In Imperialist Russia, the Cossacks roamed the plains and mountains of the vast empire, nomadic badasses whose legends survive even today.
What is interesting, is that unlike their gypsy Roma counterparts, they were not a specific race or bloodline. They were basically the Hell’s Angels of Imperialist Russia.
The first Cossack societies were formed in the 14 and 15th centuries by runaway serfs and organized robber troupes. If you were a disgruntled serf, could manage to run away and survive int he wild long enough to find them, you could be one.
They created a society based on freedom and violence, forming nomadic enclaves throughout southern Russia that preyed on Turkey and Iran. They would pick up women in their raids who would become… “wives” and thus a tribe was born.
They were a pain to the Tsars, but every attempt to subjugate them failed, and finally compromises were worked out. The Cossacks roamed the borderlands which made them excellent defenders of Russia’s far borders.
While the Cossacks always remained wary of the Royalty and authority in general, mostere never the less devout Orthodox Christians and extremely devoted and loyal to the Church. There were a clan or two of fierce Jewish Cossacks, and it must re remembered numerous clans of Cossacks wandered different areas of the enormous Empire.
The Cossacks were instrumental in keeping the Turkish Empire off Russia’s back. Over time many Cossacks grew to prominence within the Russian army proper, although they never truly integrated culturally with mainstream Russia.
The time of the Cossacks ended with the 1917 revolution. The new Communists made the Cossacks a top priority and over the next several years hunted them down like Palpatine hunted the Jedi. No, seriously. The entire Red Army would be sent out to hunt down and exterminate various enclaves. Clans of Cossacks were systematically isolated then purged.
There were a series of Cossack uprisings, but the Bolsheviks couldn’t be stopped. They isolated different Cossack tribes and gradually took them out. Then of course you had the famine of 1932/33 which not only wiped out scores more, but the government especially focused on taking crops from Cossack areas to feed other starving towns and cities.
By the time WWII came around, the few remaining Cossacks sided with Germany. They lost, so there’s some more dead, but those left surrendered to the Allies, hoping for some mercy. Alas, there was the yalta agreement, where the Western Allies had agreed to hand over to the USSR any Soviet collaborators who fell into their hands. So the Cossacks got handed over the Stalin. Stalin, Mr. I Bathe In The Blood Of My Own Slaughtered People. AS we can all imagine, it did not go well and the Cossacks vanished from history.
A few survive in Poland and Ukraine. It is popular today for Russian ultra nationalists to liken themselves to or insist they are Cossacks, but the truth is, the Cossack are gone and only imitators remain.