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The Zaporozhian Cossacks lived on the Pontic-Caspian steppe below the Dnieper Rapids (Ukrainian: za porohamy), also known as the Wild Fields.

After the dissolution of the Soviet Union, the Cossacks made a systematic return to Russia. In Russia's 2010 Population Census, Cossacks have been recognized as an ethnicity.

It is not clear when new Slavic people apart from Brodnici and Berladniki started settling in the lower reaches of major rivers such as the Don and the Dnieper after the demise of the Khazar state.

The expansionist ambitions of the Empire relied on ensuring the loyalty of Cossacks, which caused tension given their traditional exercise of freedom, democracy, self-rule, and independence.

Merchants, peasants and runaways from the Poland-Lithuania Commonwealth, Moscow state and modern Moldova and Romania also joined the Cossacks.

Cossack communities had developed along the latter two rivers well before the arrival of the Don Cossacks.

By the 18th century Cossack hosts in the Russian Empire occupied effective buffer zones on its borders.

It is unlikely it could have happened before the 13th century, when the Mongols broke the power of the Cumans, who had assimilated the previous population on that territory.