Don Cossacks - Settlements



Until the eighteenth century, with the beginning of the peasant colonization of the area, Don Cossack settlements were united in stanitsas, constellations of two or three villages. In the early nineteenth century there were .114 stanitsas with a new administrative center at Novocherkassk. The population of a stanitsa varied from 700 to 10,000 people. Types of housing ranged from the elaborate estates of the aristocracy—great houses surrounded by brick walls, outbuildings, servants' quarters, bathhouses, stables, and orchards—to substantial homesteads, to the more rudimentary huts of poorer peasants. Whereas the country house of a rich man would appear virtually interchangeable with its counterpart in Western Europe, peasant homesteads and huts were more characteristic of the Don region. These dwellings were built by carpenters but plastered by women, with clay kneaded with dung; the buildings were whitewashed "for Easter." The roofs were thatched, sometimes with reeds. Floors were earthen. Water was carried from the river by women, who suspended their pails from yokes. Many peasant huts were surrounded by wattle fences. Some village houses might have iron roofs, six or so paneled rooms, balustrades, and porches. Such houses might have a plank fence, and the yard might be paved with tiles. The houses, illuminated by oil lamps, typically had a silver icon in one corner, tables, mirrors, and a samovar, either on the stove or heated with charcoal. The stove was often tall and covered with green tiles. The house, which had eaves and window frames, was made more attractive by curtains, sometimes of blue cotton. Household items included iron-bound chests, photographs, and cradles for infants. Whereas some persons slept on bedsteads with feather beds, peasants often slept on plank beds. Behind the house was an earth cellar for keeping food. The smallest settlement was a khutor, a hamlet with no church. The village included a church and might have grain elevators and a steam flour mill or windmill. Today most of the population resides in large industrial cities: Rostov-na-Donu, Taganrog, Donetsk, Voroshilovograd, and Novocherkassk.

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