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Taras Bulba is a romanticised historical novella by Nikolai Gogol set in Russia’s equivalent of America’s wild frontier, what is today Ukraine, a name which means something like “frontier” or “marches”. It was an ill-defined wild border land whose borders were subject to change and whose nominal rulers had allowed it to become a nuisance to them that it might also be a nuisance to the armies of their enemies and an obstacle to their advances. It was a time when men were men and sheep were scared and those men were Cossacks.
The story concerns the lives and deaths of Cossack colonel Taras Bulba and his two sons Ostap and Andriy who have just graduated from the Kiev Academy. It is a tale of bravado, derring-do, defence of the faith, chivalry, romance, honour and above all carousing.
(summary by Simon Hoare)