Friday, December 25, 2020

More than 1,000 Russian Cossacks have Died in Wars in Post-Soviet Space

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 23 – Cossacks, both those registered with the government and those which remain independent, have taken part in all the wars in the former Soviet republics and suffered more than 1,000 deaths as a result, according to Strategic Cultural Fund analyst Vladislav Gulevich.

            Most analysts draw a sharp distinction between registered Cossacks who take orders from the Kremlin and unregistered ones who don’t, this analyst seeks to blur that distinction, arguing that both groups have formed on a voluntary basis and have served in these conflicts voluntarily (

            Indeed, he says, even in tsarist times, there were the legal equivalent of registered and unregistered Cossacks and the entire movement today is one “from below” independent of the state and represents a revival of Cossack traditions going back to Russian-Turkish and Anglo-Boer wars and the civil war in Spain.

            (For some of the many reasons why Gulevich’s argument is both deceptive and wrong, see and especially

            Despite that, the article by the Strategic Cultural Fund analyst is useful as a survey of when and where Cossacks have fought and how many losses they have taken as a paramilitary force that invariably has fought on the side Moscow prefers, one clear indication of who controls whom.

            The Cossacks first intervened militarily in Transdniestria, Gulevich says, where some 2,000 Cossacks drawn primarily from the local population but also from the Kuban, Don, Terek, Urals and Siberia took part in the fighting. Ninety five of them died in the course of that conflict, including 27 volunteers from the Russian Federation.

            Cossacks then took part in fighting in South Ossetia and Abkhazia. They arrived there in 1992, and most of them were Kuban, Terek and Don Cossacks, although some Siberian Cossacks came as well. In the same year, Gulevich relates, “about 100 Kuban Cossacks and Black Sea Cossacks” came to Qarabagh to fight in support of the Armenians. All suffered small losses.

            In the case of Abkhazia, between 3,000 and 5,000 Cossacks came from various parts of Russia. Of these, approximately 500 died in fighting against Georgia. Because of their role, a new Sukhumi Cossack district organization was created with the Kuban Cossack host. It continues to exist.

            Then in 1993, Cossacks from Russia took part in the fighting in Yugoslavia, taking part in the storming of villages in Bosnia, the dense of Respublik Serpska positions, and in various other operations, Gulevich continues.

            In 1996, Cossacks entered Chechnya and took part in battles there. Then in 2014, approximately 2,000 Cossacks took part in the annexation of Crimea. But their largest role to date abroad has been in Ukraine’s Donbass, where the Cossacks formed 19,000 of the 50,000 Russian volunteers who came to help local Russians.

            These Cossacks came “from all corners of Russia,” he says, including Yenisey, Orenburg, Astrakhan, Volga, Irkutsk, Transbaikal, Ural, Siberian, Ussuri and other hosts. They are thus fully prepared to play their historical role in future Russian conflicts in this enormous region.

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