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«We left Rossochinskaia on the eighteenth of June. All the Cossack inhabitants of the steppes from Kasmikaia to Tcherhask, have light brown hair, and are a different race from the genuine Cossacks of the capital, and those dwelling in stanitzas along the Don. Lieutenant-Colonel Papof, a Cossack officer of the highest merit and talent, of whom we shall hereafter speak, told us that the people of the steppes were emigrants, of recent date, from Poland».
«It is uncertain whence a notion originated, that the Cossacks are of Polish origin; but, as it has become prevalent, a seasonable opportunity now offers to prove that it is founded in error. The Cossacks have been acknowledged, as a distinct people, nearly nine hundred years. According to Constantine Porphyrogenetes, they were called Casachs in the age of that writer. This name is found in the appellation of a tribe residing near Caucasus. "And the beyond the Papagian country", says he, "is the country called Casachia; but beyond the Casachs are the summits of Caucasus".
Our countryman, Jonas Kanway, calls the Don Cossacks «a species of Tahtars». Storch, who has written fully and learnedly on the subject, although he admits the resemblance they bear to Tahtars, in their mode of life, constitution, and features, insists that they are of Russian origin. Scherer, who has appropriated a work entirely to the investigation of their history, and continually inculcates the notion of their Polish origin, nevertheless opens his work with an extract of a diiferent nature; but it has all the air of a fable. It is taken from Nestor's Russian Annals. A Russian Prince, and a Cossack Chief, at the head of their respective armies, agree to determine their differences by a wrestling-match, which ends in the assassination of the Cossack by the Russian. This event is followed by the subjugation of the Cossack territory. To have seen the Cossacks, and to have resided among them, is sufficient to establish a conviction that they have nothing in common with the Russians of the present day, except the language they use. Let us pay some attention at least to what they say of themselves. The Cossacks of the Don relate, that a party of their countrymen being engaged in their usual occupation of hunting, near the range of Mount Caucasus, met a number I of people, with whom they were unacquainted, going towards the East; and having inquired I who they were, the strangers answered, that f they were emigrants from Poland, who had fled I from the oppression of their nobles, and were proceeding to Persia, to join the troops of that country against the Turks. The Cossacks told them, they might spare themselves the trouble of so long a march in order to exercise hostilities against the Turks; and persuaded the Poles to return with them to the town of Tcherkask, where they would find an asylum, and whence, in concert with their own forces, they might attack the fortress of Azof. Assisted by these auxiliaries, and with only four pieces of cannon, all the artillery they possessed at that time, they laid siege to Azof, which fell into the hands of the allied army. From the circumstances of this alliance, first enabling the Cossacks to make a figure among the nations at war with Turkey, may have been derived the erroneous notion of their having migrated from Poland. The Cossacks of the Don, according to the account the best instructed give of their own people, (and they are much better qualified to write their own history than any of the Russian Academicians,) are a mixture of various nations, principally of Circassians, Malo-Russians, and Russians, but also of Tahtars, Poles, Greeks, Turks, Calmucks, and Armenians.
In the town Tcherhask alone, and in the same street, may be seen all these different people at the same time, each in the habit peculiar to his own nation. A considerable proportion of the inhabitants have ever been refugees from Turkey, Greece, or from other countries. Concerning the original establishment of Tcherkask, they relate, that it was founded by refugees from Greece y to whom the people of Azof denied admission, and who, in consequence, proceeding farther up the river, came to this island, where they made a settlement; giving to the place a name derived from the people upon whose frontier it was situate, and with whom they afterwards wera intermingled. The name of the town, although pronounced Tcherkasky, is written Tcherask, implying "The small village of the Tcherkas", pronounced generally Tcherkass, or, as we write it, Circassians. Thus, from a small settlement of rovers, augmented principally by intercourse with the neighbouring Circassians, has since accumulated, like a vastavalanclie, the immense horde of the Cossacks. Before the middle of the tenth century, they had already reached the frontier of Poland, and had commenced an intercourse with the people of that country: this was often attended with an augmentation of their horde by the settlement of Polish emigrants among them. Their first notable armament is said to have been in the year 948, when the Greek Emperor employed them as mercenaries in his war against the Turks. From their address in archery, their neighbours had given them the name of Chozars and Chazars: under this latter appellation they are frequently mentioned by Constantine Porphyrogenetes, and their country called Chazaria. The Greek Emperor, for the services they rendered, sent them, with assurances of protection, and recommendatory letters, to the Polish Sovereign, requesting that, in future, their appellation might be Cossacks, and not Chozars. As to the origin of that name, some will have it to be derived from a Tahtar word signifying An armed man; others, from the sort of sabre they use; others, from a word which signifies a Rover; others again pretend, that the Poles called them Cossacks from a word in the Polish language implying a Goat, because they formerly wore the skins of that animal. Scherer, objecting to this last derivation, substitutes another still more frivolous, and maintains it to have been taken from Kossa, a small promontory. In this wild pursuit of etimology, we might also affirm, that Casaca, in Spanish, signifies precisely the sort of coat they wear, answering our English word Cassock, did not Peyssonnel much more rationally, and perhaps incontestably, explain the origin of their appellation. “The land of the Chazars”, says he, “formed a part of that country now denominated Circassia, properly so called. In this district of Chazaria, according to my opinion, we ought to seek the origin of the Cossack of the present day”. This observation is actually confirmed by facts already related and by the extract from Constantine cited in a former page: although so general became the migrations of this people that their colonies now extend from the banks of the Dnieper to the remotest confines of Siberia. According to their different emigrations and settlements, they are at present distinguished by the various names of Malo-Russians Cossacks, Don Cossacks, Cossack of the Black Sea, of the Volga, of Grehenskoy, of Orenburg, of the Ural Alps, and of Siberia; where they have received yet other appellations, and reach even to the mountains of China, and to the Eastern Ocean».
Edward Daniel Clarke, «Travels in various countries of Europe, Asia and Africa», part 1, 1810, London.
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