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Zaporozhian Cossacks

Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of Ottoman Empire.
Painted by Ilya Repin from 1880 to 1891.

Cossacks(Ukrainian: Козаки́, Kozaky; Russian: Казаки́, Kazaky; Polish: Kozacy) were originally members of military communities in Ukraine and southern Russia. Their origin is a subject of scholarly dispute. Online Etymology Dictionary www.etymonline.comand Encyclopædia Britannica www.britannica.com say that the name Cossack entered the English language via French Cosaque. It is originally a Turkic word, qazaq, which means "adventurer" or "free man". Cossacks (Qazaqlar) were also border keepers in the Khanate of Kazan.

Proto-Cossack groups very likely came into existence within the territories of today's Ukraine in the mid-13th century. In 1261 some Slavic people living in the area between the Dniester and the Volga were mentioned in Ruthenian chronicles.

The Cossacks of Zaporizhia, centered around the lower bends of Dnieper, inside the territory of modern Ukraine, with the fortified capital of Zaporozhian Sich. They were formally recognized as an independent state, the Zaporozhian Host, by a treaty with Poland in 1649.
Sergiy Vasylkivskiy - Zaporozhian Cossack

Towards the end of the 15th century, Zaporozhian Cossacks had established a Cossack host in the "wild field" of Ukraine around the Dnieper River. In the 16th century, the Don Cossacks established another cossack host in the Don River basin. Other Cossack hosts were established later in the Southern Urals, Siberia and Caucasus.

The Dnieper Cossacks of Ukraine formed the Zaporozhian Sich centered around the fortified Dnieper islands. Initially a vassal of Poland-Lithuania, the increasing social and religious pressure from the Commonwealth caused them to proclaim an independent Cossack Hetmanate, initiating by a rebellion under Bohdan Khmelnytsky in the mid-17th century. Afterwards, the Treaty of Pereyaslavl with Russia brought most of the Ukrainian Cossack state under Russian control for the next three hundred years.

The Cossacks of the Zaporozhian Host, who lived on the steppes of Ukraine, are a well known group of Cossacks. Their numbers increased greatly between the 15th and 17th centuries, led by poor Ruthenian boyar nobility, merchants and runaway peasants from Poland-Lithuania. The Zaporozhian Cossacks played an important role in European geopolitics, participating in a series of conflicts and alliances with the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, Russia, and the Ottoman Empire.

Cossacks had a great influence in all areas of Ukrainian life of XVII-XVIII centuries: culture, administration, military, and many others. The Cossacks were not only a military organization, but rather a mixture of public (aka Hromada) and political society. Later their legacy gave roots to such society as Sich and military organization Ukrainian Sich's Shooters.

Sergiy Vasylkivskiy - Cossack Colonel

The Zaporozhian Host was led by a Hetman, aided by a head secretary, head judge, head archivist and the supreme government body called the Sichova Rada (council). Some sources refer to the Zaporizhian Sich as a "cossack republic",[4] as the highest power in it belonged to the assembly of all its members, and because the leaders (starshyna) were elected.

Administratively, the "Left-bank" Ukraine was divided by military principal into polks (equivalent to regiment) which were part of the Moscow-formed gubernias (same as province). A Polk consisted of a number of kurins (several hundreds of cossacks called sotnia). There also was another part of the military organization known as kish equivalent to brigade) headed by the koshovy otaman and usually formed exclusively for military campaigns.

There was a cossack military court, which severely punished violence and stealing among compatriots, bringing women to the Sich, consumption of alcohol in periods of conflict, etc. There were also churches and schools, providing religious services and basic education. Principally, the Christian Orthodox religion was preferred and was a part of the national identity.

In times of peace, Cossacks were engaged in their occupations, living with their families, studying strategy, languages and educating recruits. As opposed to other armies, Cossacks were free to choose their preferred weapon. Wealthy Cossacks preferred to wear heavy armour, while infantrymen preferred to wear simple clothes, although they also occasionally wore chain mail.

At that time, the Cossacks were one of the finest military organizations in Europe, and were employed by Russian, Polish, and French empires.

Zaporizhian Cossack with a head of a Tatar

The Zaporozhians were renowned for their raids against the Ottoman Empire and its vassals, although they did not shy away from pillaging other neighbors. Their actions increased tension along the southern border of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth, which resulted in almost a constant low-level warfare taking place in those territories for almost the entire existence of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.
Greater Coat of Arms of Ukraine
Under Russian rule the Cossack nation of the Zaporozhian Host was divided into two autonomous republics of the Grand Duchy of Moscow: the Cossack Hetmanate, and the more independent Zaporizhia. These organisations gradually lost their autonomy, and were abolished by Catherine II by the late 18th century. The Hetmanate became the governorship of Little Russia, and Zaporizhia was absorbed into New Russia. In 1775 the Zaporozhian Host was destroyed and high-ranking Cossack leaders were sent to Solovky or killed.
Modern Cossacks
In the Perestroika-enlightened Soviet Union of the late 1980s, many successors of the Cossacks became enthusiastic about reviving their national traditions. In 1988 the Soviet Union passed a law which allowed formation of former hosts and the creation of new ones.

The Cossack social movement is widely spread in Ukraine now. Today there is necessity to define the national idea for the people, the leader and bearer of which long since have been the Cossacks.
The motto of the former Register Cossacks was the following: "We shall save up the honour - we shall keep the glory!" and the motto of the modern Register Cossacks that are the All-Ukrainian Public Organization: "Through spirituality and patriotism of each person to the mighty state and well-being of Ukrainian people".
There 12 officially registered Cossack Organizations. Cossack martial art Spas is very popular. It is not simply martial arts, it is an ancient tradition, survival, sports, military traditions, folklore and art, and even medical science. 
Folklore and Ethnographic Horse Theatre
and Theatre of Cossack Martial Arts SPAS invite you to experience a unique entertainment show!

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