Nikolai Vasilevich Gogol.

Taras Bulba : a tale of the Cossacks online

. (page 1 of 13)
Online LibraryNikolai Vasilevich GogolTaras Bulba : a tale of the Cossacks → online text (page 1 of 13)
Font size
QR-code for this ebook


i




^y: Lib.. . <;U-<x. ^l^^ , >AaA






.-•<:, C?



TARAS BULBA

A TALE OF THE COSSACKS



TRANSLATED FROM
THE RUSSIAN OF

NICOLAI V. GOGOL

By ISABEL F. HAPGOOD
WITH AN INTRODUCTION




ALFRED A. KNOPF
NEW YORK MCMXVII



RESERVATION
;OPY ADDED
)R{GINAL TO BE
lETAlNED



APR 1 8 Yiy




COPYRIGHT, 1^15, BY
ISABEL F. HAPGOOD



PRINTED IN THE UNITED STATES OF AMERICA



P6^ 33 33

T3



INTRODUCTION



41€S92



INTRODUCTION

The famous old Kazak, Taras Bulba, Is one of
the great character-creations which speak for them-
selves, and require no extraneous comment or
" interpretation." Indeed, his overflowing vital-
ity embraces not only his sons, but all his comrades,
with their typical Little Russian nomenclature end-
ing in ko^ and the reader's interest in Kazakdom
in general and the Zaporozhtzi In particular, Is
kindled to a very unusual degree. He Immedi-
ately wishes to know : Where was — and Is — the
Ukraina? Where was Zaporozhe? Where —
and what — was its capital, The Syech? Where
did the Kazaks get their name, and what does it
mean?

Complete answers to these questions can be
found only in Russian authorities. Historians and
specialists have interested themselves so deeply and
so long in these and allied questions, that the data
available are confusingly abundant. I shall not
bewilder the reader by giving him a choice of
numerous theories : I shall autocratically select the

7



8 A ; ; .; .•; INTRODUCTION

one which appears to me to be most rational, best
founded, most satisfactory for all practical pur-
poses, and offer It for his consideration If not his
adoption.

The Ukralna, briefly stated, Is — the Border
Marches. Naturally It has varied, In different
epochs, just as our Western Frontier (pretty
nearly Its exact equivalent) varied at different
periods In the briefer history of the United States,
and was pushed further and further away from the
Eastern centre of civilisation. In the case of Rus-
sia, Moscow represented that centre.

The line was never fixed, never definite. At
one period It ran not very far south of Moscow,
although the region beyond a line beginning two
or three hundred miles south of Moscow —
Southwest Russia, with Kiev as Its centre — con-
tains, roughly stated, its variations and general lo-
cation, so far as the " Ukralna " of Gogol's de-
lightful Tales, and the exquisite poetry and music
of The Ukralna are concerned.

When I was visiting the late Count L. N.
Tolstoy at Yasnaya Polyana, the young men of the
family often played on their balalaikas (among
other Russian folk-songs) a dance-song which
irresistibly incited one to laughter, and set one's
feet to patting. When I inquired the words to
this " Barynya-Sudarynya " (Lady-Madam) I



INTRODUCTION 9

was told that they were not only fragmentary but
really quite shocking.

No one, it appears, had ever cared much for the
words of " Barynya-Sudarynya," and the four or
live couplets generally known of the other repre-
hensible tune, the famous " Kamarynskaya," had
been so badly damaged by careless repetition and
reproduction that even the learned had come to
look upon both songs as purely scandalous, useless,
unworthy of notice. But one day it was discov-
ered that *' Barynya-Sudarynya '' Is a sequel to the
*' Kamarynskaya,'' — and that the words are scan-
dalous in part only, while the two combined chron-
icle an Interesting epoch of that strenuous life of
the Border Marches — the Ukraina — which, for
many centuries, was the chronic condition of the
Tzardom of Muscovy as It evolved triumphantly
to the present Empire of Russia.

The heroes of both songs are strictly historical
personages, and their abode was the Southern
Frontier — the Ukraina of Moscow — which, dur-
ing the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries meant the
present Government of Orel (pronounced Aryol)^
and so continued, with the addition of an unflatter-
ing adjective, until Little Russia, the Cradle of the
Empire, temporarily conquered by Poland, was re-
united to Moscow. During this second period a
prominent place was occupied by the District of



lo INTRODUCTION

Kamaritzkaya (also known as Kamarnitzkaya, or
Kamarynskaya, from the word, komdr, a mousquito
or gnat. Whether the region derived its appella-
tion from the fact that it was mousquito-ridden, or
because of the stinging powers of its inhabitants, I
am unable to state). During this epoch, the dis-
trict in question was teeming with the germs of
many important historical events, and offered a
favourable field for the development of the fool-
hardy, dissolute scapegrace of a peasant who ac-
quired the name of the region and became immor-
talised with it in the most famous of Russian folk-
songs, whose air was first arranged for orchestra
by Glinka, the father of modern Russian secular
Music, and to whom, in great measure, it is in-
debted for its present world-wide fame.

