Atamansky Dvorets

Ataman (pronounced: ah-ta-maan) is sometimes translated as chieftain or hetman. It is essentially a senior officer in the Cossack army. Cossacks are a sub-ethnic group of the Eastern slavic nation, originating from the Don and Dnieper river. Being a military culture, they took a big part in colonizing Russian lands in the south and the southeast.

When you look at this picture above, you should be thinking folk songs sung by people in funny national hats. But this is not the case.

In late 2009, this Cossack folk-rap formation called Atamansky Dvorets (The Ataman’s Palace) became a true Russian rap sensation. They have recorded 2 albums and made 4 music videos so far, but they have already managed to stand out and make a statement.

These two particular cossacks, Maxim and Taras, are from Rostov-on-Don, a city in the southern Russia. It is important to mention that not all people from Rostov are cossacks with beards. Rostov is a prosperous industrial city with strong Soviet heritage. Its Cossack society is numerous, but not dominant, and the traditional imagery you may see in these videos (disregard the fashionable polos and blue jeans) are more of the artistic interpretation than the real life.

Let’s see a video that Maxim and Taras first released. Paintings in the background belong to Maxim & Taras who happen to be full-fledged painters back in Rostov.

If you find it hard to decipher the lyrics and make sense out of them—you are not alone. It has obviously a lot to do with faith, fate and death, but I lack the skills to decipher the grains of meaning. Then again, the track might not have a solid coherent meaning, so let’s not get too confused.

This next piece is a bit easier on the brain. The cossack friends gather in a restaurant and try to show that the Cossacks are very involved in the global processes and are aware of the trending topics.

A decent woman, as it says in the song, is attractive for her massive ass and the borsch-making skills. A decent man should be with his friends, chilling out, fishing and drinking beer, and always be ready to go to war. And Cossacks are really good with sabres, by the way.

And although the guys are obviously over-performing in the videos (hands and facial expressions could really use some down-tuning), the whole cossack rap story is very likable. To me it is like looking into a vibrant and rich culture of other people. For the true cossacks, though (and I have some friends), most of this imagery is a disgrace. But let’s leave everyone to decide for themselves, shall we?

But, really, what’s your opinion? Do you dig the cossack rap?

By Max Bears

Not much is known about Max Bears, except for his obsession with the Russian language and Apple products. Sometimes seen on a bicycle around downtown Moscow, he is indistinguishable from the wild bears that roam the streets of Russia's capital.