The Don Cossacks

The Red Army occupied the Don after the death of Ataman Kaledin in February. Entering Novocherskassk on 26 February, they shot his newly-elected successor, Ataman Nazarov, !n response, General Popov and 1,500 Cossacks escaped into the steppes to begin resistance. Meanwhile, the Bolshevik administration desecrated churches, burned farms and overturned the Cossack way of life; consequently, the Don rose in counterrevolution in April. On 16 May the Don council, or Krug, elected General Petr Krasnov as ataman. By June the Don flag of scarlet-yellow-blue had been hoisted and 40,000 Cossacks were under arms.

Krasnov now had to establish diplomatic ties with one or more of the competing powers surrounding his territory. The Reds were to his north and east and were hostile. The Volunteer Army to the south was friendly, but involved in campaigns in the Kuban. To the west, German troops were moving cast, entering Don voisko (hosl territory) in April and May. By May the Germans had secured Taganrog, Rostov and the Donbas Industrial region, areas which the Don Cossacks considered historically theirs or which they intended to expand into.

The Central Powers needed grain and coal and the Cossacks needed arms and artillery. Therefore, Krasnov struck a deal whereby both sides would receive what they needed and become, in essence, allied. T his deal provoked the ire of Denikin who insisted on a pro-Allied stance. Nevertheless, Krasnov had made the only pragmatic decision open to him. During those months before the Armistice, the Allies were not in a position to support either Denikin or Krasnov.

By mid-August most of the voisko had been freed. The army had stood briefly at 50,000, nearly three-quarters consisting of cavalry. Aircraft, armoured car and armoured train units were under formation. In August, the Cossacks made their first abortive bid to take Tsaritsyn on the Volga. Tsaritsyn was important as the gateway to the Caucasus and Central Asia, as the conduit through which Red forces were supplied and through which vital food passed on their way to hungry Bolshevik-controlled cities in the north.

In September, the Cossacks tried again and succeeded in nearly surrounding the city before being pushed back to the Don. The third attack, commencing on 3 December,

Prussian Cavalry Cossacks The Dons

Cavalry and armoured car of the Central Rada attack Bolshevik positrons in Kiev during the Arsenal uprising, February 1918,The Ukrainian cavalry is wearing light blue and yellow armbands. (Bullock photo, sectional from painting. Arsenal Museum, Kiev)

lasted into January 1919. The Cossacks came under mounting pressure from the lied 8th and 9th Armies on their northern front and a heavily reinforced 10th Army at Tsaritsyn.

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