Tuesday, May 19, 2015


Back in 2009, I tried to figure out the relationship between the "Cossacks" and the "Kazakhs." While the people themselves are not directly related, the names may be related. The Kazakhs named themselves "Kazakh" (really "qazaq") because it means the "free people" or "free wanders" in their own Turkic language. The Cossacks are Slavic, not Turkic, people. But when the Cossacks emerged as a Russian or Ukrainian speaking community in the 14th or 15th century, they were influenced by Turkic peoples who lived nearby (like the Crimean Tatars). The Cossacks adopted the name "Cossack" (казаки́), a Turkic-derived word meaning "freed men," just as they adopted some of the horse riding culture of their Turkic neighbors.

So anyway, I have all that in mind whenever I read about the Cossack bike gang in Texas. I imagine they borrowed their name from the Russian Cossacks (who in turn based their name on a borrowed Turkic term). Maybe they are invoking the idea of free riders (only with a motorcycle instead of a horse) they associate with the word "Cossacks", just as the Cossacks adopted the name Cossack to invoke the free riding Turkic horsemen. Or maybe the gang took their name from the soviet made Cossack brand motorcycle, thus taking a name from a brand that invoked the Cossack people who invoked the Turkic horse riders.