CEDAR PARK, Texas—Some four centuries ago, the sultan of the Ottoman Empire wearied of his bothersome neighbors in Eastern Europe. So Mehmed the Hunter, an Islamic holy warrior who reigned for four decades, wrote to the piratical Cossacks living in what is modern Ukraine and demanded their surrender. The cretins must bow to the cultured.
Today, a large painting that dominates one wall of Tom Markusic’s office depicts the Cossack response to Mehmed. On the canvas, a dozen rough-looking, hard-drinking men have gathered around around a scribe, pointing, smoking, and laughing uproariously. The scribe is writing a ribald, disparaging response. It is a copy of the famed Reply of the Zaporozhian Cossacks to Sultan Mehmed IV of the Ottoman Empire painting, which hangs in the State Russian Museum in St. Petersburg.
Markusic glances at the painting and explains, “Basically, they’re saying, ‘Don’t worry about coming to get us—we’re coming to get you.'”