Zarina (V – IV cc. B.C.) – is leader of Sakas,inhabiting steppe territories from Don to Syr-Dariya inclusive.

Differed in bellicose qualities and qualities of creator, caring of prosperity of the people.


The earliest information about Zarina is available in the information of the ancient Greek historian Ctesias (late V to early IV BC), who served at the court of the Persian kings. In the author’s work “History of Persia”, written from 398/397 BC – 390 BC. The historical period is described when the Parthians, having deposited themselves from the Media, handed over their area to the Saks, which gave rise to a long war between the Media and Saks, whose ruler was a woman named Zarina. In §8, in the presentation of  Diodorus with reference to Ctesias, she is described as brave, committed to military affairs, possessing business qualities and her enterprise much surpassing other Saka womens [1, p. 39]. Zarineya was the daughter of the Saka king and was married to the king of Saks Marmarey. A characteristic feature of Saka womens was their help in military affairs, when they stood on the same level as men in defense of their homeland. Zarina excelled everyone in the beauty and power of arms subjugated the neighboring barbarians, seeking to conquer the Saks. In the next battle, she was wounded and persecuted by the Media king Striangey, but swas saved by him. According to the descriptions, after a while Striangey himself was captured by Marmarey. Zarina seeks to help him free himself from captivity, but after receiving a refusal from her husband, she kills his, transfers his area to the Media king and establishes friendly relations with him.

In §10 of the described publication, further relations of Striangey and Zarina are described which later turned into touching feelings, he dies of starvation, writing a letter to his beloved woman Zarina: “After all, I saved you, you were saved thanks to me, I died because of you “.

Along with the courage of Queen Zarina, the sources note her contribution to the development of urban development and a caring attitude about her people. She “brought a significant part of the country into a cultivated state, built many cities and created a happy life for the people”. According to the opinions of ancient authors, the queen’s moral qualities that are worthy of respect include a morally fair attitude towards the Medias king Striangey, who inflamed her with passionate love. Rejecting his love, she reminds him of his wife Rathea.

After Zarina’s death, as a sign of gratitude, the Sak people erected a tomb in the shape of a pyramid, each side of which amounted to 3 stadyes (1 stady – 60 m), and a colossal golden statue was installed on top of it, equating it with the heroic personalities of the Sak society .

Further, the annals contain information that women “fight with the Saks on a par with men … on horses” and that “along with men they shoot back from the bow pretending to be running” [1, p. 40, 123].

According to another report, “the wife of another Saka king Amorga named Sparetta defeated Cyrus and was able to free her husband from captivity” [1, p. 91].

A century earlier, the father of the history of Herodotus has information about the Scythians who inhabited the territories of the Northern Black Sea Region, with whom he had the pleasure of communicating on his own during visits to Greek cities – colonies  located on the Black Sea coast. Among a large series of information about the social, political and other aspects of the life of the Scythian society, Herodotus wrote about Amazon women, a distinguishing feature of which were their warlike qualities [2, p. 270-272]. Since ancient times, for millennia, the image of a warlike woman like Zarina continues to be present in epic works of different peoples.

As a result, of a comparative analysis of mythological plots and epic works of Iranian and Turkic peoples, Kh.G. Koroglu came to the conclusion about the similarities between the Tajik and Turkmen epics with the presence in them of images of girls – heroes. According to the author, Zarina Zarnigar (Gold-plated) of the Tajik epic “Gurguli” is endowed with the same features as Banu Chichek, who is in love with the main character of the third tale of the epic work “Book of my grandfather Korkut” by Bamsa – Beyrek. In general, the author believes that for the traditional culture of many ancient and medieval peoples of Central Asia, Iran and Azerbaijan, similar plots with characters that bear the names Zarina, Zariander (male name) or other, but endowed with similar qualities are very characteristic [3, p. 10-11]. Probably, the descriptions of events related to the life and work of the Scythian queen Tomiris, endowed with courageous qualities, glad for not only her family, but also taking care of the well-being of her Fatherland and people, reflects the basic idea of ​​the heroism of individuals who are ready to serve and defend their homeland.

