Was Cossack cavalry ineffective relative to other troops?

Was Cossack cavalry ineffective relative to other troops?

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I know that some people in Europe very much admire Russian Cossack cavalry and think it is very effective. But in Russia there was a proverb that one hussar is equal to two cossacks, one dragoon is equal to two hussars and one cuirassier is equal to two dragoons. This places a cossack to be only 1/8 as effective as a cuirassier.

This possibly is not exactly true but in fact the cossack cavalry rarely participated in battles, making disturbing raids instead (and even in that they were thought to be worse than regular light cavalry).

So my question is whether Cossack cavalry was indeed so ineffective?

  1. Cossacks in early 18th Century were the light cavalry. The lightest one. Even Hussars needed carts with grain and food. But Cossacks used them only if it was absolutely impossible to “take” everything on site. So, they were very, very quick. Yes, in battle, they were weaker. But they were not meant for the battle lines, but for intercepting on the enemies communications. For this work they were formidable.
  2. It is senseless to speak of Cossacks without mentioning the epoch. In 16th or 20th centuries everything was very different… There were no dragoons, for example in the 16th Century, and Cossacks were instead. And Cossacks in the 20th Century were very different, too. They became very multitarget.
  3. All the time Cossacks worked also as saboteurs, as special regiments, and that role only increased in time.

Ineffective? No. Bruce Lee is weaker than a tank… Sometimes.

Both sets of statements are true: The Cossacks were inferior to other types of cavalry, and the Cossacks were "effective," because they were good enough to do the job.

To take just one example, the cuirassiers were the most heavily trained, heavily armed cavalry around. That means that there were relatively few of them.

The Cossacks were the opposite: They were "random" soldiers drawn from nomads and "runaways" of the borderlands between Russia and modern Kazakhstan. Compared to other forms of cavalry, they were lightly armed and poorly trained. But there were a lot of them, and they were "handy" to have in tight situation.

For instance, Cossacks were instrumental in executing Peter the Great's "scorched earth" strategy against Charles XII of Sweden (whose troops were elite).

How and why did Charles XII Get to Poltava?

The Cossacks weren't great soldiers. Not really good enough for battles. But (barely) good enough to conduct raids and get a lot of (dirty) jobs done, meaning that they were "effective."

During the Napoleonic period cossacks were generally not regarded as "battle cavalry" and rarely did much on the battlefield. Though is rough hierarchy of cavalry weight hussars, dragoons, cuirassier, there are many examples of lighter cavalry overthrowing heavier cavalry.

However there is vast range of other tasks required of cavalry in addition to performing on the battlefield. Scouting, pursuit, outposts, guarding prisoners, police functions in rear areas. The cossacks were used predominately in these functions, and with greater endurance, light supply needs ideal for many of these functions. While poor in massed charges they were adapt as small skirmishers particularly in rougher ground the regular cavalry could struggle.

Russian cossacks intros period took most of this workload off the regular Russian cavalry which meant they would be conserved and fresher for battle. Their raiding in 1812/13 greatly added to the french difficulties in supply , movement and rear areas with greater escorts needed. Small detachments of regular cavalry and horse artillery were attached to the cossack flying columnist give them a bit of punch.

Cossacks were also available in large numbers, and were relatively cheap to raise. Guard cossacks were different and had a good battlefield record.

It depends on what you are doing. If you line up a brigade of Cossacks versus heavy cavalry in a battle and charge both, the Cossacks would be wiped out. If you had the same brigade of each trying to control the areas around the two armies in the field, the Cossacks would run rampant over the area and the Heavies would be useless and vulnerable.

1st Cossack Cavalry Division

The 1st Cossack Cavalry Division (German: 1. Kosaken-Kavallerie-Division) was a Russian Cossack division of the German Army that served during World War II. It was created on the Eastern Front mostly out of Don Cossacks already serving in the Wehrmacht, those who escaped from the advancing Red Army and Soviet POWs. In 1944, the division was transferred to the Waffen SS, becoming part of the XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps, established in February 1945. At the end of the war, the unit ceased to exist.

Cossack and Native Uniforms

This section of the site covers all the Cossack and Native uniforms of the Russian Civil War, although information is slight on many units.

Also included are non-Cossack units that fought alongside the Host armies. Sometimes Host armies were given regulars (usually infantry) and they often recruited native tribesmen.

The information presented usually mentions the situation in World War One, often at some length. This is because the Whites usually kept previous traditions into the Civil War, but also to help people interested in armies from that period. In particular we have given full details on shoulderboards and hat colours, when we can find them, even while knowing that few Civil War units will have been able to produce them.

Corrections and suggestions for improvements are very welcome: pygmywarsATgmailDOTcom


Post by Da Commisair » 23 Sep 2005, 10:53

Post by Serbian boy » 23 Sep 2005, 22:36

"Cossacks in German Service: As early as the 18-th century there were Cossack troops in the service of Frederick the Great of Brandenburg-Prussia. Much later, during the course of the First World War, the Germans made plans to establish a satellite Don Cossack state in southern Russia in fact the German Imperial Army even secretly provided arms to a faction of Don Cossacks with the hope of materializing this aim, but this was only a brief episode and nothing came out of this efforts. In 1941 matters looked, for the time being, even more promising to the Germans on the eastern front than they did back in 1917. The German Army Group "South" had just completed its conquest of Ukraine by the end of 1941, and was in a striking distance from the home territory of the Don Cossacks. By 22/07/1942, the Axis captured all of the northern banks of the lower Don River in the coming days they drove deep to the south, in the direction of Caucasus. By the end of that year the front-line extended along the Caucasus range in the south, where it almost reached the borders of Georgia and the outskirts of the city of Ordzonikidze the Germans managed to occupy almost the entire homeland of Don Cossacks as well as of Kuban Cossacks. Soon the very first local Cossack volunteers began to offer their services to the Germans, with the obvious hope of restoring the past freedoms and honours assigned to Cossacks during Czardom but unceremoniously abolished by the Bolsheviks. Lieutenant Colonel von Freitag-Loringhoven (the Intelligence Officer of Army Group "South") initiated the recruitment of the first Cossacks in the Cossack homelands, to serve in Cossack units subordinated to the Germans. One of the first such units was formed from willing Don and Kuban Cossack renegades taken prisoner near Millerovo in southern Russia (in the summer of 1942), when a Wehrmacht Captain named Kandutsch (the Intelligence Officer of the 40-th Panzer Corps) suggested that Cossack collaborators might be useful in guarding of Soviet prisoners-of-war whose large volumes made them difficult to handle while the German combat units were more urgently required for combat duties rather than guarding of prisoners. The Cossacks who enlisted were formed into the Cossack Cavalry Squadron 1/82 of the 40-th Panzer Corps, under the leadership of a Cossack Captain named Zagorodnyy (later a recipient of the prestigious Iron Cross First Class). After only a few weeks of P.O.W. guard duties, the squadron underwent a month-long training and subsequently it rejoined the 40-th Panzer Corps on the front-lines. It distinguished itself while fighting in the area of Ishcherskaya in the Caucasus (they not only won the trust of Germans with bravery, but also with loyalty as not a single desertion was reported) after the Germans retreated from that region, it accompanied the 40-th Panzer Corps (in the fighting retreat that followed) all the way to the Romanian border, where the whole squadron was ordered to go to France. While in Normandy, the almost entire squadron was decimated in vicinity of Saint-Lo, during a very intensive Allied air raid that spearheaded the Allied landings in the area.

In spite of anti-Communist sentiments nourished by many Cossacks and the cracking-down on many aspects of Cossack traditions by the communist regime, most analysts believed that the overwhelming majority of Cossacks would remain loyal to the Soviet Union and they were proved to be entirely correct the number of Cossacks in German service was never too great, and the vast majority of Cossacks living in U.S.S.R. remained wholeheartedly loyal to a government that usually treated them with a certain degree of curtness.

