Kuban Cossacks in 1861.

Kuban Cossacks (Russian: кубанские казаки, romanizedkubanskiye kаzaki; Ukrainian: кубанські козаки, romanizedkubanski kozaky), or Kubanians (Russian: кубанцы, kubantsy; Ukrainian: кубанці, kubantsi), are Cossacks who live in the Kuban region of Russia. Most of the Kuban Cossacks are descendants of different major groups of Cossacks who were re-settled to the western Northern Caucasus in the late 18th century (estimated 230,000 to 650,000 initial migrants). The western part of the region (Taman Peninsula and adjoining region to the northeast) was settled by the Black Sea Cossack Host who were originally the Zaporozhian Cossacks of Ukraine, from 1792. The eastern and southeastern part of the host was previously administered by the Khopyour and Kuban regiments of the Caucasus Line Cossack Host and Don Cossacks, who were re-settled from the Don from 1777.[1]

The Kuban Cossack Host (Кубанское казачье войско), the administrative and military unit composed of Kuban Cossacks, formed in 1860 and existed until 1918. During the Russian Civil War, the Kuban Cossacks proclaimed the Kuban People's Republic, and played a key role in the southern theatre of the conflict. The Kuban Cossacks suffered heavily during the Soviet policy of decossackization between 1917 and 1933. Hence, during the Second World War, Cossacks fought both for the Red Army and against them with the German Wehrmacht. The modern Kuban Cossack Host was re-established in 1990 at the fall of the Soviet Union.

Formation history of the Kuban Cossack Host

Although Cossacks lived in the region prior to the late 18th century[2] (one theory of Cossack origin traces their lineage to the ancient Kasog peoples who populated the Kuban in 9th-13th centuries[3]), the landscape prevented permanent habitation. Modern Kuban Cossacks claim 1696 as their foundation year, when the Don Cossacks from the Khopyor took part in Peter's Azov campaigns. Sporadic raids reached out into the land, which was partially populated by the Nogay, though territorially part of the Crimean khanate. In 1784 the lower Kuban passed to Russia, after which its colonisation became an important step in the Empire's expansion.[4]

Black Sea Cossacks

Main article: Zaporozhian Host

A memorial to the first settlers in Taman

In a different part of southeastern Europe, on the middle Dnieper in what is now Ukraine, lived the Zaporozhian Cossacks. By the late 18th century, however, their combat ability was greatly reduced.[citation needed] With their traditional adversaries, the Crimean Khanate and the Polish–Lithuanian Commonwealth, now all but defunct, the Russian administration saw little military use for them. The Zaporozhian Sich, however, represented a safe haven for runaway serfs, where the state authority did not extend, and often took part in rebellions which were constantly breaking out in Ukraine. Another problem for the imperial Russian government was the Cossacks' resistance to colonization of lands the government considered theirs.[5] In 1775, after numerous attacks on Serbian colonisers, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great had Grigory Potemkin destroy the Zaporozhian Host. The operation was carried out by General Pyotr Tekeli.

The Zaporozhians scattered; some (five thousand men or 30% of the host) fled to the Ottoman-controlled Danube area.[6] Others joined the Imperial Russian Husar and Dragoon regiments, while most turned to local farming and trade.

A decade later, the Russian administration was forced to reconsider its decision, with the escalation of tension with the Ottoman Empire. In 1778 the Turkish sultan offered the exiled Zaporozhians the chance to build a new Danubian Sich. Potemkin suggested that the former commanders Antin Holovaty, Zakhary Chepiha and Sydir Bily round the former Cossacks into a Host of the loyal Zaporozhians in 1787.[7]

The new host played a crucial role in the Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792), and for their loyalty and service the Russian Empress rewarded them with eternal use of the Kuban, then inhabited by Nogai remnants, and in the cause of the Caucasus War a crucial progress in further pushing the Russian line into Circassia. Renamed the Black Sea Cossack Host, a total of 25,000 men made the migration in 1792-93.[citation needed]

