Concerning origin and localization of Uti tribe. Rauf Melikov

   Uti is one of the oldest tribes on the territory of Azerbaijan, as referred to  in ancient sources, including a work by Albanian historian Moses Kalankatuyskiy, works by early medieval Armenian authors, Arab geographers.

  Although the tribe of Uti has been given much scholarly attention in the works of modern historians, nonetheless, the issue of ethnic origin and territory of Uti tribe has still to be clarified. Even worse, there are still no research works focusing on the subject. All the researchers have made casual and brief mention of Uti when exploring the history of Midia, Atropatena or Albania. True, a summarizing work has recently been issued focusing rather on historiographical problems with an insignificant emphasis on the origin and localization of Uti tribe (10).

Some researchers believe that Utis descend from the tribe of Kuti that resided on the territory of South Azerbaijan in the 23-21 centuries B.C. and are known from Akkadian and Sumerian sources (11, 110; 5, 4, 14; 4, 65). I. M. Diakonov points out that “there are forcible arguments in favour of affinity between Hurrite and Urartian, on the one hand, and north – eastern Caucasian languages, on the other, possibly they constitute one and the same “eastern – Caucasian“ community“ (12, 23). He argues that an outward resemblance between the term “Kuti“ and the ethnonym “Uti“ is not enough to arrive at a definite conclusion (12, 23, note 12).

However, we are prone to think that Kutis are ancestors of Utis. First, an eloquent testimony to the fact is a linguistic affinity (both Kutis and Utis go back to north-eastern Caucasian linguistic family); second, Kutis settlement in the area was supposedly accompanied with the spreading of specific Mesopotamian and North Iranian handicrafts (4, 156); finally, some ancient manuscripts refer to Utis as |??? (4, 65).

It should be noted that many researchers stress on the relationship between Utis and Etiunis who settled down in the region of Etiunia. I.I.Meshaninov considered Utis (i.e. present-day Udins) who resided in the willages of Vartashen and Nidj, as descendants of Etiunia. He supposed that they moved to the area later (21, 10). Under the “ancient country of Etiunia“, another researcher Gr. Kapantsyan meant “a big country or a state composed of the federation of numerous and small principalities“ (14, 9). Gr. Kapantsyan thinks it hardly probable that there is a resemblance between Eti-u/ni and Eti-u/hi and the ethnic term Uti, though he has to agree that “Utis allegedly lived along the river of Arax, on the border with Atropatena“ (14, 9).

In identifying Etiunis with Utis, I.Aliyev compares a root of Eti with Uti, with Ot-ena of ancient authors, as well as with an Armenian form Uti-q (5, 40). In turn, G.A.Melikishvili believes that the name of “Etiuni“ was used to denote vast territories of South Transcaucasia, from the region of Kars and the lake of Chaldyr in the west  to the lake of Sevan (Geycha) in the east. He is prone to think that Etiuni was not a name of a political formation: rather, Etiuni, as he insists, is either common name or geographical nation. G.A.Melikishvili points out that “Eti ni/hi“ was not Urartian but rather a local name (cf. with endings of Albanian proper names in the “History of Albania“ by Moses Kalankatuyskiy  —  Tagukhi (I, 29) and Vardanukhi (II, 13, 20)  —  R.M.). An eloquent testimony is a form of the given name, having a close analogy to some local topo- and ethnonymic names“. G.A.Melikishvili underscores the likeness between a collective name of the population of Sevan region of Uduri (- Etiuni), which is mentioned in Urartu sources as a determinant of tribal names and a name of an Albanian tribe of Uds (Udins). An opinion of the residence of the Albanian trine of Uds (Utii) in the eastern region of Etiunia is not a great surprise, since the point is about a territory, adjacent to Caucasian Albania. G.A.Melikishvili maintains that the population of Etiunia is Caucasian-speaking (18, 4).

Are there any forcible arguments in favour of identifuing inhabitants of Etiunia with Utis? Urartian inscriptions in the region of Sevan lake (Geycha) are indicative of a great deal of names of the settlements and regions ending with – iu (- iw)  —  Ishtikuniv, Lueruniv, Kam(a)niv, Andamaniv, etc. The same is true of the name of the country Etiu (Etiw) from Etiuni, where ending is ni/hi. G.I.Melikishvili compares these endings with toponymic words in Daghestan languages ending with – ib (cf. Gunib, Tsurib, Kakhib, Archiv, etc.). Besides, I.M.Dyakonov points out that an element – iu, typical for Transcaucasian toponymy of the period in question, finds no parallel in Hurrite and Urartian languages (12, 118). Also of interest is the affinity between a collective name of Etiuni`s population, as mentioned with a determinant of tribal names – Uduri, and a name of the tribe of Uds (Udins) (18, 3). As viewed by I.Aliyev, the settlement belt of Etiunis possibly reached Minor Caucasus (5, 43), and, according to Pliny, in the 1 centure A.D. the river of Arax separated the region of Uti (Otena) from Atropatena, i.e. Utis occupied the remotest areas of ancient Etuini. In addition, an inscription of Urartian king Sarduri, dated 742-739 B.C., mentioned, among other countries of Uduri – Etiuni, a country of Kualbani, consonant to Albania with Etiunia – Uti as its integral part in the later epoch.

