Deep connection between Sanskrit and Russian languages?

Altair

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Recently I was reading a couple of books about Russian linguistics and the authors kept mentioning the book India & Russia - Linguistic & Cultural Affinity (Chandigarh, India: Roma Publications, 1982) written by Indian linguist Weer Rajendra Rishi. I was able to find only a small part of it and from what I read the linguistic connection between Sanskrit and Russian might indeed be much deeper than between Sanskrit and any other Indo-European language. So here are some interesting excerpts:

As mentioned in the preceding chapter both Russian and Sanskrit belong to the satem group of the Indo-European family of languages. This, however, creates one misunderstanding in one’s mind that the relation between Sanskrit and Russian is as distant one as that between Sansksit and other Indo-European languages. As will be explained in this chapter, the relation between these two languages is very close and correspondence between these two languages is so minute that, to use Dr. Sidheshwar Varma’s words, it cannot be a mere chance. The facts unfolded in this chapter are compulsory enough to lead us to conclude that during some period of history, the speakers of Sanskrit and Russian have lived close together.

In the sphere of vocabulary, there is such a large number of words which are common to these two languages that it has
not been possible to mention all of them in this chapter. Only a list of basic words common to both these two languages has
been given. Moreover, as explained in the succeeding paragraphs of this chapter many of the grammatical rules are
common to both these languages and the number of words common to these two languages formed after the application of
such common grammar rules could be further multiplied. This is not so when we compare Sanskrit with any other language
belonging to the Indo-European group, leaving aside Iranian and Persian...


That the melodiousness of the rhythm of the Russain folk lore and the Sanskrit verse synchronises with each other is confirmed by a news item published in the Soviet Land (No. 2 of January 1968) published by the Information Services of the Embassy of the USSR in India, New Delhi. It is stated that the style of the verse of Russian folk legends and Puskin's tales is closer to the rhythm of Sanskrit verse. Professor Smirnov (1892- 1967), the reputed Sanskritologist of the Soviet Union has translated Mahiibharata into Russian in this type of verse...

The origin of the Russian word gorod (Old Slavonic grad) meaning 'city' can also be traced. Originally in ancient Russia and in India the cities were built to serve as forts for protection and defence against aggression from an enemy. The corresponding word in Hindi is gadh which actually means 'fort'. In modern Russian the suffix -grad and in modern Hindi the suffix -gadh is used to form names of cities e.g. in Russia Leningrad (the city of Lenin), Peterograd (the city of Peter) and in India Bahadurgadh (the city of the Braves), Fategadh (the city of Victory).

In addition to the common vocabulary and common rules of grammar, even the methods of expression are common e.g. in Russian the word for 'year' is god. When used with numerals 'five' or more. the plural god used is let (which means 'summer'). 'He is hundred years of age' will be expressed in Russian as emu sto let (literally he is of hundred summers). This is also the case in Sanskrit. Varsha is the Sanskrit word for 'year'. But in Vedic hymns the plural word used for this is sarada (literally meaning 'autumn') e.g. in a prayer hymn it is said j'ircma sarada satam {May we live for hundred years - literally hundred autumns).

Both the Russian and Sanskrit languages are inflective i.e. nouns, pronouns, adjectives etc. are inflected or declined to give meanings of different cases in both singular and plural. Similarly, the verbs are also conjugated for use with 1st, 2nd and 3rd persons, singular and plural. Owing to this, the word order is more elastic and variable than in English, French or German. Inversion of sentence order i.e. object first, then verb and subject does not make any difference viz. in Russian malchika lyubili vse (all loved the child). Here the object malchika declined in accusative case has come first followed by the verb lyubili (loved) and the subject vse (all) in the end. This sentence could also be written in the usual order i.e. subject, verb and then the object vse lyubili malchika and also lyubili vse malchika etc. Similar is the case with Sanskrit...

Similarly to express means of transport, the noun is used in the instrumental case in both Russian and Sanskrit. In Russian "by train" will be translated poezdom (instrumental case of the noun poezd) and in Sanskrit 'by chariot' will be translated as rathena (instrumental case). Similarly both in Russian and in Sanskrit instrumental case is used in sentences like on pishet perom (he writes with a pen). Here perom is used in the instrumental case. In Sanskrit the sentence 'he plays with dice' will be expressed as akshai kri<fati. Here also akshai is in the instrumental case...

