The Cossacks is a short novel by Leo Tolstoy, published in 1863 in the popular literary magazine The Russian Messenger. It was originally called Young Manhood. Both Ivan Turgenev and the Nobel prize-winning Russian writer Ivan Bunin gave the work great praise, Turgenev calling it his favorite work by Tolstoy. Tolstoy began work on the story in August 1853. In August 1857, after having reread Iliad, he vowed to completely rewrite The Cossacks. In February 1862, after having lost badly at cards he finished the novel to help pay his debts. The novel was published in 1863, the same year his first child was born. The Cossacks is believed to be somewhat autobiographical, partially based on Tolstoy's experiences in the Caucasus during the last stages of the Caucasian War. Disenchanted with his privileged life in Russian society, nobleman Dmitri Olenin joins the army as a cadet, in the hopes of escaping the superficiality of his daily life. On a quest to find "completeness," he naively hopes to find serenity among the "simple" people of the Caucasus. In an attempt to immerse himself in the local culture, he befriends an old man. They drink wine, curse, and hunt pheasant and boar in the Cossack tradition, and Olenin even begins to dress in the manner of a Cossack.
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