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The Brodnici (or Brodniks) were a 13th-century people whose spoken language, if actually singular, is uncertain. Attempts have been made to associate them to better known neighbouring populations, different authors classifying them as Romanians, Slavic, Iranian, or a mixed ethnic stock (Romanian-Jassic; Romanian-Slavic, or Turko-Slavic). They were likely a confederation vassal to either Galicia or the Cumans. Some authors have identified them with the "Bordinians" mentioned by Byzantine chronicler Niketas Choniates as a branch of "Tauroscythians," a term apparently applying to the Rus people in order to distinguish them from the Cumans/Polovtsians and from Vlachs.
The territory of Brodnici consisted of the southwestern part of today's Republic of Moldova, the southern part of today's Vrancea and Galaţi counties of Romania, the southern part of Ukraine Budjak and probably the coastline between the Dniester and the Dnieper.
In some opinions, the name, as used by foreign chronicles, means a person in charge of a ford (water crossing) in Romanian and Slavic language (cf. Slavic brodŭ, Romanian brod - "ford"). The probable reason for the name is that the territory of the Brodniks constituted the link between the mountain passes in the Carpathians and the mouths of the Danube, having a major economical importance, assuring the access to the Genovese colonies. According to other opinions, their name is related to Slavic бродить ("to wander"), probably referring to the nomadic way of life of this population.
In 1222, the Hungarian king Andrew II gave the "Burzenland" to the Teutonic Knights, delimiting it by the land of the Brodnici. A Papal bull of Pope Honorius III confirmed the charter in the same year; however, in the copy approved by the Vatican, "Brodnicorum" was replaced by "Blacorum" (i.e., "Vlachs" in Latin). While some historians believe that this shows that the terms were equivalent, others claim that this was just an error. The latter base their claim on the fact that the two terms were used together in several Hungarian documents, very unusual if referring to the same population.
When speaking about Brodniks, the Chronicle mentions voivode Ploskynya who deceived knyaz Mstislav Romanovich and delivered him to "Tatars". Some researchers conclude that Ploskynya was the Brodniks commander. According to some researchers, the Chronicle should be interpreted as "And there Brodniks were with Tatars, and their Voivod Ploskyna [...]." However other disagree, considering that the source should be translated as "And there Brodniks were with Tatars, and Voivod Ploskyna, [...]." After this date, they disappeared from Russian sources.
A November 11, 1250 letter of king Béla IV of Hungary to Pope Innocent IV says that Tatars imposed tribute onto the countries neighboring with his kingdom: "que ex parte Orientis cum regno nostro conterminantur, sicut Ruscia, Cumania, Brodnici, Bulgaria".
- G. Popa Lisseanu, Brodnicii, vol. XII, Tipografia Bucovina, Bucuresti, 1938
- A. Boldur, Istoria Basarabiei, Editura Victor Frunza, Bucuresti 1992
- Victor Spinei, Moldavia in the 11th–14th centuries, Editura Academiei Republicii Socialiste România 1986.
- O. B. Bubenok, Iasy i brodniki v stepiakh Vostochnoi Evropy (VI-nachalo XIII v.), Kiev, 1997.
- Lev Gumilev's opinion; e.g., in his "Discovery of Khazaria"
- cf. "Taurida" and "Scythians"
- I.O. Knyazky, "Rus and the Steppe", Князький И.О. Русь и степь. - Moscow: Российский научный фонд, 1996., Ch. 5, Polovtsians (Russian)
- Binder Pál: "Antecedente şi consecinţe sud-transilvănene ale formării voievodatului Munteniei (sec. XIII-XIV.) II.",
- Novgorod Chronice, years 1219-1232
- Ghyka, Matila, A Documented Chronology of Roumanian History, Oxford: B. H. Blackwell Ltd. 1941.