Since Ivan the Terrible times, Cossacks of Don played a crucial role in the Russian history. A lot of songs and legends were dedicated to their life style. Neveetheless, there are still some facts that might be unknown to us.
On the shores of river Don, Cossacks emerged around XV century. It was the place where all peasants who didn’t want to work for barin (master) could find shelter and freedom. Originally the Cossacks society consisted practically of men. For this reason they were continuously searching for women. With the help of constant raids on their neighbours, first of all on Turkey, they could solve this urgent need.
Fans of Turkish women
Despite the fact that Ottomans were Cossaks’ bitter enemies, they often married Turkish women who they captured as trophies . Mixed marriages were a common thing among inhabitants of don steppes. Only between 1568 and 1878 Russia and Turkey made war 7 times. Cossacks were one of the most active participants. And that’s not counting their constant raids on Turkish lands. During the attack on Turkish settlement on the shores of the Taganrog bay in 1635, Cossacks captured 1735 Turkish women. Later, they were all taken as wives and they were called “yasirki” among free people. Children of these mixed marriages were called “boldyrs”. Nowadays we can see the root of this word in Russian surname “Boldyrev”.
Messing with Russian leads to disgrace!
It may sound strange, but marriage with Russian or Ukrainian girl wasn’t held in high esteem with Cossacks of Don. Even in the second half of XVIII century , when a lot of Russians from central part of the country moved to South, freedom-loving Cossacks tried to avoid contacts with them. They percepted Russians as the threat of their identity. If Cossack still marry Russian or Ukrainian girl, he shamed himself and all his family. In case of husband’s death, the community could turn away from a widowed woman and her children.
Education of furute warrior was very strict. It was important to teach them fighting even before they started talking. As a rule, the boys were taught close fight from the age of three. At this very age they started to practice horse riding. They studied small arms from 7 years and saber – the most important weapon for them, from 10. Young boys were not only artful warrios but also hardworking farmers.
Amulets in the ears
Earrings are not typical for men, but for Cossacks it was a traditional jewelry piece and had a sacred meaning. Earring in the left ear meant that Cossack is the only son of a single mother, in the right – he is the last man in the family. This element was considered a talisman, because commanders tried to protect such fighters in the battles.
Beauty and power
Due to the mixture of different ethnic groups, the Cossack women were considered the most beautiful women. “They have fiery black eyes, pink cheeks and stately tidiness in clothes” noted researcher Vasily Sukhotukov. They could wonderfully combine femininity with courage and grit. According to historians it all was because of the constant tension in Cossack society caused by foreign threat.
First Woman’s Day
Cossacks had a tradition to reverence mother-Cossack in the feast of “Leading to the Church of the Blessed Virgin” held on 4th December. It was the first Woman’s Day in Russia long before 8th March became a red day on the calendar.
Historian Kirill Alexandrov notes that during the great Patriotic war around 80 thousand Cossacks fought for the Germans. In the beginning of 1942 large regiments and divisions were created. Noteworthy, that according to the ideologists of the third Reich, Cossacks were descendants of the Ostrogoths – the German tribe inhabiting the plains of Eastern Europe. And if so, they were considered “true Aryans”.