The Composite Mountain
Division in 1919.
many units formed from Caucasian tribesmen which we cannot find
sufficient detail for a separate page and are discussed below. They are:
Circassians, including Karachay
The following groups have their own pages: Dagestanis
The Chechens are closely related to the Ingush, and Chechnya and
Ingushetia were a combined ASSR in the Soviet Period.
Fairly speculative schemes for Chechens.
Their distinguishing colour of the Chechens in the WWI-era Savage
Division was light blue, with a yellow monogram that we have been
unable to identify, but we would guess would have to have been Чч.
Buttons and officer lace were silver. Bashlyks
yellow with white trim, so we would guess hat tops were yellow, with a
white cross for officers (as strong Moslems, many may not have worn a
Chechen Units in the RCW
The nature and status of the Chechens in the RCW is problematic.
There may have been a Chechen Horse Division in the Astrakhan Forces
Group in May 1919. By June 1919 Volkov gives a Chechen Horse Division,
containing the 1st to 4th Chechen Horse Regiments and the Kumyk Horse
Regiment. It was in the Forces of the Novorossiysk Area, which meant
that they were either fighting Greens or on the Georgian border (in any
case, not fighting the Red Army). The Chechens were then moved to the
rear of the Volunteer Army, while the Kumyks went to the Caucasian
Army. Klaving has them in the Forces of the North Caucasus in January
1920, with 1st - 3rd Chechen regiments and the Kumyks, but this may
well only be the official position and they might still have been
The Division was
disbanded in March 1920. Any Chechens still
present in the Crimea were shuffled around a bit before being placed in
the Native Horse Regiments, but
these were disbanded before they saw action.
Not only did the Chechens see very little active service, and that
fighting mostly partisans, it is not clear how many of them
were actually ethnic Chechens. Volkov states that squadrons of the
4th Kharkov Uhlans, 14th Mitava Hussars and Crimean Tatars were part of
the division. It seems very unlikely that the ethnic Chechens, who fought
bitterly for independence throughout the Civil War, would provide a
whole division to the Whites, especially when their close neighbours
the Ingush managed only a couple of hundred men.
The term Circassian is a bit confusing. In English it is an arbitrary
grouping of tribes from the western
side of the Caucasus mountains, most of whom are Moslem. It comes from
the Russian Черкес (Cherkes), from whom the term cherkeska
originates. However only one portion is the Cherkes proper, a group who
speak a language related to Kabardian. As a result it is not at all
clear which groups the "Circassian" units were hired from.
Other Circassian groups include the Abkhaz, who mainly live in Georgia;
the Balkars, from Kabardino; and the Karachay.
There was a "Circassian" Regiment in the Savage Division. Its primary
colour was red, with silver buttons and lace. We assume the monogram
was Чр. The bashlyk was white, and the hat tops may have been that
colour too, or perhaps red.
Circassian Units in the RCW
A 600 strong Circassian Horse Regiment was formed in March 1918 under
Colonel Sultan Kelech Giray. After meeting up with the Volunteer Army
it was called the 1st Circassian Horse Regiment and was placed in its
Cavalry Brigade. During this time the unit probably included
large numbers of Russians, especially officers, who may not have been
particularly "Circassian" in dress.
A 400-odd strong 2nd Circassian Regiment followed in July under Sultan
Kadir-Giray, and it joined the 1st in what was now the Cavalry
Division. In September the 3rd Circassian Horse
Regiment, 4th Circassian (a.k.a. Kabardian) Horse Regiment, and
Karachay Horse Regiments were formed as part of the 1st Native Horse
Division of Colonel Shkuro.
In November the four Circassian and Karachay Horse Regiments were
combined to form the Circassian Horse Division and by this stage we
assume that most of the members were actually Caucasian tribesmen, or
dressed as such. In February 1919 it was
temporarily reduced to a Circassian Cavalry Regiment, but expanded once
more soon afterwards back to a division, with the former 4th Regiment
being merged into the 3rd.
Unlike many of the Caucasian units, these reached respectable size. In
October 1919 the 1st Circassian Regiment had 662 sabres, the
2nd 523 sabres and the 3rd 691 sabres, but the Karachay
Regiment was only 100 sabres. The division also contained a
Reserve Regiment and the Maikop Horse-Artillery Divizion
During the retreat the units were once more combined to a regiment,
then disbanded in May 1920.
