(MORE ABOUT COSSACKS)
-THE HISTORY OF THE UKRAINIAN COSSACKS
For almost 300 years the history of Europe and Middle East was
connected with the history of the Ukrainian Cossacks, who came
into being at the end of the 15th Century. From the very beginning
of their existence they presented a willful force which neither
Polish nor Turkish sovereigns were able to subjugate. They were
born together with the people who had been enslaved; therefore
they sought to be free and struggled for their freedom.
In the 15th
Century inhabitants of Ukrainian cities and villages seeking
to escape the yoke of serfdom and feudal oppression began to
run to the low reaches of the Dnieper River and settle there.
The fugitives called themselves “Cossacks” that
is free people. Nothing but an age-long aspiration for being
free made them abandon their dwellings and open up new lands,
cultivate them by the sweat of their brow and defend them. The
Cossacks fought constantly for their right to exist against
Turkish and Tartar conquerors on the one hand, and the Polish
gentry, which had turned Ukraine into a Polish colony, on the
continuous threat of being attacked caused the Cossacks to build
fortifications and defend their dwellings by force of arms.
The fugitives united into a military organization which was
named the “Zaporozhskaya Sech”. Zaporozhskaya Sech
presented a unique phenomenon – that being protest against
any oppression. Whoever came to the Sech, no matter what his
origin or property status, was considered to be a free man.
In their struggle against their enemies, the Cossacks created
a distinctive military art. Severe living conditions, along
with the continuous threat of annihilation, cultivated such
moral and physical qualities as courage, endurance and quick
wit. They easily endured hardships of military life, and learned
to make due with little. When waging war they subsisted from
basic foods found in nature. Their resolution and valor in battle
excited even their enemies' admiration. G. S. de Boplan, a French
historian from the second half of the 17th Century, left a description
of the Dnieper Cossacks' traditions and mode of life. He highlights
their wit and exclaimed that they did not seek riches, but rather
valued freedom most of all.
The Cossacks were armed with many types of blades weapons and
fire-arms, and used them equally to perfection. They held the
saber in high esteem, calling it lovingly “Saber-Sister.”
Cossack sabers were suspended from the belt by means of leather
straps. Battle axes and knives were used widely as well. Powder
and bullets were kept in powder-flasks made from wood or bone.
In their battles with Crimean Tartars and the Turkish military,
the Cossacks often acquired knives and sabers richly adorned
with ivory, silver, coral and mother-of-pearl. In fact, this
may have inspired some of their knife making traditions.
The Dnieper Cossacks were famous for both for their courage
and comradeship, as well as for their constant readiness to
rescue one-another. Unwritten laws of brotherhood in arms did
not allow them abandon a comrade in trouble. To perish, sacrificing
oneself for the common cause was considered a matter of honor.
At the most critical moments
their innate intelligence, wit and experience acquired during
the course of many years of battles came to their help.