The Kozaki of the Steppes (according to REH) Sept 14, 2016 23:47:17 GMT -5
Post by deuce on Sept 14, 2016 23:47:17 GMT -5
Definitely seemed an appropriate time for this thread. While I'll be posting all other pertinent quotes (and talking about the placement of the Zaporoska and Ilbars rivers) there are a few passages from REH that really give us the main facts about the kozaki.
From Iron Shadows in the Moon:
“Kozak!” ejaculated Shah Amurath, recoiling. “I did not know a dog of you escaped! I thought you all lay stiff on the steppe, by Ilbars River.”
“All but me, damn you!” cried [Conan]. (...)
“I was one of those dissolute rogues, the Free Companions, who burned and looted along the borders. There were five thousand of us, from a score of races and tribes. We had been serving as mercenaries for a rebel prince in eastern Koth, most of us, and when he made peace with his cursed sovereign, we were out of employment; so we took to plundering the outlying dominions of Koth, Zamora and Turan impartially. A week ago Shah Amurath trapped us near the banks of Ilbars with fifteen thousand men."
From The Devil in Iron (which takes place several years after ISitM):
On the broad steppes between the Sea of Vilayet and the borders of the easternmost Hyborian kingdoms, a new race had sprung up in the past half-century, formed originally of fleeing criminals, broken men, escaped slaves, and deserting soldiers. They were men of many crimes and countries, some born on the steppes, some fleeing from the kingdoms in the west. They were called kozak, which means wastrel.
Then [Conan] laughed down into the clear eyes, and said: “Why should not a chief of the Free People be preferable to a city-bred dog of Turan?”
Robert E. Howard shows quite plainly that the kozaki are a very new phenomenon on the steppes in Conan's time. Conan is obviously in on it as the kozaki are beginning to gel into a distinct society/culture. The "Free Companions" he rode with in ISitM weren't "kozaki" at all until they surged out upon the trackless steppes.
The kozaki didn't even name themselves. That came from the Turanians who were their primary targets. They couldn't have developed their own language, either. Dialects, let alone languages, take longer than 50yrs/a "half-century" to develop. REH never capitalized "kozak". It no more needed capitalizing than "biker" or "bandit" would now. The kozaki had yet to truly coalesce, though they were well on their way.
Howard's model, of course, would be the Cossacks who ranged the steppes south of Russia and north of the Ottomans. There are varying histories given as to the origins of the Cossacks:
Most generally agree that the Cossacks started out comprised of various nationalities, many being outlaws or escaped serfs. They began coalescing into "sietches" or "siches" in the 1400s. The first formal Cossack state was declared in 1649. Despite the diverse original make-up of the original Cossacks, by the 1600s the Don and Dnieper Cossacks generally all spoke Russian or the closely-related Ukrainian language (think English and Scots).
Whatever their history, it appears that Robert E. Howard got most of his info on Cossacks from the Cossack tales of Harold Lamb which appeared in Adventure magazine during the 1920s. Howard often called Lamb one of his favorite authors. I personally recommend Riders of the Steppes. It's full of great stories. Especially good is The White Falcon. Based on an actual event, it depicts the relationship between the free Cossacks and the tyrannical Russian state at the time. Plus, it's a truly great adventure story. REH almost certainly read it.