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Erokhin I. U., "FOUNDATIONS FOR THE TERRITORIES OF THE COSSAKS". Meždunarodnyj naučno-issledovatel’skij žurnal (International Research Journal) №1 (20) Part 2, (2014): 71. Sat. 08. Feb. 2014.
Erokhin, I. U. (2014). OSNOVY FORMIROVANIYA TERRITORIY KAZACHESTVA [FOUNDATIONS FOR THE TERRITORIES OF THE COSSAKS]. Meždunarodnyj naučno-issledovatel’skij žurnal, №1 (20) Part 2, 71-74.
Erokhin I. U. FOUNDATIONS FOR THE TERRITORIES OF THE COSSAKS / I. U. Erokhin // Mezhdunarodnyj nauchno-issledovatel'skij zhurnal. — 2014. — №1 (20) Part 2. — С. 71—74.



Ерохин И.Ю.

Кандидат исторических наук, Кройдон Колледж, Лондон, Великобритания



История казачества в настоящее время привлекает внимание исследователей в России и на Украине. Вопросы истории казачества достаточно плохо структурированы в глобальном плане. Данная статья – есть попытка определить общие ключевые моменты формирования казачьего этноса.

Ключевые слова: казаки, этнос, сословие, история, Россия, культура, традиции.

Erokhin I. U.

PhD, Croydon College, London, U.K.



History of the Cossacks is currently of great interest of researchers in Russia and Ukraine. Questions of history of the Cossacks are poorly structured in a global context. This article is an attempt to identify the key points to the genesis of the Cossack community.

Keywords: Cossacks, ethnicity, class, history, Russia, culture, traditions.

By its territory the object of research is limited by the natural habitats of Cossacks living, first of all so called “historical” ones which are Cossack communities, formed before organization of the Cossack Hosts by Russian state on its boundaries. Geographically it is The Northern Black Sea coast, including two major historical natural habitats: southern Dnieper and Don, as well as the flows of the rivers Ural, Tereka and lower Volga. If necessary, the research geography can be broaden up to the sizes of the whole boundary periphery of Russia and includes such regions as Ciscaucasia, Western and Eastern Siberia, Semirechye in the Middle Asia, Transbaikalia and Far East. [24]

The uniqueness of Ukrainian Cossacks is that it became an individual public organization with certain rights and possessed its own territory, independent on state administration.

  • The major factors which created conditions for revealing and forming of Cossacks were: [2]
  1. existence of a huge massive of free territories with conditions favorable for living in the neighbor farming and nomadic civilizations
  2. experience in southern territories development by uhodniki, brodniki and others
  3. appearing of considerable quantity of people, who due to aggravation of life conditions, growth of conscriptions and taxes strived to move to new territories in the search of a better life
  • The major reasons for Cossack appearing were: [23]
  1. growth of large feudal farming, which began from the XV century and stirred the process of development and colonization of new territories;
  2. increased feudal exploitation from the part of Poland and Lithuanian feudals, gentry, progressing enserfdoming of peasants;
  3. the policy of Polonization of Ukrainian nation, suppressing the rights of Orthodox church by the Catholic church, increase of religious oppression of Ukrainians;
  4. external threat growth, vital necessity of protection from Turks and Crimean tartars.

The first mentions of Cossacks are dated by the XIII century. Already in the times of Rus (Kyivska Rus) chronicles mentioned the existence on the boundaries of Russian territories and nomadic Steppe of brodniki and berladniki – free people, who were not obedient to prince’s power and lived in particular due to booty, they got from attacking Polovtsy and Byzantine territories. Still, in future this traditional for local people occupation was stopped by Tartar-Mongolian conquest. As a new social layer of the social hierarchy Cossacks was formed at the same time with gentry during the XV-XVI centuries. Basically, till almost the end of the XVI century the term “Cossacks” determined not social position, but the way of life, type of occupation.

