Repatriation of Cossacks After World War II - The Second World War

The Second World War

On 22 June 1941, Nazi Germany launched Operation Barbarossa and attacked the USSR, thus bringing Russia into World War II. During the attack some ROVS, especially the Cossack émigré generals Pyotr Krasnov and Andrei Shkuro, asked Nazi Propaganda Minister Joseph Goebbels’s permission to fight beside Nazi Germany against Communist Russia. Goebbels welcomed their idea and by 1942 General Krasnov and General Shkuro had mustered a Cossack force — mostly from Red Army POWs captured by the Wehrmacht — who would be under the command of General Helmuth von Pannwitz.

The Wehrmacht recognized the Cossacks as military units with their own uniforms and insignia; the 1st Cossack Division was established the next year. Although the Cossack units were formed to fight the Communists in Russia, by the time they formed, the Red Army had already recaptured most of the Nazi-occupied territory, so they were deployed to the Balkans to fight the Communist Yugoslav Partisans commanded by Josip Broz Tito. By the war’s end, the Cossack units had come under the command of the Waffen-SS.

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