The Ukraina of that day may be said to have
extended to the Caucasus (Kavkaz) on the east,
the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov on the south,
and into present Poland and Galicia on the west
— in fact, it occupied the region which the present-
day "Ukrainians" (a political, semi-German-
Austrian party into whose quarrels and aspirations
I cannot enter) would like to see erected into a
separate kingdom, alien to Russia. The Kama-
rynskaya District became the property of Moscow
in 1508, having previously, for a long time,
belonged to Lithuania ; and for many years it was



INTRODUCTION ii

the most dangerous spot in the whole vast Border
Marches, subject to raids and deeds of violence
from both its former and its present owners, as
well as from the Tatars of the Crimea, and the
Poles. The Inhabitants lived a semi-savage life,
and were famed for the roughness of their ways —
even In that rough age. They were few In num-
ber, and the situation grew so acute after the con-
quest of Kazan from the Tatars (1552), that it
became an imperative necessity to populate the
district, in order to protect Moscow from the
Tatars of the Crimea, who were enraged by the
overthrow of their brethren on the Volga.

Moscow decided that strong towns must be
founded, at any cost; and, at last, Tzar Ivan the
Terrible {Grozny Is the Russian word which is al-
ways, by custom, translated, " terrible " ; but. In
connection with Ivan IV, it really signified, as al-
ways when applied to Tzars, " daring, august,
imperious, one who inspires his enemies with terror
and holds his people In obedience ")j^ who accom-
4)li&hed such incalculable work for the unification of
Russia, set about the task. All the colonists who
could be collected, by hook or by crook, were de-
spatched thither, without regard to their moral
character, fighting qualities alone being taken Into
consideration. Young men were chosen, the
more reckless and enterprising the better. In fact,



12 INTRODUCTION

the Ukralna of that age played the part taken by
Siberia at a later day, and received all criminals
and undesirable persons banished to protect the
rights of others, to save the peace, and to settle
the Border Marches : the " bad men " were given
a chance to rehabihtate themselves In a prison
whose roof was the sky, whose walls were the
horizon. With modifications, the description of
conditions applies, with much accuracy to our own
Western frontier, save that residence there was not
compulsory. The local authorities were strictly
forbidden to tamper with these wild colonists.

Then, when Tzar Boris Godunov, after usurp-
ing the throne, instituted serfdom (about 1592)
— almost, under prevailing conditions, justifiable
as a measure of state — every peasant who re-
belled against being bound to the glebe fled to the
Kamarynskaya. The Great Famine of 160 1-3
sent more recruits. The district was conveniently
near home for the Immigrants, and fell Into the
category of '^ Crown Lands,'' so that serfdom was
not established there. Naturally, also, no one was
particularly anxious to own the sort of people who
belonged there. In this throng, which comprised
all sorts and conditions of men, the criminal ele-
ment predominated. The scum came to the sur-
face in the form of robber-bands, before whom the
few peaceful inhabitants of the Ukralna — and



INTRODUCTION 13

even of Moscow Itself — quaked with fear. It
was a clear case of sowing the wind and reaping
the whirlwind! In the end Moscow sent armed
expeditions against these bandits — to little effect,
so well had she weeded out her black sheep into
this rich border pasture — although many men
were caught and hanged, as a certain Bandit Ballad
narrates.

The smouldering fires broke out into a dis-
astrous conflagration when the first False Dmitry

— the Pretender — laid claim to the throne.
These dare-devils pricked up their ears: their
nostrils scented a fine feast, exactly to their taste :

— and when the False Dmitry, the renegade monk,
Grigory Otreplev, made his appearance among
them, they acknowledged him as their Tzar, In the
face of positive proof that the lad Dmitry was
dead and buried; and they settled the domestic
question by throwing their forces against Moscow
in his favour. In like manner, after Otrepiev's
death, they supported another pretender, *' The
Bandit of Tushino," as he Is called. No one de-
rived any advantage from this — except the False
Dmitry. Truth to tell, the course of these des-
peradoes was not so mad as It appears on first
sight. If they had pronounced against this Pre-
tender, the Poles, who were pushing his claims and
prowling about the Ukralna, would have annihi-



i



14 INTRODUCTION:

lated them. Moscow was too far away, and pow-
erless to protect them. So, with keen Instinct for
politics and for self-preservation, the lowest
classes, brigands, fugitive serfs and peasants — the
** thews and sinews " of the Ukraina — flocked to
the standard of the Bandit of Tushino, robbing and
murdering all who opposed or did not join them, —
which meant, chiefly, the landed gentry and the cit-
izens of the towns. The women, in particular, the
Bdrynya and hdryshnya — wives and daughters of
the gentry — were compelled to marry these
scoundrels. All these things, naturally, inspired
such terror in the landed gentry of the Ukraina
that they deserted their estates and fled to Mos-
cow.