On the Russian frontier (1777–1860)

Cossack reconnaissance during the Caucasus wars, by Franz Roubaud

During the Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774), the Don Cossacks on the Khopyor River took part in the campaign, and in 1770 – then numbering four settlements – requested to form a regiment. Owing to their service in the war, on 6 October 1774 Catherine the Great issued a manifesto granting their request.[citation needed]

The end of the war and the Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca brought Russia's frontiers south from the Kuban River's entry into the Azov Sea along its right bank and right to the bend of the Terek River. This created a 500-verst undefended border, and in the summer of 1777 the Khopyor regiment – in addition to the remnants of the Volga Cossacks and a Vladimir Dragoon regiment – were re-settled in the Northern Caucasus to build the Azov-Mozdok defence line. This marked the start of the Caucasus War, which would continue for almost 90 years.

The Khopyor regiment was responsible for the western flank of the line. In 1778-1782, Khopyor Cossacks founded four stanitsas: Stavropolskaya (next to the fortress of Stavropol, established on 22 October 1777), Moskovskaya, Donskaya and Severnaya – with approximately 140 Cossack families in each. In 1779, the Khopyor regiment was given its own district. The conditions were desperate as the Circassians would mount almost daily raids on the Russian positions. In 1825-1826 the regiment began its first expansions, pushing westwards to the bend of the Kuban River and founding five new stanitsas (the so-called new-Kuban line: Barsukovskaya, Nevinnomysskaya, Belomechetskaya, Batalpashinskaya (modern Cherkessk), Bekeshevskaya and Karantynnaya (currently Suvorovskaya). In 1828 the Khopyor Cossacks participated in the conquest of Karachay and became part of the first Russian expedition to reach the summit of Elbrus in 1829.[8]

However, the Russian position in the Caucasus was desperate, and to ease administration in 1832 military reform united ten regiments from the mouth of the Terek River all the way to the Khopyor in the western Kabarda, forming a single Caucasus Line Cossack Host. The Khopyor regiment was also given several civilian settlements, raising its manpower to 12,000. With the further advance to the Laba River the Khopyor district was split into two regiments, and Spokoynaya, Ispravnaya, Podgornaya, Udobnaya, Peredovaya, Storozhevaya formed the Laba line.

Zaporozhets beyond the Kuban River

Main article: Black Sea Cossack Host

Historic map, showing the initial settlement of the Black Sea Cossacks

Many traditions of the Zaporozhian Cossacks continued in the Black Sea Cossacks, such as the formal election of the host administration, but in some cases, new traditions replaced the old. Instead of a central Sich, a defence line was formed from the Kuban River Black Sea inlet to the Bolshaya Laba River inlet. The land north of this line was settled with villages called stanitsas. The administrative centre of Yekaterinodar (literally "Catherine's gift") was built. The Black Sea Cossacks sent men to many major campaigns at the Russian Empire's demand, such as the suppression of the Polish Kościuszko Uprising in 1794, the ill-fated Persian Expedition of 1796 where nearly half of the Cossacks died from hunger and disease, and sent the 9th plastun (infantry) and 1st joint cavalry regiments as well as the first Leib Guards (elite) sotnia to aid the Russian Army in the Patriotic War of 1812. The new host participated in the Russo-Persian War (1826–1828) where they stormed the last remaining Ottoman bastion of the northern Black Sea coast, the fortress of Anapa, in 1828. In the course of the Crimean War of 1853 to 1856, the Cossacks foiled any attempts of allied landing on the Taman Peninsula, whilst the 2nd and 5th plastun battalions took part in the Defence of Sevastopol.

