Orenburg Cossack Cavalry
The Orenburg Cossacks themselves were largely cavalry.
Orenburg Cossack Regiment
The Host colour for the Orenburg was light blue. While this
officially also the colour of the Terek Host, it seems the Orenburg
version consistently seems to have been more a mid-blue rather than the
pale Terek version (but not dark blue like the Don Host).
officer figure is shown with cartridge holders on the breast. These
aren't as common in period pictures as they are in drawings but can be
seen from time to time. The ermakovka
style gimnastėrka can also be seen on some men.
We know that the Orenburg suffered particularly badly from supply
issues. The rank and file were probably extremely poorly dressed for
most of the war. Although kolchakiya.narod.ru
shows an Orenburg Cossack officer wearing a gimnastėrka with cuff,
sleeve and shirt piping, such finery would have been rare.
all steppe Cossacks the Orenburg cavalry used lances. In 1914 only half
the men fought with a lance, but shortages of weapons and ammunition
may have increased this fraction in the Civil War.
Trooper dress version
Trooper field version
men and officer
Dress shoulderboards were light blue. Buttons and officer lace were
silver. Officer's monogram and rank markings were in gold, and for
troopers in yellow.
Field shoulderboards had the number stenciled or inked in dark blue.
It appears that all the Orenburg cavalry regiments had their number
their cipher in WWI. Independent sotnias had a straight "O".
To the left are
the shoulderboards of Orenburg Cossack units as shown
The officer, on the left, is a lieutenant in the 13th Orenburg Cossack
trooper is a sergeant in the 6th Orenburg Cossack Regiment. It has
an "O" added, which rather contradicts the officer's version and is
contrary to Imperial practice. (The curly shape of the O is to prevent
it looking like a zero, but the official Imperial "O" had
been a standard stenciled oval.)
peaked cap had blue crown and light blue band and piping. The papakha
had a light
blue cloth with a
white/silver cross for
officers. The field version was plain khaki, although officers might
have a cross in white. Large shaggy papakha would seem to be the most
in the RCW
The 11th Orenburg Cossack Regiment started in June 1918 as part of the
3rd Orenburg Cossack Division, moving to the 3rd Urals Corps in
September. In November 1918 it was in the Yekaterinburg area,
commanded by Colonel A.T. Sukin alongside the Czechs. It was
soon fighting near Sarapaul.
It seems the division, formally the 11th, 12th,
17th and 18th Orenburg Cossack Regiments, plus 3rd Cossack Artillery Divizion
deployed as separate units, even separate sotnias. The
division was officially disbanded in April 1919.
The 11th Regiment was now placed in the Siberian Independent
Army, as an independent HQ asset, but at least some of the time
attached to General Pepelyaev's 1st Siberian
Corps. They were technically part of the 5th Orenburg Cossack Brigade,
alongside the 17th Regiment.
The bulk of the Siberian Army disintegrated in December 1919 after
several months of defeat and disease, but the 11th
Regiment survived relatively well, even though it had covered
the rear on the retreats to the Tobol and Ishim. It still numbered
about 700 sabres at the end of the year. The sister regiment in the
Brigade, the 17th, seems to have mostly
surrendered during the early winter after suffering greatly at the
hands of Shchetinkin's famous partisans
The regiment made the last stage of the famous "Ice March" alongside
Barnaul Rifle Regiment separately from the
main White route. The 11th Regiment arrived with a two dozen
officers and about 300 Cossacks. The 3rd
Barnaul had 100 officers and perhaps 400 rankers, with 10 machine-guns.
The 11th was in a better state than most units and was not merged.
Instead it was place in a Composite Cossack
Brigade with a Siberian Cossack Regiment. It was grouped with
the 4th (Omsk) Rifle Division, composed of the 3rd Barnaul,
and 16th Ishim Rifle Regiments. Now commanded by Colonel A. B. Zuev,
the 11th Regiment
fought in the Nerchinsk area.
In August 1920 the 11th Regiment was merged into the Combined Orenburg
Cossack Brigade. As Zuev commanded the 2nd Orenburg Regiment of the
brigade, that was
presumably where the former 11th Regiment went.
Zvegintov only records that the Imperial 11th Orenburg Regiment and all
higher numbered units were
given ceremonial flags around 1856. The lower numbers were given theirs
1842. Any flags that old would be too fragile to fly in battle
(although replicas might be made). However vexillographia
shows a banner of the 14th Orenburg Cossack Regiment, currently in the
Hermitage museum, so during WWI some regiments must have been given
The official HQ WWI field flag for all Cossack regiments was a red
diamond inside blue with the unit's number and distinguishing letters.
that in 1916 the Orenburg Division was given a flag in dark green with
light blue edging.
The official WWI battle standard was a light blue square, with a white
cross to indicate this was the second Host of this colour, with the
unit's number in yellow.
However an actual flag for the 11th Regiment, if the one in a
Russian museum is to be believed, was this:
Imperial sotnia flags had an upper half of light blue with a white
stripe to half way along, to indicate it was the second host of that colour,
with standard sotnia colours underneath:
It is hard to see the uniform of other Orenburg Cossack Cavalry units
varying in major
respects from that of the 11th Regiment, regardless of where they
The Orenburg units that fought mostly with the Host are listed in
orders of battle for the SouthWestern
in early 1919.
A regiment is noted being with the KOMUCH
Simbirsk Forces Group on 3 October 1918 and another in their attack on
Yekaterinburg to rescue the Tsar.
The bulk of units raised in the north and east of the host lands
fought with the Siberian Armies during the Civil War, rather than with
the Orenburg Army. This placed them closer to their villages, and gave
the Siberian armies a much needed cavalry element. They were mostly
spread out as individual regiments in practice.
4th Orenburg Cossack Regiment fought with the 1st Samara Infantry
Division in 1919.
At the start of 1919, the 3rd Orenburg Cossack Brigade
was placed in the Western Army. In April it had 50 officers,
1,556 sabres, 22 MGs and 4 guns and was grouped with the 3rd Urals Corps
(11th and 12th Urals Infantry Divisions). In July it was attached
to Kolchak's 4th Infantry Division (named after General
where it stayed through the Ice March into 1920.
Parts of the 2nd, 3rd, 5th, 6th, 12th, 17th, 18th, 34th and
4th Reserve Orenburg Cossack Regiments, plus a few sotnias, some
plastoons and batteries made it through the Ice March to TransBaikal.
As most were totally depleted they were merged to form the
Composite Orenburg Cossack Brigade, in March 1920. As we saw
above, the 11th Regiment was added later in the year. The Brigade had a
1st and 2nd Mounted Regiments, a Foot Divizion
least one battery.
In November, under immense
pressure from the Soviets they crossed into Manchuria and were
transported to Primorye. There were about 1,300 men in the unit at this
They fought as part of the Far Eastern Army through 1921 and 1922 in
same basic organisation, although numbers continued to drop:
September 1922 they were down to 450 sabres, 220 bayonets and only 1
mid-1921 there is a reference
to the Orenburg Cossacks
being still relatively well dressed. In late 1922 they crossed to
Manchuria with the final collapse of White rule in the Far East.
Ataman Annenkov had a unit of Orenburg Cossacks in his little army.
The 13th Orenburg Cossack Regiment spent the bulk of the Civil War
fighting with the Urals Host.
We have collected some photographs of
from WWI and the RCW.
Colonel A. B. Zuev wrote memoirs, mostly concentrating on the later
part of the war, and especially his time with the 11th Orenburg Cossack
> Orenburg Cavalry