Cossack Mamay

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For other uses of Mamay, see Mamay (disambiguation).
Cossack Mamay playing kobza while riding the horse.
Cossack Mamay being tempted to drink by the Western-looking Satan. Ukrainian folk art 1st half of the 19th century. Linen, oil. 67х95cm. National Art Museum of Ukraine

Cossack Mamay (Kozak Mamay, Ukrainian: Козак Мамай) is a Ukrainian folkloric hero, one of the standard characters in traditional Ukrainian itinerant puppet theater, the Vertep.

Mamay eventually became the national personification of Ukraine and Ukrainians.


Cossack Mamay is encountered in legends, folk stories and proverbs. These became widely popular after the dissolution of the Zaporizhian Sich in 1775. Cossack Mamay is one of the most common characters in Ukrainian folk painting, from the late 17th century to the present time. In the hundreds of surviving paintings, Cossack Mamay is usually shown with a kobza – a lute-like musical instrument that is the symbol of Ukrainian soul; a horse, which represented both freedom and fidelity; and an oak with his weapons hanging on it symbolizing the people's strength. The paintings from the time of Koliyivschyna sometimes portray Mamay on the background of violent incidents involving Poles or Jews.

On the 1997 coin minted by National Bank of Ukraine, Cossack Mamay is dressed in a rich coat with fur and sits with his legs crossed, smoking a pipe and playing a kobza. Traditional depictions of Cossack military life are around Mamay: a horse with the rich harness, tied to a spear planted in earth with a small flag on its top; a green oak-tree with a sabre hanging from it; a pistol and a stone powder case; high Turkish hat and a bottle of "okovyta" (Ukrainian vodka).

The coin's external circumference has the inscriptions: (Ukrainian: Козак Мамай, Cossack Mamay) – at the left and (Ukrainian: Лицар волі і честі, Knight of Freedom and Honor) – at the right. On top, these inscriptions are separated with a small flag at the spear point and, underneath, a conventionalized guelder-rose spray.

The Mamay coin is a part of "Heroes of the Cossack Age", Ukraine's commemorative and jubilee coins.


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