Analyzing the Ossetian epos J. Dumezil, noting the ancient sources of Scythian legends about the goddess Tabiti, her connection with Tapiti, the character of the ancient Indian epos “Mahabharata”, where she is described as the daughter of the Sun, points to their parallels in the Nart epic. Atsihurs, daughter of the Sun, becomes the companion of the main character of the Nart epic of Soslan. According to the author, “having ceased to be an object of worship and turning into a fairy-tale image, Tabiti apparently inherited that Hestia, as Herodotus calls her, emphasizing her important role in particular in the royal houses. According to the author, the image of Hestia is considered in connection with the “royal centers” … with which the Scythians swore as usual in the most solemn cases [4, p. 114]. According to him, the king of the Scythians Idantirsis in his proud answer to the ultimatum Darius called Hestia the Queen of the Scythians [2, p. 176].

The Amazonian motifs are rich, for example, the folklore of the peoples of the Aral Sea region. The Uzbeks of the Khorezm oasis also tell legends about the woman’s – warriors. An interesting reminiscence of the story quoted by Herodotus is the legend about the ruler of Khorezm Tyurabek-khanim and the Sultan Sanjar who invaded her domain. In the modern legend of the Khorezm Uzbeks, the ancient Massagetian plot was repeated. Researchers note the undoubted similarity of both folklore monuments. In terms of content and manner of presentation, their initial lines are especially close; but the further presentation of events based on one principle. We can compare this legend with the episode from the Karakalpak epic “Kyrik Kyz” about the invasion of Khorezm by the Iranian Nadir Shah, the struggle against which was led by the sister of the main character Arslan, a kind of “Amazon” Altynay. Another analogy to the image of the warlike ruler is the legend of the Georgian Queen Tamara, testifying to the wide interethnic ties of past eras, as well as the result of literary contacts. A study of the folklore data of various peoples of antiquity allowed scientists to conclude that the images of the warlike women of the empress were connected with the cult of fertility and their role as priestesses in society.

      The etymology of the name is not yet unambiguous and convincing. However, according to the famous Iranian scientists V.I. Abaev opinion, it dates back to the ancient Iranian zaranya – Saka zarnya – gold. In modern Ossetian, the word žærīn / zærīnæ is most often used in a combination of such words as xur (sun) in the form xuržærīn and sѵrx (red) in the form sѵğžærīn, respectively designating sun glare (rays) and the actual gold. The word žærin (sarin) in Persian means “gold, gold (en). Until now, in Ossetia, as one of the parts of historical Alanya, in Dagestan and Tajikistan, the name Zarina is very common. Probably, far-away information about the noble the deeds of the Saka princess and the described name was spread in Kazakhstan. Information about Zarina is present in the Kazakh National Encyclopedia [5, p. 169].

Historically reliable information, having become legendary over time, had been preserved in many sources of ancient and medieval Iranian and Turkic peoples. Confirmation of the reality of the described events related to the legendary Zarina and other women of the Saka, Scythian and other peoples who inhabited the expanses of the Eurasian steppe are data from archaeological excavations of mounds with female burials, which were accompanied by weapons.

     In this regard, Gutnov F. Kh. provides data on excavations of Scythian mounds of the V-1V centuries. BC in the Middle Don. In 3 of the 4 mounds studied, young women from wealthy families were buried; in two cases they were accompanied by a set of weapons. The presence of expensive jewelry made in Bosporian production, Greek amphorae, the considerable size and splendor of the funerary structures are comparable to the famous mounds of the military aristocracy. Altogether, in 1991, 112 such burials founded in the southern Russian forest-steppes between the Don and the Dnieper, which significantly exceeds the number of women’s graves with weapons from the Savromats of the Volga and Ural regions, which are considered the main “suppliers of Amazons.” In those cases when it was possible to determine the age, it turned out that the majority of armed natives belonged to the age of 16 to 30 years (69% of such burials). Many of those buried belonged to the upper strata of society. Archeologists are inclined to explain burials of armed women of the Scythian society by the presence of a certain conscription as a lightly armed cavalry age and social groups. Among the archaeological materials of the Scythian pore, the finds of carts or their parts in grave mounds are interpreted differently. Many experts associate them with the high social status of the buried, which attributed to representatives of either the military aristocracy or the priesthood.

