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The word comes from the Turkish "quzzaq" which means adventurer or free man. There's a haze of romance surrounding these tough warriors who can ride horses like the best. They lived quite isolated in the southern steppe region of Eastern Europe, Ukraine and the Asian part of Russia. Through their lives in the middle of nowhere they have developed their own culture and tradition that expressed themselves in a certain way of life, their own songs, clothing, etc.

Named after their habitat, there were Don Cossacks (Don River), Ural Cossacks (Ural River), Siberian Cossacks, Astrakhan Cossacks and about ten other communities. They lived in stanitsa (cossack villages). It was a real man's world.

Women were not even allowed to enter certain Cossack strongholds. Women were active in agriculture, animal husbandry and fishing, because after all, food had to be eaten. In many regions where religious Cossacks lived, no milk, butter and eggs and sometimes even fish were not eaten. Unlike many poor and poor Russians, you would never see a Cossack with a dirty uniform or with dirty hands. Their cleanliness was striking.

The Cossacks also maintained great cleanliness with the furniture and cooking. Their hospitality was and still is great, but this is the case throughout Russia and Ukraine, as visitors to these countries may have experienced.

The Cossacks have always been loyal to the Tsar. The unconditional loyalty to the Orthodox Church is an extension of the Cossack's authority to the Tsar. The Cossacks were deeply religious. Many churches in Cossack regions were dedicated to Saints warriors St. George and Alexander Nevski. The majority of the Cossacks professed the Orthodox faith, but later Cossack units also included Buddhists and Muslims. When the gospel was read in the church, Cossacks pulled their saber halfway out of the sheath as a sign of their willingness to defend land and church in both word and deed. In addition to the many folk songs, the Cossacks, given their religious background, also sang many liturgical hymns. 


There are thousands of Cossack songs, not all of which are on paper. There was singing during the daily work. The dark and cold evenings were killed with music. The text was often made up, as well as a melody. Tradition has given the songs a place in culture: peasant songs, sailor songs, love songs, hunting and robber songs, war songs, party songs and hymns. As instruments that are still used today can be mentioned the goesli (zither), domra, balalaika and bandura (strumming lutes), sopèl and dvodensjtsjivka (flutes), doeda (bagpipes), serna (oboe), shaleika (clarinet), rosjok ( trumpet) and the bajan (Russian accordion). Conductor Arkadi Gankin of the Alphens Cossack Choir is a professional player of the Bajan.

Cossack and the Orthodox Church are inseparable. The folk customs of the Cossacks are closely intertwined with the church rites. Born a Cossack you gain fame in your offspring and the kingdom of heaven. It goes without saying that this connection with the church influenced the musical culture of the Cossacks. The love for singing, especially in a choir, is typical of the Cossacks. 

At a young age, the Cossack was encouraged to sing in a choir. It is therefore no surprise that the culture of choral singing was also highly developed among the simple Cossacks. As a result of the Cossack's role in the 1917 revolution, Cossacks were exterminated or deported. But the Cossack spirit, the traditions and especially their music turned out not to eradicate. Cossack songs are one of the most important elements of their ethnic identity. There are of course the necessary differences in style. The songs of the Don Cossacks are mainly melodious choral songs. The basses always have an important role. When performing a Cossack song, one should be able to hear a beautiful, deep bass.


The most typical in Cossack music is the so-called "Scottish" scale, performed on only the black keys of the piano. Where the ear is used to the harmonic combination of the classical musical scale (with eight notes), this five-tone system gives the melody a special color. Russian choral music is popular all over the world because of its unique, beautiful sounds. Many professional choirs come on tour to Europe from Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. In the European countries themselves and also in our country there are many choirs that specialize in Byzantine-liturgical choral music and Cossack songs.

The Alphens Cossack Choir has enthusiastically started to contribute in its own way under the musical direction of Arkadi Gankin to the corn culture of Alphen aan den Rijn and the surrounding area.

Cossacks in the present day

During the rise of the red rule of Lenin, the Cossacks took the side of the Tsar and thus of the Whites. The communists won, the Tsar family was massacred, and the Cossack culture came under heavy fire. During the Soviet era, the number of Cossacks decreased from an estimated 11 million to 140,000. When Perestroika flourished, it was Boris Yeltsin who rehabilitated the Cossacks in 1992. In today's Russia, the Cossacks are given the space to implement a degree of new independence and they are working hard to provide a financial basis for this.


Cossacks in present-day Rostov

Now also Alphense Cossacks

And now, since May 2007, there are also Alphense Cossacks: the Alphens Cossack Choir. The choir was co-founded by the first chairman, Bas de Wit, who died in 2014. Here, too, a male event led by the Belarusian conductor Arkadi Gankin. The choir now has 36 members. Performances and concerts are given regularly. The repertoire varies from Byzantine-liturgical music to Cossack songs. The choir sings exclusively in Russian and Ukrainian.

Those who are interested in organizing or organizing a concert by the choir can contact the board via the Contactform.

Various internet sources were used for this article.