View Full Version : the cossacks

02-24-2009, 06:05 PM
Hey everyone! I'm lily, just signed upto to this forum. I'm studying Tolstoy at uni and i have to do a presentation next week on the narrative structure of the cossacks and am really stuck for ideas because the novel just doesn't seem to have an obvious narrative structure (unlike family happiness or childhood which are divided into parts etc) Can anyone help? I'd be so grateful, thanks.

02-24-2009, 07:29 PM
Hi Lily,
I have some notes that I pulled a few years ago concerning Cossacks. I hope you will find them useful. It's been a while, but I think I pulled this info from cossackweb.com... I also found a gripping story in another book about a Cossack action during World War II, in which a battalion of horse mounted cavalrymen took on a German column of mechanized infantry. Excellent Read...

Cossacks were a sub-ethnic group of Russians who lived from the 15th to early 20th centuries and consisted of all sorts of nationalities (Germans, Greek, Turks, Ukrainians) although most were of Slavic origin. They were early colonizers of Siberia and were the founders of almost all Siberian towns. Cossacks were superior horsemen and exceptional warriors who were always on horseback and always ready for battle, 24 hours a day. Men were required to carry weapons all the time. Daggers were provided even for women and children. Babies were carried in a special hood behind the back so hands were free to fight in case of sudden attack. Anybody could join the Cossacks, if the Cossacks considered him a worthy warrior. There was only one condition – belief in Christ. The Cossacks had a very strong tradition of independence and were known for their courage and free spirit. According to Mitch Cox, Webmaster for the Sonoma State University (SSU) sports department, northern CA, the name Cossack derives from the Turkish word "kazak" which means "free man" or "adventurer". SSU also has Cossack as their school mascot. In the early 15th century, when there were many serfs in Poland and Ukraine, many of them ran away from their overlords and joined the Cossacks. The Cossacks demanded these people be re-baptized with a new name, as a sign of fidelity. These names were different from Ukrainian names, which either contained the name of the village or town they were from, or described their occupation. This custom began with the rise of the Cossacks, when they became a force to be reckoned with. (Muriel Gambrel, 1999)

03-01-2009, 11:48 PM
Thanks for your help. The context will be useful when i write about the novel in the exams.

08-11-2009, 08:52 AM
I'm just a general reader so I'll avoid answering these technical questions! I'd just like to say I thought that this was a remarkable short novel, perhaps the best adventure story I have ever read. It's about a rich young city man who goes to the wild Russian frontier to live and fight with Cossacks against Islamic insurgents. He falls in love with a poor Cossack woman and competes for her affections with one of the bravest of the young Cossacks. All this against vividly drawn portraits of Cossack village life and bravery.

I'm avidly reading through a superb collection of Tolstoy's best short works, including the Cossacks, and am amazed at the variation of themes. It's as if Tolstoy was attempting (and succeeding) to write the best short novels in each sub-genre of serious literature. Interesting that Tolstoy mentions a writer called "Cooper" in this novel which I'm guessing is a flag to say "I'm competing with 'Last of the Mohicans' here." I haven't read Fenimore Cooper, does he get anywhere near to Tolstoy in adventure story writing? I thought Stevenson ("Treasure Island") was good, but Tolstoy goes far deeper and is more exciting (for adults).