In the land they left behind, the Buh Cossacks were able to provide a strong buffer from the Danubian Sich. After the Russo-Turkish War (1828–1829) most of the Danube Cossacks officially turned themselves over and under amnesty were resettled between the Mariupol and Berdyansk, forming the Azov Cossack Host.[citation needed]


Late 19th century

As the years went by, the Black Sea Cossacks continued its systematic penetrations into the mountainous regions of the Northern Caucasus. Taking an active part in the finale of the Russian conquest of the Northern Caucasus, they settled the regions each time these were conquered. To aid them, a total of 70 thousand additional ex-Zaporozhians from the Bug, Yekaterinoslav, and finally the Azov Cossack Host migrated there in the mid 19th century. All three of the former were necessary to be removed to vacate space for the colonisation of New Russia, and with the increasing weakness of the Ottoman Empire as well as the formation of independent buffer states in the Balkans, the need for further Cossack presence had ended. They made the migration to the Kuban in 1860. Separating the ethnic Ukrainian Black Sea Cossacks from the Caucasian mountain tribes were the Caucasus Line Cossack Host, ethnic Russian Cossacks from the Don region. Although both groups lived in the general Kuban region, they did not integrate with each other.[9]

Apogee of the Kuban Host

Kubanets a sketch by Franz Roubaud.

The new Host grew to be the second largest in Russia. The Kuban Cossacks continued to make an active part in the Russian affairs of the 19th century starting from the finale of the Russian-Circassian War which ceased shortly after the hosts' formation. A small group took part in the 1873 conquest that brought the Khanate of Khiva under Russian control. Their largest military campaign was the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878), on both the Balkan and the Caucasus fronts. The latter in particular was a strong contribution as the Kuban Cossacks made 90% of the Russian cavalry. Famous achievements in the numerous Battles of Shipka, the defence of Bayazet and finally, in decisive and victorious Battle of Kars where the Cossacks were the first to enter. Three Kuban Cossack regiments took part in the storming of Geok Tepe in Turkmenistan in 1881. During the Russo-Japanese War (1904–1905), the host mobilised six cavalry regiments, five plastun battalions and one battery to the distant region of Russia.

The Cossacks also carried out the second strategical objective, the colonisation of the Kuban land. In total, the host owned more than six million tithes, of which 5.7 million belonged to the stanitsas, with the remaining in the reserve or in private hands of Cossack officers and officials. Upon reaching the age of 17, a Cossack would be given between 16 and 30 tithes for cultivation and personal use. With the natural growth of the population, the average land that a Cossack owned decreased from 23 tithes in the 1860s to 7.6 in 1917. Such arrangements, however ensured that the colonisation and the cultivation would be very rational.

The military purpose of the Kuban was echoed in its administration pattern. Rather than a traditional Imperial Guberniya (governorate) with uyezds (districts), the territory was administered by the Kuban Oblast which was split into otdels (regions, which in 1888 counted seven). Each otdel would have its own sotnias which in turn would be split into stanitsas and khutors. The ataman (commander) for each region was not only responsible for the military preparation of the Cossacks, but for the local administration duties. Local Stanitsa and Khutor atamans were elected, but approved by the atamans of the otdel. These, in turn, were appointed by the supreme ataman of the host, who was in turn appointed directly by the Russian Emperor. Prior to 1870, this system of legislature in the Oblast remained a robust military one and all legal decisions were carried out by the stanitsa ataman and two elected judges. Afterwards, however, the system was bureaucratised and the judicial functions became independent of the stanitsas.[citation needed]

The more liberal policy of the Kuban was directly mirrored in the living standards of the people. One of the central features of this was education. Indeed, the first schools were known to have existed since the migration of the Black Sea Cossacks, and by 1860, the host had one male high school and 30 elementary schools.[citation needed] In 1863, the first periodical Кубанские войсковые ведомсти (Kubanskiye voiskovye vedomsti) began printing, and two years later the host's library was opened in Yekaterinodar. In all, by 1870, the number of schools in rural stanitsas increased to 170. Compared with the rest of the Russian Empire, by the start of the 20th century the Oblast had a very high literacy rate of 50% and each year up to 30 students from Cossack families (again a rate unmatched by any other rural province) were sent to study in the higher education establishments of Russia.

During the early twentieth century contacts between Kuban and Ukraine were established and clandestine Ukrainian organizations appeared in Kuban.[9]

Uniform and equipment

Kuban Cossacks in 1915.

Until 1914 the Kuban Cossack Host wore a full dress uniform comprising a dark grey/black kaftan (knee length collarless coat) with red shoulder straps and braiding on the wide cuffs. Ornamental containers (gaziri) which had originally contained single loading measures of gunpowder for muzzle-loading muskets, were worn on the breasts of the kaftans. The kaftan had an open front, showing a red waistcoat.[10] Wide grey trousers were worn, tucked into soft leather boots without heels. Officers wore silver epaulettes, braiding and ferrules.[11] This Caucasian national dress was also worn by the Terek Cossack Host but in different facing colors. Tall black fur hats were worn on all occasions with red cloth tops and (for officers) silver lace. A white metal scroll was worn on the front of the fur hat. A whip was used instead of spurs.[12] Prior to 1908, individual cossacks from all Hosts were required to provide their own uniforms (together with horses, Caucasian saddles and harness). On active service during World War I the Kuban Cossacks retained their distinctive dress but with a black waistcoat replacing the conspicuous red one and without the silver ornaments or red facings of full dress. A black felt cloak (bourki) was worn in bad weather both in peace-time and on active service.[13]

The 200 Kuban and 200 Terek Cossacks of the Imperial Escort (Konvoi) wore a special gala uniform; including a scarlet kaftan edged with yellow braid and a white waistcoat. Officers had silver braiding on their coats and epaulettes. A dark coloured kaftan was issued for ordinary duties together with a red waistcoat.[14]

Russian Revolution and Civil War

See also: Decossackization and Kuban People's Republic

During the Russian Revolution and resulting Civil War, the Cossacks found themselves conflicted in their loyalties. In October 1917, the Kuban Soviet Republic and the Kuban Rada were formed simultaneously, with both proclaiming their right to rule the Kuban. Shortly after the Rada declared a Kuban National Republic, but this was soon dispersed by Bolshevik forces. While most Cossacks initially sided with the Rada, many joined the Bolsheviks who promised them autonomy.

Kuban Cossacks of the Imperial Escort pose with Nicholas II and his family in October 1916.

In March 1918, after Lavr Kornilov's successful offensive, the Kuban Rada placed itself under his authority. With his death in June 1918, however, a federative union was signed with the Ukrainian government of Hetman Pavlo Skoropadsky after which many Cossacks left to return home or defected to the Bolsheviks. Additionally, there was an internal struggle among the Kuban cossacks over loyalty towards Anton Denikin's Russian Volunteer Army and the Ukrainian People's Republic.

On 6 November 1919, Denikin's forces surrounded the Rada, and with the help of Ataman Alexander Filimonov arrested ten of its members, including the Ukrainophile, P. Kurgansky, who was the premier of the Rada, and publicly hanged one of them for treason. Many Cossacks joined Denikin and fought in the ranks of the Volunteer Army. In December 1919, after Denikin's defeat and as it became clear that the Bolsheviks would overrun the Kuban, some of the pro-Ukrainian groups attempted to restore the Rada and to break away from the Volunteer Army and fight the Bolsheviks in alliance with Ukraine;[15] however, by early 1920 the Red Army took most of Kuban, and both the Rada and Denikin were ousted.

The Soviet policy of de-Cossackization repressed Cossacks and aimed to eliminate Cossack distinctness.[16] The de-Cossackization is sometimes described as an act of genocide.[17][18][19][20][21]

World War II

Collaborators in Wehrmacht and Waffen SS

Waffen SS and the Regiment III of Cossacks during Warsaw Uprising. The regiment was composed of both Don and Kuban Cossacks

The first collaborators were formed from Soviet Cossack POWs and deserters after the consequences of the Red Army's early defeats in the course of Operation Barbarossa. During the Battle of the Caucasus in summer of 1942, some of the Nazi aggressors reaching Kuban were greeted as liberators.[22][23][24] Many Soviet Kuban Cossacks chose to defect to Nazi service either when in POW camps or on active duty in the Soviet Army. For example, Major Kononov deserted on 22 August 1941 with an entire regiment and was instrumental in organizing Cossack volunteers in the Wehrmacht.[22] Some Cossack emigres, such as Andrei Shkuro and Pyotr Krasnov chose to collaborate with the Nazis as well and stood at the helm of two Cossack divisions on Nazi service. However, most volunteers came after the Nazis reached the Cossack homelands in summer of 1942.[23] The Cossack National Movement of Liberation was set up in hope of mobilizing opposition to the Soviet regime with an intent to rebuild an independent nationalist Cossack state.[25]

While there were several smaller Cossack detachments in the Wehrmacht since 1941, the 1st Cossack Division made up of Don, Terek and Kuban Cossacks was formed in 1943. This division was further augmented by the 2nd Cossack Cavalry Division formed in December 1944. Both divisions participated in hostilities against Tito's partisans in Yugoslavia. In February 1945, both Cossack Divisions were transferred into the Waffen-SS and formed the XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps. At the end of the war, the Cossack collaborators retreated to Italy and surrendered to the British army, but, under the Yalta agreement, were forcibly repatriated with the rest of the collaborators to the Soviet authorities and some executed.[26] (see Betrayal of the Cossacks) One of the Kuban leaders, the ataman Vyacheslav Naumenko served as their principle historian after World War Two, writing the first Russian language book about the Repatriation of Cossacks in his two volume work published in 1962 and 1970 entitled Velikoe Predatelstvo (The Great Betrayal).[27]

Red Army Cossacks

Lev Dovator (upper left) on the Soviet stamp published during the war. The text says "Death to German invaders!"

Despite the defections that were taking place, the majority of the Cossacks remained loyal to the Red Army.[28] In the earliest battles, particularly the encirclement of Belostok Cossack units such as the 94th Beloglisnky, 152nd Rostovsky and 48th Belorechensky regiments fought to their death.

In the opening phase of the war, during the German advance towards Moscow, Cossacks became extensively used for the raids behind enemy lines. The most famous of these took place during the Battle of Smolensk under the command of Lev Dovator, whose 3rd Cavalry Corps consisted of the 50th and 53rd Cavalry divisions from the Kuban and Terek Cossacks, which were mobilised from the Northern Caucasus. The raid, which in ten days covered 300 km, destroyed the hinterlands of the 9th German Army before successfully breaking out.[29] Whilst units under the command of General Pavel Belov, the 2nd Cavalry Corps made from Don, Kuban and Stavropol Cossacks spearheaded the counter-attack onto the right flank of the 6th German Army delaying its advance towards Moscow.

The high professionalism that the Cossacks under Dovator and Belov (both generals would later be granted the title Hero of the Soviet Union and their units raised to a Guards (elite) status) ensured that many new units would be formed. In the end, if the Germans during the whole war only managed to form two Cossack Corps, the Red Army in 1942 already had 17.[28] Many of the newly formed units were filled with ethnically Cossack volunteers. The Kuban Cossacks were allocated to the 10th, 12th and 13th Corps. However, the most famous Kuban Cossack unit would be the 17th Cossack Corps under the command of general Nikolay Kirichenko [ru].

During one particular attack, Cossacks killed up to 1,800 enemy soldiers and officers, they took 300 prisoners, seized 18 artillery pieces and 25 mortars. The 5th and 9th Romanian Cavalry divisions fled in panic, and the 198th German Infantry division, carrying large losses, hastily departed to the left bank of the river Ei.[30]

During the opening phase of the Battle of Stalingrad, when the Germans overran the Kuban, the majority of the Cossack population, long before the Germans began their agitation with Krasnov and Shkuro, became involved in Partisan activity.[31][32] Raids onto the German positions from the Caucasus mountains became commonplace. After the German defeat at Stalingrad, the 4th Guards Kuban Cossack Corps, strengthened by tanks and artillery, broke through the German lines and liberated Mineralnye Vody, and Stavropol.

For the latter part of the war, although the Cossacks did prove especially useful in reconnaissance and rear guards, the war did show that the age of horse cavalry had come to an end. The famous 4th Guards Kuban Cossacks Cavalry Corps which took part in heavy fighting in the course of the liberation of Southern Ukraine and Romania was allowed to proudly march on the Red Square in the famous Moscow Victory Parade of 1945.[33]

Modern Kuban Cossacks

Flag of the Kuban Cossacks
Emblem of registered Kuban cossacks

Following the war, the Cossack regiments, along with remaining cavalry were disbanded and removed from the Soviet armed forces as they were thought to be obsolete.

Starting in the late 1980s, there were renewed efforts to revive Cossack traditions which went to great lengths; in 1990, the Host was once again recognised by the Supreme Ataman of the All-Great Don Host (Всевеликое Войско Донское). At this time some pro-Ukrainian sentiment emerged among some Kuban Cossack leaders. For example, when in May 1993 Cossack leader Yevhen Nahai was arrested and accused of plotting a coup, another Cossack leader (kish otaman Pyuypenko) threatened to call for support for Ukraine if Nahai's rights were violated. A march of cossack cavalry from eastern Ukraine to Kuban was met with some enthusiasm by locals.[34]

The Cossacks have actively participated in some of the more abrupt political developments following the dissolution of the Soviet Union: invasions of South Ossetia, Crimea, Transnistria and Abkhazia and nominally as peacekeepers in Kosovo. The latter conflict was in particular special for the Kuban Cossacks, initially a number of Cossacks fled from the de-Cossackization repressions of the 1920s and assimilated with the Abkhaz people. Before the Georgian-Abkhaz Conflict there was a strong movement of creating an Abkhaz-Kuban Host among the descendants. When the civil war broke out, 1500 Kuban Cossack volunteers from Russia came to aid the Abkhaz side. One of the notable groups was the 1st sotnia under the command of Ataman Nikolay Pusko which reportedly completely destroyed a Ukrainian volunteer group fighting on the Georgian side and then went on to be the first to enter Sukhumi in 1993.[35] Since then, a detachment of Kuban Cossacks continue to inhabit Abkhazia, and their presence continues to influence the Georgian-Russian relations.

According to human rights reports from the 1990s, the Cossacks regularly harassed non-Russians, such as Armenians and Chechens, living in southern Russia.[36]

A contingent of Kuban Cossacks (led by Head of the All-Russian Cossack Society, Cossack General Nikolai Doluda) took part in the 2015 Moscow Victory Day Parade for the first time.[37]

Present day military units

With the help of the governor of Krasnodar Krai, Aleksandr Tkachyov, the host has become an integral part of the Kuban life, there are joint combat training operations with the Russian Army, policing of the rural areas with the Police of Russia, and preparation of local youth for the one-year military conscription term. Not only is their aid in military affairs important, during the floods in 2004 of the Taman Peninsula they provided men and equipment for relief missions. Today, the host numbers 25 thousand men and has its own distinct forces: a whole regiment of the 7th "Cherkassy" Guards Air-Assault Division (the 108th "Kuban Cossack" Guards Airborne Regiment) in the Russian VDV; 205th Motorised Rifle Brigade, within the Southern Military District in the Russian Ground Forces, in addition to border guards.