3) In 1572 Poland King Sigismund II August issued an edict for forming mercenary Cossack formation. 300 Cossacks were accepted to state service, noted in the register (list) and got a legal status of regular army. And, despite the fact that this action had an aim of breaking up Cossack organization and attempts of using part of its forces in the interests of Poland state (for example for guarding its boundaries), still, it formed two important social processes: [1]

a) forming of registered armed formations;

b) legitimization of Cossacks position – a legal recognition of rights and obligations of Cossacks as a social layer.

4) Inhomogeneity of the Cossacks.  In the beginning of the XVII century Cossacks as a social layer of population was not homogenous: [17]

a) register (of cities) Cossacks – wealth, privileged Cossacks, who were on the state service in Rzeczpospolita;

b) Zaporozhye (lower) Cossacks – the Cossacks, who lived in the lower reaches of the Dnieper as a part of a military-political organization Zaporizhzhya Sich;

c) non-register Cossacks who were formed in the result of self- “Cossacking” and, possessing no stable official status, still had a Cossack way of living in the boundary regions;

d) palanka Cossacks; palanka Cossacks – family Cossacks, who lived in the khutors and winterers, belonged to one certain palanka.

Irrespective of to which layer Cossacks belonged, they have always fought for their native rights and privileges – liberties: to choose freely a Cossack foreman, to have own court, to pay no taxes, to reside on all the state and private territories, to hunt and fish in the lower reaches of the Dnieper, to brew beer and make vodka, not paying state taxes for this, to divide freely the fortune of the Cossacks that passed away, to make sea and land trips against Turks and Tartars, to be employed for servicing foreign monarchs.

  1. Dniprovske Cossacks

1) Dnieper Cossacks were settled on the territory of today’s Dnepropetrovsk region of Ukraine along the Dnieper, more low than its rapids, occupying the Tomakov Island next to today’s city of Marganec, the Bazavluk island and mouth of the river Chertomlik next to today’s village Kapulovka of Nikopol district of Dnepropetrovsk region. The other name for the Cossacks was “Cherkassy Cossacks” and “Zaporozhye Cossacks”. Zaporizhzhya Sich was formed in the 1530-th years and up to 1654 it was a Cossacks republic,  the Supreme body of the Cossacks, which included Veche Rada and a head – ataman. Dnieper Cossacks fought with Crimean Tartars, Turks, Lithuanians and Polish people. They had settled agriculture – hunting, fishing, cattle breeding. There was almost no family population in Zaporizhzhya Sich. In January, 1648, Dnieper Cossacks revolted and this became a beginning of the Ukrainian fight against Poland guided by Bogdan Khmelnitsky, which resulted in Ukraine and Russia uniting in 1654. In 1709, as a result of fight between Russia and Sweden and Mazepa, who took the part of Sweden, Zaporizhzhya (Old) Sich was broken and Cossacks left it for south-west of Nikopol and Crimea.

In 1734 Dnieper Cossacks with the approval of Russian government came back on the place of the Old Sich and organized a New Sich in the mouth of the river Podpilnaya on the island Chertomlik (a region of today’s Pokrovsloe village of Nikopol district of Dnepropetrovsk region).Having suppressed the revolt of Emelian Pugachevm, government destroyed Zaporizhzhya Sich in 1775, ruined all the fortifications, disbanded the army, and gave away territories to Ukrainian and Russian landlords. Cossacks ran away partially to Turk lands, where they formed a so called Transdanubian Sich (Transdanubian Cossacks), partially to the Southern Bug River (Bug Cossacks). [17]

2) Transdanubian Cossacks (former Dnieper Cossacks ) who existed as an ethnic group till 1828 with approval of Turkish government were settled on the vast territory of The Ottoman Empire in the mouth of the Danube river on its right bank. Transdanubian Cossacks performed military duties whilst fishing, hunting and agriculture were their household activities. In 1806, a part of Transdanubian Cossacks formed in  South Bessarabia “Ust Danube Host”, other way called “Bugeac Host”(Dnieper Cossacks). In the beginning of the Russian-Turkish war of 1828-1829 years, in May, 1828, Transdanubian Cossacks, lead by ataman, joined Russian army near Ismail and took part in the war with Turkey. They later returned to Russia and formed independent Zaporozhian Host, and in 1831 Azov Cossacks Host (Azov Cossacks). [18]

