Zaporozhian Cossacks


This page is not a historical essay on Zaporozhian Cossacks, but rather just some facts I found interesting. Neither it is a final version of the page--I will be adding more...

Cossacks were known for exceptional honesty. According to the Catholic priest Kitovich, in Zaporozhian Sech "one could leave his money out in the street, not worrying that it would be stolen".

In relations among the Zaporozhian Cossacks it was not the age, but the time of joining the Sech that was important. The one who joined the fellowship earlier, called the newly joined one "son", and the latter one called the former one "father", although the "father" could be 20 years old, and the "son" 40. The novice became a real Cossack only when he learned Cossack rules and ways, and how to obey the ataman, the chiefs and all the brotherhood.

The basis of authority in Zaporozhye was mir, fellowship of Cossacks. When there was a need to solve some important issues, kettledrums summoned all the Cossacks to the Sich square, where Rada (Council) or the Host Council would take place. During Rada every Cossack, regardless of his rank or means, could openly tell his opinion and had a right to vote. But after the decision was taken by the majority of votes, every Zaporozhian and all the host in general had to abide by it.

One should not think that in Zaporozhye there was an unorganized mass of people close to anarchy. As a matter of fact, Cossacks always had a clear hierarchy, and anybody could rise to the top of it. On the first step there stood molodiki (youngsters) coming through Cossack training (every skilled Cossack had about 2-3 of such "apprentices"), then there were Sich common fighters - siromashnya, and above these were starshina (masters) - distinguished warriors, who glorified themselves with heroic deeds. On the top of every Cossack pyramid there was a Kosh Ataman and his deputies. All this invisible-in-peacetime hierarchy turned into hard structure during wartime. The head of it was the Kosh Ataman, and during military actions everybody was to obey him. He had unlimited powers and the life of every Cossack, even the most distinguished, was at his disposal.

Under Catherine the Great territories in Pridneprovye began being populated by the Serbs, Valachs, Chernogors (Montenegrins). For defense from the Tartars they were allowed to build the fortress of St. Elisavet. The colonists formed four volunteer regiments of 4000 men each. To command those newly formed regiments Bismark was assigned - the ancestor of the future Unifier of Germany.


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