The Don Cossacks were almost exterminated in Russia by the Soviets. These actions of the Soviet government were quite logical. The Cossacks were natural enemies of the Bolsheviks. While the Cossacks maintained their way of life based on military training, loyalty to traditions, religion, the Bolsheviks could not feel safe. Any anti-Bolshevik movement has in disposal well prepared, easily mobilized army to counter the regular forces of the Soviets. Therefore, the destruction of the Cossacks was a prerequisite for the survival of Soviet Russia.
But why British government took an active part in the genocide of the Cossacks?
In the beginning of 20th century there were more than 1.5 million Don Cossacks in Russia. By the end of the 20th century they have less than 200,000 people. More than 85% of the Cossack people were destroyed by Soviet Republic.
If this is not genocide, then what should be called genocide?
We can understand the actions of the Bolsheviks. But it is difficult to understand the reason why the United Kingdom, considered to be a civilized country, took part in the genocide.
June 1 2014 is 69th anniversary of the day when, in Death Valley under Austrian town of Lienz British command passed into the hands of the Soviet NKVD about 70 thousand Cossacks. More than half of them were elderly, women and children. By this deed British government condemned them to death camps in the Urals and Siberia. Many of Cossacks were shot by Communists.
The formal basis for issuing the Cossacks were the Yalta agreements. In accordance with these agreements the United Kingdom and the United States agreed to repatriate to the USSR all former citizens of Soviet Russia, which fought on the side of Germany during WWII.
Most part of repatriated Cossacks never took part in combat – they were women and children
Part of them never were citizens of Soviet Russia. They left Russia after revolution and had nothing in common with Stalin’s regime.
Issuance of the Cossacks was made with terrible ferocity. The forced repatriation of Cossacks in Lienz – one of the most horrific crimes of war against all human and divine rules. Let the heroic death of the unconquered Cossacks always remind future generations about the atrocities of communism and the betrayal of the British. We shall never forget! – Duchess Olga Nikolaevna Kulikov-Romanova, Toronto, May 2005
There is Memorial and Museum “The Don Cossacks in the fight against the Bolsheviks” in the village Yelanskaya in Don Cossack Lands. The government of modern Russia has tried for several years to close this Museum established with private funds. While calling for the revival of the Cossacks, the government at the same time tries to obliterate from Cossack history all the years of struggle against Communist Russia.
On the territory of the memorial there is a cross with the simple inscription “Lienz. June 1, 1945”.
Many Cossacks all over the world remember this date and place.
The Cossacks don’t need compensation and privileges as victims of genocide. To demand money for the suffering is to admit defeat and humiliation. All we want – we should never forget and forgive.
Don Cossacks expressed the desire to take part in the armed struggle against the new Ukrainian government.
A few days ago the Big Circle of the Don Cossacks and also councils of atamans bordering Ukraine spoke in favor of the split of Ukraine.
This is a possibility of a reunion of the Cossack lands forcibly crushed by the Bolshevik regime
By these words the Ataman of the Great Don Army Viktor Vodolatsky expressed his opinion about the events in Ukraine. Taking into account the fact that the Ataman of the Great Don Army is the highest governor of the Don Cossacks, his statement should be treated seriously.
I’ve received some letters in which the authors indignantly asked why Don Cossacks do not support their brothers – Ukrainian Cossacks fighting against Russian influence in Ukraine. The Don Cossacks suffered from the Soviet Empire much more than Ukraine. It seems the Cossacks should support opponents of Russia.
But this is right only at first glance. Let’s delve into the history.
The total number of Don Cossacks in 1917 was at least 2.5 million people. In 2010 the number of Cossacks was less than 150000. Cossacks were one of the most closed classes of the Russian Empire. You could not join the Cossacks. You should become a Cossack only by birth. Since 1811 it was forbidden to enlist in the Cossacks by special imperial decree.