3) Danube Cossacks (former Transdanubian Cossacks) who were settled on the Turkish territory in 1806 stopped their organized existence in 1807 when Ust Danube Host was liquidated. Danube Cossacks were also called as “Ust Danube Cossacks” and “Bugeac Cossacks”. In 1828 the army was regained with a new name – Danube Cossack Host. Danube Cossacks of Russia guarded the boundaries on the rivers of Danube, Prut and on the coast of the Black Sea. In 1856 Danube Cossack Host was reorganized in Novorossiysk Cossack Host which was abolished [17] in 1868. Danube Cossacks numbered 12 thousand people in 1858.

4) Azov Cossacks (former Transdanubian Cossacks) were settled in Ekaterinoslavskaya province on the north-southern coast of the Azov Sea – between the Azov Sea and the rivers of Berda and Obitochnaya (the territory of today’s Zaporozhye region of Ukraine, near the city of Berdiansk). The major government task of Azov Cossacks was observing the Eastern coast of the Black sea with the help of an armed flotilla which consisted of 29 small vessels and 10 equestrian Cossack squadrons. Since the 1850-th years government decided to resettle Azov Cossacks on the northern Caucasus, but Cossacks resisted and since 1865 Azov Cossacks Host was disbanded and Cossacks were turned into peasants.

5) Bug Cossacks (former Dnieper Cossacks), who were settled on the boundary regions of Russia between the rivers of South Bug and Dniester (the southern part of Ukraine) since 1775,, soon in 1787, at the initiative of G.A.Potemkin and decision of government formed the “Host of faithful Cossacks” (another name- Ekaterinoslavskoe Cossack Host), renamed into the Black sea Cossack Host (Black sea Cossacks) after the Russian-Turkish wars of 1787-1791. In 1792-1793 the army by the decision of Russian government was settled on Cuban. [21]

6) Black sea Cossacks in the first part of the XIX century was enlarged by a part of former Dnieper Cossacks, who came back from Turkish territory (Transdanubian Cossacks). Black sea Cossacks Host existed till 1860 and then it was united with a part of Caucasian linear Cossack Host(Caucasian Cossacks) and partly reformed into Terskoe Cossack Host(Terskie Cossacks) and partly into Kuban Cossack Host(Kuban Cossacks ), forming a basis for the last one.

  1. Caucasian Cossacks

1) Caucasian Cossacks who were settled on the territory of today’s Dagestan, Chechnya, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, Stavropol and Krasnodar regions in 1832 formed Caucasian linear Cossack Host with an aim of counteraction to the mountain people of the Northern Caucasus on the Southern border of Russia. The city of Vladokavkaz served as a centre of the Host. Caucasian linear Cossack Host existed till 1860. Cossacks protected the Caucasian line from the mouth of the river Tereka up to the mouth of the Kuban River. After 1860 the Host was disbanded and Cossacks were sent partly to the Tersky Cossack Host and partly to the Kuban Cossack Host.

2) Tersky Cossacks who were settled on the territory of today’s Stavropol region and Kabardino-Balkaria, North Ossetia, Chechnya, Dagestan republics formed Tersky Cossacks Host in 1577. In 1770 Tersky Cossacks were added by two newly formed hosts with former Volga Cossacks and in 1860 Russian government fully subordinated the Host and joined a part of Caucasian Cossacks to Tersky Cossacks. Tersky Cossacks Host existed till 1918.

3) Kuban Cossacks who were settled on the territory of today’s Stavropol and Krasnodar regions as well as Republic of Adygeya and Karachaevo Cherkessia formed Kuban Cossacks Host in 1696. In 1860 Russian government fully subordinated the Host and joined a part of Caucasian Cossacks to Kuban Cossacks.The city of Ekaterinodar served as the centre of the Host, it existed till 1920.

