is further proved by the peculiar structure of expressions with words such as: “Hey mountains and mountains far-away, hey winter Sea, and icy, and cold, and distant”.

Due to the facts provided by Hutsuls it is obvious that their mentioning of mountains and seas is not coincidental, and it allows us to view these words as ethnogems. Thus, similar is shown in “Dido Yvanchyk” by Petro Shekeryk-Donykiv, which realistically reflects the life and beliefs of old Hutsuls. On Mid-Pentecost hutsul Yvanchyk, following pagan memories, told one of the legends about the life of his ancestors. He began with the words: “Over the far Seas, over the high Mountains, over the steep rocks, in the earth, surrounded on all sides by waters and Seas, there, where each day for the first time from its golden throne stands up righteous Sun and comes to us, live quiet, fair, peaceful Rahmans …” (Shekeryk-Donykiv 2007: 346) (emphasized by us - T., S.). Appeal to the ethymology of the word indicates the antiquity of its existence (Mel'nichuk/Hg./ 2006/5: 32-33; Fasmer 21987: 449).

Hutsuls believed that the four deities (s’yettsi) pass from hand to hand keys that each opens the appropriate season. So, Saint Yuriy opens the spring and “releases from distant seas and high mountains his lush spring – sometimes hot, sometimes cold winds” (Shekeryk-Donykiv 2009: 7). The term “distant seas, high mountains” is also used elsewhere. ”By sunset, the sun goes to its diamond yards over the distant seas and high mountains to relax for the night” [same, p. 11] (emphasized by us – T., S.).

All of the above also tells us about deep and distant ethnic memory of Hutsuls, which concerns their souls and is kept in secret, like in cattle in the meadows or in charmers’ incantations. Common to them is the mention of steep rocks, high mountains and distant seas, which is the oldest, and on this basis we can assume that Hutsuls lived on an island, likely island Rügen, where historically lived Slavs.

3.2 Related tribes on Rügen island

Landscape of Rügen island shows that there are no mountain like in Carpathians (highest one is Pickberg – 161m), although there is aforementioned “high mountains” saying in Hutsuls, but that is likely an emotional expression of the perception of the past, so we believe that ethnonym hutsuls with semantics “mountain tribe” could not first appear in this region. Thus, the appearance of prefix hu- in the ethnonym happened later in the word formation, and during the times the tribe spent on the island and the shores of Baltic Sea its name had a root, which comes from ide.* ƙṷ el - and means ‘farmersʼ. As we showed earlier, the oldest Hutsul profession was farmer. Similar root with the meaning ‘farmersʼ is also certified in ethnonym h alych a ny. Obviously, the name h alych a ny is older than hutsuls, and it meant ‘ farmersʼ in general, not ‘ plowmen-mountaineersʼ. Recalling from the previous, that in the structure of the word h alych a ny in ancient times was root hali-.

To the south on island Rügen lived Hevells, Wiltzs, in their ethnonyms we can separate the root * hvel / wil - (Herrmann 1985) . The latter is also evident in the name of western Slavic tribe Welets (Weleten) (remember the name of the settlement Veljatyn, Carpathians region).

Comparison between roots h aly -( ch a ny ), hevel -( ls ) and wil -( tz ), wel -( ets ) shows their relationship, despite the fact the in the initial position we see different consonants h-/w-. Historically such consonants come from a single complex sound Slav.* hw - (< ide. * k ṷ -). Obviously, the names H alych a ny , Hevelly , Wiltz and Welets are the reflections of the same ethnonym, which denoted one of the ancient Ukrainian Halician tribes (Schmidt 2002; Scheil 1945).

Thus, is the ancient times the Halicians migrated from Carpathians regions to the north along the rivers Oder and Vistula to the Baltic Sea. In the same direction were traveling Boykos, as evidence by the city name Boitzenburg in the lands of Uckermark (Germany). The existence of mark and the name of the river Ucker confirm the Ukrani settlement in these lands, which were together with Boykos located south of Wiltz (Enders 1992).



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Slavic tribes migration of Slavs Galicians Hutsuls Ruthenian



Title: The Origins of Hutsuls. A Migration from the Carpathians to the Island of Rügen