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Territory of the modern Belarus on alĖIdrisiís map (1154)

Ales Biely 


This is an investigation into the description of the territory of the modern Republic of Belarus by the famous medieval Arabian geographer alĖIdrisi in his work ęKitab nuzhat alĖmustak fi htirak alĖafakĽ (Amusement for him who desires to travel around the world or the Book of Roger) and on the sectional map of the world known as Charta Rogeriana. The author made an attempt to reconstruct geographical objects described by alĖIdrisi and to assign their names given in rather distorted transcription, to the modern toponyms of Belarus and the adjacent countries.

Unlike in many other countries, there is no own tradition of alĖIdrisi studies in Belarus, though one of the best Arabists of the XX century, I. Krackouski, Belarusian by nationality, studied alĖIdrisiís heritage actively, without paying special attention to Belarusian territory. The latter is mainly displayed by alĖIdrisi on the 65th sheet of his sectional map (5th section of VII climate, according to the traditional classification). Some foreign authors, notably J. Lelewel, K. Miller, O. J.Tallgren (Tuulio), T. Lewicki and B. Rybakov, dedicated parts of their works to attribution of some of alĖIdrisiís toponyms to the certain places on the territory of todayís Belarus.

These attributions are analyzed by author in detail. In particular, he accepts Rybakovís point of view whereby Muniska is identified with modern Minsk, Sinuboli with Smolensk, and DnabrusĖBeltes river system as DnieperĖBiarezina. However, he disagrees with Rybakovís identification of Barmunia as modern Ukrainian town of Bilhorod. Neither he accepts opinions of Lewicki, Alexandrowicz and Beilis who read the same Arabic inscription as Turubia and attributed it to the ancient Belarusian town of Turau. In authorís opinion, Barmunia seems to be more correct Latin transliteration of alĖIdrisi, but it refers rather to Brest. Instead of Rybakovís attribution of Beltes outfall as the vicinity of the modern town of Recyca, the author suggests more appropriate, in his opinion, towns of Horvalí or Stresyn. He also suggests to attribute Markata river to the Nioman with its tributaries, and Markata mountains he perceives as a contamination of the real Belarusian Ridge and the mythical Riphaeus Mountains of the ancient geographers. AlĖIdrisiís Termi lake is almost unanimously recognized by the researchers as the Prypiací Marshes.


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