The Ambiguities of Cossackdom: The Case of the Pontic Steppe, 1775-1830s

Thesis author: 
Andriy Posunko
Year of enrollment: 
Thesis supervisor: 
Alfred J. Rieber
Thesis abstract: 

Traditionally, the history of the Pontic Steppe cossacks ends in 1775 with the dissolution of the Zaporozhian Sich by Russian troops. Indeed, after 1775 the majority of free cossacks communities had already been either dissolved or subjugated by the Russian Empire. On the other hand, in the late eighteenth century the Russian legislation was extremely vague and cossacks could not yet become a proper estate of the empire.
Studying the transitional period of 1775-1830s, I focus on the complexities of the borderland management in the Steppe region and imperial officials’ attempts to win the loyalty of locals accustomed to the cossack tradition. Tracking various cossack formations, I demonstrate how competing understandings of cossackdom coexisted, influenced each other, and how cossackdom as a social category evolved.
Finally, paying attention to the under-represented cases of cossackdom – irregulars recruited from foreign subjects or from nomads, temporary raised cossack militias, etc. – I move towards more flexible understanding of the cossackdom with its varying contexts and attempt to answer the question –what could cossackdom mean at the turn of the centuries in the end?