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THE CASTLE OF VORUTA

Summary
Tomas BARANAUSKAS

       The problem of the localization of Mindaugas' Voruta Castle has already been discussed in historiography for a long time. Until now at least sixteen versions have been suggested. The greater part of them are either poorly grounded or obviously erroneous. Even authoritative historians have falsely assumed that Voruta is the capital of Mindaugas and have identified it with the other objects, mentioned in the sources of the thirteenth century. In fact Voruta is known from one mention dating back to 1251. It was the castle, where Mindaugas had defended himself from Tautvilas, attacking him from Samogitia. Recently the hypothesis of the localization of Voruta in the hill-fort of Šeimyniškėliai near Anykščiai (put forward by Eduardas Volteris already in 1935) has been attracting considerable attention.
       We can define the area of the most reliable location of Voruta as the borderland between Lithuania and Livonia and make it even precisely because 1) shortly before the attack against Voruta, Mindaugas was in that borderland, as he was negotiating with the Master of the Livonian Order Andreas von Stirland and was baptized (the meeting could take place in Mindaugas' Latava manor, which was 9 km from the Šeimyniškėliai hill-fort); 2) the knights of the Livonian Order participated in the defence of Voruta, and it would not have been convenient for them to go far into the country, plagued by internal strife; 3) Mindaugas had an army strong enough to stop the attack of Tautvilas without delay, so Voruta Castle could not have been far from Samogitia; 4) the historical names of the great defence centres are known in most cases, and as the castle of Voruta is not among them, there are not so many hill-forts possible for the localization of Voruta. In the defined region the most suitable hill-fort is that of Šeimyniškėliai.
       The localization of Voruta at the hill-fort of Šeimyniškėliai may be supported by toponymic evidence: the hill-fort was called the hill of Varutė, and the name of a nearby river is Varelis or Variukas. The earlier form of its name could be *Varutis, because -elis, -ukas and -utis are the most popular diminutive suffixes of the Lithuanian language. There were doubts concerning the name of Varutė hill: the writer Antanas Vienuolis was supposed to have been first to create it. These doubts were based on partial testimonies of local inhabitants and therefore are groundless. The unreliability of their testimonies is suggested by their attempts to deny the obvious fact that archaeological finds were found while cultivating the land of the hill-fort, which is well known from the earlier testimonies. The persons, who endeavoured to deny the name of the Varutė hill, were trying in that way to reject the prohibition to cultivate the land of the hill-fort. On the other hand, Vienuolis had many acquaintances in the village of Šeimyniškėliai and knew the hill-fort from his childhood. He had mentioned the hill-fort Voruta in his legend written already in 1933, in which he described events of the fifteenth century, still being not aware of the history of Voruta Castle.
       The localization of Voruta (*Varuta) at the hill-fort of Šeimyniškėliai may be supported also by a linguistic analysis of the name of the castle. The ending -uta may be treated as a Selonian variant of the diminutive suffix -utė (the Selonians pronounced the ending -ė as -a). In the thirteenth century the hill-fort of Šeimyniškėliai was in the borderland between the Lithuanians and the Selonians.
       According to the data of the archaeological investigations, the hill-fort of Šeimyniškėliai was one of the largest among the hill-forts of Eastern Lithuania (the area of the flat hilltop is 2800 m², and it has two baileys). It was a state castle, built in previously uninhabited site in the middle of the thirteenth century (probably during the fights between Mindaugas and the Livonian Order). In the fourteenth century the castle was probably abandoned; in the late fourteenth and mid-fifteenth century it was used for the last time.
       In sum, these arguments support the claim that the hill-fort of Šeimyniškėliai was the most reliable place of Voruta Castle.

[Full text - in Lithuanian]

       Musu praeitis. Vilnius, 2001. T. 7. P. 69-70.

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