So, the question remains unanswered why, in Scythian time, funeral wagons in 70% of cases are associated with buried women who had a special social status. Among the rich early Alanian burials of the beginning of AD a significant percentage is female burial. In terms of wealth and importance, it is difficult for them to find anything of equal value among the earlier Sarmatian mounds. But, as rightly emphasizes A.S. Skripkin, an analogy with fairly pronounced matriarchal traditions among the Sako-Massagetian population of the Aral-Caspian region suggests itself. The monuments of folklore preserved evidence of the high social status of women among the ancient peoples of the Aral Sea region and their participation in military affairs. This echoes the Nart Ossetian epos and allows us to talk about the common sources of this phenomenon [6, www. ˃1999_3 ˃ gutnov].

In connection with the special role of female persons in the traditional societies of the population of Eurasia, it is of interest that epic works store information about the warlike character of female characters, calling them the term afsin, meaning “mistress”, “mistress”. According to V.I. Abaev with this designation, they appear in the Nart epic and in their form bear obvious features of Sako-Massagetian (Scythian) origin and it is likely that he was a Scythian social term that spread throughout Central Asia.

       The connection between the folk traditions of the Iranian and Turkic peoples mentioned above, but the search for the roots can be productive in terms of identifying the origins of perpetuating the female image in the Turkic ethnic language family. Let us turn to the form of tamga/tribes sign Qypchaks preserved in the Kazakh ethnographic environment. Tamga, depicted in the form of two vertical lines, is actually the designation of two trees: Kain/ birch and Karagay. Kazakh – Kain, in the ancient Turkic and now preserved in the Yakut language – Katyn, meaning “mistress”, “mistress.” In Kazakh vocabulary, the term kain jurt / birch relatives [7, p. 45].

The historical projection of the term Katyn / Khain, preserved in the designation of tamga Qypchaks, gives rise to many fundamental conclusions on the history of the Turkic peoples as a whole. Türkic toponyms are an important source for historical reconstruction, which allow revealing the features of the development of the language, material, and spiritual culture of the peoples who inhabited certain territories. To illustrate the process of development and formation of a toponym, let us turn to the analysis of the toponym of the Katun River, which is a tributary of the Ob River in Altai.

In different Turkic languages, the word katun in the form of scum, katyn means “woman”; in Altai Kadyn, the meaning is “woman, mistress.” In the Mongolian language, however, a semantic shift is observed: “princess, mistress, Hansha, mistress.” In Evenki language, Katun is “a fairy-tale heroine, the wife of a hero, a lady”. Meanwhile, it is usually this way (lady, mistress) that explains the name of the Altai river Katun / Katyn – one of the components of the river. Ob, the more so because the other component – Biya – is supposedly interpreted as “gentleman, noble, boss.” Let us also compare the Tuva River. Biy-Khem, located in the upper Yenisei, its meaning translates as “river-lord.” And from Biya and Katun the Ob is born – “aunt, grandmother”. In this bouquet of gentlemen and aunts there is a logic of folk etymology. In the toponymy of Asia, many similar geographical names are found Hatan-Bulak in Mongolia, Hatunhe – the left tributary of the river. Tuminjiang in Northeast China, r. Katanza – the left tributary of the river. Kazyra in the Western Sayan Mountains. Khanty called the Irtysh river Katanas and Katon-Karagai in Altai in the East Kazakhstan region [8, p. 190-191]. The second meaning of the ancient Türkic word Katyn, Hatan is now the lost “river”. In this sense, it is used in the Yenisei runic rock inscriptions [9, p. 179]. The name of the Scythian goddess Api and “the marriage of Heaven with Water, as the embodiment of the lower world, was a stable tradition, suggesting that the earthly and aquatic beginnings were personified in the Scythian religion in one character” [10, p. 46].

