Flag of the Kuban Cossacks
Kuban Cossacks (Russian: Кубанские кaзаки, Kubanskiye Kаzaki; Ukrainian: Кубанські козаки, Kubans'ki Kozaky) or Kubanians (кубанцы, кубанці) are Cossacks who live in the Kuban region of Russia. Most of the Kuban Cossacks are of descendants of two major groups who were re-settled to the western Northern Caucasus during the Caucasus War in the late 18th century. The western part of the host (Taman Peninsula and adjoining region to the northeast) was settled by the Black Sea Cossack Host who were originally the Zaporozhian Cossacks of Ukraine, from 1792. The eastern and southeastern part of the host was previously administered by the Khopyour and Kuban regiments of the Caucasus Line Cossack Host, who were re-settled from the Don from 1777.
The Kuban Cossack Host (Кубанское казачье войско), the administrative and military unit composed of Kuban Cossacks, formed in 1860 and existed till 1918. During the Russian Civil War, the Kuban Cossacks proclaimed a Kuban People's Republic, and played a key a role in the southern theatre of the conflict. During the Second World War, Cossacks fought both for the Red Army and Wehrmacht. The modern Kuban Cossack Host was re-established in 1990.
Formation history of the Kuban Cossack Host
Although Cossacks lived in the region prior to the late 18th century (one theory of Cossack origin traces their lineage to the ancient Kasog peoples who populated the Kuban in 9th-13th centuries), the landscape prevented permanent habitation. Modern Kuban Cossacks claim 1696 as their foundation year, when the Don Cossacks from the Khopyor took part in Peter's Azov Campaigns. Sporadic raids reached out into the land, which was partially populated by the Nogay, though territorially part of the Crimean khanate. In 1784 the lower Kuban passed to Russia, after which its colonisation became an important step in the Empire's expansion.
Black Sea Cossacks
A memorial to the first settlers in Taman
In a different part of southeastern Europe, on the middle Dnieper in Ukraine, lived the Zaporozhian Cossacks. By the late 18th century however, their combat ability was greatly reduced. With their traditional adversaries, the Crimean Khanate and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth now all but defunct, the Russian administration saw little military use for them. The Zaporozhian Sich, however, represented a safe haven for runaway serfs, where the state authority did not extend, and often took part in rebellions which were constantly breaking out in Ukraine. Another problem for the imperial Russian government was the Cossacks' resistance to colonization of lands the government considered theirs. In 1775, after numerous attacks on Serbian colonisers, the Russian Empress Catherine the Great had Grigory Potemkin destroy the Zaporozhian Host. The operation was carried out by General Pyotr Tekeli.
The Zaporozhians scattered; some (five thousand men or 30% of the host) fled to the Ottoman-controlled Danube area. Others joined the Imperial Russian Army Husar and Dragoon regiments, while most turned to local farming and trade.
A decade later, the Russian administration was forced to reconsider its decision, with the escalation of tension with the Ottoman Empire. In 1778 the Turkish sultan offered the exiled Zaporozhians the chance to build a new Danubian Sich. Potemkin suggested that the former commanders Antin Holovaty, Zakhary Chepiha and Sydir Bily round the former Cossacks into a Host of the loyal Zaporozhians in 1787.
The new host played a crucial role in the Russo-Turkish War (1787–1792), and for their loyalty and service the Russian Empress rewarded them with eternal use of the Kuban, then inhabited by Nogai remnants, and in the cause of the Caucasus War a crucial progress in further pushing the Russian line into Circassia. Renamed the Black Sea Cossack Host, a total of 25,000 men made the migration in 1792-93.