What to read to feel the real nature of the Don Cossacks

There is a ton of books about the Cossacks. I’ve more than 3 Gb of them on my hard disk. But for the most part all this literature consists of statistical reports, orders, instructions of 18-19 centuries, dry chronicles of military actions, etc.

Reading all this staff you can become an expert in ammunition and tactics of the Cossacks but you won’t be able to imagine the real Cossack or understand how would a real Cossack behaved in this or that situation.

It’s interesting that the best book about the Cossacks is written by communist. Mikhail Sholokhov took part in civil war in Russia in 1917-20 on the side of Red Army. He was a Don Cossack by birth,  therefore he felt the horror of fratricidal war when most of his countrymen fought on the other side.

In 1965 he got a Nobel prize in Literature for this book. Despite Communist beliefs of the author  And quiet flows the Don  is very honest book.

Reading this book I see among the heroes of the book my countrymen. I can think of none other Soviet book that by strength of characters and entertaining of a plot  would be possible to call equal to American Gone with the Wind.


The story of this book was almost detective. For many years the Sholokhov’s authorship has been questioned. Even today there are works whose authors try to prove that the novel wasn’t written  by Sholokhov.

One of the most ardent  Sholokhov’s enemies was Solzhenitsyn who won the Nobel prize for his story One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.  In the 60s of the 20th century, he led a campaign against Sholokhov, accusing him of plagiarism.

Solzhenitsyn is much more famous in the world than Sholokhov. But to my regret he is known more for his political and journalistic activities. It seems that One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich is the only readable book of Solzhenitsyn.

I’ve honestly read his Gulag Archipelago and  In the First Circle. I am familiar with features of the Russian prisons after spending some years there myself. But to read other books by Solzhenitsyn I would agree only on a verdict of the court. It’s amazing how talented author of the One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich could write such  boring and stupid edifying books.

After reading a lot of  Solzhenitsyn’s works, I rather doubt that it was he who wrote  One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich.