On questions of historical toponymy The etymology of certain toponyms (1950)
The history of a nation is known to be the result of the interaction between man and his natural environment. It should be seen as a single process of geography and economics, language and culture. This is why an integrated approach to history, taking both these aspects into account, is needed. Such an approach would allow historians to have a more complete grasp of certain difficult questions of history, to clarify them and to extend parts of it on which work has already been done.
At the same time, the Kazakh people’s history has been studied incompletely, in a narrow, very limited and one-sided way, and its historical events are often interpreted abstractly and superficially, detached from the geographical environment and the cultural and economic conditions, in which the people’s life took its course and developed. Not everything is revealed by the historians, not all possibilities are used by them. For example, the materials of historical geography and toponymy, and also the materials of linguistics, necessary for history, are hardly ever referred to, they are left outside the historians’ field of vision, and are simply ignored. At the same time, these materials are extremely ' necessary for the ancient history of the Kazakh people, as a nation which did not have its own written culture in the past.
The sources of any of the most important phenomena of the history of the Kazakhs lie in the distant past. When studying questions of the Kazakh people’s ancient history, historians have usually not gone beyond the bounds of what is already known, they simply re-tell what has already been told, presenting as a discovery what has already been discovered a long time ago, simply setting forth the results of other people’s works. No independent work is conducted on the sources. Historians usually referred to propositions which had been known for a long time, and which had been repeated every time in one form or in another, and in this way quite a stable old tradition of book-learning was created. Following this tradition, new historians repeated the mistakes of historiography before them and contributed nothing new or live to this history, although they were aware that a stable old tradition of book-learning cannot be proof of its truth. On the contrary, it is well known that historiographic tradition was often fed by views of Kazakh history which were far from objective, which gave a distorted view of the Kazakh people.
The earth’s surface is, as it is said, the witness to historical events. Some toponyms names came into being in the depths of antiquity, when written culture did not yet exist. They are closely linked to the people and they were basically created by the people themselves, created in the bosom of nature, and not created in scholars’ studies. This is why toponymic names, like the language of the earth, are very concrete and convincing, they clearly describe certain features of local nature and are distinguished by exceptional accuracy and expressiveness. The study of historical toponymy makes it possible to define the ethnic composition of a particular area, what peoples lived there, and what language was spoken in ancient times by the original inhabitants who gave these names.
However, without the help of linguistics the names themselves cannot give anything substantial. To make full use of the materials of toponymy, it has to be combined with linguistics, in particular with the part of it called “semasiology”, with the help of which it is possible not only to elucidate the etymology of one or another toponymic name, but also to discover its real content.
The purpose of the present work is to elucidate the etymology of certain toponyms. In it, we shall acquaint the reader with names which arose in the depths of antiquity, the etymology of which contains important information about the distant past of the Kazakh people. In relation to some of these names, also, there have been very serious errors, which it is becoming very necessary to eliminate.