Referring to Utis are many ancient authors. These are Herodotus (5 century B.C.), Strabo (1 century B.C. – 1 century A.D.), Gaius Pliny Secund (1 century A.D.), Claudius Ptolemy (2 century A.D.), Eusebius (4 century A. D.), Stephens of Byzantine, as well as Albanian historian of VIII c. Moses Kalankatuyskiy and early medieval Armenian authors Agafanghel, Phaustos Buzand, Moses Khorenskiy, as well as and the “Armenian Geography“ ascribed to Moses Khorenskiy.

It was Herodotus who first mentioned Utis due to the events occurred in the 5 century B.C. He refers to Uti as a part of the 14th district of Akhaemenid power which additionally included Sagarts and Mukes; this district paid annual taxes to Akhaemenid kings, equal to 600 talents of siver (Herod,. III, 93). As is known, Sagarts occupied a region in South Azerbaijan (8, 227-250; 20, 135-140), Mukes lived along the river of Arax (Hekat., fr. 170) and Utis – along the river of Kura. However, scientists entered into polemics as regards the localization of all three above-mentioned tribes; thus, Sagarts were placed far in the east (Kafiristan), Mukes – far in the south (Makran), Utis – in the region of Yautiya (Persia) (8, 239 – 240).

As viewed by researchers, Yautiya should be placed in the south – eastern part of Pars, i.e. in present-day Kirman and, perhaps, its population in the 6 century B.C. was made of Persians (cf. Beh., III, 21-28), while Utis lived as an isolated people speaking in a language of north – Caucasian linguistic family. It`d be inappropriate to identify Utis with the region of Yautiya, since an Old Persian form of Yautiya and an Old Greek form of Outioi (from *Uti or *Outi, as well as possibly from *Uiti, etc. ) are not identical to decide in favour of the affinity of the names. Also, the Behistun inscription clearly indicates that a mutiny of Vahiyazdata took place in Persia proper (Beh., III, 22, pass.). Thus, identification of Yautiya with the tribe of Uti is ungrounded, especially as there are weighty linguistic arguments.

Note that Herodotus refers to Utis in connection with a campaign of Akhaemenid army headed by Xerxes against Greece in 480 B.C. To defeat the enemy, Xerxes collected an enormous army made of different tribes, subjects of Akhaemenid power, which included Utis as well. Herodotus writes: “Utis, Mukes and Parikanis were armed like Paktians. Their chief was Arsamen for Utis and Mukes, Darius`s son (i.e. brother of Akhaemenid king Xerxes – R.M.) (Herod., VII, 68)“

As is seen from the fragment Utis and Mukes were mentioned together, and their chief was one and the same person, whose nobility was illustrative of the role of Utis and Mukes in the Persian army. Utis and Mukes being headed by Arsamen showed also that they represented one and the same military – administrative unt and, hence, were neighbours. Indeed, both Utis and Mukes settled down next to each other, even were contiguous in certain historical space of time. The river of Arax served as a north-western border of Mukana. An Uti area centered in the valley of Terter river and stretched to Arax in the west (8, 241). According to Pliny, Otena bordered on Atropatena along the river of Arax (Plin., VI, 42) in a part that sided with Mukana.

Further, we are aware of how Utis were armed and dressed. Utis were armed with local cane bows, like Caspians, but in contrast to them, they had daggers on. Like Caspians, they wore goatskin. By the way, as far back as in the 7 centure A.D. Caspians lived in the neighbourhood with Utis in the region of Paitakaran (up to Arax mouth) (1, 172-173).

Thus, regions of Uti and Muke dewelling were a part of the area that embraced south-eastern Transcaucasia, to the south of Kura. Note that the Akhaemenid inscriptions were to include both regions into Midia satrapy and subsequently, when Asagarta became an isolated satrapy, as a part of the latter. Otherwise, Asagarta would separate Utis and Mukes from Midia. In fact, Herodotus united Sagarts, Utis and Mukes into the single 14th tax district of Akhaemenid power. Hence, Otena stretched along the right bank of Kura; it was bordered by Sakasena in the north-west; by Atropatena in the south along the river of Arax in a part that joined Mukana; and by Caspiana in the east.

