Probably, each of us from childhood is familiar with the expression "in bellies". And it is connected in our minds, first of all, with a special way of crawling. "On their bellies" means to spread out and crawl, huddled to the ground. But if there is a word "in bellies", then there is also a word "in bellies".
In the Russian Empire, scout units were called scouts, which, in fact, were an analogue of modern special purpose units. Such units were recruited from the Cossacks of the Kuban (formerly - Black Sea) Cossack army. The Kubans were already known throughout the country for their excellent military qualities, and the scouts were indeed "the best of the best." Or, more precisely, "special of the best."
Back in the days of the Zaporozhye Sich, Cossacks were called “scouts” - scouts who could “spread out” and sneak into the enemy camp unnoticed. When the Cossacks were resettled to the Kuban, the Black Sea army took over the tradition of the Plastun detachments. But now the plastuns acted for the glory of the Russian Empire. In 1842, Plastun teams were established at the foot and horse units of the Black Sea army.
It was not so easy to get into the plastuns. It was required to have remarkable qualities, even by the standards of the rest of the Kuban Cossacks - physical strength, endurance, inconspicuousness, hunting skills. Historically, a rather complicated system for selecting candidates for plastuns has developed. These candidates were chosen by the "old men" from among the most tested and trained warriors, and they tried to take the young recruits from the "Plastun dynasties" - that is, families in which both father, grandfather and great-grandfather were Plastuns.
A very high level of physical fitness was expected from the plastun. It was not so easy to wander day and night through the mountains and forests, in any weather, be it a forty-degree heat, frost or pouring rain.
Therefore, the plastun had to be a very hardy and patient person, ready to wait where necessary and devoid of the fervor inherent in many Cossacks. You can be a very good fighter, but not have patience - and then it will play a bad service, because it is not so easy to lie for hours in the reeds, not betraying your presence with a single movement or rustle. What was one "shot to crunch" worth - accurate shooting in absolute darkness, with zero visibility, which did not prevent the plastuns from hitting the target even in such conditions.
They tried to select hereditary hunters for plastuns, since it is one thing - military skills that could be taught to almost any new recruit, and a completely different thing - those qualities that only a hunter could have from an early age. Silently moving around, finding the right path, surviving in a deep forest or in the mountains - it would take not only many months, but years to teach all this to an ordinary recruit. Hunters, on the other hand, ended up in the Plastun units, already possessing all the above skills.
In addition, the plastuns were taught to shoot, trained in hand-to-hand combat, and taught them the basics of artillery. At that time, the plastuns were armed with threaded fittings, to which the cleavers were attached. In fact, the scouts were "universal soldiers" who, from the middle of the 19th century, took part in almost all the wars of the Russian Empire - the Caucasian, Crimean, Russian-Turkish wars, the Russian-Japanese war and the First World War.
In everyday life, the scouts wore clothes of the Circassian (Caucasian) type and were practically indistinguishable from the indigenous population of the North Caucasus, with whom they mainly had to fight during the years of the long and bloody Caucasian war. The plastun's outfit consisted of a Circassian coat, a hats, chuvyakov (soft leather shoes without heels, which were ideal for quick and quiet movement) from a wild boar skin with bristles outward, a grease gun, an awl made of a wild goat's horn, a bowler hat, a powder flask, a bag for bullets, hand grenades, dagger and choke. That famous Cossack saber was worn only in units or when it was necessary to engage in open battle. Even the choke plastun was not used in all cases, preferring to operate with a dagger, whip or hands. Grenades were used as a last resort - as a rule, in order to throw at the enemy in case of detection, and then "make legs".
In the conditions of the Caucasian War, the plastuns proved to be simply irreplaceable. They, perfectly familiar with the lifestyle and combat tactics of the mountaineers, opposed the latter in the same way as in the twentieth century special forces opposed the rebels in the countries of the "third world" - they acted with their own methods. The plastuns seemed all the more terrible to the command of the European armies, which were to face the "Cossack special forces" during the Crimean War.
Plastuns were used by the Russian army to organize sabotage behind enemy lines and to knock out artillerymen, which made it possible to neutralize enemy artillery. On November 28, 1854, the plastuns, cutting out the French sentries, took an entire mortar battery prisoner and, forcing the prisoners to carry guns, carried away three six-barrel mortar barrels to the Russian troops.
In fact, it was the use of scouts in the Crimean War that gave rise to the formation of military intelligence units as part of conventional army infantry regiments. At first, such units were "unofficial" - regimental commanders selected the most courageous, intelligent and trained soldiers, armed them with chokes and sent them on night patrols. Of course, the level of training of such army scouts was lower than that of the scouts, but this did not mean that they fought less courageously.
During the battles in the defense of Sevastopol, many Kuban plastuns distinguished themselves, and the 2nd Kuban Plastun battalion even received the St. George's banner with the inscription "For exemplary difference in the defense of Sevastopol in 1854 and 1855". The 8th Plastun battalion was awarded the St. George's banner with the inscription "For the difference in the capture of the fortress of Anapa on June 12, 1828 and exemplary courage in the defense of Sevastopol in 1854 and 1855."
