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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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