It was Strabo who provided information about Vitis (or Utis): “Girkan is washed by the Caspian sea which overflows it up to the contact with Midia and Armenian mountains. These mountains are crescent-shaped along the slopes that reach the sea and from the remotest edge of the bay. On the slopes of the mountains, from the sea to the peaks, there reside a part of Albanians and Armenians on a small area, however, a greater part of the slopes is populated by Gels, Kaduses, Amards, Vitis and Anariaks“ (Strabo XI, VIII, 8). Further, he once again lists peoples living on the Caspian seaboard: “Around the Caspian sea, behind Girkans there reside Amards, Anariaks, Kaduses, Albanians, Caspians, Vitis and, may be, Scythians, other nationalities“ (Strabo XI, VIII, 8).

K.W.Trever holds that the fact that both Strabo, Pliny and Ptolemy, argueing about Utis-Vitis, refer to the Caspian seaboard as a place of their residence, is accounted for by a Patroclus report. In inspecting the coast from the sea, Patroclus could get acquainted with Utis that lived in the coastal, mountaineous regions, while a main portion of the tribe, as K.W.Trever sees it, settled down along the left-   and right-bank banks of Kura (down Alazan river`s mouth) (29,46).

As viewed by Strabo, besides Utis, there also lived the tribes of Enians, Parrasians and Anariaks (Strabo XI, VII, 1; XI, VIII, 8; XI, XIV, 14).

Albanian historian Moses Kalankatuyskiy, who, as he admitted, descended from the region of Utia (Moses Kalankatuyskiy, II, 11), narrated in his “History of Albania“ about a remarkable legend, following which Utis were considered to be offsprings of mythical Albanian ruling ancestor Aran by name, allegedly enthroned by Parthian king Valarsh (Vologez) (Moses Kalankatiyskiy, I, 4).

Narrating about the events taking place in the 1 century A.D, the Albanian historian says that the Albanian ruler “inherited the Alvan plain together with its mountaineous part, commencing from the river of Yeraskh (Arax – R.M.) and ending with a fortress called Khnarakert (Khunan – R.M.) (ibid). Further, he adds: “from his (Aran) descendants, there originated the tribes of Uti, Gardman, Tsode and the Gargar principality“ (ibid).

The legend survived due the work by Armenian historian of the 7 century Moses Khorenskiy (Moses Khorenskiy, II, 8).

According to both historians, the entire right bank of Kura, from the bend of Arax to the area of Akstafa-Rustavi, was owned in the 1 centure A.D. by Albania. This territory embraced Utiya, Tsovdek, Artsakh and Gardman, regions of historical Albania populated by major tribes of Albanian tribal union. This enables to suppose that Utis were an aboriginal tribe in the Albanian union.

Settling of Utis is confirmed by archaelogical finds. It is the area of the well-known Yaloylutepe archaeological culture of the 4 century B.C. – 1 century A.D., first ever discovered in Kabala region near  the village of Nidj in 1926 km, 8 km away from Kabala, ancient capital of Albania, that enables to suppose that Utis were bearers of this culture.

Subsequently, an ethnic name of “Utis“ is found in the works of ancient historians, in the form of “Otena“, “Vitia“ (Greek forms) and “Utik“ (Armenian form), attributable to the right bank of Kura. Touching upon an ethnic identity of the population of Sheki area (a part of the area of dwelling of the Albanian tribe of Ers – Ereti) (24, 30, 40, 50, 58), the Arab geographers directly defined it as ??? , i.e. “Udins“ (17, 372). Note that the population of Utian plain (now the plain Karabakh) went on speaking in the Albanian, i.e. Udin (“Uti“) language as far back as in the epoch of Arab domination. Syrian historian Zakhariya Ritor (29, 109) and Arab historians and geographers (Istahri et al.) called this language as “Arranian“, and the area of Utia – as Arran, i.e. Albania in the narrow sense of the word.

Thus, Utis – ??? or  ??? (Strabo XI, 8, 8; XI, 7, 1) and the name of the area of their dvelling ??? (Strabo, XI, 7, 1; 8, 8) ??? (formation with ??? goes to ethnicon ??? (i), Otene of ancient authors (Ptol., Geogr., V, 12, 4; Asinius Quadratus, ???, fr.8; Steph. Byz., s.v. ?????; Plin., Nat., hist., VI, 42 (VI, 13, 16) et al), Uti (Outi) of some early medieval Armenian sourses and ??? (from middle Persian ??? or ???), early Arab authors (Balazuri, Ibn-al-Fakih), as well as ??? of Herodotus go back to an initial form of the name of Utis – Uti (Outi – ) or Viti (Utii) (8, 240).