At least one Circassian sotnia was part of the Composite Cavalry
Regiment of the 1st Caucasian Cossack Division towards the end of 1919.
It fought with the Don Army.
The Kumyks are a Turkic-speaking people mostly from Dagestan, but with
some in Chechnya and Ossetia.
There was a Kumyk regiment in the AFSR. For a while it was brigaded
with the Chechen Horse Division, but it stayed in the North Caucasus
area when the Chechens went to the Ukraine.
Uniform is unknown.
The term Tatar (also spelled Tartar) is also confusing, but in this
case not because the scope is vague, rather because there were many
entirely separate Tatar groups in the old Russian
Empire. In modern Russia the term means the large Tatar
communities around Kazan and the Volga. However the Tsarist empire also
Tatars, Polish/Belorussian Tatars, Astrakhan Tatars, Central Asian
Tatars, Siberian Tatars and Caucasian/Azerbaijani Tatars. Most of these
groups formed units in the RCW, which
does confuse matters somewhat.
Caucasian Tatar Units in the RCW
The Savage Division had a Tatar Regiment. In this case the Tatars were
drawn from the Caucasus and Azerbaijan and dressed as other mountaineer
According to the WWI Osprey the unit had red for its shoulderboards and
were burgundy. According to Deryabin (Nationalists) the shoulderboards
were red and its monogram was Тт. Oddly though, the Nikolai flag
for the unit was pale blue, and the field of those flags matched
shoulderboard colours and the only definite photo we have suggests a
pale colour. We have
no information on hat top colour, but it probably matched the
A Tatar Horse Divizion
formed in the Volunteer Army in December 1918, presumably of Caucasian
Tatars. At least one Tatar sotnia was part of the Composite Cavalry
Regiment of the
1st Caucasian Cossack Division towards the end of 1919, serving with
the Don Army. It is tempting to link these two units as being related,
though Volkov does not, and to suppose they wore the same uniform as
the Savage Division's Tatar Regiment, whatever that was.
Meanwhile the Azerbaijani Army formed its 1st Tatar Horse Regiment
from the Savage Division. It was intended to expand this into the 1st
and 2nd Moslem Horse Regiments, but this never happened.
The unit largely kept its Caucasian-style uniform, although shortages
meant British and Turkish kit were also worn. After a brief
revolutionary period in which all old Imperial markings were removed,
the old system was restored except the cockade was changed to a star
and crescent symbol and the shoulderboards had "Azerbaijan" added in
Arabic script as the monogram.
Crimean Tatar Units in the RCW
The Crimean Cavalry Regiment, which fought throughout the war for the
Volunteer Army, included Crimean Tatar squadrons.
A Tatar Horse Regiment was formed from Crimean Tatars who had
previously formed part of the Chechen Horse Regiments in early
1920, and this unit became part of the
Crimean Corps, defending the peninsular.
In April 1920 these two units above, by now massively under strength,
forming the 2nd Native Regiment of Wrangel's Russian Army. They were
disbanded in August 1920, as were all the native cavalry at this time,
though the Tatars may well have continued as a squadron of the 9th
There was briefly a Crimean Tatar Infantry Regiment in early 1919.
We have no information on their uniform, but the Imperial Crimean
Regiment had red shoulderboards with gold / yellow monograms of Her
Highness Aleksandra Feodorovna, a red-crowned furazhka
band and silver buttons / officer lace.
Volga and Kazan Tatar Units in the RCW
These fought the Reds in the East, from the time of Komuch through to
at least 1920. They would have fought in normal Russian uniform, like
their cousins the Bashkirs.
Tatar Units in the RCW
The Poles formed a cavalry unit out of their Tatars in early 1919. It
kept some Moslem traditions, bearing a crescent and star on its banner,
and fighting in papakhi
When this unit was badly mauled in mid-1920, the remaining men were
incorporated into the 13th "Vilnius" Lancers, which was to retain a
Tatar element until WWII.
We have collected various period photos of mountaineers on a separate
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Natives > mountaineers