Perhaps one of the most controversial sciences is history. On the one hand, there is a defining canon: a nation that is not familiar with its own history is doomed to become a part of the history of completely different nations; on the other hand, historical facts can be presented in such a way that they can hardly be called a real reflection of the national and state past. It turns out that history itself is a thing that is full of subjectivism based on the vision of processes and phenomena by those people who call themselves historians. Trying to resist this is pointless, because from a scattering of separate opinions a truly motley picture is formed, in which each of us can find the main, as it seems to him, episode, the main plot thread.
The interpretation of certain historical periods reached its heyday, let's say, in the late Soviet and early post-Soviet periods. At this time, the people received a fair amount of information, which caused a real shock for the majority. Moreover, in most cases, the historical materials published at that time were aimed at the underlined negative in Soviet and Russian history. It was either the Soros grants, or the country simply decided to rears up after many years of the opposite historical one-sidedness, or one layered on top of the other, and a new extreme appeared - the extreme of disbelief in historical publications that came out before the beginning of the so-called Gorbachev era of unbridled publicity. … Like, everything that you read “before” can be forgotten, because “before” was not at all the way the historians of the past tried to present you. But, they say, today's historians need to be believed unconditionally, because only they have the truth in all its instances … In general, the history of the country was thrown from cold to heat (well, or vice versa - after all, everything is relative), as, in fact, its perception …
Today, when society, it seems, has already managed to move away from the reinforced concrete interpretations of the past offered by Soviet historians, and when the adolescence of accepting on faith everything that was proposed as interpretations of a purely "democratic" nature ends, it is worth at least trying to approach that golden the historical middle, which takes into account all aspects of the processes that took place at one time. Of course, this "golden" mean may not be so golden, but rather tarnished by the presence of certain kinds of facts, but, in the end, a story can be neither good nor bad, it must simply be objective.
One of the most controversial pages in the history of Russia is the page that tells about the Great Patriotic War. This period in the life of the peoples of a large country is full of tragedy. It would seem that in war as in war, there is an enemy, but there are defenders of the Fatherland, who fought a merciless struggle against this enemy. There are opponents and there are allies. There is white, there is black. But not everything is so simple and unambiguous in practice. One example of this kind of ambiguity is the role of the Cossacks during the bloody war against the brown plague, which managed to cover many countries of the Old, and not only the Old, World.
The overwhelming majority of Soviet historical materials presented to society a picture in which the Cossacks played an important role in the defeat of the Nazi troops. Post-perestroika historical information also brought other facts according to which the Cossack formations provided active support to the Nazis not only on the territory of the Soviet Union, but also in many European countries. For a long time, these two sides were not perceived by the parties of the same medal, giving rise to two irreconcilable camps, whose representatives were ready to stand to the death for their point of view on the role of the Cossacks during the Great Patriotic War. The facts that the Cossacks could serve fascist Germany caused a storm of indignation among some, and the information that all the Cossacks without exception fought "For Stalin!" Could not be accepted by others. As a result, the history of the Cossacks of 1941-1945 turned into an object of numerous speculations, which to this day sit with sufficient thoroughness in the minds of a certain part of both the Cossacks themselves and other representatives of the Russian public.
Cossacks are ethnosocial groups of people who live on the territory of several countries, including the territory of Russia: from the Far East to the Caucasian ridge. As you can see, the definition given to the Cossacks is very vague. Over the centuries, a clear understanding of who the Cossacks are has not been able to form. When talking with the representatives of the Cossack communities themselves, you can find out that most of the Cossacks consider themselves a special people with a unique culture and rich religious traditions. At the same time, referring to historical materials, we can say that the Cossacks are rather a social stratum that is in some isolation from the social structure that has been formed over many years in our country. Cossacks are often referred to by researchers as free warriors and free people, whose communities have rather strict internal laws that are not always consistent with state laws.
