Cossack and His Horse

Between October 1944 and April 1945 about 38,000 Cossacks with their families, a total of 50,000 people, were transferred by the Nazis to the Friuli Region on trains. This land, to become 'Kosakenland in Nord Italien', had been assigned to them by the Commander of the Wehrmacht, Keitel, in exchange for help to repress the ever-mounting partisan guerrilla activity against the Third Reich. The Cossacks, together with other ethnic groups of the USSR, had helped the Nazis during their war of occupation of the Soviet Union (1941-43) in the fight against the Bolschevics. Having resisted Stalin, they were obliged to follow the Nazis in their retreat and were assimilated into two divisions of the German army. As a thank-you for their help, they were promised a land elsewhere in Europe, other than in Germany, which they were finally assigned on 10.11.1943.

Kosak Cossack and His Horse

Two areas of North-Eastern Italy namely that of Eastern Friuli ('Friuli Orientale') which included Nimis, Attimis and Faedis and that of the Friulian Alps (known as 'Carnia') had been proclaimed free zones by the partisan guerrillas in 1944. Henceforth, four regiments of Cossacks, one of which was based in Tarcento, were settled in those areas to fight the partisans. The problem for the Nazi High Commisioner of the Adriatic Littoral, Odilo Globocnik, was that the Cossacks who had arrived in Friuli were not, as he had expected, well equipped militarily for combat. Some wore German uniforms, with some Cossack variations and were well armed, but many others still wore old Zarist cavalry uniforms complete with huge busby huts, large old pistols, ammunition crossed over their chests, swords and daggers. Their horses were followed by caravans of wagons on which women, children and the elderly travelled with their cows, goats and even some camels. They lacked most basics, therefore they would often loot, pillage and steal from the poor local peasents, including the ones in the village of Ravosa. By 5th May 1945 all Cossacks had fled Italy, by then occupied by the Allies, and taken refuge in the Austrian Region of Carinthia from where they were ultimately returned to the Soviet Union and sent to concentration camps in Siberia. Many chose to drown with their horses in the Drava River rather than be returned to the Soviet Union.

Kosak Camp in Friulian Farmyard Kosak Camp in Friulian Farmyard