In late 1942, Cossacks of at least a single stanitsa (Cossack outpost - settlement) in southern Russia, revolted against Soviet administration and proceeded to join the advancing Axis. Increasingly more frequently Cossack fugitives and rebellious mountain tribesmen of the Caucasus openly welcomed the intruders as if they were their liberators. On the lower Don river, a renegade Don Cossack leader named Sergei Pavlov proclaimed himself an Ataman (Cossack chief) and lodged himself in the former residence of the Czarish ataman at the town of Novoczerkassk on the lower Don (slightly north-east of Rostov-on-Don) he was also responsible for the establishment of a local collaborationist police force of whose many members were either Don Cossacks or were of Cossack descent. By late 1942, he headed a regional krug (Cossack assembly) which had around 200 representatives whom he recruited from the more prominent local quislings. He also requested permission from the Germans for creation of a Cossack Army to be employed in the struggle against the Bolsheviks, but initially he met with only negative responses.

On August 22 of 1941, while covering the retreat of Red Army in eastern Belarus, a Don Cossack Major in the Red Army named Kononov (a graduate of Frunze Military Academy, a veteran of the Winter War with Finland, a party member since 1927, and a holder of the Order of the Red Banner) deserted its ranks and went-over to the Axis with his entire regiment of riflemen (the 436-th Infantry Regiment of the 155-th Soviet Infantry Division), after convincing his regiment of the necessity of overthrowing Stalinism (apparently the only incident of a whole Soviet regiment going-over to the Axis during the entire course of the Great Patriotic War). He was permitted by the local German commanders to establish a squadron of Cossack troopers composed of deserters and volunteers from among the prisoners-of-war, to be used for front-line raiding and reconaissance operations. With encouragement from General Schenkendorff (his new superior), eight days following his defection, Kononov visited a P.O.W. camp in Mogilev (eastern Belarus). The visit yielded over 4 000 volunteers who positively responded to the promises of liberation from Stalin's oppression with the aid of their newly founded German "allies", and who were ready to immediately join Kononov's enterprise. However only 500 of them (80% of whom were Cossacks) were actually drafted into the renegade formation, while the rest had to "wait". Afterwards Kononov paid similar visits to P.O.W. camps in Bobruisk, Orsha, Smolensk, Propoisk and Gomel, everywhere with similar results. The Germans appointed a Wehrmacht Lieutenant named Count Rittberg to be the unit's liaison officer, in which capacity he served for the remainder of the conflict. By September 19 of 1941, the Cossack regiment contained 77 officers and 1 799 men (by now only 60% of the unit's personnel were Cossacks, mostly Don Cossacks to be more precise). It also received the designation as the 120-th Don Cossack Regiment. On January 27 of 1943, it was renamed as the 600-th Don Cossack Battalion, despite of the fact that its numerical strength stood at about 2 000 and it was scheduled to receive a further 1 000 more new members in the following month. The new volunteers were employed in the establishment of a new special Cossack armoured unit that became known as the 17-th Cossack Armoured Battalion, which after its formation was integrated into the German 3-rd Army and was frequently employed in front-line operations. Kononov's Don Cossack-led unit immediately acquired a very anti-Communist character and many of its members were sincerely devoted to the cause of eradicating Communism from Russia. The Cossack formation was not idle and it did perform numerous venturesome raids behind Soviet lines where it preoccupied itself with extermination of Stalinist commissars and collection of their tongues as "war trophies" it was also involved in several skirmishes with Soviet cavalry detachments. On one occasion, in vicinity of Velikyie Luki (north-western Russia), 120 of Kononov's infiltrators dressed in Red Army uniforms managed to penetrate the Soviet lines. Subsequently, while operating on enemy territory, they took prisoner an entire military tribunal of five judges accompanied by 21 guards, and freed 41 soldiers that were about to be executed, also capturing valuable documents in the process. Kononov's unit was active in propaganda warfare too, mainly in the form of spreading pamphlets at and behind the front-lines in addition to resorting to loudspeakers in order to get their message to the Soviet soldiers, officers, and civilians alike all of this measures proved to be largely ineffective as only a trickle of new volunteers decided to join the turncoats. Kononov's propaganda was based primarily on promises of abolishment of the collectives accompanied by introduction of numerous personal freedoms that would result from the destruction of Stalinist tyranny, but the sheer behavior of the Germans in occupied territories of Soviet Union made certain that all such endeavours were viewed with tremendous suspicion, scepticism, and lack of conviction. In spite of that, Kononov's fighters continued to loyally serve their German "liberators", and were active on the front-lines of the German Army Group "South", after being transferred there from their previous sector of operations in north-western Russia. They experienced plenty of combat in this new sector for much of the second half of 1942 (especially in the vicinity of Mozdok and Achikulak).

In April of 1942, Hitler personally gave his official consent for the establishment of Cossack units within the Wehrmacht and subsequently a number of such units were soon in existence. In October of 1942, German General Wagner permitted the creation, under strict German control, of a small, autonomous Cossack district in the Kuban, where the old Cossack customs were to be re-introduced while collective farms were to be disbanded (this was either an experimental enterprise or a tricky propaganda move to buy the hearts and souls of the region's Cossack population). For the time being (at least) the Cossack military formations serving in the Wehrmacht experienced hardly anything that resembled any sort of autonomy the majority of officers in such units were not Cossacks but Germans who usually were very ignorant of the Cossack aspirations for self-government and freedom, and on most occasions the Cossack units were attached to German security divisions that conducted anti-partisan operations.

A former Czarist emigre General named Krasnov, worked hard back in Berlin to considerably broaden the possibilities for Cossacks in the Nazi "New Order".He advocated the groundless idea that Cossacks were not Russians and therefore should receive better treatment from the Germans.In order to achieve these ends, he (with Hitler's blessing) backed the foundation (in German-occupied Prague) of a Cossack Nationalist Party by Cossack exiles who fled abroad after the "White" defeat in the Civil War. The party members sweared unwavering allegiance to the Fuhrer as "Supreme Dictator of the Cossack Nation" simultaneously a "Central Cossack Office" was established in Berlin to manage and direct the German-sponsored party. Nevertheless, not all Cossack emigres supported the Axis, like the Paris-based Don Guardsmen who refused to collaborate with Germans. On the other hand, many of the more hardcore "White" Cossack exiles gave their unquestionable support to the cause of founding Cossack units to fight alongside the Axis against U.S.S.R. the more important members of this category included former prominent Czarish Cossack generals like Krasnov, Andrei Shkuro, and V. Naumenko (the latter was now a German-appointed "Ataman" of the Kuban). The primary objective of these renegades was the materialization of a "Greater Cossackia" a Cossack-ruled German protectorate extending from eastern Ukraine in the west to the Samara river in the east.

In order to placate the progressively more dissatisfied Cossacks, Germans agreed to enlarge the hitherto existing autonomous Cossack district in the Kuban, and to enroll additional Cossacks into the ranks of the Wehrmacht however, the Axis were already retreating following the disaster at Stalingrad, before it was possible to realize these monstrous plans. Due to the sudden military reverses suffered by the Axis in southern Russia, many Cossack collaborators were forced to join them in the retreat in order to escape reprisals from the now returning Soviet authorities. In February of 1943, the Germans withdrew from Novoczerkassk and their vassal "Ataman" Pavlov accompanied by a column of

15 000 of his Cossack followers (half of them armed) did likewise. He was able to temporarily re-establish his headquarters at Krivoi Rog (central Ukraine) in spring of 1943, and shortly afterwards was granted by the Wehrmacht the very thing he was previously so notoriously denied: an order to create his own Cossack military formation. Numerous Don, Kuban, and Terek Cossack collaborators-refugees from his as well as other refugee columns were called-up, but a significant percentage of them turned out to be unsuitable for combat duties and were instead placed to work on local farms. Soon the horde of Cossack refugees was on the move again, eventually ending-up camping at Kamieniec-Podolski (north-western Ukraine), from there they were transferred to Sandomierz in south-eastern Poland. Eventually they were posted to Novogrudek in western Belarus, where five rickety Cossack regiments were dispatched to the nearby countryside to operate against Soviet and Polish partisans. Since by that time much of Belarus was controlled by the partisans, this turned out to be a difficult assignment and even Pavlov himself was slained in combat. Domanov was appointed as his immediate successor. As a result of a large-scale successful Soviet offensive in Belarus and the Baltics undertaken in the summer of 1944, the Cossack column was once again forced to evacuate, this time westwards to the vicinity of Warsaw. In imitation of pro-German Ukrainian formations they ". paid their farewells to the Soviet soil with a trail of looting, rape, and murder". From north-eastern Poland they were transported across Germany to the foothills of the Italian Alps where they would form the nucleus of a future autonomous Cossack state under German tutelage (more details on that subject will be mentioned below).