On 2 August 2012, the governor of Krasnodar Krai, Alexander Tkachyov announced a controversial plan to deploy a paramilitary force of one thousand unarmed but uniformed Kuban Cossacks in the region to help police patrols. The cossacks were to be charged with preventing what he described as "illegal immigration" from the neighboring Caucasian republics.[38]

The Kuban Cossacks has maintained a guard of honour since the mid 2000s. The formation of the guard of honor began in April 2006 by a group of Cossacks with the support of the Cossack chieftain, General Vladimir Gromov. On 12 June 2006, the guard performed for the first time at the Cossack monument in Krasnodar.[39][40] Cossack Colonel Pyotr Petrenko has been in charge of this unit for 12 years. They wear the historical uniform of the His Majesty's Own Cossack Escort Regiment. After an increase in personnel took place, an equestrian group was formed.[41] The requirements for members of the guard of honor include a lack of a criminal record and being more than 180 centimeters in height.[42]


Kuban Cossacks on Russian post stamp

Because of the unique migration pattern that the original Zaporozhian Cossacks undertook, the Kuban Cossack identity has produced one of the most distinct cultures not only amongst other Cossacks but throughout the whole Eastern Slavic identity. The proximity to the Caucasus mountains and the Circassian people influenced the dress and uniform of the Cossacks — the distinctive cherkeska overcoat and the bashlyk scarf, local dance such as the Lezginka too came into the Kuban Cossack lifestyle. At the same time, the Cossacks continued much of their Zaporozhian legacy, including a Kuban Bandura movement and the Kuban Cossack Choir which became one of the most famous in the world for their performance of Cossack and other folk songs and dances, performed in both the Russian and Ukrainian languages.[43]

National identity

Main article: Ukrainians in Kuban

The concept of national and ethnic identity of the Kuban Cossacks has changed with time and has been the subject of much contention.

In the 1897 census, 47.3% of the Kuban population (including extensive 19th century non-Cossack migrants from both Ukraine and Russia) referred to their native language as Little Russian (Ukrainian), while 42.6% referred to their native language as Great Russian (Russian).[44]

Most cultural productions in Kuban spanning 1890–1910, such as plays, stories, etc., were written and performed in the Ukrainian language, and one of the first political parties in Kuban was the Ukrainian Revolutionary Party. During World War I, Austrian officials received reports from a Ukrainian organization of the Russian Empire that 700 Kuban Cossacks in eastern Galicia had been arrested by their Russian officers for refusing to fight against Ukrainians in the Austrian army.[45] Briefly during the Russian Civil War, the Kuban Cossack Rada declared Ukrainian to be the official language of the Kuban Cossacks, before its suppression by the Russian White leader General Denikin.[46]

After the Bolshevik Victory in the Russian Civil War, the Kuban was viewed as one of the most hostile regions to the young Communist state. In his 1923 speech devoted to the national and ethnic issues in the party and state affairs, Joseph Stalin identified several obstacles in implementing the national programme of the party. Those were the "dominant-nation chauvinism", "economic and cultural inequality" of the nationalities and the "remnants of nationalism among a number of nations which have borne the heavy yoke of national oppression".[47] For the Kuban, this was met with a unique approach. The victim/minority became the non-Cossack peasants[48] who, like their counterparts in New Russia, were mixed population group, with an ethnic Ukrainian majority. To counter "dominant-nation chauvinism" a policy of Ukrainization/Korenization was introduced. According to the 1926 census, there were already nearly a million Ukrainians registered in the Kuban Okrug alone (or 62% of the total population)[49]

Additionally, more than 700 schools with Ukrainian as the language of instruction were opened, and the Kuban Pedagogical Institute had its own Ukrainian department. Numerous Ukrainian-language newspapers such as Chornomorets and Kubanska Zoria were published. According to historian A.L. Pawliczko, there was an attempt to have a referendum on the joining of Kuban to the Ukrainian SSR.[50] In 1930, the Ukrainian Minister ("People’s Komissar") Mykola Skrypnyk, involved in solving national issues in the Ukrainian SSR, put forward an official proposal to Joseph Stalin that the territories of Voronezh, Kursk, Chornomoriya, Azov, Kuban regions be administered by the government of the Ukrainian SSR.