  1. Don Cossacks

Don Cossacks appeared on the territory of today’s Rostov and Volgograd regions of Russia, Lugansk and Fonetsk regions of Ukraine and Republic of Kalmykia in the XVI century. In 1570 they formed Don Cossacks Host. About the year of 1600 the territory of Don Cossacks became a part of Russia; the Cossacks started guarding the southern boundaries of the state. Since 1763 an obligatory life service for Cossacks was imposed. About the year of 1775 Don Cossacks Host was fully subordinated to Russian government. The major peaceful occupations of Don Cossacks since the XVIII century were farming and horse breeding.

To the north of Don Cossacks slobodskiy Cossacks lived, also called “Ukrainian Cossacks”. Slobodskiy Cossacks occupied the region that was formerly called as Slobodskaya Ukraine. This is the territory of today’s Kharkov, Donetsk and part of Lugansk, part of Sumskaya regions of Ukraine, part of Voronej, part of Belgorod an part of Kursk regions of Russia.

Slobodskiy Cossacks appeared in the second part of the XVI century, they were Ukrainian Cossacks, Russian military men and runaway peasants, who arrived here from the territory of Ukraine occupied by Polish men. In the years of 1650 Russian government formed Okhtyrka regiment, Izyumsky regiment, Ostrogozhsky regiment, Sumy regiment and Kharkov regiment from Slobodskiy Cossacks. Their task was to guard the boundary territories of Russia and protect them from Crimean tartars attacks. In 1765 Cossacks regiments were reorganized into regular hussar regiments, Cossacks nobility got equal rights with Russian nobility and became landlords. The territory of Sloboda Ukraine became a part of Sloboda Ukrainian province of Russian Empire.

  1. Volga Cossacks

Volga Cossacks began to settle in the lower reaches of Volga since the XVI century. They were mainly runaway peasants from Moscow and Don. Their main occupation was robbery attacks on Volga and surrounding forests of the Zhiguli. After the Peasant war (1773-1775) under the command of Emelian Pugachev in which Volga Cossacks took the most direct part, they all entered the state military service. A part of Volga Cossacks was then named “Astrakhan Cossacks”, and another part was resettled in 1770 to Terek territory on the North Caucasus. They formed Mozdok regiment and Volgskiy regiment of Tersky Cossacks.

Astrakhan Cossacks (former Volga Cossacks) who were settled on the territory of today’s Astrakhan an Samara regions appeared as a result of formation of Astrakhan Cossack Host by Russian government in 1750.

  1. Ural Cossacks

In the XVI century Cossacks appeared in the south of Ural. In 1574 Orenburg Cossack Host was formed. Orenburg Cossacks were settled on the territories of today’s Orenburg, Chelyabinsk and Kurgan regions of Russia and Kustanay region of Kazakhstan. Here Orenburg fortified line appeared with the centre in the city of Orenburg. In 1755 Orenburg Cossack Host was fully subordinated to the Russian government.

Later, in 1591, in the western part of the Ural region, along the middle stream and downstream of the Ural River (till 1775 – the river Yaik), on the territories of today’s Orenburg region of Russia and Atyrau region (up to 1992 – Guryev region) of Kazakhstan Yaik Cossack Host appeared, which from 1775 got the name of “Ural Cossack Host”. Yaik small city (from 1775 – Uralsk) became the centre of the Host.

Ural Cossacks or, as they were called before, “Yaik Cossacks” in 1775 were fully subordinated to Russian government. Since 1917 Ural Cossack Host was again named Yaik and it existed till 1920.

  1. Siberian Cossacks

Cossacks appeared in Siberia in the XVI century where they formed Siberian Cossack Host in 1582. Siberian Cossacks were firstly settled on the territory of today’s Omsk and Kurgan regions and Altai area of Russia as well as on the territories of the North Kazakhstan, Akmola, Kokchetav, Pavlodar, Semipalatinsk and East Kazakhstan regions of Kazakhstan. In 1808 Siberian Cossacks Host with the centre in Omsk was fully subordinated to Russian government. The Host stopped its existence in 1920.