During the First World War, 24 Plastun battalions went to the front. It is interesting that the scouts fought in almost all sectors of the front. For example, on the Caucasian front, plastun detachments were able to infiltrate even the territory of modern Iraq. One of the most striking episodes in the history of the plastuns was the defense of Sarikamish. The Turkish division, moving in the vanguard of the main forces of the Turkish army, was stopped by a combined detachment of border guards and militias, and then troops began to move into the city. For four days, the 1st Kuban Plastun brigade fought fierce battles in the streets of the city. But the Turks were still able to capture the station and the barracks. On the fourth day of the fighting, only two hundred of the 6th Kuban Plastun battalion remained in reserve, which the command decided to throw into battle late in the evening. Without firing a single shot, the scouts were able to penetrate the location of the Turkish troops and arrange a real massacre there.
Soon the Turks began to retreat, and the scouts, pursuing them, chopped down a large Turkish detachment in hand-to-hand combat. The Turks then lost about 800 people killed and wounded. The Russian army was saved from encirclement by the scouts. And the higher command did not leave the feat of the plastuns without a reward. The 6th Kuban plastun battalion for the battle in Sarykamysh received the right to wear the emperor's monogram, and Nicholas II personally arrived at the front to award the brave plastuns.
Plastuns distinguished themselves in a number of landing operations. For example, it was the scouts who ensured the capture of the most important Turkish port of Trebizond by the Russian army, from which the supply of the 3rd Turkish army operating against the Russians was carried out. Three teams were replaced in the Plastun units during the First World War. The losses were high, but the plastuns fought extremely courageously.
The Revolution and the Civil War marked the end of the Plastun divisions of the old Russian army. Most of the plastuns ended up in the Volunteer Army, fought on the side of the "whites" in the Caucasus. Who died, who went into exile. By the way, in emigration, some Cossacks-scouts entered service in foreign armies and there made a significant contribution to the formation of special units of the armies of foreign states.
In Soviet Russia, the plastunas were forgotten for a long time - "decossackization" did not allow recalling the heroism of the brave warriors. On the other hand, new special reconnaissance and sabotage units of the Red Army and the NKVD were created, which were not inferior to the scouts of the imperial army in terms of their level of training.
In the late 1930s, the Soviet leadership lifted restrictions on the service of the Cossacks in the Red Army. Some cavalry units were called "Cossack". During the Great Patriotic War, they also remembered the scouts. In early September 1943, the 9th Mountain Rifle Division, which had recently participated in the battles for Krasnodar and received the honorary name "Krasnodar", was withdrawn to the reserve of the Supreme Commander-in-Chief Headquarters. Soon it was completely reorganized and on its basis the 9th Plastun Rifle Krasnodar Red Banner Order of the Red Star Division named after the Central Executive Committee of the Georgian SSR was created.
The division was staffed mainly with representatives of the Kuban Cossacks - the Soviet leadership had already realized by this time that the Cossacks were serious warriors and it would be foolish not to use their natural courage and fighting qualities. Units of the 9th Plastun Division took part in the Vistula-Oder, Moravian-Ostrava, Prague and other operations, liberated cities and towns of the western regions and republics of the USSR, Eastern Europe from the Nazi invaders.
The 9th division included the 36th Plastun Rifle Regiment, 121st Red Banner Plastun Regiment, 193rd Plastun Rifle Regiment, 1448th Self-Propelled Artillery Regiment, 256th Artillery Regiment, 55th Separate Anti-Tank Destroyer Division, 26th reconnaissance company, 140th engineer battalion, 232nd separate communications battalion (1432nd separate communications company), 123rd medical and sanitary battalion, 553rd separate company of chemical protection, 161st motor transport company, 104th field bakery, 156th divisional veterinary hospital, 203rd field post station and 216th field cash desk of the State Bank. Major General Pyotr Ivanovich Metalnikov (1900-1969) was appointed commander of the division.
After the war, in 1946, the division was reorganized into the 9th separate personnel Plastun Rifle Krasnodar, Red Banner, Orders of Kutuzov and Red Star brigade named after the Supreme Soviet of the Georgian SSR. In 1949, on the basis of the brigade, the 9th Mountain Rifle Krasnodar, Red Banner, Orders of Kutuzov and the Red Star division, located in Maykop, was recreated. In 1954, the division was renamed the 9th Rifle Division, and in 1957, the 80th Motorized Rifle Division. In 1964, the division number was restored, and in 1992, the 131st separate motorized rifle Krasnodar, Red Banner, orders of Kutuzov and the Red Star, the Kuban Cossack brigade were formed from the 9th motorized rifle division.
Since 2009, the successor to the listed brigades and divisions is the 7th Krasnodar Red Banner Orders of Kutuzov and the Red Star, a military base stationed in Abkhazia. Thus, the glorious traditions of the Kuban Cossacks who fought in all the wars waged by the Russian Empire, the Soviet Union, and the Russian Federation are preserved to this day.
The foundation laid by the Plastun detachments of the Kuban Cossack army is now actively used by special forces of the Russian army and other power structures of the country. And the word "plastun" itself is associated with incredible prowess and amazing skills to silently shoot the sentry, capture the enemy "tongue", and carry out the most incredible operations behind enemy lines.