The Cossacks were one of the most conservative classes in the Russian Empire. They were well organized, armed and excellently trained. Any government was obliged to reckon with them and, if possible, tried to draw them to its side.
Hypothesis that the Soviet government had initially planned destruction of the Cossacks as a class for their special lifestyle is confirmed by Soviet documents. Let’s look at the Decision of the Don’s Bureau of the Communist Party “Main principles of attitude to Cossacks”, dated April 1919.
…Existence of the Don Cossacks with their way of life, economic privileges, firmly entrenched reactionary traditions, memories of political privileges of the patriarchal system is a constant threat to the proletarian government…
…Learning the art of war, which makes each Cossack from 18 up to the age of complete physical old age skilled warrior, gives counterrevolution ready soldiers (up to 300 thousand people), which can be mobilized in very short time…
…All this puts an urgent task of full, swift and decisive destruction of the Cossacks as a special domestic economic groups, the destruction of their economic foundations, the physical destruction the Cossack leadership, splitting and disposal of ordinary Cossacks and the formal liquidation of the Cossacks society…
The reason for the violent actions against the Cossacks would be better understood from the following ideas expressed by Trotsky: “Cossacks – the only part of the Russian nation capable of self-organization.”
So the Cossacks were feared by Soviets not for their skills in shashka and nagaika fighting, but for their style of life.
Many Cossacks were killed, many exiled to Siberia. Immigrants from non-Cossack areas settled all over native Cossack lands .
While looking at the old maps of Cossack lands it is easy to see that the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, where there are violent clashes of local residents with the new government of Ukraine, were native Cossack lands. Therefore, every true Cossack see Ukraine as an occupier, who illegally (using Bolsheviks) seized the lands of others and oppress Cossacks left on these lands. Russian Don Cossacks have close ties with the communities of the Don Cossacks living in Lugansk and Donetsk regions.
As for fraternal relations with the Ukrainian Cossacks, the Ukrainian Cossacks were never considered allies. Attempts of joint campaigns against Turkey almost always ended by conflicts. And in the 18-19 centuries when many Ukrainian Cossacks served in the army of the Turkish Sultan, the Ukrainian Cossacks were seen as enemies.
Religious contradictions between Catholic Church of the western Ukraine and the Russian Orthodox Church has very large impact on the attitude of the Cossacks to the new government of Ukraine. For a long time the Cossacks see themselves as defenders of the Orthodox faith. Attacks on Orthodox churches in western Ukraine and the inaction of the new Ukrainian government caused a very negative reaction among the Cossacks.
The attitude of the Cossacks to Ukrainian revolution can be formulated by the next words: If some monthes ago nagaika was more than sufficient weapons, now it’s time for the shashkas.
In early March 2014 many mass medias of Russia came out with a title : “The Don Cossacks are ready for military expedition”.
Since I consider myself a Cossack I was slightly upset by news that we are going somewhere to fight. It appeared that the Don Cossacks held a meeting in Novocherkassk – the capital city of Don Cossacks land.
The rally was organized by the Council of Atamans of the Don Cossack land and was attended by more than 5000 people.
The main reasons for the discontent with a policy of Ukraine became the oppression of the Russian-speaking citizens and the attacks against the Orthodox Church.
Almost every Russian citizen has relatives in Ukraine. Almost 70 years we were a united country. There was no border between Ukraine and Russia for nearly 250 years. For most residents of the eastern regions of Ukraine the main language is Russian, not Ukrainian. I’ve been there dozens of times and know what language Ukrainians use to communicate with each other in eastern regions.
Attacks on Orthodox Church caused general indignation. Attempts of Ukrainian nationalists, who are mostly Catholics, to eliminate Orthodox churches in Ukraine, really can cause the formation of voluntary militias among the Cossacks, ready to fight on the territory of Ukraine.
I took this rally not too seriously. I grew up under the Communists, and I well remember the technologies of organization of “nationwide outrage”. I have to say that most likely both parties of the conflict are lying. The opposing interpretations in media of the same events – nothing but propaganda on both sides of the conflict in Ukraine.
