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Who Are the Cossacks?

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A performance of traditional Cossack song and dance

The Russian National Cossack Dance Troupe

Sion Touhig / Getty Images

Definition:

A Cossack is a member of a mixed-ethnicity group from southern Russia, Central Asia, or Ukraine. The Cossacks are renowned as cavalry fighters, and served the Tsars of Russia from the late 18th century until the Russian Revolution.

The word cossack comes from the Turkic kazakh or qazag, meaning "freeman" or "adventurer." The Cossacks may descend from a western group of Turkic Kazakhs who mingled with Eastern European Slavic people.

Pronunciation: "KOSS-sack"

Examples:

"Some of the Don Cossacks so hated Soviet Russia that they collaborated with the Nazis during the Second World War."

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