By the end of 1932, the Ukrainization programme was reversed, and by the late 1930s the majority of Kuban Ukrainians identified themselves as Russians[51] As a result, in the 1939 census, Russians in the Kuban were a majority of 2754027 or 86%[52] The 2nd edition of the Great Soviet Encyclopedia explicitly named the Kuban Cossacks as Russians.

The modern Kuban vernacular known as balachka differs from contemporary literary Russian and is most similar to the dialect of Ukrainian spoken in central Ukraine near Cherkasy[53] Some regions the vernacular includes many Northern Caucasus words and accents. The influence of Russian grammatical forms is also apparent.

Like many other Cossacks, some refuse to accept themselves as part of the standard ethnic Russian people, and claim to be a separate subgroup on par with sub-ethnicities such as the Pomors. In the 2002 Russian census[54] the Cossacks were allowed to have distinct nationality as a separate Russian sub-ethnical group. The Kuban Cossacks living in Krasnodar Kray, Adygea, Karachayevo-Cherkessia and some regions of Stavropol Krai and Kabardino-Balkaria counted 25,000 men. However, the strict governance of the census meant that only Cossacks who are in active service were treated as such, and at the same time, 300,000 families[55] are registered by the Kuban Cossack Host. Kuban Cossacks not politically affiliated with the Kuban Cossack Host, such as the director of the Kuban Cossack Choir Viktor Zakharchenko, have maintained at various times a pro-Ukrainian orientation.[56]

All Russia 145,166,731 140,028
Republic Total population Cossacks
Adygea 447,109 470
Kabardino-Balkaria 901,494 307
Karachayevo-Cherkessia 439,470 2,501
Krasnodar Krai 5,125,221 17,542
Stavropol Krai 2,231,759 3,902
Total in Kuban 9,145,053 24,722


Early 20th century

Within the Empire, the Kuban land was administered through the Kuban Oblast with a semi-military administration. It was composed of seven subdivisions (otdels), and numbered 1.3 million people (278 stanitsas and 32 khutors). Kuban Cossacks formed regular units of the Imperial Russian Army as listed below. The following lists the structure prior to the outbreak of World War I, although this was re-organised during the conflict (see foot-note).

In peacetime the Host provided 10 horse regiments making up a Kuban Cossack division, six plastun (infantry) battalions and six horse-artillery batteries; in addition to irregular and support units. The "first" regiments were linked to the specific locales that they were recruited from, although they would often be deployed elsewhere in the Empire. In wartime, recruits were drafted from each region to form "second" regiments during the stage of initial mobilization. If further manpower was required, a "third" regiment would be formed to be dispatched as reinforcements. During World War One a total of 37 horse (cavalry) regiments were raised by the Kuban Cossack Host.

A 1916 map of Kuban Oblast with the neighboring Black Sea Governorate and part of Sukhumi Okrug (in Russian)




As noted the plastun units served as infantry. On mobilization an additional six battalions (numbered 7th through 12th) were added to the peacetime establishment, and a further two (13th and 14th) raised as reserve units. The effectiveness of these units was demonstrated during the war, particularly the Caucasus Front and by 1917 a total of 22 battalions, comprising one division plus four brigades, were on active service. A further three battalions were in reserve.

Horse artillery:

In addition there four commands that were responsible for support and home front organisation in the Kuban (supplies, hospitals etc.): Ust-Labinskaya, Armavirskaya, Labinskaya and Batalpashinskaya.

From 1914 to 1917 the Kuban Cossack Host committed a total of 89 thousand men to the Russian war effort. These included 37 horse regiments, a cavalry division, 2 mounted regiments recruited from mountain peoples (Adyghe and Karachay), six convoy (Imperial Guard) escort half-sotnias, two Leib Guard HIH personal sotnias, 4 infantry plastun brigades (22 battalions), a special plastun division, nine horse artillery batteries, four reserve horse regiments and three reserve plastun battalions.

See also

Notes and citations

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