Due to the rapid deterioration of the situation in the East, the German High Command deemed it appropriate to create a Cossack Division under the leadership of Colonel von Pannwitz. The division was to be molded together at a recently established Cossack military camp located at Mlawa in north-eastern Poland, out of Kononov's unit and a regiment of Cossack refugees from southern Russia that was assembled together in the Poltava region of north-central Ukraine (the latter unit's German Commander was Lieutenant Colonel von Wolff). Following its formation (in the summer of 1943), the 1-st Cossack Division was composed of seven regiments (two regiments of Don Cossacks, two regiments of Kuban Cossacks, one regiment of Terek Cossacks, one regiment of Siberian Cossacks, and one mixed reserve regiment). A side-effect of that integration was that majority of Cossack officers were replaced by their German counterparts, with the sole exception of the most notable Cossack commanders who retained their posts (with Kononov being one of them). German equipment / uniforms also began to supplement their (by now worn-out) Cossack counterparts, and increasingly only a badge identified the Division's personnel as Cossacks. The new German officers and NCO's mistreated the Cossacks, who retributed by beating-up and even killing some of the more arrogant perpetrators. In September of 1943, the Division was transported to France to assist in the guarding of the Atlantic Wall since this assignment did not yet involved combat, the Cossacks requested to be given real front-line responsibilities and to be re-assigned elsewhere. The German High Command reacted to this situation by transferring the Division to Jugoslavia for anti-partisan duties a small element of the Division was left behind, and it assisted in the defence of the "Omaha" Sector during the Allied invasion of Normandy. In Jugoslavia, there was already present a 15 000 strong "Russian Security Corps" made up exclusively of Russian emigres of the post-revolutionary period who offered their services to the Germans in the anti-Bolshevik struggle on the eastern front, but were sent to fight Jugoslav partisans instead. This formation was commanded by General Steifon and therefore it was sometimes referred to as the "Steifon Corps" it did include a sizable number of Cossacks or people of Cossack background.

With the hope of raising the collapsing morale of the Cossacks who understandably sought to return to their homeland but were effectively barred from such a possibility by a military situation that only grew more to their disadvantage with every passing day, the Germans yielded to the demands for the uniforms of Cossacks in German service to become more Cossack-looking, and they also send a number of Cossack youths to a cavalry school in Germany. Promises by Rosenberg and Keitel were also made in November of 1943, that assured the Cossacks that they will repossess their traditional lands. Since the contemporary situation made such promises unobtainable and unrealistic, arrangements were made to set up a "Cossackia" outside of the original Cossack regions (Eastern Europe was initially one of the alternative locations, eventually the foothills of Carnic Alps in north-eastern Italy were selected for the purpose of providing the homeless Cossacks with a new home). In March of 1944, an organizational-administrative committee was appointed for the purpose of synchronizing the activities of all Cossack formations under Third Reich's jurisdiction. This "Directorate of Cossack Forces" included Naumenko, Pavlov (soon replaced by Domanov), and Colonel Kulakov of von Pannwitz's Cossack Division. Krasnov was nominated as the Chief Director, who would assume the responsibilities of representing Cossack interests to the German High Command. This new body became also increasingly preoccupied with the establishment of the vicarious "Cossackia" in-exile and all its indispensable state institutions, such as a bank and a tribunal court, among others.

In June of 1944, von Pannwitz's 1-st Cossack Division was elevated to the status of a corps and bacame known as the 15-th Cossack Corps by now its membership stood at some 21 000 personnel. The following month, the corps was formally incorporated into the framework of the Waffen-SS (a move that enabled the corps to receive greater quantities of weapons and other equipment, as well as to effectively bypass notoriously uncooperative local police and civil dignitaries). However, the Cossack uniforms and Wehrmacht officers remained unchanged. A replacement-training division of 10 000 - 15 000 members was also founded in Mochowo (located south-west of Mlawa), and it was placed under Shkuro's command this division supplemented all the menpower losses suffered by the 1-st Cossack Division (later renamed as the 15-th Cossack Corps) in Jugoslavia, where it partook in operations against partisans.

Was Cossack cavalry ineffective relative to other troops? - History

By Blaine Taylor

An estimated four million Red Army soldiers were captured by the Germans during the six months after the launching of Operation Barbarossa, the Nazi invasion of the Soviet Union, on June 22, 1941. Indeed, the chief of the German General Staff, Colonel General Franz Halder, wrote, “The Russians have lost this war in the first eight days! Their casualties—in both men and equipment—are unimaginable.”

He was both right and wrong as it turned out, and thus Adolf Hitler was not the only German who had underestimated the Soviets. The German field marshals and generals share in the blame for the debacle that was to come in the East. The German Armed Forces High Command, the OKW, had originally counted on a 12-week war against the staggering Soviet Union, but under Joseph Stalin, the Soviets rallied and came back stronger than ever.

The Blitzkrieg into Russia, featuring panzer armor divisions, was initially successful but ultimately failed. The Eastern Front war dragged on for four years and was characterized by unprecedented ferocity and loss of life, not only due to the war itself, but also to starvation, disease, slave-like working conditions, and the vast ethnic cleansing occurring under both Stalin and Hitler for different reasons.

The height of the Stalinist repression, the Great Terror, occurred in the late 1930s just prior to the German invasion. Minority nationalities inside the Soviet Union, including the Cossacks, were among those cruelly victimized during this period, especially those who posed resistance. Stalin ruthlessly expanded the collectivization program into an offensive against the peasantry. Millions were displaced, and millions were killed. A significant number of Soviet citizens, including many of the Cossacks, therefore greeted the invading Germans as liberators. Thousands of ordinary Soviets became partisans in the German military.

The Cossacks: a Privileged Military Class

Traditionally, the Cossacks derived mostly from the area of southern Ukraine. They had lived in clans that were designated by the name of the nearest major river, i.e., Don Cossacks, Kuban Cossacks, Ural Cossacks. Their superior horsemanship, proficiency with the saber, and colorful uniforms defined them. The great majority of them were loyal to the Romanov family, going all the way back to Catherine the Great. By the time of the last tsars, the Cossacks were widely viewed as a privileged military class.

During the Bolshevik revolution, sectors of the Cossacks put up some of the toughest resistance experienced anywhere by the Red Army. Therefore, after the Revolution, the Bolsheviks retaliated by destroying all federated Cossack Republics in a terribly cruel manner, considering them all as part of “White Russia” (sympathetic to the tsar), though it wasn’t necessarily true.

Just after Russia’s poor military showing in the 1939 Russo-Finnish War, Stalin reintroduced the Cossacks into the Soviet military. Yet just 60 days after the beginning of World War II, the first major defection of Red Army soldiers to the German side occurred: It was a Cossack unit, the 436th Infantry, commanded by Major Ivan Nikitich Kononov. On August 3, 1941, fully 70,000 Cossacks went over to fight for the Germans. Another 50,000 joined them by October 1942. By that time, the German Army had established a semi-autonomous Cossack District from which they could recruit.

It should be emphasized that their defection to the German side was not done in favor of Nazism, but for the love of their homeland and for the cause of a second Russian Civil War. There was tremendous risk in going against the Red Army, however. Hitler declared that Russian soldiers would not be granted POW status, which meant captives would be treated as subhuman. Of the nearly six million Russians taken prisoner after 1941, only 1.1 million lived to see the end of the war. Given the brutality of the Germans, it seems incomprehensible that so many of these people were still willing to don German uniforms. Such was their hatred of Stalin.

