Kociewie is a geographical and ethnographical region forming part of the East-Pomeranian Lake District, which has changed over the years many times. The present borders of Kociewie were determined on the basis of Kazimierz Nitsch’s linguistic research.

Geographically and administratively

The researcher divided the area of Kociewie into the original area covering the area of Pelplin and the extended one, which covered the area where the Kociewie dialect was present. Nowadays, Kociewie has about 3,000 square km.

The eastern border is an approx. 100-kilometer stretch of the Vistula from the vicinity of Gruczno in the south to the village of Czatkowy, located north of Tczew. In the north, the range of the region is marked by the line Pszczolki – Trabki Wielkie – Wysin, while the western border runs through Stara Kiszewa, Bartoszy Las, Czarna Woda, Szlachta, Sliwiczki, Drzycim, and then to Gruczno and heads towards the Vistula.

Administratively, Kociewie is located in the Pomorskie Voivodeship (entire powiats: Starogard and Tczew, a fragment of the Gdansk powiat: part of the commune of Trabki Wielkie and Koscierzyna powiat with the areas of the communes of Liniewo and Stara Kiszewa) and Kujawsko-Pomorskie Voivodeship (most of the land belonging to the Swiecie powiat and part of the Sliwce commune with Tuchola county). There are nine towns in Kociewie: Tczew, Starogard Gdanski, Skarszewy, Skorcz, Czarna Woda, Gniew, Pelplin, Nowe and Swiecie. Starogard Gdanski is considered to be the capital of the region.

Post-Cistercian abbey in Pelplin, photo: Pelplin Municipal Office

Post-Cistercian abbey in Pelplin, photo: Pelplin Municipal Office

The name of region

The name Kociewie can be found in documents from the beginning of the XIXth century. The first mentioned name comes from 1807. In Military Sources for the Pomorskie History, there is a report from Lieutenant Colonel Hurting to General Dabrowski, in which the name Gociewie appears. There were many distortions of place names in the above reports, so it is assumed that G instead of K is this type of mistake. Another name of the region was Koczewie, which is found in the poem “Szascie ji pon” written in the Koczew dialect. The document comes from Swiecie from the years 1810 – 1820. On the other hand, Florian Ceynowa’s form can be found Koczevije. The name Kociewie was also mentioned by Oskar Kolberg in the volume “Pomorze”.

Where does this name, Kociewie, come from?

So far, researchers have not been able to clearly determine the etymology of the word Kociewie. Many different concepts and hypotheses have been developed on this subject, but none of them has gained complete support. The vast majority of etymologies focus on the root Koc-. According to these concepts, the name Kociewie comes from the words:

  • Kocielki, i.e. numerous valleys, swamps and swamps surrounded by mountains (the concept of Father Fankidejski);
  • kotten, i.e. huts (according to J. Legowski);
  • kocza, kuchen – lightly knitted huts (according to priest J. Kujot);
  • kociewie – feathers, shavings, silt (according to S. Kozierski, A. Brückner); – kocanki – plant name (according to W. Taszycki);
  • koc- a blanket – a fishing float (according to J. Treder);
  • kaczy – Kociewie, or Kacewie ‘land on the Duck River’ (according to J. Haliczer);
  • Goths – Goths (according to F. Bujak, J. Czekanowski).

Hanna Popowska-Taborska in her research on the name Kociewie referred to Fr. Bernard Sychta, who compared Kociewie with the expression cat’s faith, meaning ‘deaf, remote area’, and with the word kocevinë with a similar meaning. For Popowska-Taborska, the name Kociewie is a nickname, genetically pejorative (which may explain the fact that during the research conducted by Z. Stamirowska, the population of the region did not admit to this name). Its word-formation basis would be the appellative name ‘cat’, so we would be dealing with a formation analogous to the chroszczewie –  ‘brushes, bushes’ quoted in the “Kociewie Dictionary”. The occasionally notated form koćejeve would contain a stem augmented by the suffix -ej.

Bogusław Kreja, on the other hand, believes that the name Kociewie is borrowed from an East Slavic language. In Russian there is a word kočevьe with the meaning ‘encampment, place of nomad’. It is a gerund formed with the suffix -ьe from the verb kočevat, meaning ‘to wander’. The name Koczewie, which appears in Ceynowa, is close to the Russian root.

Kreja adopted Kujot’s view about the area of Kociewie being smaller in the past (i.e. the areas left of the Wierzyca, between Nowa Cerkiew and Królów Las) and assumed that before the name appeared in written sources it had to function in the consciousness of inhabitants, i.e. according to Kreja in the 18th Century. At that time armies marched through Pomerania, including the Russian army that was also garrisoned in this area. Sources lack direct evidence that Russians stayed near Gniew and Pelplin, but Russian coins from 1759-1762 were found in the monastery in Pelplin. Besides, Kreja cites toponymic examples (such as the village Rusek, the farm Rusin) and anthroponymic examples (names such as Sobkow, Kołokolcow), which may prove that Russian troops were present in Pomerania in the 18th Century.

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