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“Cossack Singing is Enjoyment and Pleasure…”

18.12.2013

This was an opinion of the Cossack captain Vasily Kushnaryov, Correspondent Member of the Novocherkassk Statistical Committee, expressed in the March of 1846, in his article “On Musicality of the Don Cossacks”, which he sent to Alexander Popov, the chief secretary of the Voysko Donskoye Statistical Committee. And now as well, this document is interesting for adepts and lovers of Cossack folklore.

The author versed that the original way of life of the Don Cossacks was formed under special conditions of freeman life, military campaigns and battles that left its imprint on the art of song creation. V.D.Sukhorukov, a Don historian, wrote: “A Don man in his occupation, rest and entertainment is a warrior. War is his element and pride.”

Singing is enjoyment and pleasure for Cossacks, it is never a means of subsistence: it is inherited from generation to generation. In old times songs were a necessary requirement of Cossacks to express joy, both private and public, and were widely used. They had songs for every occasion, for some domestic event, campaign against enemies, for the death of their brave companion and so on. At that time songs were mostly heroic, but now there are many lyrical ones: at that time married men were scarce, but now none can be unmarried. At that distant time the Cossacks were warlike and courageous, they lived by war; therefore, their songs were always military in content.

All the festivities are entertained with musical instruments and singing. The songs are slow or dancing, they are sung in chorus. The Don regiments lacking musicians have singers instead.

A party of guests is entertained with a dinner and singing songs: no party is joyful and fun without songs. A Cossack man or woman, when walking to or from the field, doing housework, always sings a song – military or romantic. There are excellent voices, especially female ones, to challenge European singers. But their voices are valued only among the villagers, not outside the locality.

It is strange that Cossacks are less fond of instrumental music though they have all the opportunities serving almost in all parts of Russia, especially in Poland. In words we can express our feelings and passions, arouse sympathy of others, that is, vocal music is for hearing, heart and mind, imagination and memory, while the instrumental music is only for hearing, it expresses only sounds, it does not tell us words and thoughts, that is why it is incomprehensible for the mind and heart.

The document was appreciated and registered, which the author was informed about on October, 29, and thanked.

The article of V.Kushnaryov “On Musicality of the Don Cossacks” is kept in the State Archives of the Rostov Region.

Irina Korenyughina