By February of 1945, when it was evident the Germans had all but lost the war, the Cossacks, under the leadership of German Maj. Gen. Helmuth von Pannwitz, wanted to surrender to the British Army in liberated Austria, to escape being returned to Stalinist tyranny. Negotiations were opened on this basis in good faith.

Fates Decided at Yalta

The fate of these Cossacks had already been decided, however, at Yalta in February, when British Prime Minister Winston Churchill, American President Franklin Roosevelt, and Russian Marshal Josef Stalin met to decide the final issues remaining from the war in Europe. One issue on the table was called “reciprocal repatriation.” This discussion related to Allied prisoners in Germany liberated by Soviet forces and also to the prisoners of Soviet origin serving in the German Army, among whom the dissident Cossacks formed a major component. A trilateral commission was established to form an agreement acceptable to all three nations on issues including the displaced civilian populations.

Two basically identical agreements were signed on February 11, 1945, by the British and Americans. The British agreement stipulated that all Soviet citizens “liberated by the Allied armies—as soon as possible after their liberation—were to be separated from German prisoners of war and lodged in separate camps…” and “situated in camps or other localities to which the Soviet authorities responsible for their repatriation would have immediate access….

“…The British authorities responsible would cooperate with their Soviet colleagues in the United Kingdom with a view to identifying all Soviet citizens who had been liberated and transferred to the UK.” The British would also “be responsible for the transport of Soviet citizens up unto the moment that said citizens would be handed over to Soviet authorities.”

As pointed out by noted authority Francois de Lannoy, “If there was nothing in the agreement that stated specifically the necessity of repatriating all Soviet citizens regardless of their wishes and—if necessary, by the use of force— it was well understood that from a legal point of view, that was what was intended.”

This, then, was the very crux of the thorny matter that would shatter the Cossack nation, bedevil the British civilian and military authorities in occupied Austria, and poison relations between the still anti-Red East and the West for decades afterward.

Concluded de Lannoy, “According to Stalin’s wishes, the contents of the agreements were kept secret, and did not figure in the final communiqué issued at the end of the Yalta Conference. It is evident, though, that had the details been published openly, those Soviet citizens serving the Wehrmacht who would’ve been well aware of their fate if returned to the Soviet Union (death, concentration camp, or deportation) would’ve taken all necessary steps to avoid falling into the hands of the Allies.”

“On Oct. 1, 1945, Gen. (later Marshal) Filip Ivanovich Golikov, responsible for repatriation of Soviet citizens after the war, announced that of 5,236,130 Soviets repatriated, 1,645,633 had found employment and 750,000 were waiting for a job. Of the remaining 2,840,367 of whom no further details were given, it is probable that they died in transit, were executed, or sent to concentration camps.

“At the time of the Yalta Conference, 100,000 Soviet soldiers serving the Wehrmacht had been captured by the Allied forces.…The Soviets … had liberated 50,000 British POWs who had sought refuge in the Soviet Union, as well as far greater numbers of French soldiers…,” most of whom had been captured by the Germans in 1940.

Cossacks in the Nazi Ranks

From the summer of 1941 through 1943, none of the top German political leaders involved with the Eastern Front wanted anything to do with Soviet POWs or Cossack turncoats fighting in German uniforms for the Third Reich. Then came the trio of crushing German defeats at Moscow, Stalingrad, and Kursk.

The first top Nazi to start changing his views of all Soviets as “sub-humans” was the Baltic-born German Alfred Rosenberg, Reich minister for the occupied Eastern Territories. He and his “Eastern politicians” were the first, besides the military, to realize that Nazi Germany could actually lose the war in the East. He also knew that millions of enslaved peoples saw themselves as fighting alongside the Germans, not for them, but were not willing to exchange the Red yoke for one of the swastika. It would have to be a genuine alliance.

As late as the summer of 1944, both Hitler and SS commanding general Heinrich Himmler denied this possibility, however, as did the powerful secretary to the Führer Martin Bormann and Prussian Regional Leader Erich Koch. Led by Rosenberg’s ministry on the crucial theme of needed manpower, however, even they slowly changed their minds since it was evident that Nazi Germany would be drowned by Red Army hordes if they did not.

Meanwhile, even against Hitler’s, the German Army in the East had begun training and equipping both dissident Cossacks and the so-called Russian Liberation Army (RONA) to fight the Soviets. The man who really stepped to the fore of his own volition in September 1942 was the East German career cavalry officer, Helmuth von Pannwitz, who well knew that during the Russian Civil War Cossack “wolves” had taken no Bolshevik prisoners and were eager to kill them again.

The Cossacks were valued by the Army for their scouting and reconnaissance abilities,

It was Pannwitz who approached German Field Marshal Ewald von Kleist about accepting the Cossack offer to fight with the Germans, and he was given a tacit but cautious approval to start their recruiting, training, equipping, and arming.

The Cossack Call

Recruiting began with those who had already come over and continued with the masses being held in German POW camps. Pannwitz’s goal was to build a first-rate cavalry division, while there remained an independent Cossack state within a self-governing Cossackia. This territory had been occupied by the Germans during 1942. He allowed his new charges to serve under their own officers and NCOs, over which was his hand-picked German cadre. Asserted one eyewitness, “He did not intend to make Germans out of the Cossacks.”

Pannwitz created a weekly newspaper titled The Cossack Call and insisted that his German cadres learn the more difficult Russian language. His former Soviet riders adapted to the German language far more easily.

He also restored unit church services and the recovery of dead bodies in the field for proper, Christian burial. Orthodox Russian chaplains were assigned to Cossack regiments, and the wearing of crosses and other religious ornaments was encouraged. Indeed, the Russian Orthodox Christmas was celebrated on January 6, 1944, with Pannwitz attending in full Cossack regalia.

Speaking at Hitler’s military headquarters, General Wilhelm Burgdorf doubtless summed up the feelings of more traditional Army officers at Pannwitz’s experiment saying, “Von Pannwitz looks quite savage with his crooked sword dangling in the scabbard down in front.”

Created a full Cossack general, Pannwitz was elected and re-elected as the field leader. He also formed a personal Cossack guard. In addition, he managed to save the famous Cossack Museum until it disappeared at the end of the war. He formed the 1st Cossack Cavalry Division on April 23, 1943, and on March 31, 1944, he established the Cossack Central Administration.

Cossack weaponry, including captured Tokarev automatic pistols, was issued by the Germans. The Cossacks also carried shaska sabers and wore their beloved black burka capes and Astrakhan and Kubanka fur caps.

Cossacks on the Front

Despite his obvious affinity for them, Pannwitz ruled his men with typical German toughness, with penalties ranging from solitary confinement in darkened cells and flogging to execution for more serious offenses. Nevertheless, he was granted honorary Cossack nationality on March 21, 1944.When Hitler personally awarded him a medal, the Führer asked Pannwitz slyly, “So how are things going with your Cossacks?” The Führer, despite the military’s secrecy, was well aware of what was going on. The 1st Cossack Cavalry Division was ready to go into action and was assigned by the new chief of the General Staff, Colonel General Kurt Zeitzler, to fight in the Balkans. Noted one authority, “The sturdy Cossack horses were ideal for the Balkan mountains.”

The main contribution of the Pannwitz Cossacks was soon to be freeing up German troops to fight elsewhere. Their Serbian-Croatian deployments included the September 1943 Operation Constantine to occupy areas formerly patrolled by the fascist Italian armed forces. Cossack units also took part in Operations Driving Hunt, Ball Lightning, and Autumn Storm. Cossacks were deployed to Croatia and Bosnia in the autumn of 1943. They also fought the communist partisans in Northern Italy from July 1944 to the end of the war. Stated one source, “The ‘North Croatian Fire Brigade’ emerged from the Cossacks.”

The regular German Army began changing its own initially poor assessment of the Cossack allies as they witnessed them fighting first as dismounted infantry and then as the mounted warriors they were justly famed to be. Still, the Cossack riders for the Reich had to wait until 1944 before being awarded the German military medals that they fully deserved and had earned in combat.

