Vol.10, No.2 | [Article] Almost Cossacks, but not Quite Volunteer Units in the Russian Army (Mid-Eighteenth – Early-Nineteenth Centuries)



In this paper I focus on irregulars who served in the Russian imperial army during the Russian-Turkish wars of 1768 – 1774, 1787 – 1792, and 1806 – 1812 and who were recruited from foreign – primarily from Ottoman – subjects. These irregulars were called volunteers, arnauts or cossacks and the study of them will benefit scholarship in at least three ways. First, comparison between the categories of cossacks and volunteers can assist in understanding social categories in the Russian Empire itself. Second, since volunteers were recruited primarily from foreign subjects, it can help to properly connect the history of the Pontic Steppe to that of the Balkans and to trace the movement of both people and ideas across the imperial borders. Finally, compariso of cossacks with typologically similar Balkan military communities can contribute to our understanding of borderland societies in general.

Keyword : Eighteenth century, Russian-Turkish wars, Russian imperial army, irregular units, Cossacks