Home Kyiv Rus History Name of Lithuanian capital Vilnius may have derived from Ukrainian word “vilnyi”...

Name of Lithuanian capital Vilnius may have derived from Ukrainian word “vilnyi” which means “free”


Speaking of Kyiv, by 1327, Kyiv had freed itself from the Mongols and had been part of the Grand Dutchy of Lithuania for 7 years already. As can be seen on the map in the Wiki article, Grand Duchy was a huge territorial realm at the time that included a larger part of present-day Ukraine and the state of Belarus in its entirety. Yale Prof. Timothy Snyder in his “The Reconstruction of Nations” provided an interesting insight into the new formation: “The Orthodox boyars of Rus’… could regard Lithuania not as conqueror but as ally. As Lithuanian military power flowed south, to Kyiv, so the civilization of Rus’—Orthodox religion, Church Slavonic language, and mature legal traditionflowed north to Vilnius”. Speaking of Vilnius, the city was first mentioned in written sources only in 1323 and to a Ukrainian ear its name sounds very close to Ukrainian word “vilnyi” which translates as “free” into English. (The generally accepted etymology of Vilnius is that it derives from the Vilnia River. But the fact of Kyiv’s language flowing in that direction just at the time the name of the new capital appeared, gives grounds to at least consider the new etymology). While it is possible that the city of Vilnius was named after a ripple, too many other coincidences indicate a different etymology. For example, the new capital was founded after the epic victory over the Golden Horde near Kyiv. And that city became the capital of a much larger realm that incorporated a significant part of Kyiv Rus. What are the chances that with such a background and at such a time, a new center of power would be named after a ripple? The very atmosphere around its foundation suggests that the name of the city “Free” corresponds much better with the new geopolitical significance of the event.

The mature legal tradition of former Kyiv Rus in the Grand Duchy of Lithuania meant order in many spheres of life including conducting trade and other business activites. It was the realm of free (vilnyi) nations and in all aspects, the Grand Duchy was an opposite to Muscovy. Muscovy was all about keeping its population in submission and slavery utilizing the methods of the Horde as was demonstrated by the case of Tver. One can easily discern those methods even in the 21st century and especially during the current war Moscow wages on Kyiv. And when the Ukrainians call the invading Muscovite army the horde, it is not an emotional simile, it is a historically accurate term for who the”Russians” truly are.

The text above is a part of a larger article. It has been made into a separate post to highlight the historic ties between Ukraine and Lithuania on the eve of a historic 2023 NATO summit in Vilnius.



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