The Cossacks, symbol of the Russian army

The Cossacks, symbol of the Russian army

  • Russian cavalry. Cossacks.

  • Russian Cavalry (Cossacks).

  • Russian army, Cossacks.

  • The virtuosos of the lance. Russian army. Cossacks.

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Title: Russian cavalry. Cossacks.

Author :

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Wood wire, stencil, laid.

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

Picture reference: 05-532210 / 79.82.122C

Russian cavalry. Cossacks.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - J.-G. Berizzi

To close

Title: Russian Cavalry (Cossacks).

Author :

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 0 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Pellerin printing house.

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Picture reference: 07-517837 / 53.86.2501C

Russian Cavalry (Cossacks).

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

To close

Title: Russian army, Cossacks.

Author :

Date shown:

Dimensions: Height 39.9 - Width 27.9

Technique and other indications: Colored lithograph. Charles Pinot and Sagaire printing press (1860-1888)

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

Picture reference: 08-521125 / 53.86.2504C

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - F. Raux

To close

Title: The virtuosos of the lance. Cossacks.

Author :

Creation date : 1914

Date shown: 1914

Dimensions: Height 50.5 - Width 0

Technique and other indications: Colored lithograph

Storage location: MuCEM website

Contact copyright: © Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot website

Picture reference: 04-509115 / 50.39.1914 D

The virtuosos of the lance. Cossacks.

© Photo RMN-Grand Palais - G. Blot

Publication date: December 2010

Historical context

The Cossacks, indomitable warriors

From the Battle of Austerlitz to the common engagement against the Central Empires in 1914, from the Russian campaign of 1812 to the occupation of Paris in 1815 and the Crimean War in 1854-1856, the crossed history of the France and Russia in the XIXe century is rich in military events. The figure of the Cossack rider, mythologized by Nicolas Gogol in 1843 in his historical novel Tarass Boulba (translated into French in 1845), permeates this entire period. After the repression of the Pugachev revolt in 1775 by Catherine II, they integrated the Tsarist troops into elite territorial units made up of volunteers, where a form of hierarchy reigned by election, and the mere mention of their name made one shudder. The Franco-Russian alliance signed in 1892 aroused strong popular enthusiasm for an army seen as inexhaustible (there were then more than 170 million Russians), stoic like the moujik and courageous like the Cossack.

Image Analysis

The charge of the Cossacks, a terrible weapon

“Russian cavalry. Cossacks ”,“ Russian Cavalry (Cossacks) ”and“ Russian Army, Cossacks ”were all produced in Épinal. The first two at Pellerin, the third at Pinot and Sagaire. The image "The virtuosos of the lance. Cossacks "was printed in Paris by the publisher Lasnier.

“Russian cavalry. Cossacks "exploits the width of a large sheet of paper to represent an equestrian parade - a constant in images of the XIXe century. It represents a bugle sounding the charge in front, followed by lancers. Launched at full gallop, these Russian soldiers all wear trousers and high headdresses (parakha) typical of Cossacks. Beside them hangs the long saber which makes them terribly famous. The freckle of the beards matches the orange red of the uniform jacket.

In "Russian Cavalry (Cossacks)", the lancers go in pairs as a sign of solidarity, the horses present dresses of various colors, and the board features a leader who brandishes his saber. Launched at a gallop, these riders all wear the blue costume with red facings of the Don Cossacks. The detailed representation of the harness of the mounts is in the vein of a realistic study of European armies.

The page "Russian Army, Cossacks" also shows a parade of horsemen dressed in red baggy trousers and blue tunics typical of the Cossacks. All are launched in full race behind the two bugles and the officer who, head turned to the rear, harangues the troop. In the procession of the lancers appears a yellow imperial flag adorned with the two-headed eagle, carried by a Cossack who is also looking back.

A complete change of style with “The Allies in the Campaign”, a pale-colored lithograph which, with extreme attention to detail, shows three Cossacks launched on the run into a war-stricken birch forest. In the center of the composition, a soldier charges, lying on his horse's neck in maximum extension. Despite the obstacles, he has one foot out of its stirrup. In its tracks, its spear even pierces the frame of the image. In the background are a standard bearer and a rider firing a rifle from his rearing horse. The legend calls these Cossacks "virtuosos of the lance", recognizable by their headdress, their beard and their skill in the saddle.

Interpretation

From enemy to ally

The famous Maison Pellerin d'Épinal has produced a large number of series of images and playing cards in which military scenes and uniforms have pride of place. Like the competing imagery, it thus responded to the tastes of a popular audience nourished by accounts of exploits in all theaters of war. While the manufacturing process varies from stencilled woodcut technique to color lithography, these images show the lasting interest in the Cossacks. These elite troops with their own codes are also charged by the Tsar - whose colors they wear high - to maintain public order: their brutal intervention on Bloody Sunday (January 9, 1905) unfavorably marks public opinion. But less than ten years later, as the spiral of alliances pushes France to engage alongside Russia attacked by the central empires, this same ease in combat, this taste for the charge at great risk, prevail the white-hot imagination of the patriots in the rear. Yet in a war where mechanics will take precedence and tanks will form a new kind of cavalry, the lance and heroic ardor of the Cossacks seem to belong to another time.

  • Cossacks
  • Russia
  • Ukraine

Bibliography

Wladimir BERELOWITCH, Le Grand Siècle Russe, Paris, Gallimard, coll. “Découvertes”, 2005.Henri GEORGE, La Belle Histoire des images d'Epinal, Paris, Le Recherches-Midi, 2005.Iaroslav LEBEDYNSKI, Histoire des Cosaques, Paris, Terre Noire, 1995.Pierre RENOUVIN, Histoire des relations internationales, tome VI “1871-1914”, Paris, Hachette, 1955.

To cite this article

Alexandre SUMPF, "The Cossacks, Symbol of the Russian Army"


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