Tmutarakan – a Russian principality in Crimea from a thousand years ago



August 9, 2015

Journalistic  Truth

Published in March, 2014

Translated by Kristina Rus

Maidan propagandists forgot about Tmutarakan 

Former Putin adviser and “RBC Dаily” distort history in favor of maidanites

Director of department of information policy of the Ukrainian Foreign Ministry, Yevgeny Perebyinis made a historic discovery, which can only be compared with the revelations of the crooks Nosovsky and Fomenko, who have abolished the entire history of the Ancient world. According to pan Perebeinos, Russians are not eligible to participate in the referendum on Crimea, because they are not indigenous to the peninsula. These are only Ukrainians, Crimean Tatars, and also descendants of the Khazars – the Karaites and Krymchaks. As for the Russians, who make up more than 60% of the Crimean population, it is no more than a diaspora of aliens who have no right to determine its fate. 

The Russian liberals have spoke in the same spirit. Former adviser to the Russian President and then member of the coordinating council of the opposition and a big fan of the Euromaidan, Andrei Illarionov explained in his blog on “Echo of Moscow” that the Russians appeared in Crimea only after its accession to Russia in 1783, while Tatars lived there for several centuries, and Krymchaks with the Karaites for nearly a millennium. Well, a little earlier “RBC Dаily” published by LLC “RBC” by the leader of the party “The Civil platform” Mikhail Prokhorov, has published a colorful history of Crimea with diagrams and maps, accompanied with the significant subtitle: “As you can see from the infographic, for more than two thousand years Crimea was Russian territory for only about two hundred years.” 

Judging by the picture, before Russia’s annexation Crimea changed hands between the Romans and Scythians to Goths and Khazars, then to the Cumans [Rus: Polovtsy] and the Genoese, then was conquered by the Mongols, and only at the end of the XVIII century, the Russian Empire absorbed the last remnant of the Horde – the Crimean khanate. So if you dismiss the hypothesis about the participation in the ethnogenesis of the Eastern Slavs, and thus the Russian Scythian tribes, it turns out that the Russian statehood really appeared on the peninsula in 1783. But if you look closely, it is easy to see that Prohorov’s journalists, and after them Illarionov skipped one state in the Crimean history. We are talking about the Tmutarakan Principality that emerged in those lands after the defeat of the Khazar Khaganate by Svyatoslav. 

Kievan Rus (see Tmutarakan Principality in the south)/Wikipedia

From the end of the X and until the beginning of the XII century the Tmutarakan Principality owned the Taman Peninsula with the city of Tmutarakan (Taman) and East of Crimea with the city of Korchev (Kerch), however, the constant incursions of the Cumans forced him to accept the protectorate of the Byzantine Empire. Last Tmutarakan Prince Oleg Svyatoslavich took the position of Byzantine archon, after his death in 1115, the region was ruled by governors sent from Constantinople, but the Slavic population remained here under them, and after the passing of the South-East of Crimea under the control of Genoa. 

“Tmutarakan” by Rerikh

The fact of more than a century of the existence of Tmutarakan Principality makes the Russians much more “indigenous” people of Crimea than the Mongols [Crimean tatars] who appeared only in 1239. As for the Ukrainians, in the Chronicles of that time the existence of such people is not recorded. There was Kievan Rus, whose inhabitants were called the Russians (or “Rus”) and part of which was the Tmutarakan Principality. In this regard, it is debatable: who are the indigenous people in Kiev. By the logic of Perebeinos and his Moscal friends – namely Russian. 

As for the Galician fans of Bandera, their ancestors originally were not part of Kievan Rus and therefore should not decide the fate of Kiev, Odessa, Kharkov and Poltava, not to mention Donetsk and Lugansk. They are all descendants of the tribe of the so-called “white croats”, and therefore before the referendum about the fate of Ukraine should be deported to their “White Croatia”. By the way, Prokhorov with Illarionov can be deported there too. 

“Journalistic truth” №11, 2014

The famous Tmutarakan stone was accidentally discovered in 1792 – some of the household rangers put it as a doorstep at the threshold of the barracks under construction. On the stone – a marble slab – was a Russian inscription that in one thousand sixty-eighth year after Christ Prince Gleb measured the width of the Kerch strait: “Prince Gleb measured the sea on ice from Tmutarakan to Korchev (Kerch) – 14 thousand fathoms.” This inscription has helped to determine the length of the ancient Russian, so-called “straight” fathom (about 1.5 meters).


Tmutarakan or Tmutorakan was a Mediaeval Kievan Rus’ principality and trading town that controlled the Cimmerian Bosporus, the passage from the Black Sea to the Sea of Azov. Its site was the ancient Greek colony of Hermonassa (Ancient Greek: Ἑρμώνασσα), situated on the Taman peninsula, in the present-day Krasnodar Krai of Russia, roughly opposite Kerch. The Khazar fortress of Tamantarkhan (from which the Byzantine name for the city, Tamatarha, is derived) was built on the site in the 7th century and became known as Tmutarakan (Ukrainian: Тмуторокань, Russian: Тмутарака́нь) when it came under Kievan Rus control in the 10th and 11th centuries.

