Ukrainian regiments in 1812

Ukrainian regiments in 1812. Temporary military formations raised in Ukraine during Napoleon Bonaparte's Russian campaign. The governor-general of Left-Bank Ukraine, Prince Yakov Lobanov-Rostovsky, permitted a levy en masse and the formation of regular Cossack regiments and promised to keep the Cossack units after the war as a permanent Cossack army. Influential Ukrainian leaders, such as Dmytro Troshchynsky and Vasyl Kapnist, persuaded the governor-general to give the regiments a Ukrainian character. The organizational scheme of the Cossack regiments was drafted by Senator Mykhailo P. Myklashevsky. In addition to Cossacks serfs volunteered for service to escape from their oppressive condition. Most of the regiments raised by the levy en masse came from the Poltava region and the Chernihiv region. Cossack regiments, under the command of Count de Witte, also came from Kyiv gubernia and Podilia. Among the organizers of the Cossack regiments in Poltava gubernia was Ivan Kotliarevsky. The total number of troops, peasant and Cossack, was almost 75,000. They were supported (provided with horses, arms, uniforms, and supplies) mostly by the local population. The Russian command did not trust the Ukrainian regiments; hence, it did not use them at the front in Russia, but gave them an auxiliary role.

In 1813–15 some Cossack regiments took part in the war against Napoleon Bonaparte in central and western Europe and in the occupation of Paris. During that time they discovered Western ideas of individual liberty and human rights. After the war some of the regiments were converted into regular Russian units. The rest were demobilized, and returned to the peasant estate.

[This article originally appeared in the Encyclopedia of Ukraine, vol. 5 (1993).]

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