We will now examine the grammar rules which are common to both Russian and Sanskrit

Alphabet

The Russian alphabet contains tvyordi znilk (hard sign) 'ъ' This is also called 'separator' in English and is used mainly after prefixes ending in a hard consonant before the letters ya. ye, yo and yu. It indicates that the preceding consonant is hard (non-palatized). It is found in the middle of a word only, before a soft vowel (in compound words), where it shows that this soft vowel is sounded as a pure vowe] and that its softness has not been absorbed by the consonant before the tvyordi znak sign. In some texts this 'ъ' is replaced by an apostrophe (') in Roman transliteration e.g. ob'yasnit (to explain), ob'yom (size), sub'yekt (subject). Sanskrit has also got a similar sign 'S' called avagraha or 'separator'. This is used in printed texts to mark the elision of initial a after final e or c...

It is interesting to see that the separation sign both in Russian and Sanskrit are represented by almost identical signs 'ъ' in Russian and 'S' in Sanskrit and both are replaced by apostrophe (') in Roman transliteration.

Nouns pronouns and adjectives

Both in Russian and in Sanskrit nouns, pronouns and adjectives are declined into various cases according to number, singular and plural. It may be pointed out here that Sanskrit has in addition dual number (for two persons or things). The use of dual number is found in Old Slavonic but has disappeared in Russian as a regular grammatical feature.

Russian has the following cases:

Nominative Genetive Dative Accusative Instrumen and Locative

Sanskrit has the following cases : Nominative Accusative Instrumental Dative Ablative Genetive Locative Vocative

It will be seen that Russian has no ablative case. In Sanskrit ablative case is used to denote the sense of 'separa tion' e.g.' the flowers are falling from the creeper'. Here the 'creeper' in Sanskrit will be declined into ablative case. This sense is conveyed in Russian by using genetive case. In Russian, the vocative or exclamation case, has now been merged in the nominative. Only a few nouns have retained the vocative case e.g. Bog ! (god, nominative) and Bozhe !; (O God in vocative case) ; Gospod (Lord in nominative case) and Gospody, (O Lord in vocative case), Khristos (Christ in nominative case) and Khriste (O Christ in vocative case).

There are many· similarities between the Russian and Sanskrit declensions of nouns and pronouns. The similarities are enumerated as under.

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Prefixes

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Suffixes

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Relations (Russian - Sanskrit - English)

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This small excerpt from the book (it's only the 2nd chapter) can be found here.
 

Altair

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There are also several articles on this topic written by a Russian linguist Constantine Borissoff.

Sanskrit, Russian, Lithuanian and Latin conjugations compared

In my previous post I gave a list of some Sanskrit-Russian cognate verbs which showed a remarkable phono-semantic affinity. This closeness also extends to grammatical endings. I would like to demonstrate it here taking as an example one Sanskrit verb jīvati ‘lives, is or remains alive’. For Russian I chose a less used form живать živat‘ which in modern Russian is predominantly used with prefixes e. g. про–живать pro–živat‘. It is an exact analogue of Sankrit jīvati and Avestan ǰvaiti. To make the comparison more obvious I also included Lithuanian and Latin cognates. Hopefully, this comparison is self-explanatory.

Some notes:

There are many theories on the nature of verbal systems in the ancient dialects that are commonly referred to as ‘Indo-European’ and ‘proto-Indo-European’. As I have already written in the comments, I do not accept the idea of a uniform ‘proto-language’. I do use these terms but only as ‘umbrella terms’ meaning a certain simplified generalisation.

