Saturday, December 19, 2020

Obscure Cossack Host that Carried Out Pogroms against Chinese and Fought for Soviets Recalled

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 17 – Of the 13 Cossack hosts which existed in tsarist times, by far the most obscure remain the Amur Cossacks, not only because they were relatively few and very poor but because many of them fought for the Bolsheviks during the Russian Civil War, few emigrated and did not leave the historical record many other hosts did.

            And while most of the other hosts have had active independent and government-registered organizations inside Russia over the last three decades, the Amur Cossacks have not had much success in that regard and have attracted relatively little interest even from Russian historians who have focused on the Cossacks or the Far East.

            Instead, they are typically treated as an afterthought, one more Cossack host that has disappeared and that is recalled only because its members intermarried with indigenous peoples, fought and even conducted pogroms against Chinese, and fought in many cases not for the White Armies but for the Bolsheviks.\

            But because the Amur Cossacks had such a different history than the more familiar hosts of the Don, Kuban and Terek or even the Uraltsy and Siberian, they are an important reminder of just how diverse the Cossack nation was and remains.

            That makes a new article on the Zen.Yandex portal about them especially intriguing. It traces their history back to the middle of the 17th century but notes that the independent Amur host was created only in late 19th (

            The host emerged out of units of the Transbaikal Host which moved eastward and were recognized by the tsarist authorities as separate in 1858, and then the Amur Cossacks in turn were subdivided with the Ussuri Cossacks gaining independent status in 1889. Most were far poorer than other Cossacks, the article says.

            The Amur Cossacks distinguished themselves as soldiers during the Boxer Rebellion and the Russo-Japanese war, but they attracted negative attention for their role in what Zen.Yandex describes as “the bloodiest pogrom in the history of Russia,” one that took place in Blagoveshchensk and was directed not against the Jews but against the Chinese.

            During the Russian Civil War, some Amur Cossacks fought for Ataman Semyonov and Ataman Gamov against the Bolsheviks, but a significant number fought against the Whites and for the Reds. A few emigrated but most were simply absorbed into the local population during Soviet times.

            For a rare discussion of this group in English, see Felix Ryansky, “Jews and Cossacks in the Jewish Autonomous Region,” Refuge 1: 14 (1992): 19-21. For citations to the relatively few materials that have appeared on the Amur Cossacks, see,, and

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