Characters Discussed

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Taras Bulba

Taras Bulba (TAH-ruhs BOOL-bah), a sturdy old Cossack warrior and chieftain, restless, fierce, and stubborn. He hates luxury, loves the simple Cossack life, and regards himself as a defender of the Russian Orthodox faith. Elected as leader for the second attack on Dubno, Taras fights bravely; he narrowly avoids capture when the Poles win the battle. Unable to visit the captured Ostap in prison, Taras does witness Ostap’s torture and boldly calls out to him before Ostap dies. Disappearing in the crowd watching the torture and execution of the captured Cossacks, Taras escapes from Warsaw and leads many raids of destruction, pillage, and death against the Poles. Finally captured by a superior Polish force, he is burned to death, but not before he has seen the heroic escape of many of his men to whom he has called out defiantly to continue the fight against injustice. Taras is presented as a great folk hero whose epic exploits are reminiscent of those of Homer’s warriors.


Ostap (ohs-TAHP), Taras’ older son, a former student. At first rebellious against studies, he later ranks high. Loyal to his comrades, he loves war and carousing but is more often a follower than a leader in the academy. As a warrior, however, he shows the cool calculation and tactical ingenuity that seem to predict for him a chieftaincy. In the second battle of Dubno, he is captured and taken to Warsaw, where, after being publicly tortured, he is put to death.


Andrii (ahn-DRIHY), Taras’ younger son, also a former student. In the academy, he learned more readily, more willingly, and with less effort than Ostap. He was daring, ingenious, and clever in avoiding punishment, and he early became a lover of women. As a fledgling warrior, he is reckless and intoxicated by battle. Captivated by the memories of a beautiful girl, the daughter of the Polish waiwode of Koven, whose room he once visited, he follows her aged servant secretly into Dubno, taking bread to the starving girl and her relatives during the siege of the town. He deserts to the Polish forces, succumbs to Polish luxury, and leads an assault against the Cossacks. Taras shoots him dead.


Yankel, a Jewish merchant rescued by Taras from Cossack wrath against the Jews. He fails in his attempt to enable Taras—on a promise of a great reward—to visit Ostap in the Warsaw prison. Yankel is a stereotypical Jewish character of the period, by turns greedy, servile, and flattering.

The daughter of the Polish waiwode

The daughter of the Polish waiwode, or military governor, Andrii’s sweetheart. She is beautiful, dark-eyed, and chestnut-haired. Volatile and mischievous when Andrii first sees her, she is more maturely and soberly beautiful when he meets her again in Dubno.


Kirdyaga (kihr-DYAH-guh), the newly elected leader of the Setch (a Cossack encampment) and a close friend of Taras.

Nikolai Pototsky

Nikolai Pototsky (nih-koh-LI poh-TOHT-skihy), a Polish hetman captured by the Cossacks but freed on a promise to grant religious freedom to all Christian churches and not to exact vengeance against the Cossacks. He later leads the campaign that results in the capture and execution of Taras.


Borodaty (boh-roh-DAH-tihy), a Cossack hetman slain from behind as he despoils a slain Pole. Ostap replaces Borodaty as leader of the Uman company.

Kassian Bovdyug

Kassian Bovdyug (kah-sih-AHN bohv-DEWG), an old Cossack who nominates Taras as leader of the Cossacks in the second battle at Dubno. Bovdyug dies in the battle.

Mossy Shilo

Mossy Shilo (moh-SIHY SHIH-lo), a powerful Cossack once captured and enslaved by the Turks. Capable of great deeds on occasion, he at other times succumbs to a passion for liquor. He dies bravely in the second battle of Dubno.

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