Modern Cossacks: types, classification, units, charter, awards history and historical facts

Cossacks are an integral part of Russian history and culture. Their images - principled, bold and strong-willed - come to life on the pages of the immortal works of N. V. Gogol, M. A. Sholokhov and L. N. Tolstoy. Napoleon admired the Cossacks, called them the best light troops, having which, he would have passed the whole world. Fearless warriors and discoverers of the Russian suburbs in the Soviet period fell into the millstones of Stalin's repressions and would have sunk into oblivion if it were not for the Russian government, which made an attempt to preserve and revive this cultural and ethnic community. What came of this, and what modern Cossacks do, read the article.

Cossacks in domestic history

Zaporizhzhya Cossacks

In the scientific community, there is some confusion over the question of who the Cossacks are - a separate ethnic group, an independent nation, or even a special nation descended from the Turks and Slavs. The reason for the uncertainty lies in the absence of reliable written sources that shed light on the appearance of the Cossacks, as well as many alleged ancestors, including Tatars, Scythians, Kasogs, Khazars, Kyrgyz, Slavs, etc. Scientists have more or less unanimous opinions regarding the place and time of the Cossacks. : in the 14th century, the uninhabited steppes in the lower reaches of the Don and Dnieper began to be replenished by immigrants from neighboring principalities, runaway peasants and other ethnosocial groups. As a result, two large associations were formed: the Don and Zaporizhzhya Cossacks.

The etymology of the word "Cossack" also has several versions. In one of them, the word means a free nomad, in the other - a hired worker or warrior, in the third - a steppe robber. All versions, one way or another, create the image of the Cossack and have the right to exist. Cossacks, indeed, were considered free people, wonderful warriors who had been trained in military skills since childhood and who were not equal in horse riding. Particularly thanks to the Cossacks, the southern and eastern lands were annexed to Russia, and the state borders were protected from invaders.

Russian Cossacks at the front

Cossacks and state power

Depending on the relationship with the ruling elite, the Cossacks were divided into free and military. State pressure was the first to disdain, so they often expressed their dissatisfaction with the uprisings, the most famous of which were led by Razin, Bulavin and Pugachev. The latter obeyed the tsarist regime and received salaries and lands for their service. The system of organization of Cossack life was distinguished by democratic orders, and all fundamental decisions were made at special meetings. At the end of the 17th century, Cossacks swore allegiance to the Russian throne, throughout the 18th century the state reformed the Cossack administration structure in the right direction, and from the beginning of the 19th century until the 1917 revolution, Cossacks were the most valuable part of the Russian army. In the early Soviet era, a policy of reprisal was carried out, accompanied by mass repressions of the Cossacks, and in 1936 the restoration of the Cossacks began with the possibility of joining them to the Red Army. Already in World War II, the Cossacks were again able to prove their worth.

Kuban Cossacks, 1942

Nevertheless, during the Soviet Union, the culture of the Cossacks began to be forgotten, but after the collapse of the USSR, its revival began.

Rehabilitation of the Cossacks

The Declaration on the Rehabilitation of the Russian Cossacks, subjected to repression, was adopted shortly before the collapse of the USSR in 1989. In 1992, the Decree of the President of the Russian Federation and the Decree of the Supreme Council of the Russian Federation were issued, which enshrined the provisions relating to the restoration and functioning of Cossack societies. In 1994, the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation came into effect, which determined the development strategy for the Cossacks, in particular, the civil service of the Cossacks. As noted in the document, it was during the period of public service that the Cossacks acquired characteristic features, therefore, in order to revive the Cossacks as a whole, it is necessary first of all to restore its state status. In 2008, an updated concept of state policy regarding the Cossacks was adopted, the key objectives of which were actions aimed at developing the state and other services of the Cossacks, as well as actions to revive traditions and educate the young generation of Cossacks. In 2012, the Strategy for the Development of the Russian Cossacks until 2020 was released. Its key objective is to promote partnership between the state and the Cossacks. The state register of Cossack societies is carried out by the Ministry of Justice of the Russian Federation and its territorial bodies. Information that should be included in the register: type of company, company name, address, total number and number of people participating in a state or other service, company charter and other data.

Below in the photo are modern Cossacks.

Modern Kuban Cossacks

Priority directions of state policy

With regard to the Russian Cossacks, the Government of the Russian Federation has set the following priorities:

  • involvement in the civil service (or other service), as well as improving the legal, economic and organizational basis of the service;
  • upbringing of the younger generation;
  • development of rural territories and agro-industrial complex in the places of residence of Cossack communities;
  • improvement of local government.