Cossack forces were sent to fight Yugoslavian communist partisans in September, 1943. With fully 270,000 men organized into 26 divisions, Tito was a threat that Nazi Germany simply could not ignore, especially as Churchill was then pressing for an invasion of southern Europe to forestall Stalin’s obvious drive to occupy the Balkans. Pannwitz led his beloved riders into combat against the partisans in Operation Fruska-Gora on October 12, 1943, in their first real baptism of fire. After-action reports ranked them from performed “admirably” to “with mixed success.”

The Cossacks also took part in Operations Wild Sow, Panther, Santa Claus, and then Schach in March 1944, as well as Rosselsprung, the latter designed exclusively to either capture or kill Tito. In addition to these formal combat field operations, the Cossacks performed valuable service patrolling the railroad line from the Croatian capital of Zagreb to Belgrade, the capital of the German-occupied country. One report stated that the Cossacks “performed exceptionally well, inflicting heavy casualties on Tito’s forces.”

Another observer reported that they were “skillful in staging ambushes, executing flanking movements, and rear attacks in contrast to frontal assaults in a war of movement without front lines. Avoiding frontal attacks, they struck at the enemy’s rear.”

SS in Name

In August 1944, Himmler wanted to incorporate the Cossacks under Pannwitz and General Timotei Ivanovich Domanov into his own Waffen SS, and he officially sanctioned the Cossack cause despite the fact that he was vehemently anti-Slavic. He recruited first Ukrainians, and then Cossacks.

Indeed, as early as December 24, 1942, Himmler’s administrative chief, SS General Gottlob Berger, had proposed the formation of an SS Cossack police unit, but other top SS leaders balked so the plan was dropped. Gunther d’Alquen, editor of the SS newspaper Das Schwarze Korps (The Black Corps), also acted as an agent of change to acquire the 1st Cossack Cavalry Division under the command of the ambitious Himmler.

Finally, on August 26, 1944, Himmler invited Pannwitz to meet with him aboard his personal command train to propose that the Waffen SS directly absorb all Cossack fighting forces. Taken aback, Pannwitz answered, “I have been in the Army since I was 15. To leave it now would seem like desertion.”

Soldiers of the Cossack Division of the Wehrmacht at the Cuba bridgehead. 1943.

Switching tactics, the wily Himmler opted instead to have all Cossacks placed directly under Pannwitz’s command in a compromise agreement that would also see them set up in name only as the new SS XV Cossack Cavalry Corps, consisting of the old 1st and the new 2nd Divisions.

Thus, Himmler’s military vanity was at least partially satiated, and Pannwitz gained access to first-line SS supplies without actually making the Cossacks a part of the SS. It was, truly, a very fine distinction, and one that would not help either Pannwitz or the Cossacks when they fell under Allied control in 1945.

This shotgun marriage was consummated in September 1944 however, it was later characterized as “an unholy alliance that solved the supply problem” that had been dogging Pannwitz from the very start.

Valued by the Army for their scouting and reconnaissance abilities, the Cossacks jealously guarded their authorization and command function against Himmler’s rapacious SS, and one general asserted, “The Cossacks must be ruthlessly exploited to the last and sacrifice their lives for us, the best they have to offer. They are just good enough for that!”

Ironically, the Cossacks fought but one battle against the Red Army, and this took place on Christmas Day, 1944, in Yugoslavia. In bitter hand-to-hand combat against the Soviet 133rd Infantry Division near the Drava River, the Cossacks routed the Russians. The 11th Luftwaffe Field Division had been assigned to fight alongside the SS XV Cossack Cavalry Corps.

By February 1945, Pannwitz could take pride in the fact that he had accomplished his original goal with the formation of yet a third cavalry division. In March, his expanded corps took part in Operations Forest Fever and Forest Devil.

In September 1944 the Germans moved Domanov’s Cossack forces west into Fascist-controlled Northern Italy. Fighting as they went, the Cossacks journeyed hundreds of miles across Poland, Germany, and Austria before they arrived at Gemona, Italy, in the Friuli region. Quartered around Tolmezzo, they numbered 24,000 men, women, and even children, a nation on the move.

On April 28, 1945, Domanov was confronted by a delegation of Italian officers who insisted that he surrender his arms and leave Italy immediately. The Cossack colonel balked at surrendering his men’s weapons but began the exodus to Austria the very next day. They entered Austria via the Plocken Pass, with colorful Cossack mounted units leading the way. Having reached the Austrian village of Mauthe-Kotschach, the vanguard led the way to a settlement around Lienz.

Surrender to the British

Debating what to do next, it was mentioned that Field Marshal Alexander, who had been the British commander-in-chief against the Bolsheviks in 1918 in Courland on the Baltic Sea, might very well be the best and most sympathetic person with whom negotiations could be sought. Thus, a Cossack delegation of three men returned to Tolmezzo via the Plocken Pass route just traversed to meet with General Robert Arbuthnott, commanding officer of the British 78th Infantry Division.

Standing to deliver their plea, the Cossacks asked to be allowed to join General Andre Vlasov (of the Nazi-sponsored Russian Liberation Army) to continue fighting the Soviets. Startled, General Arbuthnott queried, “Who is General Vlasov?” After being told, the British general adhered to the Churchill-FDR demand of unconditional surrender enunciated at the 1943 Casablanca Conference: “You must hand over all your weapons without delay.”

He was then asked if the Cossacks would be considered Allied POWs. “No, that term only applies to those captured during the course of a battle,” the Britisher replied. British General Geoffrey Musson reiterated the same.

The next day, May 5, Musson visited Domanov, who was politely asked to move his masses to an area between Lienz and Oberdrauburg along the Drave (Drau) Valley, and under arms no less. This they did, willingly, during the second week of May, now after V-E Day. But some Cossack bands were still fighting five days after the German surrender.

Meanwhile, the Cossack high command simply ignored what little they did know of the Yalta agreements, merely assuming that the pre-1941 anti-Red Allies would welcome them in what they saw as the inevitable next phase of World War II—a joint Western Allied-Cossack holy war against land-hungry Communist Russia in Eastern Europe. If nothing else, the Cossacks were convinced that at least they would be granted political asylum by the democratic Western powers.

On VE-Day, May 8, 1945, two separate Cossack groups were being quartered in formerly Nazi Austria, close to the Slovenian border, then part of the former Yugoslavia that had been conquered by the Axis in April 1941. The initial group had been in northern Italy near Tolmezzo under the command of Ataman Domanov, with the second group of 18,000 of the XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corps dispersed across southern Austria under Pannwitz. As the accepted overall leader of these Cossack units, Pannwitz prepared to negotiate with British Field Marshal Harold Alexander.

On May 17 Field Marshal Alexander asked for instructions from London about what to do with his newly acquired, ready-made army of anti-Bolsheviks so far from their native steppes. On the 18th, General Arbuthnott also visited the Cossack camp at Peggetz, touring the huts, laughing and joking, and even taking a special interest in the Cossacks’ young cadet corps.

This happy mood turned somber with a sudden jolt, however, when it was announced by Domanov that all of the Cossacks’ dearly beloved horses had been stolen, to which the British general officer dryly answered, “There are no Cossack horses here! All the horses now belong to His Majesty the King of England, and the Cossacks are his prisoners.” With this rude shock, the cat was truly out of the bag.

“The Officers will be Shot”

On May 24, British V Corps General Charles Keightly was instructed by higher headquarters to hand over all Cossacks, without exception. “It is of the utmost importance that all the officers—particularly the most senior—are collected together, placed under guard, and that none of them escape…. The Soviet Forces place great importance on this, and consider without doubt—as a guarantee of good faith on the part of the British—that all the officers are handed over.”

Another put it more bluntly: “The officers will be shot,” by the NKVD, Stalin’s secret police.

A truckload of armed British troops arrived at the Cossack encampment on May 26 to seize all Cossack funds, some six million marks and an equal amount of Italian lire, deposited in the Lienz bank. The next day, May 27, the British demanded the surrender of all Cossack arms once more, and a rumor circulated across the camp that these would be replaced by British weaponry, a case of both self-denial and wishful thinking. More ominously, however, Arbuthnott issued an order declaring that all Cossacks found with weapons would be both arrested and subject to the death penalty. Resistance would be met with the order to open fire.

