How sharp is Kate’s sword?
Here is Mihail Abramchik. He will dance and pray a bit before he gets to the cutting part. He also makes the sword sing at some point. To be able to cut through a water bottle the way he does, you have to hold the sword at a right angle and do it very fast. It’s the same technique that makes shaska sing through the air.
Why do they have different outfits in the videos?
Cossacks are not unified. There are several different groups depending on geography. Prior to Russian revolution of 1917, they were organized into nations.
These are the guys you saw in the video in the previous post. They lived around Dnieper, in the Wild Fields. You can read about them in detail here. They served as a buffer between Russian and Ottoman Empires and were self-governing. When Russian serfs ran away from their owners, they tried to make it to one of nations, because if they did, the cossacks wouldn’t give them back. Eventually Zaporoshian Cossacks had a massive falling out with the czar in mid 18th century and an army came and took away their land. They split and some of them went to Danube and formed a new nation under Turkey. The Russians got pretty alarmed by this development and they resettled the remaining cossacks at Kuban. Each of these cossacks was given a gramota, a writ from the czar, proving their special status.
My grandmother, pictured here with her first husband, had one of these writs. She was an actual Kuban cossack.
Donskie Cossacks are concentrated around river Don. They’ve existed in that location since about 6th century. They are the result of mixing of many races, namely Khazars, Russians, Turks, Mongolians, Jews. They would take anyone. They were also self-governing. They raided everyone and rebelled against Russia with ridiculous regularity.
Stepan Rasin, raising the Caspian sea. He also raided Persians and eventually led a massive uprising against the czar, for which the patriarch of Moscow anathemized him, which is like excommunication except worse. Basically, the patriarch expelled him from faith and cursed him. Because Russian Orthodox priests don’t play. The curse came true and Razin was captured, dragged in chains to Moscow, and quartered in 1671. His chains were placed in Starocherkasskaya Stanitsa, a gathering place for the cossacks, as a warning and can be viewed there today.
Czar slowly whittled at Donskie Cossacks until they all but lost their independence. Eventually, they began to look like this, as they were incorporated into Russian Army. They were used as shock troops. When czar wanted to quell and needed someone to commit and atrocity, he used cossacks.
They were nearly exterminated by Bolsheviks, which is how my family ended up in Rostov-on-Don. At some point my grandfather’s side abandoned everything and fled to the city, while on my grandmother’s side, my great grandmother, the one in the picture, refused to marry the head bolshevik in their village and he jailed her to change her mind. After a few months she decided to marry him, but that’s a different story.
After the fall of USSR, there was a revival, and now Putin once again is trying to use them as a buffer with Ukraine.
Here is a Wikipedia article that lays out the history and different Cossack organizations. It’s pretty accurate. There you go, more than you ever wanted to know about cossacks.