Note that the area of Utia embrased territories to the south of Kura and to the west of Arax, contiguous to Sakasena in the north – west, Atropotena in the south – east, Caspian and Caspian Sea in the east, the river of Kura in the north (25, 51).

As far back as in the period of Skythian campaigns (VII century B.C.), where a group of Skythians (Saks) settled down in the region of Gyandja – Gazah, inhabitants of Albania maintained close relations with steppe nomads outside Caucasus (13, 214). To K.F.Smirnov`s thinking, Utidors of Plinius (Plin., VI, 42) was, perhaps, an Albanian-Sarmad tribe, which came as a result of mixing Vitis – Udins and Aors (28, 271 – 272). However, the probability remains that an ethnonym “Utidors“ means “Utian Aors“ (c.f. forms “Celtic Skythians“, “Celtic Ligurs“, “Likian Syrians“, etc.) (15, 172). As viewed by K.Aliyev, Utis are notable for their ethnonymic similiarities beyond the limits of Albania, particularly, in the name of the tribe of Utigurs, as mentioned by Procopius Caesarian (27, 394) and Agaphes (3, 147-148), as saying that “Utis were not an isolated ethnic group, instead they represented a substantial area not only on the territory of Caucasian Albania, but on the steppes between Euxines and Caspian“ (6, 57). Hence, K.Aliyev concludes that allegations on affinity between Utis and Kutis are ungrounded (6, 57). However, adding of ethnonyms is available here which, perhaps, means mixing between ethonyms of Utis and some Hun tribes (c.f. the name of Hun tribes of Onogurs, Saragurs, etc.).

Beyond any doubts, contemporary Udins are descendants of ancient Utis (30, 14-15). It`d be appropriate to note that the Armenian tradition identifies historical Albanian, i.e. Utis, with contemporary Udins (16, 69). Of no small importance is the fact that Udins themselves, as far back as early in the 18 century, maintained that they are “Agvans and Utis by nationality“. Note that sources of the 19 century point out that the two villages on the historical territory of ancient Albania – Nidj (Gabala region) and Vartashen are populated with a small nationality – Udins who are descendants of Utis and close offsprings of Albanians (7, 213-262).

Affiliation of the Udin language to the Nakh-Daghestan group of languages arouses no doubts among present-day researchers (it was known as far back as in A.Shifner period (2); see also (23, 676). Of different opinion is A.Sh. Mnatsakanyan (22) who believes that Udins are one of the Armenian tribes and that their native language from time immemorial was Armenian. However, the facts are illustrative that this allegation is absolutely ungrounded, since the Armenian and Uti languages are quite different languages, relating to the different linguistic families (Armenian – to Indo-European, Utian – to North-Eastern Caucasian). This ungrounded point of view has already been rejected from linquistic and historical standpoints (9, 85).

In considering the above-stated, one can conclude the following. In the ancient times Kutis occupied a vast territory in South Azerbaijan, from Zagros mountains and the lake of Urmia to the river of Arax (c.f. Plin., VI, 42). Having been forced out of their dwelling – places in the south – west of South Azerbaijan, Kutis gradually moved to the north and occupied South Transcaucasia, where they became known under the name of  ???, according to the Urartian sourses (a portion of Utis went on residing to the south from Arax). Possibly, an area of Etiunis settlement reached Minor Caucasus, at any rate, nearly all the “countries“, located in this vast area, were attributed by Urartians to Etiunis (19, № № 130, 131, 155, 160; 14, 9). And, finally, ancient sourses mention Utis along the river of Kura (see, for example, Ptol., V, 12, 4), where Utis created their own region – Utia (Greek `Otena or Vitia`; Armenian.`Utic), which stretched out from Kura to Arax. After Utia had joined Albania, Utis, perhaps, moved farther to the north, at least, descendants of ancient Utis –  present-day Udins still reside on the territory which corresponds to the northern regions of ancient Albania. At present, Udins, offsprings of Utis, presently living in Vartashen (Oguz) region and the village of Nidj (Gabala region) speak in a language that relates to Nakh-Daghestan group of North-Eastern Caucasian linquistic family (note that Kutis, Etiunis and Albanians together with Utis spoke the languages that related to the same group).



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Rauf Melikov candidate of historical sciences, research worker of the Institute of History of the Academy of Sciences of Azerbaijan