[ocr errors][ocr errors]

and the Caspian, at the foot of the throughout India and Eastern Asia,
Caucasian range; but this claim of where the ancient Kaptchaks were
antiquity does not appear to rest on unknown; and the most satisfactory
any better grounds than the casual explanation seems that given to Heber
similarity of name; and the traditions by the Ataman Platof, who derived
of the Cossacks themselves, which the name from the form of their swords,
would refer their establishment in coss implying any crooked weapon, as
their present habitations to an even a scythe or sabre.
earlier period, are too manifestly irre- The separation of the Cossack
concilable with the known facts of stock into two great branches, those
history to deserve attention. Rubru- of the Dniepr and of the Don (from
quis and Plancarpin, who traversed the latter of which the Cossacks of
the southern steppes of Russia on their the Volga and Yaik were offshoots),
way to the court of the Khan, soon appears to have been almost coeval
after the Tartar conquest in 1236 by with their origin; but it is uncertain
the grandson of Jenghiz, make no on which river the earliest settlements
mention of them; and, in fact, their were established: they appear to have
historical existence cannot be ascer- originally consisted of fugitives from
tained much before the latter part of the intolerable oppression of the Mo-
the fifteenth century, when the fall guls, who took refuge in the laby-
and dismemberment of the great Mo- rinths of rocks and islets formed by
gul empire of Kaptchak finally eman- these mighty rivers, and from these
cipated Russia from Tartar bondage, inaccessible retreats pursued the dou.
and enabled her to retaliate on the ble occupation of fishermen and pi.
shattered fragments of that once migh rates. The devastating civil wars
ty monarchy, the Khanates of Astra- which preceded the breaking-up of
khan, Kasan, and Krim, the long series the Khanate of Kaptchak, reinforced
of oppression and cruelties which for their numbers by the accession of
two centuries and a half had marked the Russian, Polish, and even Tartar re-
domination of the “Golden Horde.” fugees, till by insensible degrees they
At this date the predatory communi- overspread the open country, occupy-
ties of the Cossacks * are first men ing stanitzas or villages, defended by
tioned in Russian history, sheltered in abattis of trees and brushwood_and
the islets and marshes of the Dniepr, assuming the appearance of a regular
Don, and Volga, and spread over the military republic, governed by ata-
vast desert plains, which, extending mans and other officers, chosen by
from the frontiers of Podolia to the open election from their own body,
Caspian, formed a sort of " debatable and acknowledging no subjection to
land," dividing Russia and Poland any of the surrounding monarchies.
from the Tartar territories. Their Their roving and predatory habits,
primitive stock, and the derivation of and martial temperament, pointed
the name, have both been differently them out as the natural antagonists
stated by various authors: De Guignes of the Tartars, with whom their dif-
conjectures them to have been de- ference of religion placed them in a
scendants of the Comanians or Polout- state of perpetual warfare ; while the
zi, who were expelled by the Moguls rapid increase of their power and
from their ancient seats in Kaptchak, numbers, made both Poland and Rus-
of which word he considers the title sia solicitous for an alliance which
Cossack to be corruption; but might convert these restless commu-
this etymology, improbable on other nities into a rampart for their fron-
grounds, is disproved by the preva- tiers, against the renewed power of
lence of the same term, in the sense the khans of Krim Tartary, who,
of a light-horseman or plunderer, having since 14741 secured their do-


• One of the brothers of Ahmed, the last Khan of the Golden Horde, is said by De Guignes to have borne the name of Cosak-Sultan.