It Is this last phase of the story which " Barynya-
Sudarynya '' depicts — the situation of the " Lady-
Madam-Lady " (to give It another version) — In
the refrain of the songs. Thus, evidently, it sets
forth one side of the story, while the " Kamaryn-
skaya " depicts the other, or the morals and man-
ners of that particular Ukraina as a whole, the
actors In both songs being identical. Probably the
author of these ballads, with their free, untram- ^
melled form and ancient " Kamarynskaya naked- |
ness ** — was, like their hero, a composite — the
entire population of the Kamarynskaya Ukraina.

The tradition did not die out. The gentry did



INTRODUCTION 15

not all flee before the representatives of perfect
freedom — and did not escape contamination.
To that sad fact a decidedly racy historical inci-
dent bears witness. I cannot forbear citing it, to
complete the picture, although this leaf from the
chronicles of a noble family refers to a later date.
— About ten miles from Konotop, in the Govern-
ment of Kursk, is a spot noted in history, called
Kosachya Sloboda {slohodd meaning a large vil-
lage on the high road with the adjective of kazdk
added) , because there, in 1672, took place the elec-
tion of Ivan Samoilovich to the office of Hetman
of Little Russia. Our concern, however, is not
with the Hetman, but with the exploits of a lady
who lived near the village — whose alternative
name, by the way, was Kosachya Dubrova, or The
Kazaks' Oak-forest. This strip of the Ukraina
of Moscow, adjoining the Hetmanshschlna (the
Hetman's Domain), was, for a long time, the
arena of Insubordination and high-handed deeds
which the landed proprietors permitted themselves
to Indulge in, taking advantage of their remoteness
from the long arm of justice and the possibility of
effecting a speedy escape, in case of need, to the
Hetmanshschlna. The names of noble families
which still exist are mentioned in the complaints to
the Crown of their victims. Among the noble
families was that of Durov. Tradition has pre-



i6 INTRODUCTION

served the memory of Marfa Durov (or Durova)
as a famous brigand. Few men can have rivalled
— or even equalled — her. She flourished in the
reign of the Empress Anna Ivannovna (1730-
1740). The family was influential; Marfa was
wealthy and extraordinarily cantankerous. On be-
ing left a widow, she recruited her lovers from her
own peasants and neighbouring residents; and she
occupied her abundant leisure with highway rob-
bery. Recruiting her band from her peasants, she
made raids upon her neighbours. Mounted cross-
saddle, man-fashion, with a gun slung across her
shoulder, a pistol in her pocket, and a sword girt
at her side, she galloped at the head of her horde,
and behind followed with carts, to transport the
booty, more peasants. She ordered them not to
sow or reap, telling them it was not worth while
to sweat and bake in the hot sun : they could obtain
all they needed gratis, provided by the labours of
other people. Marfa was in the habit of making
her raids in July and August, chiefly, and her
slaves, at her bidding, carried home ricks of
freshly-reaped grain, stacks of hay, and droves of
horned cattle, sheep and pigs — whatever they en-
countered, in short. She went shares with them
when the plunder reached her estate. The shep-
herds dared offer no resistance. Sometimes, by
way of variety, Marfa would make a raid on a



INTRODUCTION 117

settlement, or the manor of a land-owner — and
if resistance was difficult, the victims submitted.
Then Marfa would order them to give her minions
food and drink and would content herself with
tribute. She frequently broke into the chests and
store-houses of the nobility, and selected for her
own use whatever she required; after which she
compelled the sufferers to take a solemn oath (and
confirm it by kissing a holy picture), that they
would not proceed against her for robbery. If
they refused, she threatened to call again and ruin
them completely, or '* let loose the red cock " —
that Is to say, set fire to their buildings. A good
many were wise enough to keep their oath, and
them Marfa, as a rule, troubled no further. But
those who violated their oath and complained of
her suffered for It. The authorities were greedy
for bribes, and Marfa Durov was lavish when
occasion demanded. All the rural police of the
county gave her a free hand, as they did to other
insubordinate persons of noble rank, because they
grew rich thereby. When complaints were lodged
against Marfa, they were generally reported " not
proved," because of the impossibility of discover-
ing that the robbery had been perpetrated by none
other than Marfa In person. She, like several
others in the county, paid regular graft to the
police. So the petitioner gained nothing by his



i8 INTRODUCTION

complaint, and Marfa felt secure in meting out to
him the punishment which she had promised.