Obviously, if there is a contradiction in the very understanding of such a phenomenon as "Cossacks", then sooner or later this contradiction can be used by forces external to the Cossacks themselves. And this kind of exploitation of the Cossack status has been undertaken repeatedly in the history of the Cossacks. Often, the Cossack fighting spirit and dedication to serving a particular idea simply took advantage of certain political forces.
In the mid-30s of the last century, the press, which had squeezed the Cossacks since the end of the Civil War in Russia, weakened somewhat. The country's top leaders understood that the continuation of the persecution of the Cossacks could have too negative an effect on the course of the country's development. So in 1936, Soviet Cossack formations began to appear as part of the Workers 'and Peasants' Red Army. Tens of thousands of Cossack warriors expressed a desire to become soldiers of the Red Army and, in the event of a major war, which was much talked about at that time, to defend the Land of the Soviets. However, for obvious reasons, not all Cossacks reacted with reverence to the possibility of serving the new authorities, remembering how these new authorities dealt with the Cossack communities during the post-revolutionary civil strife. Resentment (and this is the softest word that can be used in the article) did not give enthusiasm to a large enough number of Cossacks in terms of cooperating with the Soviet government.
As a result, a rather serious split ripened, which in the early 40s led to the emergence of not only Cossacks who were ready to defend the independence of the Soviet Union, but also those representatives of the Cossacks who were ready to use the German fascist invasion for a kind of revenge against Soviet power.
On the one hand, Cossack formations appeared as part of the Red Army: the 13th Don Territorial Cossack Division, the 9th Plastun Volunteer Infantry Division (based on the Kuban Cossacks), the 17th Cossack Cavalry Corps, the 4th Cavalry Leningrad Red Banner Division named after Voroshilov, 6 -I Cavalry Chongarskaya Red Banner Division named after Budyonny and many others.
In 1937, a practical epoch-making event for the Soviet Cossacks took place: they were allowed to take part in the May Day parade on Red Square after years of state rejection.
During the Great Patriotic War, Cossack military formations performed hundreds of unparalleled feats that could become a great contribution to the common cause of defeating the German fascist troops. In the battle for Moscow, 37 Cossacks of the Armavir regiment were able to destroy over 2 dozen German tanks. Cossack units of L. M. Dovator entered the rear of the Nazis during the retreat of the Wehrmacht near Moscow and inflicted heavy damage on the Nazi troops. Cossack divisions took an active part in battles with Wehrmacht units on the Rostov-Krasnodar direction. The courage of the Cossacks during the battle near the village of Kushchevskaya in August 1942 is striking, when the Cossack hundred of the guard of Lieutenant Nedorubov killed over two hundred Wehrmacht soldiers in hand-to-hand combat. Belov's Cossack corps in 1941 inflicted flank attacks on Guderian's units and thwarted Hitler's plans near Moscow. The 4th and 5th Don Cossack corps took part in the liberation of Stavropol from the Nazi invaders. Kryukov's 2nd Guards Cavalry Corps repulsed half a dozen German attacks on the southeastern approaches to Berlin. This glorious list can be continued for a very long time.
As a result, over the years of the Great Patriotic War, over 100 thousand Cossacks were awarded orders, and 279 received the high title of Hero of the Soviet Union. These data, perhaps, are far from complete, because there is still no single list of Cossacks - participants in that bloody war.
This is a glorious page in the history of the Russian Cossacks. However, as already mentioned at the beginning of the material, there is another side to the medal of the participation of the Cossacks in the Great Patriotic War.
After several months of protracted, stubborn and bloody battles, the Reich authorities, realizing that the Blitzkrieg was not to be expected in the Soviet Union, decided to play one of those cards that could become trump cards in the hands of the Nazis. Realizing the fact that there were many people on the territory of the USSR who, for one reason or another, were ready to get rid of Soviet power, Hitler, let's say, decided to reconsider his policy of fighting the "Untermensch" - "subhumans". One of the key links in the revision of the rules of Nazism was that the Cossacks inhabiting the Soviet Union, unexpectedly for many Germans, suddenly ceased to be considered a "flawed second-class race", to which, according to Hitler's ideology, all Slavs belonged. The "correction" of the national question boiled down to the fact that Hitler declared the Cossacks to be a people that had nothing in common with the Slavs, and even almost some kind of distant offshoot of the Aryan race, which can and should also be used to fight Bolshevism. And, admittedly, many Cossacks of the Land of the Soviets liked this idea.