Debate among the Cossacks centered on believing the British would protect them, doubting their good intentions, and a failed option of sending the women and children away from the camps to avoid any unexpected and hostile developments. Pannwitz described the formal surrender scene in a letter to his wife, with enlisted soldiers laying down their weapons and officers allowed to keep their side arms, as per military tradition. Still, though, “the Cossack Corps was dead,” he lamented.

On May 28, Domanov ordered all his officers to assemble at Lientz and Peggetz in the belief that the British would return them there that same day. They were then convoyed away by cars, with 2,000 officers remaining in the Peggetz square. Some of the older ones wore their decorations earned fighting for their Little Father, the murdered Czar Nicholas II, in their part in the Great War, 1914-1916. Many wore the colorful and traditional Cossack garb.

These officers were put aboard a convoy of 60 British Army trucks. According to Huxley-Blyth, “The convoy consisted of four buses, 58 trucks, eight vans, and four Red Cross cars. The British escort consisted of 140 drivers and co-drivers, 30 officers, and five interpreters. To these must be added several jeeps with 25 light Bren machine guns and motorcyclists.” Shortly afterward, the convoy was also surrounded by tanks, allegedly to protect the officers from rogue German SS men in the nearby forests.

“They’re a grand lot, the English.”

Meanwhile, Domanov reached the suburbs of Oberdrauburg at the headquarters of the British 36th Infantry Brigade, where Musson bluntly shattered whatever illusions he had left: “I have to inform you, sir, that I have received formal orders to hand over the Cossack Division in its entirety to the Soviet authorities. I regret having to tell you that, but it is an order. Good day!” Later, even the ruthless NKVD secret police would cynically sneer, “They’re a grand lot, the English.”

Also on May 28, the officers were enclosed by barbed wire at an old former POW camp near Spital, where a full British regiment was stationed. The soldiers there had been ordered: “Any attempt at resistance will be firmly suppressed. If you are forced to open fire, you will shoot to kill. Any attempt at suicide will be prevented if it presents a danger to our men. If it does not, they will be allowed to commit suicide.”

The Cossack officers quite naturally panicked, tore their rank insignia from their uniforms, and destroyed their personal papers in a vain attempt to somehow stymie the dreaded Red secret police, the NKVD of Laventi P. Beria, the man even Stalin had cynically introduced to Joachim von Ribbentrop at the Kremlin in August 1939 as “My Himmler.”

That night, while Domanov dined with the British officers at their invitation, the first Cossack senior officer hanged himself. The next morning, May 29, trucks again arrived to take the officers to their new jailers, but they sat on the ground refusing to budge. Noted Lannoy, “For several minutes, the (British) soldiers beat and kicked the Cossack officers, raining blows down on them with boots, rifle butts, and fists. Some of the victims were beaten senseless, and the British used the opportunity to prod them with their bayonets. This treatment proved effective, and loading commenced.”

During the journey, several more officers killed themselves, while others escaped by jumping out of the trucks until after many hours the convoy arrived at the border of the Soviet Austrian Zone of Occupation at Judenburg near Graz in the Mur Valley. Unloaded from the trucks as more suicides occurred, it was here that the officers were finally joined by their overall commander, Pannwitz, elected by them to be their first and only foreign-born leader.

Vain Resistance

From Judenburg, all the senior officers were moved to Graz, then Baden outside Vienna, to the Red Army counterintelligence center for interrogations. Following that, they were transferred to Moscow’s notorious NKVD Lubyanka Prison, where the captured survivors of Hitler’s Berlin bunker also wound up, many for 10 years’ imprisonment. After the seizure of the officers, an order was issued on the evening of May 28 for all of Domanov’s NCOs to assemble at the Peggetz encampment the next day at 9 am. A proclamation was read: “Cossacks! Your officers have betrayed and misled you. They have been arrested and will not be coming back. You no longer have to believe in them or submit to their authority. You can now denounce their lies and freely express your convictions and hopes. It has been decided that all the Cossacks will be returned to their country.”

Pandemonium immediately ensued as the enraged NCOs surged forward in a body, declaring, “No! Our chiefs are not traitors, and no one has the right to dishonor them! All the Cossacks love and respect their officers. May they come back, and we will follow them to the end of the world!” Refusing to eat and throwing their foreign passports in the faces of the embarrassed British officers, the NCOs roared out, “How can you do this to us? We are not Soviet citizens! In 1920, you sent warships to the Dardanelles to save us from the Bolsheviks, and now you are going to hand us over to them!”

Black flags were hoisted in the camp, religious services were held, and the remaining horses were killed by their own grieving riders. On June 1, during and after the last religious service, a battalion of the Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders Regiment arrived with another convoy of trucks. “Armed with rifles and pickaxe handles,” noted Lannoy, “the (Scottish) soldiers forced their way into the packed ranks, made a breach, and isolated about 200 Cossacks.”

Noted Major Davies’s official report, “The men formed a compact mass, tightly gripping one another, and it was necessary to force them apart one by one, starting at the extremities. The rest glued themselves even tighter together … But then panic spread … building a screaming pyramid that stifled those at the bottom…A man and a woman remained behind, dead by suffocation…. Once loaded, the trucks set off … and arrived at the railway line. There the Cossacks were unloaded and thrown into cattle cars with solid grills over the windows, and the doors were barred, while at the end of the train was a flat car on which were soldiers armed with machine guns.”

One can only guess at how the individual British officers and enlisted men felt about carrying out such a loathsome task. As a second group at Peggetz was pushed toward the trucks, many Cossacks cried out, “Get back Satan, Christ shall triumph! Lord, have mercy upon us!” One woman and a Tommy had a veritable tug of war over her child’s leg and body, “until, finally, the mother was exhausted, and the child was crushed against the truck…. The altar was overturned, and the priestly vestments ripped.”

“To the bitter end, the Cossack Corps did more than its duty and frustrated every effort of the enemy to cross the vital Drava sector.” – F.W. von Mellinthin

Stated one source, “The soldiers redoubled their violence, and the rifle butts hammered down indiscriminately on men, women, and children. The priests and their assistants were forced to the ground in their vestments…. All were convinced—not without reason—that life in the Soviet Union would be worse than death.”

Pannwitz Stays with his Cossacks

The first train left with 1,252 Cossacks aboard and many more to follow. According to a witness named Olga Rotova, “More than 700 Cossacks were dead as a result of those operations, either crushed underfoot, killed by the British, or committed suicide.” The enforced evacuations continued up to June 15, 1945, and “during those 15 days,” asserted Lannoy, “22,502 Cossacks were packed into the cattle cars and sent into the Soviet Zone.… Several thousand managed to escape and sought refuge in the mountains, where they were mercilessly pursued by the British, who, helped by Soviet Special Forces, organized large-scale manhunts.” During three weeks in June, 1,356 Cossacks and Caucasians were recaptured, and of them, 934 were transferred to Judenburg and later to Graz, where, according to the British soldiers who escorted them, they were all massacred.

Meanwhile, the main body of Pannwitz’s XV SS Cossack Cavalry Corpsmen suffered a similar fate. There were 20,000 assembled on May 8 at the time of the general Axis Pact surrender, about 80 kilometers east of the Domanov Cossacks, between Volkermarkt and Wolfsberg. Sometime during May 9-10, British SOE (Special Operations Executive) officer Charles Villiers visited the headquarters of Pannwitz and immediately received the surrender of all his armed men, with the sole condition that they not be turned over to the hated communists. One of Pannwitz’s own staff officers had even served in Courland in 1918 against the Bolsheviks with the younger Harold Alexander, and thus all felt that political asylum among their former British allies in the Russian Civil War era was possible.

