Good-guy American outlaws is a perfect way of describing them. They have that same legendary wild, free frontier horsemen image -- they're a major symbol of Ukrainian-ness, and definately not just for those really rare crazies like Bohdan -- they're like cowboys in the US. Some even raised herds of cattle. :P (Disclaimer: some of them weren't really that good -- anything that goes on for hundreds of years is going to wind up with some seriously bad apples sooner or later.) But yeah, they lived in settlements out on the plains, and their war leaders/mayors/drill sargeants were elected by the men, at least in theory. (Maybe it wasn't some kind of perfect pure democracy, though -- one historian called it "autocracy tempered by mob rule." >_>; ) But yeah, the idea of a hetman was actually sort of resurected in the 1920s (I think that's the date) as kind of a wimpy puppet governement. That didn't last long, but it shows that the title of "hetman" could be used to harken back to a Ukrainian past that was the stuff of legend. And that's what Bohdan's doing here -- "follow me and we can become free Ukrainian warriors again, and drive out these foriegners."
Sorry for the long reply -- it sort of got away from me. :P
Sounds like a fun group to be in - at least in theory. Thanks for clearing it up! They sound like the kind of group all the little boys in the area would want to join - and whose mothers would not necessarily want them to ;)
Ha, yeah, pretty much. :P I'm sure there were lots of kids riding around on their dad's old clunky plough horses and hitting each other with sticks. To make it even better (worse?) the cossacks did trick riding, both for actual utility in battle, and to scare the tar out of their enemies. (I mean, I wouldn't want to fight a guy who would casually hang headfirst off his horse.) Here's a pretty good video -- I can't guarantee it's all authentic cossack stuff, but it's along the same lines.