Who were the Cossacks of Ukraine?

The story of the Cossacks goes back to the 15th century. Some adventurous men would seasonally enter the vast steppes of Ukraine to hunt, fish, and gather honey. The term Cossack was first used to describe these martial groups. To their numbers were added peasants running away from their landlords to escape serfdom, and even adventurers from other social groups including the nobility. Together, these groups gradually evolved into a new martial society that banded together for mutual protection. By the mid-16th century, the Cossacks had formed a unique military organization with a democratic structure. The supreme authority lay with a general assembly of elected officers, with a ‘hetman’ as the commander-in-chief.

The Cossacks played a crucial role in Ukraine’s eventful history. They defended the frontier population from the Tatar invaders, made their own incursions into Crimean territory, and even into the coastal cities of Turkey. The Polish government was happy to seek the support of Cossacks in their wars with the Tatars, Turks and Muscovites. But they were not easy allies to keep in peacetime, being very volatile. The Cossacks were angry with any attempt to control or monitor them, and viewed themselves as an independent group with its own rights.

Picture Credit : Google

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