There is a general consensus that ‘Indo-European’ verbs were conjugated (at least in the present tense) by person (First, Second and Third) and by number (Singular, Dual and Plural). These grammatical categories were expressed by means of special endings which were added to the verbal stem . It should be noted that ‘verbal stem’ as well as ‘verbal root’ are abstractions. For example, ancient Sanskrit grammarians did not single out the root. Instead they operated with dhātu ‘constituent part, ingredient, element’. The notion of a verbal root was brought in by Western scholars inspired by Semitic monosyllabic CVC (consonant-vowel-consonant) roots. So when we see in a modern dictionary a root jīv, according to Pāṇini, this would be a dhātu jīva ‘living, existing, alive’. From the point of Western linguists it would be viewed as a CVC root jīv + a so-called ‘thematic vowel‘ –a. Together they would form a ‘stem’ which may be taken as an equivalent of dhātu. For convenience I mark the root in italic, thematic vowel in blue and the personal ending in red. I also added hypothetical (reconstructed) thematic vowels and personal endings based on a more traditional interpretation of Fortson (Indo-European Language and Culture. Blackwell Publishing. 2004).

Transliteration:

Sanskrit j is [ɟ͡ʝ] (similar to j in jam], ḥ is a visarga ‘sending forth, letting go, liberation, emission, discharge’. It is a voiceless ‘breath out’ like an energetic [h]. In certain positions at words conjunctions visarga becomes /s/ or /r/. Long vowels are marked with a bar above so ī is [i:]. Because Russian stressed vowels are primarily characterised by length, I transliterate them in the similar manner so ā is a stressed a . By the way, Sanskrit a अ should be pronounced as [ɐ] or [ə] which exactly corresponds to the Russian unstressed a.

I transliterate here Cyrillic using the same system of Latin transliteration as commonly used for Devanāgarī so Russian ш [ʂ] commonly transliterated as š or sh, appears here as ṣ. This is particularly justified because Sanskrit ṣ is also a retroflex sibilant. Also I transliterate here ж [ʒ] (ž or zh) as j. However, Lithuanian j is [j]. Lithuanian g is [g] and y is [].


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Russian – Sanskrit verbs

This is a short list of some most obvious Russian – Sanskrit cognate verbs. Since one should compare similar forms, I give Russian verbs in the same format as Sanskrit verbs are presented in traditional dictionaries (for example in Monier Williams’ Sanskrit-English Dictionary): verbal root – 3rd person, singular, Present Tense form. For a comparison of conjugation paradigms see my other post. See also the Russian – Sanskrit nouns

Transliteration.

Sanskrit: ā, ī, ū – long sounds; ṛ = ri (a short i similar to Rus. soft рь/r‘); c=ch; j similar to j in “jam”; ṣ similar to sh; ś a subtler sort of sh, closer to German /ch/ as in ich .

Russian: š = sh; č = ch; ž is similar to the g in genre. Vowels generally correspond with the exception of ɨ which is a sort of ‘hard’ i sounding somewhat similar to unstressed i in Eng. it . Stressed vowels are lengthened and resemble Sanskrit ‘long’ vowels.

Russian is a fully Satem language and most of Russian sounds have direct correspondences in Sanskrit. There are a few exceptions, though. Sanskrit does not have the sound z so Russian z corresponds to either Skr. h (Rus. zima = Skr. hima ‘winter’) or j (Rus. znati = Skr. janati ‘to know – (he) knows’). Russian is similar to Avestan in this respect. As it regularly happens in Sanskrit, sounds rand l are often interchangeable : Rus luč = Skr. ruc ‘ray – shine’. Russian shares with Sanskrit such a feature as the iotation of vowels. Any vowel can be iotated by merging with a preceding palatal approximant /j/. Traditionally, Sanskrit iotated vowels are transliterated as ya, yo, ye etc. while their Russian analogues – as ja, jo, je… . To avoid confusion with Skr j (sounding similar to j in jam), I transliterate Rus. iotated vowels here in the Sanskrit way also as ya, yo, ye. etc.

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Russian – Sanskrit nouns

Еhis is a list of some most obvious Russian – Sanskrit cognate nouns. It is only a short-list in which I give only the generally accepted cognate pairs having the rating 5 & 6. Since one should compare similar forms, I give Russian nouns in a special transcription, approximated to Sanskrit Latin transliteration.