The main activities of modern Cossacks

Cossacks in Russia are citizens of the Russian Federation who are members of Cossack societies and are direct descendants of Cossacks or citizens who wish to join the ranks of the Cossacks. Societies are a non-profit form of self-organization of citizens of the Russian Federation to revive the traditions of the Cossacks in the country.

Cossack society is created in the form of a farm, village, city, district (yurt), district (detachment) or military Cossack society, the members of which, in the prescribed manner, assume obligations to perform public or other services. The management of the Cossack society is carried out by the supreme governing body of the Cossack society, the chieftain of the Cossack society, as well as other management bodies of the Cossack society, formed in accordance with the charter of the Cossack society.

In fact, military Cossack societies are at the top of the hierarchy.

The public service to which modern Cossacks are involved:

  • Education of recruits.
  • Implementation of measures to prevent and eliminate the consequences of emergencies.
  • Civil defense.
  • Defense of territories.
  • Environmental activities.
  • Public order protection.
  • Ensuring fire safety.
  • Ensuring environmental safety.
  • The fight against terrorism.
  • Protection of forests, wildlife.
  • Border protection of the Russian Federation.
  • Protection of state and other important facilities.

Revived Cossacks: myth or real power?

The past of the Cossacks

Disputes about how to relate to the Cossacks today do not cease. Many people call modern Cossacks mummers, a sham, a completely unnecessary link without the numerous power departments. In addition, there is great uncertainty in the distribution of budget funds between the Cossacks, and there are questions about the financial statements of Cossack societies. The actions of some Cossacks fall under criminal or administrative prosecutions, which also does not contribute to consolidating the positive reputation of the Cossacks. In the understanding of Russians, modern Cossacks are either public figures, or additional law enforcement agencies, or loafers dependent on the state, or second-rate unskilled employees who take on any job. All this uncertainty, the absence of a single ideological line even between Cossack societies of the same territory creates obstacles to the revival of the Cossacks and positive attitude towards the Cossacks on the part of citizens. The population of historically Cossack capitals has a slightly different opinion about Cossacks - there the phenomenon of Cossacks is perceived much more naturally than, say, in the capital of the country. We are talking about the Krasnodar Territory and the Rostov Region.

Modern Kuban Cossacks

Cossack societies function in many regions of Russia. The largest military Cossack societies are the Great Don Army, the Kuban Cossack Army and the Siberian Cossack Army. The Kuban Cossack army was formed in 1860. Today it includes more than 500 Cossack societies. Cossack patrols are a common occurrence for many Kuban cities. Together with the police, they prevented many crimes throughout the region. Kuban Cossacks successfully participate in the aftermath of the emergency (for example, the Crimean flood), help prevent local conflicts, in particular, with the annexation of Crimea. They also participate in law enforcement at various events, including world-class ones (Olympics 2014, Russian Grand Prix Formula 1), serve in border posts, identify poachers and much more.

Cossacks at the Olympics in Sochi

The current governor of the Krasnodar Territory Veniamin Kondratyev (like previous governors) seeks to support the Cossacks in every possible way: expand their terms of reference, involve young people, etc. As a result, the role of modern Cossacks in the life of the region is growing every year.

Don Cossacks

Don Cossacks are the oldest Cossack army in Russia and the most numerous. The all-great army of the Don is in the public service and participates in military-patriotic work. Public order protection, military service, border protection, protection of social facilities, combating drug trafficking, anti-terrorist operations - these and other tasks are performed by modern Don Cossacks. Of the known events in which they participated, one can note the peacekeeping operation in South Ossetia and the raid on the Big landing ship "Azov" against Somali pirates.

Cossacks uniform and awards

The form of modern Kuban Cossacks

Heraldic traditions span more than one century. The modern form of the Cossacks is divided into the front, everyday and field, as well as summer and winter. The rules for sewing and wearing clothes, the rules for wearing epaulets in accordance with the Cossack rank are defined. Between the Cossack troops there are certain differences in the shape and color of uniforms, trousers, stripes, bands of caps and caps top. Changes in the award policy entailed the approval of orders, medals, military and badges, which, on the one hand, preserve the traditions of the Russian Cossacks, on the other hand, have their own distinctive features.


So, Cossacks in modern Russia are divided according to territorial characteristics, the type of society in which they are members, and they are also registered and unregistered. Only registered Cossacks can serve in the civil service , and in fact, the highest Cossack societies are military Cossack societies. Each society has its own charter, form and structure. In Russia at this stage, the most significant are the Don Army and the Kuban Cossack Army. The Kuban and Don Cossacks continue the traditions of their glorious ancestors, solve law enforcement and other tasks, and their ranks are replenished with young cadres every year.


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