In order to withstand ongoing and devastating raids of Tatar hordes, Ukrainians have formed military fortifications downstream the Dnipro River rough rapids. The Cossack power centered there emerged into the Zaporizhian Sich, which literally means: “the fortifications made of the chopped wood on the lands behind the rapids”. The Zaporizhian Cossackdom has played a significant role in the Ukrainian, and the European history alike. The Sich grounds have become a starting point for many crusades to the Crimean Khanate and the Ottoman Empire, resulting in weakening of the Ottoman expansion in Europe in general. Cossack rebellion in the Zaporizhian Sich under command of Bogdan Khmelnitsky has grown into the Ukrainian liberation war from Poland in the middle of the 17th century. And even abolishing of the Zaporizhian Sich by Katherine II in the end of the 18th century led to iteration of the Cossackdom idea and development of the new Cossack branches. There has emerged the Zadunayskaya Sich in the Danube Delta, which later on has grown into the Azov Cossackdom. Having descended also from Zaporizhzhya, the Chernomorskoye Cossackdom took part in the Crimean War and, thanks for bravery in the field, was awarded by Katherine II with the left bank lands on the Kuban River, for which this branch was named the Kuban Cossackdom.
Obviously, the theme of the Cossackdom and the Zaporizhian Sich has become an indefeasible part of the Ukrainian history, literature and culture.
In the Soviet years of the “thaw” the Ukrainian community was excited about reviving the Ukrainian traditions, and the Zaporizhian Cossackdom memory perpetuation particularly. There has appeared an idea for creation a museum of the Zaporizhian Cossacks on the Khortytsia Island. Supported by famous Ukrainian historians, a detailed project for the museum was accepted by the Soviet government. However, it has found no implementation, and the developers were dismissed from their positions. In the 70th the idea of this museum was denounced as the one contradicting the line of the Communist Party and the Soviet Policy, in general. The project was recognized nationalistic and obsolete.
In 1983 the museum was opened anyway but it was the Museum of History of Zaporizhzhya, which has just turned into an ordinary branch of the Local Lore Museum. The exposition displayed the history of the Hortytia Island from the Stone Age to the Soviet present of that time, with the big accent on the Great October events in Zaporizhzhya and Socialist advancement to the flourishing Communist future in the city behind the rapids. As a small compensation, there existed the Cossack Sich exposition but distorted in the context of the Soviet ideology.
When Ukraine has become independent the vast Soviet Epoch exposition was dismantled, and the Cossack theme was brought to light instead.
Nowadays, the museum is dedicated to the Cossack Zaporizhian Sich history and has numerous topical expositions and displays. There is the Bogdan Khmelnitsky exposition featuring the Hetman’s portrait, original Cossack weaponry and belongings found on site of the Berestechko Battle, Cossack stationery, clothing, maps, pipes, jewelry and other adornments; Cossack Spiritual Life exhibition displays cult and religious objects, church banners, books and icons; the Kamyanska Sich section featuring objects connected with the the Russian-Turkish War and the Khortytsia Island dockyard built on that occasion; the Pokrovska (Latest) Sich exposition with Cossack pipes, whistles, fishing hooks, and a model of zymivnyk (housing and farming Cossack settlement). There is also an exhibition dedicated to ruination of the Zaporizhian Sich and branching of other Siches, Mennonite settlers on the Khortytsia Island, building the Oleksandrovskaya Fortress on the former Cossack land. Alexander Feldman has enriched the museum exposition with a gorgeous display of the Cossack weaponry from his own collection. There is also a display for the Khortytstia history from the Stone Age to the Kievan Rus times.
Three dioramas reflect historical events of the land behind the Dnieper River rapids in the times of the Kievan Rus, the Sich presence and the World War II.
The Historical Museum of Cossacks on the Khortytsia Island relays history of Ukrainian Cossacks in amusing and unusual details, and boasts the most abundant collection of original Cossacks’ objects.