Who Were the Cossacks?

The Cossacks are a military warrior group that is long associated with the Russian military and are generally made up of people of Slavic descent. As a distinct population, the Cossacks still exist as of 2014, but they no longer have the military power that was associated with them in the past. The Cossack society has its own particular customs and traditions that revolve around the way of a warrior.

The history of the Cossack people started with their unification as an autonomous organization of warriors that only answered to the authority of the Russian Czar in the 15th century. During this point in their history, the Cossack population was made up of people of Slavic descent, although they accepted any worthy warrior into their ranks if the warrior converted to Christianity.

A notable event in the history of the Cossack people was their role in the annexation of Siberia by the Russian Empire. A troop of 840 Cossacks under the leadership of Yermak Timofeyevich attacked a hostile Tartar force in Siberia in September 1581. The annexation of Siberia was complete by 1586, despite a Cossack loss in 1584.

While initially autonomous, the Cossacks gradually lost their independence through the 17th and 18th centuries before having their administrative status completely stripped under the Soviet government.