Transliteration and transcription

See the full transliteration table: Abbreviations & Transliteration

Crash course:

Sanskrit: ā, ī, ū – long sounds; ṛ = ri (a short i similar to Rus. soft рь/r‘); c=ch; j similar to j in “jam”; ṣ similar to sh; ś a subtler sort of sh, closer to German /ch/ as in ich and Rus. щ

Russian: ш = š = sh = ṣ ; ч =č = ch = c; ж = ž = zh = j, щ = šč = ś (a subtler sort of sh, closer to German /ch/ as in ich). Vowels generally correspond with the exception of ɨ which is a sort of ‘hard’ i sounding somewhat similar to unstressed i in Eng. it . Stressed vowels are lengthened and resemble Sanskrit ‘long’ vowels.

In the Russian transcription y after a consonant stands for a soft sign. It renders the consonants ‘soft’. The opposition between plain (hard) and soft consonants (e.g. t – t’) resemble the opposition of dental and retroflex consonants in Sanskrit (e. g. t – ṭ). In fact, there are some interesting correlations between Russian soft consonants and Sanskrit retroflex consonants. Compare Rus. рать rat’ (rāty) ‘war, battle ‘ and Skr. राटि rāṭi ‘war, battle ‘ (root rāṭ).

Russian is a fully Satem language and most of Russian sounds have direct correspondences in Sanskrit. There are a few exceptions, though. Sanskrit does not have the sound z so Russian z corresponds to either Skr. h (Rus. zima = Skr. hima ‘winter’) or j (Rus. znati = Skr. janati ‘to know – (he) knows’). Russian is similar to Avestan in this respect. As it regularly happens in Sanskrit, sounds rand l are often interchangeable : Rus luč = Skr. ruc ‘ray – shine’. Russian shares with Sanskrit such a feature as the iotation of vowels. Any vowel can be iotated by merging with a preceding palatal approximant /j/. Traditionally, Sanskrit iotated vowels are transliterated as ya, yo, ye etc. while their Russian analogues – as ja, jo, je… . To avoid confusion with Skr j (sounding similar to j in jam), I transliterate Rus. iotated vowels here in the Sanskrit way also as ya, yo, ye. etc.

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See the full list in the source article.
 

Altair

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Sanskrit and Russian cognates compared in respect of Lithuanian, Greek, Latin, Gothic and Old German

I would like to demonstrate here the remarkable phonetic affinity between Sanskrit and Russian taking two dozen of unquestionable cognate pairs as examples. It is well known that all Indo-European languages contain a greater or lesser number of common words but only Slavonic and, to a lesser degree, Baltic languages approximate Sanskrit to such an extent that in me instances the difference between certain Slavonic languages could be greater than between some Slavonic languages and Sanskrit.

Take the word for `spindle’: Sanskrit vartana, Russian vereteno, Bulgarian. vretе́no, Slovenian vreténo, Czech vřeteno, Polish wrzeciono, Upper Sorbian wrjećeno and Lower Sorbian rjeśeno. The phonetic shape of cognates in other Indo-European languages differs considerably.

A good example is the word `alive’: Sanskrit jīva, Russian živ, Lithuanian gývas, Greek bíos, Latin vīvus, Irish biu, Gothic qius, Old High German quес, and English quick.

Transliteration notes

Sanskrit: ā, ī, ū – long sounds; ṛ = ri (a short i similar to Rus. soft рь/r‘); c=ch; j similar to j in “jam”; ṣ similar to sh; ś a subtler sort of sh, closer to German /ch/ as in ich.

Russian: š similar to sh; č = ch; ž = like g in garage , the vowel y is a sort of ‘hard’ i sounding somewhat similar to unstressed i in Eng. it . the sign ‘ indicates softness and stands for a very short i. Vowels with j are iotated so ju would be similar to Eng. you and Skr. yu etc.

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Note that we compare the attested languages and not hypothetical "reconstructions" however, according to Antoine Meillet:

“[..] Baltic and Slavic show the common trait of never having undergone in the course of their development any sudden systemic upheaval. […] there is no indication of a serious dislocation of any part of the linguistic system at any time. The sound structure has in general remained intact to the present. […] Baltic and Slavic are consequently the only languages in which certain modern word-forms resemble those reconstructed for Common Indo-European.” ( The Indo-European Dialects [Eng. translation of Les dialectes indo-européens (1908)], University of Alabama Press, 1967, pp. 59-60).
 