Sometimes these noble bandits disagreed among
themselves, and civil war broke out. Once such a
nobly-born robber attacked Marfa's home with
some of his horde, and a bloody combat ensued,
which ended in the defeat of Marfa, and the reduc-
tion of her buildings and her whole village to ashes.
She and her sons (who were still minors) made
their escape by hiding In a swamp. But Marfa
assembled her horde again (several of her capable
assistants had been slain in that fray), and, before
proceeding to rebuild her village, she raided her
rival's estate, burned his manor to ashes, and slew
him with her own hand, her men following her ex-
ample with his men who had accompanied him In
his call upon her.

But Marfa made handsome amends, according
to her lights — she had his name and the names
of all the people who were slain in this affair, in-
scribed in a Book of Remembrance, with the com-
mentary, *' slain." This was, also, the practice of
Ivan the Terrible in regard to his victims; and In
keeping with It was the ardent piety of both Tzar
Ivan and Marfa. The souls of their murdered
victims are prayed for to the present day, and will
be, forever.

Marfa was noted for her external devoutness,



INTRODUCTION 19

for she observed all the fasts appointed by the
Church (and they are onerously numerous in the
Orthodox Russian Church!), never missed a
church service on Sundays and Holy Days, and was
very zealous in the matter of money donations and
of gifts to the Church. When she was about to
set out on a piratical expedition, she was accus-
tomed to go first to the priest at Kosachya Du-
brova, and order him to hold a Prayer-Service, and
entreat God to grant success to her undertaking.
"Hearken, bdtkof she would say to the priest,
" if we are successful, we'll bring you a present,
because that will mean that you have obtained suc-
cess for us from God by your prayers. But if we
are not successful, then you must excuse me, but
we'll warm your hide for you ! " So when the
priest heard that Marfa Durov had been unsuc-
cessful he apprehended disaster for himself; and
she would ride up and administer a sound horse-
whipping, because he had not understood how to
pray luck for her from God ! — Probably she
made him hold a Te Deum service In case of suc-
cess. Assuredly, the unhappy priest of Kosachya
Dubrova had on his hands one of the most compli-
cated cases of conscience and faith upon record!

When Marfa's sons grew up they participated In
their mother's crimes — and she instigated them to
forms of crime which she could not perpetrate her-



20 INTRODUCTION

self. Things went on in this fashion — the priest,
unless already reduced to a moral jelly by previous
experiences, must have been quite shocked by his
power with God — for six or seven years. Then
one of the sons proposed something which bettered
his mother's teaching — a crime against which
Marfa herself revolted; and he also fell out with
his brothers. So far, the authorities had never
been able to catch Marfa and her gang in the very
act of crime, as would be necessary if they were to
deal with her effectively. Now, this son secretly
gave information in proper quarters as to the time
when Marfa and his brothers, with their minions,
were intending to " go a-hunting " (as Marfa was
wont, pleasantly, to express it), and she was cap-
tured, tried, condemned and exiled to Siberia.
This third son, who had refrained from taking part
in her final *' hunt,'' after betraying her and his
brothers, remained the sole heir of the ancestral
estate. But he did not reign over it long. His
mother, at her departure into exile, had cursed him.
Burdened with this curse, he fell into melancholy,
and committed suicide. Evidently he, like the
priest of Kosachya Dubrova, was afflicted with a
complicated case of conscience.

In the famous Epic Songs of Russia, composed,
probably, in the tenth, eleventh and twelfth centu-
ries, the greatest of the Bogatyri (Heroes), Ilya



INTRODUCTION 21

of Murom, Is always referred to as " the old
Kazak." But in ancient times, as any peasant of
the far-away locaHties in the North where these
Epics still are sung, will explain, heroic deeds were
performed indifferently by men and women, the
men being called "'bogatyri " and the women
" polyanitzi." So perhaps Marfa Durov ranks —
by courtesy, at least — as a Polyanitza. At any
rate, she was more or less distantly related to
Taras Bulba !

