The Cossacks (1960)




Director:     Giorgio Rivalta

Starring:     Edmund Purdom (Shamil), John Drew Barrymore (Giamal), Giorgia Moll (Tatiana), Pierre Brice (Boris), (Patimat), Erno Crisa (Casi), Massimo Girotti (Alexander II), Maria Grazia Spina (Alina), Mario Pisu (Voronzov), Laura Carli (Ferguson).

Country:    Italian film

Set in 1850s Russia, the father (Edmund Purdom) disagrees with his son (John Drew Barrymore) over the best policies toward Czar Alexander II.  




Spoiler Warning:







Historical Background:

Cossacks, Rus. Kazaki, Ukr. Kozaky, peasant-soldiers in Ukraine and in several regions of the former Russian Empire who, until 1918, held certain privileges in return for rendering military service.

15th century  --  first Cossack companies form, when Ukraine, then part of the Polish-Lithuanian state, takes independent measures to defend itself against devastating Tartar raids. The Ukrainian Cossacks were chiefly Russians and Poles, including many runaway serfs.

16th century  --  they settle along the lower and middle Dnieper River. Similar communities grew up on the Don (hence Don Cossacks) and its tributaries. Each community elects an ataman as its head, while an assembly of all the Cossacks choose the hetman.

17th and 18th centuries  -- the Cossacks take part in peasant revolts in the Ukraine and Russia. Open struggles ensue between the Cossacks and the Polish and Russian governments.

late 18th century  --  Cossacks lose most of their political autonomy; they become the privileged military class in the Russian military forces. Now instead of participating in peasant revolts, they work for the czars to quell strikes.

1855-1881  -- Alexander II ruled Russia. 

1869   --  law allows officers and civil servants to own land as personal property.  Before among the Cossacks land was owned communally.  This contributes to the breakup of the traditional cohesiveness of Cossack village life.

19th century  --  Russian government begins to organize new Cossack units.

1881 -- Alexander II killed by assassins.

1881-1894  --  Alexander III ruled Russia. 

1894-1917  -- Nicholas II, last of the tsars, ruled Russia.

early 20th century  --  11 Cossack communities, each named for its location—Don, Kuban, Terek, Astrakhan, Ural, Orenburg, Siberia, Semirechensk, Transbaikalia, Amur, and Ussuri.

1918-1920  --  the majority of the Cossacks fight against the Soviet armies in the Russian civil war.

1920 --  the Soviets abolished all the privileges of the Cossacks.

1928-1933  --  Cossack communities forcibly collectivized.

1936  --  the Cossack party forms several cavalry divisions in the Russian army.

Today they are part of the country of Ukrainia.  Their traditions and customs continue to survive, notably on the Don and Kuban rivers.


Return To Main Page

Return to Home Page (Vernon Johns Society)