From the very beginning of the revolution in Ukraine, I’m trying to be in touch with friends, who live in Kiev. One old Ukrainian, who has lived all his life in Kiev, said to me: “Try not to watch TV or read newspapers”. (He doesn’t use the Internet). ”This is a very well-prepared coup that at some stage steps out of control of the organizers. But maybe everything is going according to plan. Let’s see who will get the maximum benefit.”
Let’s see how events unfolded. “Maidan” began as a movement of people who were upset by the scale of corruption in the state Then the number of demonstrators started increasing at the expense of hired participants. Fifty dollars for a day of “work” on a Maidan are considerable money for citizens of Ukraine. Some people came to Kiev by the whole families.
Then the leaders of the movement were gradually forced out by well-organized people with military training. From this point an open confrontation started. Anti-corruption slogans were replaced by nationalism.
Many residents of Kyiv at first did not take this movement seriously. A friend of mine described this movement as follows:One group of crooks trying to take a place at the trough by pushing out another scums.
The saddest thing is that the situation in Ukraine is very similar to the situation in Germany in 1933 when Hitler came to power.
But let’s return to the Don Cossacks.
from Bundesarchiv / CC-BY-SA-3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
It’s interesting that modern history of the Don Cossacks is very similar to the history of western Ukrainians who are now the main visible power of Ukraine revolution.
Both nationality always clearly separated themselves from other people. Even under Soviets the western Ukrainians didn’t consider inhabitants of east areas as Ukrainians. Compare it with the words of my Grandfather: “We aren’t Russians, we are the Don Cossacks”.
Both the Don Cossacks and the western Ukranians persistently fought against communists. Both took part in WWII on the side of Nazi against Russia.
Both nationalities were exposed to repressions from the Soviets.
Confrontation between the Cossacks and Pussy Riot has a fairly long history though people in Russia seems to pay much less attention to all of the performances of Pussy Riot than in Europe and USA.
If you don’t mind to spent some time searching the web you would easily find another actions of Pussy Riot preceding their performance in the Russian Orthodox Cathedral. There were sex orgies in museum and supermarket.
The Cossacks took notice of Pussy Riot long before they became known in Western press. The first reactions of Moscow citizens to orgies of Pussy Riot were as “just another fools to attract attention and make money at any cost“.
But this was true only for Moscow and some other big cities. The main part of Russia population has very conservative views. The Cossacks traditionally perceive themselves as defenders of the foundations of morality and laws, so their reaction was obvious.
I’ve got a phone call from my mother in those times. She asked me why we’ve allowed these bitches to act so in public places. It turned out that Pussy Riot was a subject of discussion among the Cossack women.
Looking first scandalous performances of these fools on YouTube I felt only embarrassment and disgust. And taking into consideration their age I felt a strong desire to take the belt and give a good spanking to their butts.
Their actions had nothing to do with protests against Putin’s government. I’m not Putin’s supporter myself. But they are nothing but a bunch of troublemakers trying to raise money to buy drugs. Would you be happy with people making an orgy in the presence of your children?
The Cossacks wrote letters to government demanding to put the end to such actions because the lack of punishment would send the message that the rights of other people have no significance.
The Cossacks warned the government that unless the government takes measures on protection of the rights of citizens, the Cossacks will be forced to defend the morality themselves.
The connivance of the government eventually has led to widely advertised in western press Pussy Riot’s “prayer” in the Russian Orthodox Cathedral and prison sentences for some members of Pussy Riot.
The Cossacks were disappointed with a sentence. A couple of years in prison seems to them too mild a punishment. As it turned out they weren’t alone in their feelings. I met no one among my acquaintances who would want to say a word in defense of Pussy Riot.
It’s interesting that those who claimed that they were protesting against Putin’s rule could survive in prison only by the help of the same government.