An international emporium

The Greek colony of Hermonassa was located a few miles west of Phanagoria and Panticapaeum, major trade centers for what was to become the Bosporan Kingdom. After a long period as a Roman client state, the kingdom succumbed to the Huns, who defeated the nearby Alans in 375/376. With the collapse of the Hunnic Empire in the late 5th century, the area passed within the Roman sphere once again but was taken by the Bulgars in the 6th century. Following the fall of the city to the Khazars in the late 7th century, it was rebuilt as a fortress town and renamed Tamatarkha. Arabic sources refer to it as Samkarsh al-Yahud (i.e., “Samkarsh of the Jews”) in reference to the fact that the bulk of the trading there was handled by Jews.[1] Other variants of the city’s name are “Samkersh” and “Samkush”.[2]

Fortified with a strong brick wall and boasting a fine harbor, Tamatarkha was a large city of merchants. It controlled much of the Northern European trade with the Byzantine Empire and Northern Caucasus. There were also trade routes leading south-east to Armenia and the Muslim domains, as well as others connecting with the Silk Road to the east. The inhabitants included Greeks, Armenians, Russians, Jews, Ossetians, Lezgins, Georgians, and Circassians. After the destruction of the Khazar empire by Svyatoslav of Rus in the mid-10th century, Khazars continued to inhabit the region. The Mandgelis Document, a Hebrew letter dated AM 4746 (985–986) refers to “our lord David, the Khazar prince” who lived in Taman and who was visited by envoys from Kievan Rus to ask about religious matters.

Medieval history

A Russian map of the Taman peninsula, c. 1870.
Although the exact date and circumstances of Tmutarakan’s takeover by Kievan Rus are uncertain, the Hypatian Codex mentions Tmutarakan as one of the towns that Vladimir the Great gave to his sons, which implies that Rus control over the city was established in the late 10th century and certainly before Vladimir’s death in 1015.[3] Bronze and silver imitations of Byzantine coinage were struck by the new rulers during this period.[4]

Vladimir’s son Mstislav of Chernigov was the prince of Tmutarakan at the start of the 11th century. During his reign, a first stone church was dedicated to the Mother of God (Theotokos). The excavated site suggests that it was built by Byzantine workmen and has similarities with the church Mstislav went on to commission in Chernigov.[5] After his death, he was followed by a succession of short-lived petty dynasts. Gleb Svyatoslavich was given command of the city by his father, Svyatoslav Yaroslavich, but in 1064 he was displaced by the rival Rus prince Rostislav Vladimirovich who in his turn was forced to flee the city when Gleb approached with an army led by his father. Once Svyatoslav left, however, Rostislav expelled Gleb once again. During his brief rule, he subdued the local Circassians (also known as Kasogi) and other indigenous tribes, but his success provoked the suspicion of neighboring Greek Chersonesos in the Crimea, whose Byzantine envoy poisoned him on 3 February 1066.[6]

Afterwards command of Tmutarakan returned to the prince of Chernigov[7] and then to the Grand Prince of Kiev, Vsevolod Yaroslavich. In 1079, Svyatoslav Yaroslavich appointed a governor (posadnik), but he was captured two years later by David Igorevich and Volodar Rostislavich, who seized the city.[8] Exiled from the city to Byzantium by Khazar agents during this turbulent time, Oleg Svyatoslavich returned to Tmutarakan in 1083 and ousted the usurpers, adopting the title of “archon of Khazaria” (Arakhan of Tmutar), and placed the city under nominal Byzantine control. But he also issued rough silver coins in his own name which included a short inscription in Cyrillic letters. Then in 1094, like Mstislav before him, he returned to Rus to claim the throne of Chernigov.[9]

Byzantine interest in the city was maintained through this succession of client rulers, and thereafter by more direct rule for a while, for an important reason. There were naphtha deposits in the area and this was a vital ingredient of their main tactical weapon, Greek Fire.[10] Up until the end of the 12th century the imperial authorities were forbidding their Genoese trading partners access to the city known to them as Matracha.[11]


In the 13th century the city passed to the Empire of Trebizond (a Byzantine successor state). Its last recorded mention was in a scroll of 1378. The region fell under Genoese control in the 14th century and formed part of the protectorate of Gazaria, based at Kaffa. It was within the territory administered by the Ghisolfi family and was conquered by the Crimean Khanate in 1482 and by Russia in 1791.

The site of Tmutarakan was discovered in 1792, when a local peasant found a stone with an inscription stating that Prince Gleb had measured the sea from here to Kerch in 1068. The excavations of the site were conducted in the 19th and 20th centuries. The habitation level in places exceeds twelve meters.

During much of the 17th and 18th centuries the area was dominated by Cossacks centered on the town of Taman, which was located near the remains of Tmutarakan. The modern town of Temryuk is nearby. In modern colloquial Russian, “tmutarakan” has the idiomatic meaning of “the middle of nowhere” (in the sense of being far, far away from civilization).[12]

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