Altair

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And there could even be some cultural connection. Constantine Borissoff compares Russian and Indian embroidery:


Going through some old Russian journals I came across an article by Svetlana Žarnikova (Zharnikova) “Kto my v ėtoj Evrope [Who are we in this Europe]”. Nauka i žizn’, Issue No. 5, 1997.

Žarnikova is known as one of the Russian protagonists of the controversial “Hyperborean theory” which develops the ideas of Bal Gangadhar Tilak expressed in his famous book The Arctic Home in the Vedas. Leaving aside this questionable theory I would like to quote a translation of this interesting passage from Žarnikova’s article:

In June 1993 we, a group of scientists and ethnologists from the Vologda region and our guests – a folklore group from India (West Bengali State), were travelling on a ship along the Sukhona [my comment: compare Skt. sukha सुख ‘running swiftly or easily; agreeable, gentle, mild’ + the common adjective suffix –na] river heading from Vologda to Velikiy Ustyug. […]

The motor ship was moving slowly along the beautiful northern river. We watched the flower-covered fields, century-old pine trees, country houses: two-three storied countryside mansions, the striped steep river banks, the silent smoothness of the water and admired the enchanting quietness of the northern ‘white nights’.

Together we marvelled at how much we had in common. We, the Russians, were surprised how our Indian guests could repeat after us the words of a popular Russian song practically without any accent. They, the Indians, were amazed how familiar the names of rivers and villages sounded to them. And then together we examined the embroideries made in the villages by which our ship was passing. It is difficult to describe the feeling that one experiences when the guests from a far-away country exclaimed interrupting each other pointing at the embroideries “This we have in Orissa, and this one he have in Rajasthan and this is similar to what they make in Bihar, that one – in Gujarat and this one – with us in Bengal”. We were very glad to feel the strong ties connecting us with our distant common ancestors through the millennia.

It is not in my nature to take things for granted so I have done a little research into this area and here are some of the results.

Before starting with it, I think that it is appropriate to mention that the Russian for ’embroidery’ is vyshivka вышивка where shiv is the root = Skt. siv सिव् ‘to sew, sew on, darn, stitch’, the first element is the prefix vy– which is identical to Skt. prefix vi– वि . Those who know Sanskrit will not need an interpreter to understand the Rus. vyshivka, especially if we write it down in Devanagari: विषिव्क (viṣivka) since in Skt. there is विषिव् (viṣiv) meaning `to sew or sew on in different places’. The last bit –ka is a very productive common Slavonic – Indo-Aryan suffix with a general meaning ‘similar to, like’. So विषिव्क (viṣivka) literally means ‘like sewing on in different places = embroidery’.

As the main source of information on Russian embroidery I took the academic study by Boguslavskaja, I. J. Russkaja narodnaja vyšivka [Russian embroidery]. Moskva: Izdatel’stvo “Iskusstvo”,1972.

For Indian embroidery I had to search the internet and found the following sites:

Beautiful Hand Embroidered Indian Sari

http://birdsofoh.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/kasuti-traditional-embroidery-from.html

First I give the embroidery patterns from Žarnikova’s article:

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Left: stylised embroidery from the Vologda Region (19th cent.) and Indian embroidery of the same period (right).

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Top: Embroidery theme from Northern Russia. Bottom: Indian embroidery theme.
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Vologda Region embroidery patterns (19th cent.)


Now let us compare some other embroideries from Russia and India:

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Left: Woman’s head gear “kokoshnik“. The 18-th century. Vladimirskaya province (?). Gold needle work on dark-red velevet. Russian State Museum (Boguslavskaja 1975 fig. 105) and (right) “The embroidery technique used on Jayashree’s sari is called Kasuthi. It’s a technique that originated in the Hubli Dharwad region in North Karnataka around a thousand years ago, and is quite similar to blackwork.” (quoted from Beautiful Hand Embroidered Indian Sari.)