In the XVII century trans-Baikal Cossacks appeared in the Baikal region. They were settled on the territories of today’s Chita region and Republic of Buryatia and formed trans-Baikal Cossacks Host in 1655. In 1808 Russian government fully subordinated Siberian Cossack Host and in 1851 – trans-Baikal Cossacks Host. From this moment Siberian Cossacks as well as other Russian Cossacks served state military service, obeying to the government of the Russian empire. Trans-Baikal Cossacks Host existed till 1918 with the centre in Chita. [17]

Colonizing Siberia Cossacks settled on the Eastern Siberian territories. In the XIX century Yenisei, Amur, Ussuri and, to the south of Altai, Semirechye Cossacks appeared in Russia.

1) Semirechye Cossacks were settled on the territories of today’s Alma Ata and Chimkent regions of Kazakhstan. In those times Semirechye region of Russian empire located there with the centre in the city of Vernom (today’s Alma Ata). Semirechye Cossack Host was formed by Russian government in 1852-1867 and existed till 1918.

2) Yenisei Cossacks, who were settled on the territories of today’s Krasnoyarsk, Irkutsk regions and Sakha Republic (Yakutia), formed Yenisei Cossack Host only in 1917. The same year Yakut Cossack regiment which numbered about 3 thousand people was formed by the Ministry of internal Affairs. Yenisei Cossacks were called as well “Irkutsk Cossacks”, “Krasnoyarsk Cossacks”, “Yakut Cossacks”. [21]

3) Amur Cossack Host was formed by the government in 1855-1858. The first settlement –ostrog – in the place of today’s city of Blagoveshensk appeared in 1679. Amur Cossacks were settled on the territory of Priamurye (Amur River region) and Primorye (today’s Amur region and Khabarovsk area) colonizing practically totally uninhabited territories near China. In 1856, in the place of ostrog Cossacks organized the station and military post Ust Zeyskaya which became one of the trade and administrative centers of Priamurye and the center of Amur Cossack Host. In 1858 Amur region was formed here – the administrative territorial unit of Russian Empire Ust Zeyskaya was renamed in Blagoveshensk. The major peaceful occupations of Amur Cossacks were horse breeding and farming.

4) Ussuri Cossacks Host was formed by the government in 1865-1889 by the Cossacks settled in Primorye from Amur Cossack Host. The center of the Host was primarily the city of Vladivostok, then – Iman. Ussuri Cossacks lived on the territories of today’s Primorskiy and Khabarovsk regions, their major peaceful occupations were farming and horse breeding. Ussuri Cossack Host was abolished in 1918.

Thus, Cossacks were formed by many various nationalities, but Slavic prevailed. From the point of view of ethnography the first Cossacks can be divided by the place of their origin into Ukrainian and Russian ones. Military Cossacks and free Cossacks can be distinguished among both. Free Cossacks were represented in Ukraine by Zaporizhzhya Sich (existed till 1775), and military Cossacks – by “register” Cossacks, who got wages for servicing Polish-Lithuanian State.

Russian military Cossacks (city, regiment and guarding ones) were used for guarding zasichni places and cities; for this they got wages and lands for life use. Although they were equated to “military men with weapons” (archers, gunners), but still, unlike them, they had a village organization and elective system of military rule. This way they existed till the beginning of the 18 century. The first community of Russian free Cossacks appeared on the Don River, then on Yaik, Terek and Volga. Unlike the military Cossacks, the centers of appearing of free Cossacks became the coasts of major rivers (Dnieper, Don, Yaik, Terek) and steppe territories, which remarkably influenced Cossacks and determined their lifestyle.

A number of interesting points and features in the formation of the Cossack territories set out in the author,s publications.[3-16]


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