In the fall of 1941, the Reich counterintelligence officer Baron von Kleist made a proposal to form Cossack units that would fight the red partisans. The first Cossack squadron to take the oath to the Third Reich appeared at the end of October 1941. It was headed by the former red commander, who defected to the side of the Germans, IN Kononov. Subsequently, other Cossack units of Hitler's troops began to appear, which took part not only in the destruction of partisan detachments and representatives of the civilian population "disloyal" to the Third Reich, but also in the attack on Moscow, control of the southern territories and oil fields. By the middle of the 43rd, the Wehrmacht had up to 20 "Russian" Cossack regiments and a solid number of small units, the total number of which was more than 25 thousand people. Most of these units participated in the suppression of resistance to the Wehrmacht units in the rear (Belarus, Ukraine, west and south of Russia), but there were also Cossack units that the Nazis tried to use against the Red Cossacks with the aim of the latter also going over to the side of the Reich. According to numerous testimonies, the Cossacks in the Wehrmacht tried to avoid direct clashes with their brothers in blood, but they carried out active punitive operations against the rear units and civilians. Some Cossack units were sent to the western front, where, after realizing that the days of the Third Reich were numbered, they surrendered into the hands of the British army, trying to escape from revenge at home.
But already a few weeks after surrender, over 40 thousand Cossacks (including the commanders of the Wehrmacht Cossacks, Generals P. N. and S. N. Krasnov, T. I. Domanov, Lieutenant General Helmut von Pannwitz, Lieutenant General A. G. Shkuro and others) and representatives of other collaborationist movements were extradited to the Soviet Union. Most of the extradited Cossacks awaited long sentences in the Gulag, and the Cossack elite, who sided with Nazi Germany, was sentenced by the Military Collegium of the USSR Supreme Court to death by hanging. The verdict was as follows: on the basis of the Decree of the Presidium of the Supreme Soviet of the USSR No. 39 of April 19, 1943 "On measures of punishment for German-fascist villains guilty of murder and torture of the Soviet civilian population and prisoners of the Red Army, for spies, traitors to the motherland from among Soviet citizens and for their accomplices."
It is noteworthy that in 1996, many of the executed Cossack generals of the Wehrmacht in Russia were rehabilitated according to the decision of the Main Military Prosecutor's Office. However, the decision to rehabilitate was soon overturned as unfounded. In the period from 1997 to 2001, the same GVP decided that the Cossack commanders of the Wehrmacht (for example, Shkuro and von Pannwitz) did not belong to rehabilitation.
In 1998, in Moscow, near the Sokol metro station, a memorial plate was erected to A. G. Shkuro, G. von Pannwitz and other Cossack generals of the Third Reich. The elimination of this monument was undertaken on legal terms, but the neo-Nazi lobby in every possible way prevented the destruction of this monument. Then, on the eve of Victory Day 2007, the plate with the names of the collaborators of the Great Patriotic War carved on it was simply smashed by unidentified persons. A criminal case was initiated, which did not reach its logical conclusion.
Today in Russia there is a monument to the very Cossack units that were part of the army of the Third Reich. The memorial was opened in 2007 in the Rostov region (the village of Elanskaya).
Until now, there is no unequivocal opinion in Russia about the role of the Cossacks in the Great Patriotic War. On the one hand, there is the valor of the Cossacks who fought against the fascist plague, on the other, Cossack collaborationism, which can also be presented as a desire to take revenge on the Soviet regime for the years of persecution of the Cossacks. Someone calls the Reds the heroes of the Cossacks, someone is ready to see the heroism in the actions of the Cossacks in the service of the Reich. Such a story, to draw conclusions from which each of us.