Compare also this typical old Russian embroidery with the same symmetrical motif an the identical ‘roof’ element:

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Valance. The 19-th century. Pskovskaya province (?). Embroidered with double running stitch in red cotton threads on flaxen cloth. 262 X 21.3. Detail. Russian State Museum (Boguslavskaja 1975 fig. 17).

The top elements bear a striking resemblance to the śrīvatsa श्रीवत्स / triratna त्रिरत्न symbol and are most probably historically related:

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Note the central pattern design made of a rhombus with an X-like cross and flowers in the middle. This is an ancient fertility symbol in which the rhombus represents the female reproductive organ, the X-like cross symbolises the male productive force and it is well known to Indians as vajrākṛti वज्राकृति ‘shaped like a thunderbolt or vajra, having transverse lines a cross-shaped symbol (formerly used in grammars to denote jihvāmūlīyas’ (Monier-Williams, M. A Sanskrit-English Dictionary: Etymological and Philologically Arranged With Special Reference to Cognate Indo-European Languages. Oxford University Press, 1899, p. 914).

Jihvāmūlīya was an ancient Vedic Sanskrit letter for a velarised voiceless fricative [x] identical to modern Russian x. Interestingly, in writing jihvāmūlīya was exactly the same as the Russian letter: X (Müller, F. M. A Sanskrit Grammar for Beginners in Devanagari and Roman Letters Throughout. (Reprinted edition). New Dehli–Chennai: Asian Educational Services, 2004{[1870]}, p. 5). The flowers in the sections of the rhombus symbolised the new life.

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The full significance of this symbolic design is obvious from this wonderful ‘Mother Goddess’ statuette from the Cucuteni-Trypillian culture (approximately 4800 to 3000 BC). (Source: File:MotherGoddessFertility.JPG - Wikipedia)

Importantly, this is not some “odd” design. It is persistent on may similar figurines found in the area.

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Source: Бурдо, Н. Б. & Видейко, М. Ю.
«Погребенные дома» и ритуал сожжения поселений Кукутень-Триполья
Культурные взаимодействия. Динамика и смыслы. Сборник статей в честь 60-летия И. В. Манзуры, Stratum plus Journal, 2016, 175–191

Compare also the swastika from a later period placed into the female generative organ (Wilson, T. The Swastika. The Earliest Known Symbol, and Its Migration; with Observations on the Migration of Certain Industries in Prehistoric Times, Washington: Government Printing Office, 1896, p. 826) :


This ancient auspicious symbol was later split into two Swastikas (so brutally and shamelessly desecrated by the Nazis!) pointing into opposite directions as the representation of the eternal cycle of life and death and the life-giving unity of the male and female elements:

The crossed rhomb symbol and swastika have been widely used side by side in russian embroidery. See the women’s dress on the left:

Next comes the traditional Kasuti embroidery with this characteristic cross-like design which is, in fact, a variation of the above fertility symbol:


(http://birdsofoh.blogspot.co.uk/2011/01/kasuti-traditional-embroidery-from.html) See more wonderful Kasuti patterns here:

http://www.pinterest.com/isiscat/embroidery-indian-kasuti-patterns/

The same element is clearly seen in the centre and flower-like elements in this Russian embroidery:

Valance. The 19-th century. Olonetskaya province. Embroidered with a double running stitch in a combination of red cotton threads and coloured wool on flaxen cloth. 18 6 X 3 7 . Russian State Museum (Boguslavskaja 1975 fig. 22).

This pattern is also built around the ancient fertility theme: the two horses (each of them having their own life-force or seeds of life, represented by the flower-like design) are united to produce a new life (the flower design in the middle) which grows up in the form of the śrīvatsa श्रीवत्स / triratna त्रिरत्न . This design represents the fundamental idea: “division of the divine nature between a god and a goddess who, together with their child, form a natural trinity, glorifying and repeating on their divine plane the life of the human family” (Waites, M. C. “The Deities of the Sacred Axe”. American Journal of Archaeology, Archaeological Institute of America, 1923, 27, 25-56, p.34) . See more fertility related embroideries at pinterest.com.

This is only a brief comparison on a limited material but it fully confirms Žarnikova’s words and looking at this wonderful affinity I too could share the feeling of “the strong ties connecting us with our distant common ancestors through the millennia”.
 

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