No description of Kuban troops in the Russian Civil War is complete
without mentioning this famous unit.
hat with tail
Wolves had a tendency to a
The basic uniform was the
standard Kuban dress, although they do seem to have favoured black
clothes even more than most Kuban Cossacks.
The colour of the shoulderboards was standard Kuban red,
apparently with no other markings except for rank, which would be in
white/silver as appropriate.
There was a badge for the sleeve showing a wolf's head over the
Volunteer Army chevron. This was either late or not always worn.
Most drawings of the Wolves show their fur hats with a broad white
stripe down the front. This was not universal, and all the pictures we
have seen of Shkuro himself show him in normal caps. Some men appear to
have tied wolf's tails to their hats, dating from the WWI unit.
Allegedly many Wolves wore a papakha
made of wolf-skin, and
Mamontov confirms this. However plenty of photos show that
this was either a late affectation or never entirely adopted.
in the RCW
Andrei Shkuro had formed a partisan unit in the First World War, which
operated behind enemy lines. With the Bolshevik Revolution he returned
to this style of warfare in early 1918, initially in his native Kuban.
Acting with speed, and helped by rumours that inflated his force's
size, he initially fought local Soviet forces in and around
Batalpashinsk and Kislovodsk.
In July 1918 he bluffed his way to capturing Stavropol', but was unable
to hold it with his meagre forces. Denikin, who had just
started the 2nd Kuban Campaign was forced to send troops to
assist, despite already being desperately shorthanded. This was not the
last time Shkuro would embarrass the people he was meant to be fighting
with, but from this time he was part
of the Volunteer Army commanding the "Separate Kuban Partisan Brigade".
For the rest of the Kuban campaign Shkuro's men generally operated
either ahead of the main White forces in partisan fashion or at least
as the spearhead of any attack.
Shkuro himself was quickly promoted, so that by May 1919 he was leading
the 3rd Kuban Horse Corps. His "wolves" followed him as his personal
escort. The fought across the Ukraine, taking on Makhnovists as well as
the Red Army.
At some stage they gained a couple of extra sotnias because by October
they were the Wolves
of the 3rd Kuban Corps (including the 1st Terek Cossack Division and
1st Caucasian Cossack Division) but now fighting with the Don Host.
They numbered 538 sabres and 8 MGs, plus there was a "Supernumerary
Partisan Artillery Battery" of 4 guns that may have operated with them.
In early 1920 Shkuro briefly headed the doomed Kuban Army, finishing up
as a Lieutenant-General. However Baron Wrangel relieved him of all
command when he took over from General Denikin, due to disagreements
about discipline and Cossack separatism, and Shkuro emigrated.
Mamontov describes the Wolves as being a regiment in mid-1920, when his
horse battery was attached them, but they don't appear as a regiment on
the White orders of battle
that period. It seems they were still officially a divizion
describes how initially they were
on foot, but were able to capture sufficient horses to be fully mounted.
It seems they were badly mauled in the
Northern Tauridia campaign, even losing their standard in October 1920
to Red cavalry.
The Soviets assessed their strength just before this as 400 sabres and
20 MGs, and as still a divizion
brigaded with the Terek-Astrakhan units.
It should be noted that the wolf emblem was well chosen. Shkuro and his
men were bloodthirsty, notoriously indisciplined (when not
facing the enemy) and as prone to looting friends as foes.
In WWI Shkuro's partisans had a wolf's head on a black flag, and this
flag was revived in WWII.
It is often alleged that in the Civil War they changed this to a
wolf-skin on a pole, with wolves'
tails attached to the staff. Perhaps. One history of Budėnny
talks about the banner captured in 1920 as being a wolf's head on
black with "За единую и неделимую
Россию" (For United and Indivisible Russia) also written on it.
There is a flag for the fourth sotnia of the unit in a Russian museum:
> Shkuro's wolves