I spent some years in Russian prisons myself and can say that the crimes against religion and children are most disrespectful among the criminal society. If you search the web you’ll see that all the time while in prison the members of Pussy Riot, their lawyers and friends were trying to maintain interest of Western press to the conditions of Pussy Riot detention.
In male prisons you would be humiliated all the time by other prisoners. Female prisons are even more hard for such crimes. You would for sure be beaten to death by inmates.
The only chance for Pussy Riot to survive the prison was to seek the help of government. Without the defense of administration they would never survive.
Unfortunately being in prison taught nothing these idiots from Pussy Riots. May be they need money and just don’t want to work. So there are new headlines in the web about “Pussy Riot got whipped by Cossacks”.
If you’ve ever seen a trace from the real blow of Cossack whip or nagaika, you will understand the meaning of some comments to video — it seems these people were hired to imitate Cossacks to revive interest to Pussy Riot. After a couple of real blows these girls would have serious problems with walking.
After this new action of Pussy Riot I have got just another call from my Ma. She asked me why the men can do nothing to stop these bitches. She asked that may be we are waiting for Cossack women to take nagaikas themselves. Or may be shashkas? The Cossack women have enough of these nonsense. Try to think what would be the destiny of these girls if they went to mosque and did the same as in the Russian Orthodox Cathedral.
Several years ago in the old Don Cossack town Urjupinsk was erected monument to Don Cossack craftswomen.
In old times the life of the Don Cossacks was quite specific. You could say that the war was their way of life. Every man was a soldier. Cossacks were exempt from taxes and duties, but instead they were required to participate in all military campaigns. Moreover, the Cossacks in the 19th and 20th centuries were often used to suppress riots and disperse demonstrations.
On the vast territory of the Russian Empire there were always some events requiring of the Don Cossacks presence. Thus most of the year Cossack woman was full mistress of the house. This way of life formed the peculiar character of the Don Cossack woman – a proud and independent one.
Photo by Ivan Boldyrev, 1875, Public domain
Woman’s life was not rosy and carefree. On this old photo of 1875 you can see that the woman’s life was filled with labor and care.
There is an old Cossack anecdote.
Cossack is walking hands in pockets. Behind him goes his wife. She leads the child by hand and drags the bag of wheat on her shoulder. When asked: Why do not you help your wife? He answer: What if tomorrow the war starts, but I would be tired ?
So women had to do all the housework. They had to care about food and clothing for the whole family.
Throughout the last 300 years the art of knitting was part of a mandatory set of skills for any Cossack woman. Every Cossack family had a lot of knitwear in daily use. Each Cossack woman had to provide for her family the whole set of knitted things – from socks to warm shawls.
Photo by Ivan Boldyrev, Public Domain, 1875
This photo of old Cossack woman was taken in 1875.
But the the habit to tie a shawl like on the photo remaines unchanged. Even now in winter you can encounter women on the streets in such shawls.
Once these shawls were famous throughout all the Russia. Women in different areas of Russia prefered these Don Cossack shawls to famous Orenburg shawls for their warmth and durability.
The secret of these shawls was the unique fluff from which women spun a thread. This fluff is the fluff of a Don goat. These goats are cashmere goats. Shawls from cashmere fluff are known for the durability.
There is one shawl in my family. It was a gift from my grandmother to my mother on the day of my parents wedding. My grandma made this scarf strictly according to the custom.
Photo by author
Knitting machines have existed since ancient times. But genuine Don Cossack shawl should be knitted by hands. It was believed that only in the process of hand-knitting the shawl gets its unique properties. Every inch of the thread should pass through craftswoman fingers.
My grandmother got the fluff from her own goats, span the thread with her own hands, knitted the shawl.
This shawl is over 55 years. This shawl survived use as a blanket for two my daughters and one grandson in their childhood.
Even now my wife does not hesitate to wear this shawl in a cold winter.
Those Don Cossack women who were able to make such unique things really deserved a monument to their labor.