Terek Cossacks

Ethnogenesiss of the Terec Cossacks is perhaps one of the most complex isssues. Terek Host had more influxes from different ethnic groups than Don, Dnieper or pretty much any other. There are Khazars, Circassians, Slavs, Turkic people among the ancestors of the Terek Cossacks.

The Cossacks lived along the banks of the Terek river for a long time before those territories were taken over by Russia. Originally, the communities of the Cossacks in that region were called "Greben" Cossacks (from "Greben'" -- mountain). In 17th century, researcher Rigelman wrote, that before coming to the Terek those Cossacks lived in the mountains among the Kabardians (Circassians) and were called "Kozars" (having something to do with the Christian population of once powerful multy-ethnic and multi-religions Khazar Khanate). It is interesting, that the founders of the Cossack settlement "Cherkasy" on the Dnieper (Piatigorsk Cherkasy) are traced by the historians to the same region. 

Greben Cossacks re-settled to the Terek river at the end of 15th century, after the Turkish invasion into the parts of the Caucasus and the mass slaughters of the Christian population by Sekaidar's raid. Greben Cossacks, being Christian, agreed to ally with the Russian Tsar Ivan IV. Together with Kabardians they contained movement of the Turks into the Persian-controlled Dagestan. At the end of 16th century, Russia built new fort in the Terek region, Terka (named after the one left in ruins after Turkish invasion in 1582). Significant numbers of the "service Cossacks" from the higher Volga were moved to settle there. In addition to the Greben and Volga Cossacks, some groups of the Don Cossacks joined the Terek community.  

The Terek Cossacks lost some of their freedoms and independence at about the same time as the Don and Zaporozhian Cossacks, in 18th century. From 1721 the Terek Cossacks became subjects of the Russian Empire, reporting to the Military Board. Beginning 1836, all the Terek Cossacks became part of the Caucasus Line (Frontier) Host.

After the revolution of 1917 Terek Cossacks, like the other hosts, restored their ancient tradition forms of self-government (krug) and elected atamans. For almost a year, being in encirclement, Terek Cossacks defended their land from the Red and pro-Red enemies, until the beginning of 1919, when Kuban Cossacks finally broke through to rescue their Terek allies. But the Civil War could not be won by the Cossacks and the White Armies, the ratio to the Reds was something like 1 to 10... When the Civil War was over, many Terek Cossacks left Russia fleeing persecutions from the communists. The Terek Cossacks experienced the same genocide from the Lenin-Stalin government as other Cossacks and the nations of the North Caucasus. 

From the late 1980's, Terek Cossacks began re-building their communities. They re-created the Terek Cossack Host and are reviving their traditions, conducting host meetings (krug), electing their atamans

Terek Cossack, 1871. (25KB)


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