Zaporozhian was the association organized by Cossacks in Ukraine between 16th and 18th century, most of whom were the serfs escaped from the slavery. They were very brave and indomitable had an army consisting of more than 20,000 people. The Turkey Sultan King once advised them to surrender to the Empire of Turkey. But these Cossack men loved their motherland and never surrendered, so they wrote a letter to the King of Sultan.
What this painting depicted was about the reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mahmoud Iv. People were ridiculing at the languages that the king of Turkey used, which made all laugh. All the people in the painting were laughing, but their smiles and expressions were different because of their different positions, backgrounds, attitudes and personalities. It could be said that this was an encyclopedia of human laugher. To create this work, the artist visited the places where Zaporozhian lived and not only studied their history but also painted many props and accessories with national cultural characteristics in order to show the Great Russian national spirit and traditional culture. Repin featured two figures back to the audience in the foreground and decorated many items at their back and waist. These microscopic items not only reflected Zaporozhian people’s love for life, but also contained philosophy, namely the Russian Cossacks had their own cultural tradition. Everyone in the painting had its distinctive characteristic to show a nation’s spiritual image as a whole—they could not be conquered. Repin once said about the conception of the painting, “The freedom of Zaporozhian made me very happy. They created the equal brotherhood to defend their beliefs and personality. Warriors of these small stocks nation with a strong spiritual power not only defended Europe against oriental predators, but also made fun of the Oriental predator pride.”