The Cossacks


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A Tale of 1852; first published in 1863.

Translated by Louise and Aylmer Maude.

The Cossacks, a story by Leo Tolstoy believed to be partially based on his own experiences, is a beautiful tale of a Russian soldier and his time spent in the Caucasus. Disenchanted and bored with his privileged life in Russian High Society, nobleman Dmitri Olenin joins the army as a cadet, hoping to escape the artificiality of his current existence, and to finally find "completeness". Full of hope and optimism, believing he might find happiness among the simple people of the Caucasus, he tries to immerse himself in their culture. He befriends an old Cossack. He drinks wine, and hunts pheasant and boar like a Cossack. He dresses like a Cossack would. He meets a Cossack girl, Maryanka, and, despite her fiancée Lukashka, falls in love with her. However, as the story progresses, he learns more about himself, philosophising, realising, among other things, how wrong and immoral his former life and perception of the world was.

In spite of this rather gloomy realisation on Olenin's part, The Cossacks is an extremely beautiful story. Tolstoy is almost poetic in his writing, drawing you into the story with his descriptions of the breath-taking mountains, the vast, empty steppes and, of course, the wonderfully natural and easy-going existence of the Cossack people.

Submitted by Emily Weissang.

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Recent Forum Posts on The Cossacks

the cossacks

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. :p


So...what do you think happens???

I'm new to this forum, and since The Cossacks is my favourite book i thought it might be appropriate that my first discussion was on The Cossacks! I'm a huge Tolstoy fan (never read War and Peace, but i've read pretty much everything else by him), but The Cossacks is just a cut above everything else i've ever read. No other book dragged me in as much as this one, and by the end i felt like i was living the book, and felt real compassion for the characters. (Stop reading if you haven't already read the book - several major spoilers coming right your way!!) Which is why i was so devastated when Lukashka was injured in the battle right at the end (typical of Tolstoy!! He always kills off the best characters) But we never actually find out whether Lukashka really dies or not, we just know that when the story ends he is in a critical condition. Which leads me to my question: Do you think Lukashka dies, or recovers from his wounds? Personally, i'd like to think he survives and marries Maryanka - but, i don't think Tolstoy would have had it that way! :bawling:


Who were the Cossacks?

I haven't read this short story...yet...so this is perhaps not the place for this question but I wasn't sure where else to put it so we'll see if it gets moved.... I am having some difficulty getting a clear idea in my head what the word "cossack" means. At some point, it seems to become more of a military term, relating to a regiment on horses with no connection to ethnicity but I also get the impression that at one time, Cossacks were most definitely an ethnic group...but then there were distinct groups of Cossacks, Ukrainian and Don are the ones that I'm most familar with so if it was an ethnic thing, are they all related somehow? Did they all originate from a certain place? I know in And Quiet Flows the Don it talks about people being Cossacks by blood but am I supposed to take that literally or figuratively? Or is it just more of a lifestyle thing? See how confused I am? :brickwall Can anyone explain this to me or am I just on my own. ;)


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