After sending the venerable field marshal a letter on May 9 and hearing nothing, Pannwitz decided to visit the latter’s headquarters himself. He was told by a British major that all his men would have to surrender all their weapons on May 11, and this proceeded apace without incident. Piles of 1st Cossack Division rifles mounted at the area assigned to the British Army’s 6th Armored Division at Feldkirchen, Austria. On May 15, Pannwitz and his senior officers learned that it was rumored that all of them were to be handed over forthwith to the Red Army. Given a possibility of escape with his own German officers, Pannwitz had nonetheless decided to stay with his beloved Cossack horsemen. Having joined his Cossacks voluntarily for a certain death by execution at the hands of the hated Bolsheviks, “Der Pann” as he was nicknamed, still wore his colorful Kuban papacha cap. True to form to his deeply held code of honor, he stated, “I have been with the Cossacks in the good times, and now I must remain with them in the bad.”

A Major von Eltz later testified that Pannwitz even briefly believed, “They were going to send the cavalry corps to Iran to fight communists who were trying to seize control of Azerbaijan Province … Pannwitz thought that the Cossack Cavalry Corps would be kept intact by the British, and transported to an island somewhere in the Pacific to be transformed into a sort of foreign legion.” These illusions were shattered and rumors caused dissension among Pannwitz’s own leadership cadre of German and Cossack officers. Nevertheless, on May 22 Pannwitz was reelected leader by his Cossacks.

Meanwhile, British and Soviet officers met at Wolfsberg and hammered out an official, bilateral document that defined the Allied view of the doomed Cossacks: They are “a special unit belonging to the SS anti-Partisan forces and comprising a collection of White bandits and counterrevolutionaries paid by the Germans.” At least 500 German officers and men escaped (some accounts assert with British connivance) before May 26, when the British informed Pannwitz that he had been removed from command. Pannwitz, 144 officers, and 690 other ranks who were Germans were also arrested, but even some of them managed to escape.

The End of an Era

On May 28, Pannwitz and his officers passed into Soviet hands along with Domanov’s officers. Lieutenant V.B. Englich, guarding the bridge at Judenburg, described the scene: “Von Pannwitz was very tall. He got out of the car, drew himself up to his full height and looked around…. He understood what was going on. He then advanced very slowly toward the Russians, with everyone looking at him…. He saluted them. It was almost as if he was taking part in a film.” Another official account stated that, upon seeing the Russians, he raised his hands in the air and cried out, “My God!”

Taken to Graz on May 30, he arrived at Baden on June 3, and then was taken by train to Moscow and his doom. Noted General Keightly afterward, “In the circumstances, our personal sentiments had to be disregarded. We had an enormous crowd of refugees on our hands, of all nations and in a critical condition.” Most Cossack senior officers were tried, convicted, sentenced to death, and executed. The remainder were imprisoned for long terms. The six most senior Cossack leaders, among them Pannwitz, were all hanged in the Lubyanka Prison courtyard at 10:45 pm on January 16, 1947.

In all, according to one official report, “2,126 officers were handed over to the Soviets, 12 (all of them ex-generals in the White, anti-Bolshevik armies from the 1918-1920 Civil War) were sent to Moscow for trial, 120 never arrived at Graz 1,030 disappeared between Graz and Vienna, 983 who arrived in Vienna subsequently disappeared.” Overall, two million Russians, among them 50,000 Cossacks, were forcibly repatriated to the Soviet Union in what one observer termed, “An outright appeasement of the Stalin regime on the part of the U.S. and the U.K., a denial of political asylum on a mass scale.” Conversely, asserted a Colonel Malcolm, “The political decision to repatriate the Cossacks was just, and the only one that could have been taken at the time.”

Others took the opposite view, as the controversy still resonates. One observer noted, “The Cossacks in German field gray who disappeared into the NKVD labor camps in 1945 took with them the remnants of a unique way of life. It will never again be resurrected. They disappeared into oblivion. Whether one saw them as patriots or traitors or simply as magnificent barbarians, it was indisputably the end of an era.”

British Field Marshal Bernard Law Montgomery said, “In the area occupied by 21st Army group, there were appalling civilian problems to be solved. Over a million civilian refugees had fled into the area before the advancing Russians. About one million German wounded were in hospital in the area, with no medical supplies. Over 1.5 million unwounded German fighting men had surrendered to 21st Army Group on May 5 and were now POWs, with all that entailed.”

Noted German author F.W. von Mellinthin gave this assessment of the Cossacks’ last wartime combat operations: “Theirs was a desperate struggle in the final hours of the war, when Gen. von Pannwitz’ work reached its zenith and was plunged to its destruction. To the bitter end, the Cossack Corps did more than its duty and frustrated every effort of the enemy to cross the vital Drava sector.”

Despite the 1947 Moscow trials and Lubyanka Prison hangings, there were, in fact, few Cossack war criminals. Even Pannwitz’s conviction was overturned by the Russians after the fall of the former Soviet Union in 1991.


An obvious attempt to whitewash war criminals. The Nurnberg Tribunal had established that the SS was a criminal organization, therefore legally every repatriated Cossack was a criminal. Furthermore, in the Balkans and Italy, Cossacks were noted for marauding and absolutely brutal treatment of suspected Communists. Skinning people alive, gang rapes followed by execution, indiscriminate hangings, and tearing people apart by attaching their extremities to horses were common. Repatriation of Cossacks to the Soviet Union was actually the most kind resolution for the Cossacks. The majority survived. That would be an unlikely case had the Yugoslavs or Italians gotten hold of the Cossacks.

That the children were caught in this slaughter speaks harshly for the missteps at the Yalta conference, whatever else the Cossack soldiers were guilty of. That Britain and The United Stares, for that fact, seemed not to care or be oblivious to Stalin’s ruthless, murderous nature seems unforgivable. Especially when those, such as Gareth Jones’s firsthand account, tried to warn the world of the Soviet dictator’s atrocities to his own people before WWII.

Would it have been better if the women were repatriated and the children left to fend for themselves in the West? That makes no sense to me. Furthermore, no representative of a government think in terms of people, the think in terms of the needs of the country. I also do not understand the reference to Gareth Jones who died before WWII and whose writings have nothing to do with atrocities. He wrote about the 1932-33 famine which spread from Central Russia to Southern Russia and Ukraine and into Kazakhstan. The famine was the direct result of a drought and errors made by Central Planning. Has absolutely nothing to do with Stalin.

1. De Havilland Mosquito

While some versions of this plane were designed as out-and-out bombers, with the bombardier in the nose, others swapped out the bombardier for a powerful armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannons.

It goes without saying just what this could do to a fighter. One incident saw a number of Mosquitos being jumped by the deadly Focke-Wulf FW190. The Mosquitos shot down five of the enemy in return for three of their own in the dogfight.

The Mosquito’s heavy armament of four .303-caliber machine guns and four 20mm cannon is very apparent. (Photo from Wikimedia Commons)

As red hussars fought against the white Cossacks

In the first phase of the civil war, the Red army suffered from a shortage of professional riders. On the vast Russian expanses, the masses of revolutionary infantry was ineffective without cavalry squadrons, which was responsible for reconnaissance and flank coverage of the enemy. Relatively speaking, she was the eyes and hands of the army groups. For the formation of his own cavalry units of the Bolshevik leadership decided to use the captured soldiers of the Austro-Hungarian Empire.

the Hungarians in the service of Russian revolution

in December 1917 in Saratov have formed a regiment of 300 Pro-Bolshevik Hungarian hussars. He commanded a part of the former Austrian Lieutenant, Sandor Kellner. Team members wore red breeches, blue cloaks and hussar cap. However, the most efficient unit became a hussar detachment of Sergeant Lajos Winerman. In Astrakhan red warlord formed the unit, which in addition to the Magyars, Germans, Slovaks, Chinese, Latvians. New cavalry unit was called the 1st Moscow international regiment.

After the Czech Legion took Samara and joined with the Cossacks Dutova, there is a real danger of the emergence in southern Russia of a powerful anti-revolutionary front. In the former Samara province under the control of the red left the territory of the Nikolaev and Novouzenskiy district. In this area, operated a detachment of Vasily Chapayev, who decided to strengthen the Hungarians.

the Magyars save his countrymen

22 Jun 1918 Hungarian riders of Sandor Kellner joined the 4th army of the red army, which stormed the district Krasnyi Kut — Novouzensk. The hussars were the most combat-ready part and put them in the center. 24 Jun Magyar hussars without orders attacked the white battery, and cut down with swords all subservient to the guns. After the victory, they learned that in novokuznecka the pow camp, which contained mnwow Hungarians, white started mass executions.

