Cherkasy [черкаси]. The official name used in the laws and state documents of Muscovy in the second half of the 16th and the 17th century for Ukrainian Cossacks and for the Ukrainian population in general. Eventually the Russians substituted the term malorossiiskie kazaki (Little Russian Cossacks) for this name. There are two theories about the origin of the name cherkasy: (1) that it derived from the town of Cherkasy, in whose vicinity there were many Cossack settlements in the given period; (2) according to some Russian historians, that it derived from the Caucasian Cherkess peoples. The latter school of thought associates the Ukrainian Cossacks with the Chorni Klobuky to support the theory that the Ukrainian Cossacks were not of Ukrainian origin.
[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 1 (1984).]