† This Tartar sovereignty remained under the suzeraineté of Turkey for three centuries, during all which period its internal independence remained inviolate, and the succession of the line of Menghli Kherai uninterrupted. In 1774 it was transferred by the treaty of Kutchuk-Kainardji to the protecting care of Russia : but in nine years from the transfer, the internal dissensions of the Tartars gave Catharine II. a minions by placing them under the expedition dispatched in 1569 by Sulpotent protection of the Ottoman tan Selim II., the son of Soliman the Porte, began to revive the terrors of Magnificent, for the reconquest of the Tartar name by the myriads of Astrakhan, and the construction of a wild cavalry which they annually navigable canal, which, by uniting poured forth from their peninsular the Don and the Volga, might facili. strongholds. In 1521, Sahhib Kherai, tate the transmission of troops and brother of the reigning Khan, having stores from the Euxine to the Casexpelled from Kasan a prince of his pian, and thus render Persia assailable own family who had become a vassal on the coasts of her north-western of Russia, advanced upon Moscow at provinces. The prevalent belief in a the head of a countless host, and com- former union between the waters of pelled the Grand-Prince Basil to pur- the two seas, which is attested by the chase his retreat by submission and Turkish annalist Evliya Effendi,* tribute : but the effects of this inva. probably suggested the idea of this sion were not lasting ; and in the stupendous undertaking : but its exe. subsequent war for the recovery of cution was impeded by the supersti. Kasan, the Cossacks of the Don and tious scruples of the Turkish engineers, Volga are for the first time noticed as who urged that the shortness of the sending a regular force into the field, midsummer night, in those northern having joined the army of the exiled climates, interfered with the due persovereign, Sheikh-Ali, to the number formance of the nightly prayers preof ten thousand men, all infantry, on scribed to the faithful: the Tartars the footing of independent auxiliaries. deserted, and returned to their own During the continuance of the con- country: and the enterprise was final. test, which terminated in 1554 by the ly abandoned on the total defeat, by final subjugation of both Kasan and the Cossacks, of a corps of janizaries Astrakhan, the Don-Cossacks signa- detached to occupy Astrakhan. The lized themselves as partisans on the only acquisition which the Porte deside of Russia ; and, as a recompense rived from this campaign, (the first for their exertions, the Czar Ivan the occasion on which the Turks and Terrible guaranteed to them, by a Russians came into collision,) was formal treaty concluded at Tzaritzin the allegiance of the Nogai Tartars, in 1549, the exclusive possession of 30,000 families of whom abandoned their lands and fisheries on the Don their former habitations near Astra. and Volga, free from all imposts or khan, and were located on the plains taxes, with full acknowledgment of near the Don, north-east of the Krithe independent jurisdiction of the mean peninsula, as a barrier against Ataman in all internal affairs, and nu- the future incursions of the Cossacks: merous other immunities and privi- who nevertheless, the following year, leges, to be held by the tenure of mi. emboldened by their recent successes, litary service on the frontier against pushed their frontier down the river the Tartars. They now became the to Tcherkask, only forty miles from principal bulwark of Russia in this the Turkish .fortress of Azoph, and quarter: and it is to their prowess made that town the residence of their (aided, however, by a mutiny of the Ataman, Tartar contingent in the Ottoman But the power of the Ottomans at force) that contemporary historians that period was too great to be defied ascribe the failure of the remarkable with impunity; and the chastisement


pretext for dethroning the Khan, and incorporating his dominions with her own empire-such is the comparative good faith of Russian and Ottoman protection! Moldavia and Wallacbia are even now apparently on the point of affording a fresh example.

* " In old times the peninsula of Krim, the plains of Heïhat, and the whole country of the Sclavonians, were covered with the waters of the Black Sea, which reached as far as the Caspian. Having accompanied the army of Islam-Kherai Khan in his campaign against the Moskov, I myself bave passed over the plains of Heïhat, and at certain encampments, where it was necessary to dig wells, I found all kinds of marine remains, as the shells of oysters, crabs, cockles, &c., by which it is evident that this great plain was once a part of the Black Sea. Verily, God hath power over every thing !"

of Russia was deputed to the Tartar Don, in the mean time, increased in Khan, Dowlut-Kherai, who, in 1571, numbers and martial renown; and, in burst into the country at the head of 1579, we for the first time find men. a vast undisciplined host of his own tion of a Cossack corps serving at a subjects, aided by some regular troops distance from their own country with and artillery from Constantinople. the Russian army in Livonia. But The Czar Ivan, fully occupied by the their connexion with Russia proved Swedes and Poles in Livonia, and dis- ineffectual to restrain their propensity trusting his nobles, whom he had for plunder; and their repeated deprealienated by his cruelties, could offer dations on the caravans traversing their little resistance to this new invader; country from Persia and Bokhara, at and the Khan penetrated, almost with length drew down on them the wrath out opposition, to Moscow, which was of the Czar, who dispatched an army taken by storm, and given up to fire to chastise them; but the principal and sword. It may not be uninterest- delinquents made their escape from ing to transcribe, as a parallel to the his vengeance, and passing over into descriptions of a similar event in our Asia, under the guidance of Yermak, own times, the quaint narrative of this one of their atamans, succeeded, after former conflagration of the Russian a long series of conflicts and victories, capital, given by Fletcher, the ambas- in reducing the city of Sibir, the capi. sador from England in 1588.