Revolutionary 4th army continued the assault, but the Hungarian hussars, not paying attention to the ongoing battle, rushed to save the countrymen. In the outskirts of Novouzensk, they scattered the white squad that night shot 160 prisoners, found among the dead 46 the Hungarians. After an unexpected RAID of the counter-revolutionaries withdrew from the city, and to the hussars was joined by a detachment of 300 cavalry, commanded Winerman.

the Battle for Aleksandrov gay

In August 1918, Astrakhan and Saratov international cavalry regiments combined into a separate group, which is tasked to attack the town Aleksandrov gay and support the right flank of the division Chapayev. The division was based in Novouzensk, and he commanded them to Lajos Winerman. On the morning of August 21, 3000 Cossacks of ataman Dutov suddenly attacked the city, which was only Hungarians and Novouzenskaya infantry regiment.

the Cossacks drove the Magyars from the suburbs to the city center, where the hussars set up a perimeter. The main battle took place over two houses, in which dwelt a squadron of Sandor Kellner. After the shooting, the Hungarians decided to counter-attack and a surprise saber attack knocked out the Dutov from the city. The Magyars of 15 kilometers drove the white cavalry from Novouzensk. The main purpose of the chase was the capture of the Cossack horses for the red cavalry.

the First half of September, a group Winerman repressed the kulaks of the Saratov and 21 September hussars, supported by several armored vehicles and a red infantry took Aleksandrov gay. After a week, white was fixed in the village of Berezovsky and began to prepare for retaliatory action. The Hungarians invited the Cossacks to exchange prisoners, but they refused. September 30, Winerman on two cars and one armored car were poisoned to save her. In the shock group included 16 fighters and a couple machine guns.

While the Cossacks dined, the Hungarians spread out and engaged the enemy machine gun cross-fire. White, not killed by bullets, drowned trying to cross riversfrom near the farm. To save captured countrymen did not, it appeared, the Cossacks killed them before the attack. According to the combat summary of the 4th army of the red army under the number # 1476 in the battle the Hungarians captured an American motorcycle Indian. According to the memoirs of cavalrymen Winerman moved across the field of battle solely on the scooter, taking the sword, the stock of grenades and a machine gun.

the Battle with the Cossacks of the Kyrgyz Talivka

on 7 October, red guards took Samara and began to move in the direction of Ufa and Sterlitamak. By this time in the group Winerman there were 500 infantry and 250 cavalry. Armed with squad number 15 machine guns. October 13 Hungarians came to the village of the Kyrgyz Talovka, in the area where you gathered the white part of Colonel Borodin: 700 infantry and 700 cavalry with 17 machine guns. White secretly watched the Hungarian column, and Borodin ordered hundred Cossacks to bombard the enemy. Hussars counterattacked and drove the Cossacks from the village. However, it was a trap.

Fascinated by the attack Winerman far away from the main forces and on the morning of October 14, Borodin was surrounded by Kyrgyz Talovka, in which slept the Hungarians. I ordered the infantry to shoot, the commander of the hussars lined up the cavalry for a flank bypass. At the same time Colonel Borodin was thrown into the attack of the 9th Cossack regiment. The villagers demolished the chain and gunmen in the centre of the village knocked with Hungarian horsemen.

In the wheelhouse cavalry hussar sabre of the Cossack checkers more effective and experienced in fencing, the Magyars drove the whites from the village. On the outskirts of the Hungarians collapsed lava Cossacks, armed with lances. Red began to shoot revolvers, but shrapnel fire of artillery drove them back to the village.

By noon, due to losses, white has departed, and Winerman with 15 riders decided to chase the enemy and was killed in a skirmish with the Cossacks. After the death of the commander of the Hungarians retreated. Following months of red hussars, which was renamed the International regiment name Winerman, fought in the division Vasily Chapaev and was considered the most efficient forrazdeleniem.

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Fierce and hardy, although lacking in armour, Cossacks are equipped with a sword and composite bow which they use from horseback.

Primary weapon: Cavalry composite bow (Missile)
Attack: 8
Charge bonus: 3
Range: 120
Ammunition: 25
Secondary weapon: Cavalry sword (Melee)
Attack: 9
Charge bonus: 4
Total defence: 11
Armour: 0
Defence skill: 8
Shield: 3
Hit points: 1

Russian Cossacks spend much of their time on horseback, and as such are accustomed to the tasks of guarding and protecting towns, roads, forts and settlements. Renown for their bravery and hardiness, Cossacks are equipped with a sword and composite bow which they use from horseback.

Can board ships Can hide in forest Can withdraw Cantabrian circle Very hardy

Cossack SS Troops armament

Post by Heinz23 » 13 Jul 2002, 20:47

I'm new to this forum and I'd like to give an unusual question:
What type of armament did Cossack soldiers serving in Waffen-SS use ? I know only about some captured Soviet weapons, because Cossacks often deserted from Red Army. Could anyone of You give me exact names of weapons (rifles, machineguns, artillery, etc.) used by Cossacks ?

Post by Marcus » 13 Jul 2002, 23:05

I don't have any such detailed info unfortunately (but would love to hear what info you have on the cossacks so far), but you might want to check out "Pannwitz's Cossacks: 1942-1945" by Francois De Lannoy.

Post by Marcus » 13 Jul 2002, 23:09

Here is an article you might find interesting:
Cossack Units in the Service of the Axis Powers . ssacks.htm

Post by Reigo » 14 Jul 2002, 01:49

I am afraid I can't help you much, but I found from here at least some information.

There it is mentioned that after the cossacks were subordinated to SS in the end of 1944, their equipment improved. For example the 1st Cossack Cavalry Division's Artillery Rgt got a battery of 105-mm howitzers, the Engineers Battalion got some Nebelwerfers, the Recon Battalion got some Stg-44 assault rifles.

Before the subordination to the SS the 1st Cossack Cav Div was equipied with the following weapons:

On paper each cavalry Rgt (there were six of them) was equipied with:
5 50-mm-PaK, 14 81-mm Mortars, 54 50-mm Mortars, 68 MG-42 (including 8 heavy MG-42). The light firearms were German carbines and SMGs. Also every Rgt had four 7,62mm field guns (obviously of Soviet production).

Besides abovementioned weapons, the 1st Cossack Cav Divisions artillery units had alltogether 24 75mm guns.

This is unfortunately all I can provide.

Post by Folgore » 14 Jul 2002, 19:32

Two of these Cossack Divisions, at the orders of the Atamàn General Krasnov were sent to Italy, with their families, in September 1944. These 40.000 men stationed in Carnia, a valley in Northeast Italy, which the Germans promised them as their new permanent land, this area was in fact called "Kosackenland in Italien". They were mostly involved in anti-partisan roles. At the end of the war they surrendered to the English, who, even though assured them protection, according to Yalta, later passed them to the Soviets.
I once saw a picture of a pile of weapons which these Cossacks handed over to the Allies: It included weapons of all types, but mostly English weapons! Enfields, Brens, and Stens. So I would say that, according to what was said to me, and to this picture I saw , the individual armament of at least these two Caucasic Cossack Divisions in good part consisted of captured British weapons.

Post by Heinz23 » 21 Jul 2002, 21:02

Small Arms

Post by Patrick Holscher » 07 Aug 2002, 14:49

In terms of small arms, the Cossacks incorporated into the SS were generally armed in a manner matching German troops, although there was some leeway allowing for the carrying of Soviet arms with which they were already familiar. The normally carried, however, 98s of either the K98k or VZ24 variety. In photographs, the only small arm that I've noted them carrying which was not German are Soviet submachineguns.

It's important to note that not all Cossacks in German service where in the unit eventually made a part of the SS. Other Cossack units, therefore, may have been equipped somewhat differently. I've seen, for example, some photos of Cossack units equiped with VZ24s and wearing the M16 helmet.

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