Terek Cossacks

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Origin and History

The earliest known records of Slavic settlements on the Lower Terek River date to 1520 when the Ryazan Principality was annexed by the Grand Duchy of Moscow and a lone group left and settled on the Terek River, at the mouth of the Aktash River. They rapidly expanded their settlements on both banks of the Terek River. These refugees from the Ryazan Principality formed the oldest Cossack group, the Mountain Cossacks.

From 1559 to 1571, the Russians built several fortifications in the region. In 1577, after the Volga Cossacks were defeated by the Strelets Ivan Murashkin, many scattered, some of whom settled in the Terek basin, marking the start of the Terek Cossacks.

Imperial Russia created several administrative subdivisions of Cossacks called Kozache Viysko (Cossack Host). These Hosts consisted of a certain territory with Cossack settlements that had to provide military regiments for service in the Imperial Russian Army and for border patrol. The stanitsa (village) formed the primary unit of this organization.

The Terek Cossack Host was created in 1577 from free Cossacks who had resettled from the Volga to the Terek River, a major river in the Northern Caucasus, flowing through Georgia and Russia into the Caspian Sea. Many of the early members of the Terek Cossacks were Ossetians.

In 1580, some Don Cossacks led by Shadra joined the Terek Cossack Host, settling in the frontier town of Tersky.

In the late XVIth century, the Terek Cossacks made several campaigns against the Ottoman Empire.

By the mid XVIIth century the Terek Cossacks again expanded into the Sunzha where they built a new outpost in 1651. However, in 1653, the tsar advised the Cossacks to pull down this outpost. In the 1670s the Terek Cossacks helped to defeat Stenka Razin in Astrakhan.

From 1695 to 1707, the Turks gradually destroyed the outposts of the Terek Cossacks on the right bank of the Terek.

In 1720, the Terek Cossacks were fully incorporated into the Russian Empire.

During the Russo-Persian War (1722-1723), the Terek Cossack Host took part in the conquest of Eastern Dagestan and in the capture of Derbent.

In 1735, the Agrakhan Cossack Host were incorporated into the Terek Cossack Host and re-settled on the Lower Terek Delta. The host was reorganised in 3 parts:

  1. Grebenskoye Cossacks (Rowers), from the descendants of the earliest Cossacks
  2. Tersko-Semeynoye (Terek-Family) from the re-settled Agrakhan Cossacks up to Kizlyar
  3. Tersko-Kizlyarskoye (Terek-Kizlyar) from the Agrakhan Cossacks as well as Armenians and Georgians

During the Russo-Turkish War (1735–1739), the Terek Cossacks, led by Atamans Auka and Petrov took part in a campaign against Temryuk at the mouth of the Kuban River.

By the time of the Seven Years' War, this Host could field only 630 men but in 1776, it could field 3,000 Cossacks.

During the Seven Years' War, the regiment was commanded by:

  • no information found

In 1792, the Terek Cossack Host was incorporated into the Caucasus Line Cossack Host.

Service during the War

In 1756, these Cossacks were initially stationed in the Government of Astrakhan.

During the Seven Years' War, it seems that at least one converged regiment of Terek Cossacks campaigned with the Russian Army in Prussia.

Uniform

Illustrations of Cossacks
The Anne S. K. Brown Military Collection at Brown University make available a large number of illustrations depicting Cossacks. Even though they are mostly of the 1812-1815 period, they give a fairly good idea of the way Cossacks dressed during this era.

At the outbreak of the Seven Years' War, the Terek Cossacks did not wear uniforms. Their clothes were strongly influence by their oriental neighbours (Circassians, Turks, Kalmuks, Tatars). They were dressed with a busby (usually sheepskin), a long Circassian caftan known as a Cherkesska (probably decorated with cartridge pockets on each side of the chest), a Tatar waistcoat, a black sleeveless felt coat, baggy trousers, and knee high Circassian boots.

Troopers were usually armed with a lance, a sword and a pistol. They could also carry a knife and a musket.

The Terek Cossack Host received its first uniforms in 1769. From then on, blue and white were traditionally associated to the uniforms of the Terek Cossacks.

Musicians

Kettle-drummers are sometimes mentioned with Cossack units.

Colours

These regiments had probably no official standard even though they may had some unofficial ones.

References

Grosser Generalstab Kriegsgeschichtliche Abteilung II: Die Kriege Friedrichs des Grossen, Part 3 Der siebenjährige Krieg 1756-1763, Vol. 4 Groß-Jägersdorf und Breslau, Berlin, 1902, appendix 1

Konstam A. & B. Younghusband : Russian Army of the Seven Years War, Osprey, London, 1996

Seaton, Albert: The Cossacks, Oxford: Osprey, 1972

Summerfield, Stephen: Cossack Hurrah!, Leigh-on-Sea: Partizan Press, 2005

Wikipedia - Terek Cossacks