tal of a descendant of Jenghiz, who “ Then you might have seen a las ruled in Siberia, and in annexing these mentable spectacle : besides the huge vast and almost unknown regions to and mightie flame of the citie all on the Russian sceptre. This splendid light fire, the people burning in the conquest, which was laid by Yermak houses and streets, but most of all such at the feet of the Czar as an atoneas laboured to passe out of the gates ment for his former transgressions, farthest from the enemie, where meet- occasioned a further division of the ing together in a mightie throng, and Cossack family, great numbers being so pressing every man to prevent an- transplanted from the Volga and Yaik other, wedged themselves so fast within to reinforce the original followers of the gate, and streets neere unto it, as Yermak, and assist them in retaining that three rankes walked one upon the the newly subdued tribes in their alleother's head, the uppermost treading giance : and thus originated the Sidown those that were lower; so that berian Cossacks,* who, by degrees, there perished at that time (as was overspread the whole country from said) by the fire and the presse, the the Caspian to the Eastern Ocean it number of '80,000 people, or more. but their subsequent annals afford no The Chrim having thus fired the citie, materials for history. and fed his eyes with the sight of it While the Eastern Cossacks purall of a light flame, returned with his sued a career of conquest in the remote armie, and sent to the Russe empe. regions of Northern Asia, the Cosrour a knife (as was sayd) to sticke sacks of the Dniepr had become equalhimselfe withall.' This, however, ly renowned for their enterprises, both was the last grand effort by which the by sea and land, against more redoubtTartars attempted to assert their an- able antagonists. The fertile plains cient preponderance in Russia ; for watered by the Bog and Dniepr, afthough they continued for more than a forded abundant pasturage to their century subsequently to lay waste the cattle, and the almost inaccessible southern provinces of the empire by rocks and islets among the thirteen frequent inroads, they never again ap- cataracts of the latter river, were forpeared in such force as to threaten the tified as places of arms or depositories stability of the monarchy, or the safety of plunder, and garrisoned by detachof the capital.

ments of select youth, termed Zapo. The Cossack communities on the rogians or Zaporofski, (a compound

[ocr errors]

* Many other subordinate denominations of Cossacks, of no historical importance, are enumerated by Tooke and other writers.

† Kamtschatka was not finally subdued till 1701.

I No one was admitted among the Zaporogians who had not ascended all the thirteen cataracts in a skiff, according to Beauplan, who gives an amusing account of Cos.

Sclavonic term, signifying “beyond the ter; an agreement which was defined cataracts ;'') who, like the northern and extended by the Diet in 1562, when Joms-vikingar of old at the mouth of the services of the Cossacks were rethe Elbe, were bound to observe striet warded by an annual subsidy, and an admilitary regulations in their setsha or ditional grant of territory. By a third entrenchment, and never to admit a compact in 1576, between Stephen woman within its precincts. As their Batthori and the Ataman Rosczinski, numbers and security increased, they they acquired the town of Tehremetof had extended their settlements beyond for a capital, with the dependent disthe islands and marshes which were tricts, on condition that a certain numtheir original retreats; and their ber should be organized as cavalry; stanitzas or villages, which were se- their forces having hitherto consisted cured by a double palisade from the solely of irregular bodies of infantry. attacks of roaming parties of Tartar Under stipulations thus fixed, the Coscavalry, were scattered over the fer- sacks of the Ukraine continued, for tile but then uninhabited district lying nearly a century after the original south-east of Podolia, and subsequently treaty with Sigismond, the firmest bul. known as the Polish “ Ukraine," or wark of the Polish frontiers; and the border, which, till that period, had Zaporofskis, not content with a defen* remained

sive warfare, launched their light barks

and galleys from the mouth of the -"A wild plain of far extent, Dniepr, in defiance of the Turkish for. And bounded by a forest black ;

tresses of Oczakow and Kil-burnu, And, save the scarce-seen battlement

which guarded on each side the emOn distant heights of some stronghold,

bouchure of the Liman; and, treading

; Against the Tartars built of old,

in the steps of Igor and Yaroslaf,* No trace of man."

spread pillage and devastation on the From these positions they harassed coasts of the Black Sea. If they found the Tartars with continual incursions; their retreat to their fastnesses intertill, acquiring confidence by success, rupted by a naval force, they placed they ventured, in 1527, to attack, under their boats, according to the Turkish their Ataman Lanzkaronski, a retreat- historian Naima, on a sort of drays, inş force of 20,000 Krimean troops, and, drawing them overland to a highwhom they surrounded in the forests, er part of the stream, launched them and cut off almost to a man.

again where the intricacies and windputation which they acquired by this ings between rocks and shoals, well and other achievements against the known to themselves, defied the purcommon enemy, made the Polish kings suit of the heavy Turkish galleys. In solicitous to secure the constant co- 1614, they surprised Şinope, which operation of these indefatigable auxi- they plundered and burned,"

slaying liaries ;

and an offensive and defensive every Musulman who fell in their way, treaty was concluded in 1540, between and making their families slaves, Sigismond I. and the Cossack associa- (Naima;) and in 1626, during the mition, by virtue of which the Atamans nority of Sultan Murad IV., they even (whose independence of the Polish ventured, during the absence of the kingdom was expressly recognised) capitan-pasha with the fleet, to insult engaged to aid Poland to the utmost the imperial city of Canstantinople. of their power in the defence of her They entered the Bosphorus with 150 frontier against both the Russians and boats,t each rowed with two oars on Tartars, in consideration of the cession a side, and two men to each oar, and of the vacant tracts as far as the Dnies- carrying fifty fighting men, armed with

The re


[ocr errors]

sack manners and institutions in the early part of the 17th century. " Thirteen considerable falls have been reckoned, but it is only in the autumn or winter that they are worth seeing, the high floods of the early summer covering them so completely, that few of the falls are then perceptible ; at that season the barks of the Cossacks float safely over the loftiest ledges and the wildest whirlpools.”--Bremner's Excursions in Russia, ii. 447.

