VENKOV A.V. Red Don Cossacks in 1918


Andrey V. Venkov

Doctor of Sciences (History), Professor, Head of the Laboratory of the Cossacks,

Federal Research Centre The Southern Scientific Centre of the Russian Academy of Sciences

Chekhov Street, 41, 344006 Rostov-on-Don, Russian Federation

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Abstract. Introduction. Red Soviet Cossacks were little studied by Soviet historical science, because their presence and number did not always correspond to the theory of class struggle. Most Cossacks opposed the Bolsheviks during the Civil War, but the Bolsheviks always tried to create their red Cossack military units. At first they tried to revive the old Cossack regiments of the tsarist army, but under the command of Soviet power supporters. Then they tried to mobilize the Cossacks in the Red army, but the mobilization did not give the expected result.

Materials. The source used materials from the Cossack Department of the All-Russian Central Executive Committee of the State Archive of the Russian Federation; funds of the Red Cossack units in the Red Army (23rd Infantry Division) – Russian State Military Archive; information material on the Cossack parts of the Russian State Archive of Social and Political History; similar documentation stored in the funds of the Center for Documentation of Contemporary History of Rostov Region. The author used publications of Bolshevist and anti-Bolshevist periodicals, which show how the Don Cossacks and their Bolsheviks and their opponents characterized the Red Don Cossacks.

Analysis. In summer 1918, the interest of Cossacks in economic relations with the cities of Central Russia played an important role, and some Cossack settlements supported the Bolsheviks in order not to break these economic contacts. Nevertheless, Cossack Soviet regiments were created by September–October, 1918. They consisted of volunteers, and their quantity was limited. In the documents of the Cossack Department of the Central Executive Committee we find refers to 4 Soviet Cossack regiments created in the first year after the October revolution. In fact, there were more Cossack units, but not all of them reached the number of a regiment. At the end of 1918, when the Red army launched the offensive, the number of Soviet Cossack regiments increased.

Results. When forming Soviet Cossack regiments, the Bolsheviks tried to use old organizational forms – to revive the Don Cossack regiments of the tsarist army, but under new leadership. It succeeded partially. The attempts to mobilize the Cossacks in the Red Army did not give the expected result. In the event of sharp changes in the situation at the front in favor of the enemy, the mobilized either switched to his side or went home. The basis of forming Soviet Cossack units in 1918 formed the principle of voluntariness. Soviet Cossack units were formed primarily under general democratic slogans and where there was no obvious conflict between Cossack and non- Cossack population. In 1918, while the Bolsheviks did not pursue the policy of food dictatorship and did not curtail trade, a significant role for the Red Cossacks was played by the factor of their economic ties with large Russian economic centers. Cossack regiments of the Red Army inherited the high fighting qualities of the Cossack units from the old tsarist army, maneuverability and stamina inherent to the Cossacks, as evidenced by the high score they were given by the representatives of the hostile camp.

Key words: Cossacks, Cossack Department of the Central Executive Committee, F.K. Mironov, mobilization, volunteers, Soviet Cossack units.

Citation. Venkov A.V. Red Don Cossacks in 1918. Vestnik Volgogradskogo gosudarstvennogo universiteta. Seriya 4. Istoriya. Regionovedenie. Mezhdunarodnye otnosheniya [Science Journal of Volgograd State University. History. Area Studies. International Relations], 2019, vol. 24, no. 4, pp. 71-83. (in Russian). DOI:

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Red Don Cossacks in 1918 by Venkov A.V. is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License.

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