First off, I should plead complete ignorance – I’m nearly 30 years old, and I still have not been entirely sure what a “cossack” or a “hussar” is. If all the rest of you knew – good for you. But for me, I was never quite sure. (Except for a vague notion of horses and that funny dancing where you fold your arms, kick your legs out and wear a tall fluffy hat.)
So, I went hunting for a definition – for some reason, the Macquarie Essential Dictionary didn’t think that these words were essential knowledge for Australians, so I had to go digging deeper into the two-volume Shorter Oxford English.
So, here we go:
Cossack: Name of a group of peoples of the southern USSR noted as horsemen from early times, when they had the task of guarding the frontiers of south-east Europe and adjoining parts of Asia.
Hussar: One of a body of light horsemen organised in Hungary in the 15th c.; hence, the name of light cavalry regiments formed elsewhere in Europe in imitation of these.
So, to clarify a bit of the conversation – when Marya Dmitryevna refers to Natasha as a young cossack, she’s basically likening her to a rugged horseman.
And, we read earlier that Nikolay is off to join the hussars – so that means he’s going into the Russian cavalry.
So that should make the conversation in today’s chapter a little bit clearer, as the old German colonel gets worked up about war.
I’m on babysitting duty tonight, so I’ll have to leave it at that for the moment, but if there were any bits you particularly liked from tonight’s chapter, feel free to let me know.