TTie Kazakdom of Little Russia — which Is, in
general, the region dealt with in Gogol's story —
bore the. same general character as that of Great
Russia which acknowledged the authority of the
Kingdom of Moscow. The Epic Songs, and
" The Old Kazak, Ilya of Murom," originated
there. Kazak and fugitive serf came to be, prac-
tically, synonymous terms.

The term " kazak " is ancient, — and the most
rational of the explanations of it Is, that of old,
among the Turks, it was applied to a mounted
warrior, lightly armed, — and somehow Inferior
as a soldier. In the Polovetzk Dictionary of the
year 1303 the word Is written " kozak." Among
the Tatars, with whom the Ukraina was compelled
to live In such close contact, on such close terms of
enmity, from the thirteenth to the fifteenth century,
*' kozak " has the meaning of a fine man, an Inde-



22 INTRODUCTION

pendent military adventurer — again of low grade
:(the Turks and Tatars belong to the same Ural-
Altaic stock, along with the Hungarians and the
Finns) , — with shades of meaning indicating a vag-
abond, a partisan, a homeless roamer, a nomad.
Altogether, it seems to describe the kazak of the
early periods very thoroughly. With the status of
the kazak as an agriculturist, with a fixed home, a
soldier of the Russian Army, and with the divisions
Into kazaks of the Don, the Ural, the Terek, the
Kuban and so forth, and the conditions of his
service, it is not necessary here to deal.

The one appellation which is lost in the present
divisions is precisely the historic one of the Zapo-
rozhtzi. Zaporozhe, the domain of the kazaks of
our story, Is somewhat difficult to delimit (without
entering into too much detail) on the present map
of Russia. A large slice — practically all of the
present Government of Tauris (not counting the
Crimea), starting from the lagoon of Ochakov at
the southwest point, bounded on the south by the
Black Sea and the Sea of Azov, and. In a curving
line, northeast, east, south again, by the Dnyeper,
the Konskaya and the Berda rivers — was the ter-
ritory of the Nogai Tatars. Zaporozhe lay to the
west, north and east of this Tatar territory. Be-
ginning with Ochakov, at the western point of the
Dnyeper lagoon, Zaporozhe was enclosed on the



INTRODUCTION 23

west by the river Bug and the Sinlukha, curving
northeast just above Novomlrgorod and to a point
just above Kremenchug on the Dnyeper; southeast
along the Dnyeper, to the mouth of the Orel;
northeast, following the Orel but some distance to
the north of It, and with a long point northeast to
about BorkI (northeast of Poltava) ; thence south-
east, to a point about at Bakhmat on the Northern
Don; then slightly southwest to Mariupol on the
Sea of Azov, where It again joins the Territory of
the Nogal Tatars. The Territory of the Kazaks
of the Don was its eastern neighbour ; but there was
no real differentiation between the Don Kazaks
and those of Zaporozhe. It was not uncommon
for men of either camp to go to the other and dwell
there, unquestioned, perfectly welcome, like mem-
bers of the organisation, at pleasure, returning
home when affairs or Inclination called.

The actual origin of the Kazaks of Zaporozhe
and its date, cannot be determined. In all prob-
ability, their pioneers were the men who, loving a
free life, followed the calling of fishermen on the
lower Dnyeper, and hunted wild animals on the
surrounding steppe of the region, known as
Nizovya — the lowlands — near the Black Sea.
In course of time they organised, to repel the raids
of the Turks, [Tatars and Poles. In short, they
were the result of the eternal conflict between the



24 INTRODUCTION

settled, agricultural life, and the nomadic free-
booter life of the plains.

The Falls or Rapids from which the actors In
Gogol's story derived their name, Zaporozhtzl —
the Kazaks of *' Beyond the Rapids" — begin
about ten miles betow Yekatefinoslav (Katherine's
Glory), on the Dnyeper, the worst of them, about
half a mile in length, bearing the suggestive title of
" Nenasytetz," the Insatiable. In the tract below
the Insatiable was situated the famous capital of
Zaporozhe, the Syech — or, In the soft. Little Rus-
sian variant of Russia, the SIcha. Syech or SIcha
means, simply, a cutting or clearing in the forest.
Obviously, that was precisely the origin of the
name. As there existed, at different times, at least
eight Syechs (possibly ten) , It is not surprising that
the location of the capital should appear to the
reader decidedly indefinite, m

About one hundred and sixty-five miles below
Yekaterinoslav, opposite Alexandrovsk, in the
Dnyeper, lies the Island of Khortitza, where stood
the first Syech. Originally — so the ancient Greek
chronicles state — this beautiful island held a mon-


1 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13

Online LibraryNikolai Vasilevich GogolTaras Bulba : a tale of the Cossacks → online text (page 1 of 13)