A comprehensive analysis of sources helps to identify the true meaning of the toponym of River Katun/Katyn from the point of view of the development of the spiritual culture of the Turks. In a description of the events of the creation of the Turkic Kaganate, Chinese sources indicate that the first Turkic Kagan Bumyn adopted the throne name of Ili Kagan, meaning that his possessions are located on the Ili River, and his wife named Katun/Katyn [11, p. 228].

In the VII – VIII centuries in the Tashkent oasis, coins with the image of two rulers, a kagan and a katun were distributed. Coins contain inscriptions in Sogdian and Turkic languages ​​on the obverse [12, p. 15-19]. On the reverse of the coins are the patrimonial tamga/signs of the rulers. According to the author’s conclusions, the katun shown sitting next to the ruler, the katun could personify the female deity of the Turkic pantheon Umay [12, p. 30]. According to numismatists, coins with inscriptions “Katun” on their reverse are also represented in coin collections [13, p. 55-70].

Figure 1. Images of the priestess on the different artifacts

1 – Zhaysan 26, a stone statue (Kazakhstan); 2 – the image on a boulder from the burial site of Kudyrge (Altai); 3 – metal plaques from the settlement of Red river (Kyrgyzstan); 4,5 – Turkic coins from Shash (Tashkent oasis).

The iconographic style of portraits depicted on coins of rulers is similar to portraits of Turks on stone sculptures and frescoes from medieval cities from the territory of Central Asia and Kazakhstan (Panjakent in Uzbekistan, Kuyruk tobe in South Kazakhstan). An analysis of Turkic paired male and female statues on the monuments of the Merke and Zhaisan sanctuaries, together with the data from the above sources, allows reconstruction of the worldview of ancient Turkic society [14, p. 54-67]. Consequently, the development of the Turkic toponym, preserved in the name of the Katun River, together with the name of the Biya River. Reflect the foundations of the ideological complex of the Turks, an important element of which was the worldview of the unity of the deities of the Turkic pantheon Tengri and Jer-Su, one of the symbols of which was water, the river called in antiquity by the word Katyn. (The Russified version of the name of the Katun River is not true, and in this sound does not reflect the true, meaningful meaning of the toponym, but the native Altaians pronounce the name of the river correctly and it sounds like Katyn). The toponym Katon-Karagay in Altai in the East Kazakhstan region, in reality, without distortion, it will be correct to write Қаtyn-Қаragay, which corresponds to the tamga designation of Qypchaks. An analysis of the semantic content of the toponym probably indicates the chronological antiquity of its origin and tribal union. Moreover, in the tamgas symbolism of the Qypchaks in the form of a unity of two different tree species, the true, historical, event-important combination of traditional world outlook principles of the representatives of the eastern and western areas of the great Turkic world is hidden for all Turkic peoples.

Consideration of the historical process of the consistent development of the culture of the Qypchak ethnos in the time and space of Eurasia in the described way, given the wide coverage of the basic elements and features of many representatives of the Turkic peoples, may turn out to be the most promising direction of Qypchak studies as a whole.

On the other hand, it should be noted that the main features of the ideological complex medieval Turks, who later formed the basic spiritual landmarks of the Qypchaks – Polovtsyes, reflected in all kinds of sources, chronicles, manuscripts, monumental art and much more. But, the whole variety of forms of informative materials requires consideration in the general context of the development of the history of the Turkic peoples as a whole, taking into account the emphasis on the formation of a spiritual culture based on ideological values.

The historical development of the spiritual culture of each nation reflected in the language, cultural history, and geographical space. In the formation of the onomasticon, its etymology, the whole spectrum of the prevailing traditional ideas associated with life, conditions of development and achievements of the people reflected for centuries. The lexicological and etymological studies of the names of geographical toponyms and anthroponyms of Kazakhstan and Eurasia are important evidence of the development of language of the Turkic peoples, Kazakhs, but also their rich historical past that preserve in the story of Zarina’s personality, personifying the people and the Fatherland and feelings of gratitude for her exploits. Zarinas name is mean of caring for the main values ​​of her Motherland. Left its mark in the centuries old memory of the people and preserved to the names of the beautiful half of humanity.

Sanctuary of Merke. Female statues


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Author: Dosymbaeva A.M., Doctor of Historical Sciences