Grace EhrmanFollow




College of Arts and Sciences


Master of Arts in History - Thesis (MA)


Benjamin Esswein


Cossacks, Soviets, Imperial Russia, Russian Revolution, anti-Bolshevik, Russian Civil War


History | Political History


In 1917, the February Revolution ended the Russian Empire and the Kuban’ Cossacks’ military obligations to the tsarist estate system. Kuban' Cossack ethnic identity existed and evolved within the estate system prior to the 1917 revolutions. When the estate system collapsed, the Cossacks declared their identity as a separate ethnic minority. Backed by the Cossack villages’ democratic votes, Kuban’ Cossack elites and politicians created the Kuban’ People’s Republic, an independent anti-Bolshevik state, in the North Caucasus region. Designed to preserve local autonomy, settle disputes over land given to the corporate Cossack body in exchange for military service, and to avoid property confiscation by the Soviets and nonresident Russian settlers who lived among them, Cossack state-building represented both historical Cossack self-rule processes and modern state-building movements. At the Paris Peace Conference in 1919, the Cossacks joined the Autonomous Republic of Mountain Peoples to create a chain of loosely federated states that offered full minority rights and facilitated local self-rule. Kuban’ Cossack resistance to Russian authoritarianism created problems between the Cossacks and their anti-Bolshevik allies in the Volunteer White Army. The Cossack separatists’ goals for a decentralized local government conflicted with the Whites’ attempts to recreate a unified and central Russian state. The Cossack struggle to preserve their identity, land, and autonomy motivated them to launch a liberating war to resist the emerging Soviet state.