* See Gibbon, ch. 55.

+ The Cossack boats were built without keels, for the convenience of river navigation, and were steered at either end indifferently. A representation of them is given in the work of Beauplan.

fire-arms, scimetars, and scythe-blades the Kuban river, where, surrounded by set straight on staves; and, meeting an army of Turks and Tartars on land, with no opposition, disembarked their and blockaded by the Capitan-pasha men on each shore of the strait, burn- on the sea-side, they formed a rampart ing and destroying the villages and of their boats, and defended themselves palaces, and “ causing a general con- desperately for seven days and nights ; sternation," to use the words of Rycaut, at the end of which their entrenchments s not unlike that at London when the were forced, the defenders put to the Dutch entered the river off Chatham.” sword, and all the galleys carried in The great chain was drawn across the triumph, “ with the crosses of their Bosphorus, and all the vessels fit for flags turned down," to Constantinople. service manned and armed in haste to This victory, the details of which protect the city from a : are borrowed from Evliya Effendi, but the objects of the assailants was seems to have relieved the Turks from rather plunder than glory or conquest; their apprehensions on the side of the and, after having faced the Ottoman Black Sea ; and the dissensions which flotilla for a whole day without coming had been for some time rising between to an engagement, they burned the great the Cossacks and Poles, prevented the light-tower in bravado, and made good former from re-organizing their naval their retreat with their booty into the forces. The successors of Stephen Black Sea under cover of the night, Batthori on the Polish throne, had de. having given Constantinople a more ef. parted from the prudent policy observed fectual alarm than it had sustained by that prince towards the Cossacks, since its dominion had passed from the whom they affected to consider, in house of Palæologus to that of Othman. consequence of the Convention of 1576,

The impunity of this enterprise gave as vassals of their crown: their civil the Cossacks fresh courage ; and four and religious liberties were alike outyears afterwards their Ataman, with raged by attempts forcibly to substi. 200 galleys, blockaded the mouth of tute the authority of the Papal See for the Bosphorus, and cut off the sup- the Greek ritual, and by the encroachplies of provisions from the capital to ments of the neighbouring Polish seigsuch an extent, that proposals of peace neurs on their possessions in the were made by the Porte to Poland, on Ukraine,which, under their occupancy, condition that the depredations of the had been converted from a wilderness allies of each party, the Cossacks and into a rich and cultivated province. the Tartars, should be mutually sus- The arrogance of the Volhynian and pended : “ for the Cossacks and Tar- Podolian nobles, accustomed to treat tars were two sorts of people who lived as serfs the peasantry on their own equally on spoils and booty; the first domains, was ill suited to the jealous as offensive to the Turk as the latter spirit of liberty which animated their to the Pole : and, therefore, as it was Cossack neighbours; and the breach an equal benefit, so it was an agree. was still further widened by the perti. ment of even terms to counterchange nacious refusal of the Cossacks, to give the caution given reciprocally for one up to their masters the peasants who and the other," (Rycaut.) But it was took refuge with them, or to conform not in the power of either Government to the treaties of peace between Poland to control their wild auxiliaries by the and the Porte, by discontinuing their terms of a treaty : the negotiation was incursions on the Turkish and Tartar broken off by the news of an irruption territories. The execution of one of of the Tartars into Podolia ; and the their chiefs by the Polish authorities, Cossacks continued their career of de. in 1610, in satisfaction of complaints vaştation till a formidable armament made by the Porte, had nearly occawas sent into the Black Sea under the sioned an open rupture ; but their serCapitan-pasha, who defeated the Cos. vices in the wars in which Poland was sack flotilla, and captured the Ataman then engaged against Russia and Swewith seventy of his galleys." The re- den,* were too valuable to be dispensed mainder took refuge at the mouth of with, and a temporary reconciliation

* Their disi• gard for the rules of civilized warfare was not confined to their contests with the Tartars ; in the war with Gustavus Adolphus, a Cossack party seized Salvius and Horn, the colleagues of Oxenstiern in an embassy to the Diet, in spite of their safe-conduct ; and their release was not procured without difficulty. Locemus,

; viii. 550,

« VorigeDoorgaan »