You are cordially invited to a lecture on the topic of
Introduction to Cossack History
Wednesday, November 13
The Institute of World Politics
1521 16th Street NW
Washington, DC 20036
Please RSVP to firstname.lastname@example.org.
This lecture is sponsored by the Kosciuszko Chair of Polish Studies.
The fascinating history of the Cossacks is a great lacuna–particularly in the West. These quintessential frontiersmen sprang up in the sixteenth century along the long borders between, on the one hand, the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth’s Ruthenian lands and Muscovy-Russia, and, on the other, the vast Eurasian steppes dominated by nomadic Turko-Mongolian warrior-tribes.
The Cossack culture and way of life were a blend of their Eastern Slavic and Greek Orthodox identity, along with many aspects of the attitudes and arrangements of the steppe peoples. The equestrian frontiersmen enlisted themselves in the armies of the adjacent powers–particularly Poland-Lithuania and Muscovy-Russia–serving as hardy light cavalry. At the same time, their fierce spirit of independence led them to rebel against their masters.
The Zaporozhyian Cossacks in what is now Ukraine rose against the Commonwealth in 1648, drawing Muscovy into the conflict. Thus, Russia acquired eastern Ukraine and its Cossack strongholds. The Russian Empire soon deprived its Cossacks–living in a belt of territory stretching from the Ukraine all the way to Siberia–of their local autonomy. The heaviest blows to the Cossacks came from the Bolsheviks, however, who sought to punish them for their pro-monarchist sympathies and regionalist sentiments through massacres and starvation.
In spite of this, the Cossacks survived to this day, as do their visions of a monarchical restoration in Russia.
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