How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

Categories: Nations | Society | World

Cossacks, whose life was full of travel and battles, treated marriage very responsibly. The Cossack wife had not only to endure the hardships to which she was doomed by the prolonged absence of her spouse, but also, if necessary, to defend her home herself. Therefore, the men from the Zaporozhye Sich and the Don Troops made a number of serious demands on the future spouse.

How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

Immediately it is worth noting that the lands on which such a phenomenon as the Cossacks originated have never known serfdom. The Cossacks, hating everything slavish, almost never married serf girls.

They believed that slave psychology could be transmitted through the blood and spoil a new generation of free people. Future wives were chosen from free families, men and women from whom did not know "corvee" and were not used to bending their backs in front of the master.

How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

But Cossacks did not always start families. At the dawn of freedom, when the life of the Cossacks was filled with hardships, campaigns and battles, women were only a burden and a vulnerable place for the soldiers. The first Cossacks led a bachelor lifestyle and had relationships with women "without obligations".

The path to the Zaporozhye Sich was closed to women in order to save the close-knit military team from squabbles, intrigues and other factors that could affect discipline. On one of the Zaporozhye flags there was an inscription: "The Cossack rides wherever he wants, no one will cry for him."

How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

The Cossacks got married at a fairly mature age, when they retired and settled in villages and farms. Having a lot of campaigns, wounds and war trophies behind him, the courageous Cossack attracted girls, but from the point of view of their relatives, he was not a very successful match.

If a war was approaching, even a warrior of the most advanced age could pack up and go on a campaign that could last a year or even two. Often the head of the family took his sons with him, as Gogol showed in Taras Bulba. The situation was about the same on the Don, where it was also always restless.

Over time, when the Cossacks became stronger, militant men became more inclined to family life. Along the Dnieper and the Don, many villages and villages appeared, where the Cossacks lived with their families, leading a strong economy. In wartime, men left their wives and went to the army, and all the men's work had to be done by their faithful and older children.

How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

But there were very few women in the Wild Field and on the Don, and even fewer suitable for a Cossack as a wife. Therefore, we had to look for faithful and strong life companions among the "yasyroks" — free girls captured during campaigns in the Crimea, Persia or the Caucasus.

Historically, the period from the XVI to the XVIII century, the main enemy of the Cossacks was the Ottoman Empire. Therefore, the Zaporozhian Cossacks regularly went on campaigns to the Crimean Khanate, and the Don Cossacks — to the possessions of the Resplendent Porte in the Caucasus and Transcaucasia.

How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

The warriors returned home with rich loot — precious weapons and dishes, brocade fabrics, herds of thoroughbred horses and, of course, with beautiful captives. In foreign lands, Cossacks captured Muslim women from wealthy and sometimes aristocratic families, whom they often married.

First of all, the girls were baptized, giving them names familiar to the Orthodox ear. Zarema became Zoya, Daira — Daria, and Fatima — Thekla. Such a spouse brought a special flavor to the warrior's life, since she was a native speaker of another culture and language. The customs of other countries entered into the daily life of villages and farms, beneficially influencing the community.

How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

Tatar and Turkish women predominated among the wives of the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks, Chechens and Dargins predominated among the Terek, and Nogai women predominated among the Ural Cossacks. Representatives of the Siberian Cossacks rarely married local girls, preferring to send petitions to the Don with requests to share captives, which were usually fulfilled.

But by the beginning of the XIX century, the fashion to marry foreigners gradually faded. The lands on which the Cossacks lived became habitable and beautiful ladies for starting a family could be found in abundance. In this regard, it became shameful to marry "yasyrok" and weddings were already played with their great-granddaughters, in which Cossack blood was mixed with Turkish, Circassian or Chechen.

From such marriages, beautiful and strong children were born, who from the earliest years knew all the subtleties of Cossack life and were able to handle both a plough and a spinning wheel, as well as a rifle and a saber. The people who did not know slavery and lived on the borders of the state were a reliable stronghold of Christianity and a serious military force.

How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

Despite the fact that the Cossacks shamelessly stole brides from other countries into captivity, any manifestation of disrespect for women in their midst was severely punished. A lover of dissolving his hands at home after drinking was publicly flogged with a whip, and the death penalty was imposed for rape.

The Cossacks were socially protected by society. If the head of the family was killed or captured during a military campaign, all his property unconditionally passed to his wife and children. It was also customary to help the widow with the whole world, for example, to build a house if there was a need, or to buy cattle necessary for the children's sustenance.

The Cossacks had the right to vote and could even save the condemned to death by agreeing to marry him. In this case, the Cossack brotherhood released the condemned man as if "on bail", while reserving the right to closely monitor whether he was on the path of correction or not.

How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

At all times, the Cossacks were excellent housewives. They worked all year round — in the house, in the field, in the garden, vineyard or on the river. Women also managed to take care of children — the Cossacks were always well fed, dressed in clean clothes and attached to household chores, according to age, gender and abilities.

In which case, the Cossack's wife could also protect her house. Women from early youth learned to shoot and wield a pike or saber. Up to the age of 13, all the children played the same games, and the girls were not entitled to any indulgences.

During the absence of husbands, they had to defend their homes from enemies themselves, and often such defense was very successful. History has preserved many stories about the exploits of the Cossacks. As an example, in 1642, 800 women, along with their husbands, steadfastly repelled the attacks of the Turks in the Azov fortress.

How the Zaporozhye and Don Cossacks chose their wives

In the enlightened XVIII century, some women from Cossack families reached a high position in society, becoming ladies-in-waiting of empresses. Sebryakova, Efremova, Zhirova, Karpova — all these women came from Cossack villages and were distinguished not only by beauty and courage, but also by sharpness of mind. Many of these ladies have received a brilliant university education.

But, despite the hot blood, the women who came out of the Cossacks never took part in coups, revolutions and overthrows. They have always had conservative views and were faithful to Orthodoxy and the oath given once.

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