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Sunday, June 1, 2014

Bolt Action - 28mm Soviet Cossacks


After successfully building Soviet Cavalry using Perry’s ACW Cavalry and Warlord Plastic Soviets, I decided to attempt to make a unit of Cossacks as well.  I followed the same steps when building my Cossacks as I did for my regular Soviet cavalry. The only difference was the types of heads I used. Instead of helmeted Soviet heads, I used the Soviet heads with fur caps found in the Warlord set. Before gluing the heads in place I cut the ear flaps off the top of the head so that the fur cap was flat to form the crest of the Cossack hat. This allowed me to paint on the Cossack crest and cross. The plastic set from Warlord only has ten heads with fur caps, making it two short of the twelve needed to match the Perry set. Lucky for me I have bought four sets of Warlord Plastics over the last year and saved the left over bits each time. Since most the previous figures I built had helmets, I had plenty of left over heads with fur caps. I had so many extra fur hat heads that I will be able to build a sufficient number of dismounted Cossacks with the remaining plastic bodies. This is a good example of why you should always save all of your bits.


Don Cossacks
Russian Cossacks were organized into hosts, which were based on the territory or regions the Cossacks came from. I chose to paint up my Cossacks as Don Cossacks, which were from the Don River basin. Don Cossacks are one of the oldest known and recognized Cossacks hosts. Don Cossacks have contributed troops to all of Russia's major conflicts, and several thousand Don Cossacks fought during the War (for both sides). In fact, the largest number of Cossacks that fought for the Germans during the War came from the Don Host. Many Don Cossacks had no love for the Soviet Union.  Prior to the War, more than half of the Don Cossacks were killed by the Soviet Regime or deported as a result of Soviet policy. However, many other Don Cossacks were loyal to the Russian cause, and fought bravely in the Red Army during the War.  Don Cossacks fought so well that they were allowed to march in the Victory Parade in Moscow at War's end. 

One of the most famous and decorated Cossacks from the War was a Don Cossack named Konstantin Nedorubov who served with the 41st Don Cossack Cavalry Division. Nedorubov was awarded the Hero of the Soviet Union and reportedly killed 70 Germans single handedly while defending a village.



Cossack History
Cossacks are Slavic people who originally come from Ukraine and Southern Russian. The first mention of the Cossacks comes from the 14th century, with the emergence of the Zaporozhian Sich and Don Host. The Don Cossacks allied themselves with Imperial Russia and helped the Empire’s conquest of the Volga and Siberia. The name Cossack comes from the Turkic word Kazaks, which was a reference to the free people of Russian. Throughout the last 500 years of Russian history, Cossacks have played an important military and cultural role in Russia.  


As Russia expanded the Cossacks acted as a buffer protecting the Empire from its enemies. As a result the Cossacks enjoyed a level of autonomy, freedom, and self-rule in an empire dominated by the Tsar and serfdom.  This autonomy often led to Cossack Rebellions which were ruthlessly put down by the Tsars. When Cossacks served in the Russian military, they were expected to provide their own supplies, with the exception of fire arms. Those were provided by the Empire. This resulted in colorful and diverse uniforms and weapons.  Even though Cossacks were given firearms, they often favored their lance and saber.

In battle, Cossacks were well known for their bravery, courage, and ferocious warrior culture. This made them particularly tough fighters who were respected at home and abroad. Napoleon once said, “Cossacks are the best light troops among all that exist. If I had them in my army, I would go through all the world with them.” Cossacks have served in nearly every war fought by Russia, were used to suppress internal discontent, acted as a police force, and have served as border guards (internal and external) for Russia. Cossacks were also used abroad and participated in the occupation of Berlin during the Seven Years War, and Paris at the end of the Napoleonic War. 


When Bolshevism came to power in the early 20th century, the Don and Kuban Cossacks declared independence from Russia (forming the Don Republic, the Kuban People's Republic, and the Ukrainian State) and declared war on the Bolsheviks. Cossacks formed a significant part of the White Army and as a result were subjected to man-made famine and Decossackization after the Russian Civil War ended. Decossackization was a Soviet policy that broke up the and disbanded the hosts and as a result, Russia saw many Cossacks flee their native territory and immigrate to the West.


