No Place Like Zaporizhia on Ukrainian Kozaks Day
Looking for a unique way to celebrate the Day of Ukrainian Kozaks this year? Why not head to where it all began – Zaporizhia
Zaporizhia has a host of tourism options related to the famed defenders of the Ukrainian homeland, with none more impressive than the Zaporizhian Sich – a reconstructed Kozak fort. With museums, horse shows, Kozak games and shows, and even a Kozak training camp, there is simply no better way to mark the holiday than a visit back in time to the heartland of Ukrainian Kozaks.
The date of 14 October is special in Ukraine. For centuries, it has marked the religious holiday of the Intercession of the Theotokos, a feast celebrating the Virgin Mary. In fact, you can still find an icon showing Mary protecting famed Ukrainian Kozak Bohdan Khmelnytskyi at the National Art Museum. Soviet atheism attempted to replace it with Defender of the Fatherland Day. But following independence, Ukraine changed the holiday to Day of Ukrainian Kozaks. Even more recently, the date now marks the Day of Defenders of Ukraine, to include all forces that defend the nation.
Of course, Kozaks can be considered the first ‘defenders of Ukraine’. They are known for their talent on horseback, savagery on the battlefield, and fierce commitment to independence. They are remembered as much for their uncouth demeanour and partying as they are for battling against all their bordering nations. In fact, much of the modern-day enmity between Ukrainians and Russians, Turks, and Poles can be dated back to the battles of the Zaporizhian Kozaks.
The Zaporizhian Sich Historical and Cultural Complex is one of Ukraine’s must-visit tourist sites – there is simply no better place to be on the Day of Ukrainian Kozaks than Zaporizhian Sich. Built just 14 years ago, the complex allows you to reflect on how Kozaks lived their everyday lives. You can explore the church, a Hetman’s house, and the school. Stop by the blacksmith’s shop to see how tools were made, the military barracks for a glimpse of Kozak warfare, or the pub for a taste of Kozak mead. Special activities, shows, and workshops are also offered, so there’s sure to be something for everyone!
12 – 24 UAH
With more than 32 000 exhibits in the more than 1 600 square metres of the Zaporizhian Cossacks Museum, it’s safe to say that this is the pre-eminent museum on Kozaks in the world. A must-stop for any history buff, they’ll be able to answer any question you may have about the lives of Kozaks and this important time in Ukrainian history. In addition to ongoing archeological digs, the museum features three permanent exhibits: the Military Council of the Sich, the Liberation of Zaporizhia, and the Battle of Prince Svyatoslav. Spoiler alert! Located not far away is the stone pillar that marks the probable place of his murder!
*Note: There may be schedule interruptions due to renovations.
The Zaporizhian Kozaks were famed for their talents on horseback and modern-day Kozaks continue that tradition in a wonderful horse theatre that is sure to knock your socks off at the Kozatsky Zagoda Zaporizhia Horse Theatre & Ethnographic Complex. The valiant stuntmen perform death-defying tricks while riding at full-speed in what is sure to be one of Ukraine’s most unforgettable cultural experiences. Watch riders stand on horses, swoop down to pick up items from the ground, and do plenty of other awe-inspiring tricks. Don’t forget your camera – these will be some of your favourite photos from your time anywhere in Ukraine!
50 – 100 UAH
The Zaporizhzhia Spas Theatre of Kozak Battle is also something to see – stop by to catch some wildly entertaining Kozak theatre, feast on hearty Kozak cuisine, or try your hand at any number of Kozak activities. Visitors can learn Kozak martial arts and acrobatics, work with Kozak weapons such as sabres and spears, learn how the Kozaks danced, or even get on a horseback and explore the area much like our ancestors did 300 years ago!
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Become a Kozak!
If learning about Kozaks is not enough for you. Perhaps a day of learning about these wild Ukrainian ancestors has you thirsting for more? No worries – Zaporizhia has you covered! This two-day excursion comes complete with Kozak initiation rituals, martial arts training, a Kozak feast, an overnight “close to the life of a Kozak”, and even gives you your own Kozak name. Tours are available in English too, so make this Day of Ukrainian Kozaks one to remember by becoming an honourary Kozak!
2 000 UAH
Of course, there is plenty more to see and do in Zaporizhia than just Kozak-related fun. From touring one of Ukraine’s major vodka factories (Khortytsa) to strolling through the Khortytsa National Reserve; from the wonderful views of the Dnipro Hydroelectric Station to the Soviet-era technology of the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant; from the lively Soborna Prospekt to the romantic ‘lovers clock’ on Shevchenko Boulevard – you’re sure to fall in love with one of Ukraine’s undiscovered gems when you visit Zaporizhia.
Rapid City: The name Zaporizhia directly translates as ‘beyond the rapids’ and the fast-flowing Dnipro River. The Dnipro Hydroelectric Plant is one of the city’s most iconic symbols.
Kozak-ollywood: Gogol’s famed story of Taras Bulba depicts the life and times of Zaporizhian Kozaks. Since first being made into film in 1909, five other adaptations have been made, including Russia’s 2009 version partly filmed in Zaporizhia, and the classic 1962 Hollywood version starring Tony Curtis and Yul Brynner.
Show Me the Money: Ukraine’s most famous Kozaks are Bohdan Khmelnytskyi and Ivan Mazepa, who feature on the five and ten UAH bills (and soon coins), respectively.
Ukrainian Kozaks Ain’t Nothing to F*** With: The most famous painting of Kozaks is Ilya Repin’s Reply of the Zaporizhian Kozaks. It depicts a group of Kozaks revelling in drafting the lewdest and most offensive reply to the Ottoman Sultan that they could muster.
The Voice – Kozak-Style: If you’re lucky, you’ll be able to catch a performance of some traditional Kozak songs. Usually about a Kozak’s relations with a girl, these songs have been recognised by UNESCO as being of “intangible cultural heritage” to the world.