Cossack Hosts
Cossacks were divided into hosts. The title host means a variety of things historically and traditionally for Cossacks. In modern times it is a reference to the specific groups of Cossacks an individual belongs to. However, originally a host referred to the Cossacks from a specific region or territory. In total there are eleven recognized Cossack hosts. They are Don, Kuban, Terek, Astrakhan, Ural, Orenburg, Siberian, Semiryeche, Transbaikal, Amur, and Ussauri. Host can also refer to a Cossack army.  Each host has its own traditions, culture, uniforms, and customs.



Host
Year est.
Cherkesska or Tunic
Beshmet
Trousers
Fleece Hat
Shoulder Straps
1570
blue tunic
none
blue with red stripes
red crown
blue
1571
blue tunic
none
blue with crimson stripes
crimson crown
crimson
1577
grey-brown cherkesska
light blue
grey
light blue crown
light blue
1864
black cherkesska
red
grey
red crown
red
1744
green tunic
none
green with light blue stripes
light blue crown
light blue
1750
blue tunic
none
blue with yellow stripes
yellow crown
yellow
1750s
green tunic
none
green with red stripes
red crown
red
1851
green tunic
none
green with yellow stripes
yellow crown
yellow
1858
green tunic
none
green with yellow stripes
yellow crown
green
1867
green tunic
none
green with crimson stripes
crimson crown
crimson
1889
green tunic
none
green with yellow stripes
yellow crown
yellow
(uniform chart taken from wikipedia)

During the War Cossacks often wore the Khaki Soviet tunics while retaining their fleece hat and pants.  However some Cossacks wore their traidtional tunics like these Kuban Cossacks.

Battlefront has an excellent resource on painting Cossacks. Their guide also includes different variations on Cossack uniforms. Check out their painting guide HERE


Cossacks in WW2
People of Cossack decent served in most nations' armies during World War Two. Those who had immigrated to the west volunteered to fight for their host nations. Cossacks in Western Europe often became partisans, and Cossacks in Russia fought for and against the Soviet Union. In the East some formed resistance movements that did not favor the Russians or the Nazis.   These resistance movements sought to carve out independent Cossack nations or states.  Even though some Cossacks fought for Germany, most fought against Germany. For example, in 1942 the Soviets had 17 corps of Cossack while the Germans had 2 corps.  In total the Soviets fielded 49 Cossack Divisions during the War and many other ethnic Cossacks served throughout the Red Army.  Cossack units distinguished themselves in battle and were often honored with the title of Guards Divisions.
  

The Germans normally used Cossack units serving in their army in an anti-partisan role. In total about 25,000 men formed the German XV Cossack Cavalry Corp. These troops served in the East and the West and wore Wehrmacht uniforms, but had close ties to the SS.  Most Cossacks were Russian Orthodox or Old Believers and forbid the wearing of pagan emblems often found on most SS uniforms. At the end of the War many of the Cossacks that served Germany surrendered to the British, hoping that they would be able to continue their fight against the Russians. Initially they were told they would be resettled in Canada, but the British eventually turned them over to the Red Army due to alleged atrocities committed during the War. This totaled about 50,000 Cossacks, many of whom were executed. This has come to be known as the Betrayal of the Cossacks.


The Betrayal of the Cossacks eventually lead Alec Trevelyan, whose Cossack parents were killed by the Red Army after their return to Russia, to turn against Queen and Country and his good friend James Bond in an attempt fulfill his quest for vengeance. Trevelyan took control of the Golden Eye satellites and planed to use them to satisfy his hatred for England.  James Bond tracked down Trevelyan, who was hiding in Cuba.  Bond and Trevelyan ended up fighting to the death on top of a giant antenna.  Bond threw Trevelyan off a cat walk and Trevelyan was killed when the exploding antenna dropped on top of his paralyzed body.   In the end James Bond got the girl and saved England. This little known part of Cossack history is immortalized in the movie and N64 video game James Bond: Golden Eye. (True story. - J)

Cossacks are a great way to add character and flavor to your army.  Cossack uniforms are colorful and break up the solid wall of Soviet troops dressed in khaki.  If you don't collect Soviets you can paint their tunics field grey and have them serve in a German force as well.  Cossacks also allow you to bring in a little bit of history into your games that you and your friends might not otherwise be aware of.  If you have Cossacks or other interesting and lesser know units in your army share with us on the forum.


Resources
Cossack Painting Guide
How to Convert Cavalry

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