The Soviet Union was made after ‘annexing’ many other other nationalities. These countries, if one may call them so, were sick of Josef Stalin‘s Russia. And when the Germans walked into the Soviet Union in 1941, many people from these nationalities joined them against Russia.
It is not known when and where exactly the first units of volunteers from the USSR, and from the countries annexed by Russia after 1939, were organized to fight against the Soviets on the German side. Their beginnings were shrouded in great secrecy, for fear of Adolf Hitler who was categorically opposed to any form of participation of Soviet citizens in the war against Russia. But needs of the army on the Eastern Front, and the enthusiastic desire shown by hundreds of captured and escaped officers, by thousands of Soviet soldiers, and by almost the entire local population induced German commanders to accept the services of volunteers to fight the Soviet regime even against the clear orders of the Supreme Command. When the existence of numerous formations of Eastern volunteers came to light with the passing of time, Hitler was unpleasantly surprised. The hopeless military situation of the Reich forced him to approve this state of affairs.
Cossacks are a group of predominantly East Slavic-speaking people who became known as members of democratic, self-governing, semi-military communities, predominantly located in Ukraine and in Russia
In spite of anti-Communist sentiments nourished by many Cossacks and the cracking-down on many aspects of Cossack traditions by the communist regime, most analysts believed that the overwhelming majority of Cossacks would remain loyal to the Soviet Union and they were proved to be entirely correct; the number of Cossacks in German service was never too great, and the vast majority of Cossacks living in U.S.S.R. remained wholeheartedly loyal to a government that usually treated them with a certain degree of curtness.
In late 1942, Cossacks of at least a single stanitsa (Cossack outpost – settlement) in southern Russia, revolted against Soviet administration and proceeded to join the advancing Axis. Increasingly more frequently Cossack fugitives and rebellious mountain tribesmen of the Caucasus openly welcomed the intruders as if they were their liberators. On the lower Don river, a renegade Don Cossack leader named Sergei Pavlov proclaimed himself an Ataman (Cossack chief) and lodged himself in the former residence of the Czarish ataman at the town of Novoczerkassk on the lower Don (slightly north-east of Rostov-on-Don); he was also responsible for the establishment of a local collaborationist police force of whose many members were either Don Cossacks or were of Cossack descent. By late 1942, he headed a regional krug (Cossack assembly) which had around 200 representatives whom he recruited from the more prominent local quislings. He also requested permission from the Germans for creation of a Cossack Army to be employed in the struggle against the Bolsheviks, but initially he met with only negative responses. The Betrayal of the Cossacks, also known as the Tragedy of Drau and the Massacre of Cossacks at Lienz refers to the forced repatriation to the USSR of the Cossacks and ethnic Russians who were allies of Nazi Germany during the Second World War.
On 28 May 1945, the British Army arrived at Camp Peggetz, in Lienz, where there were 2,479 Cossacks, including 2,201 officers and soldiers. They went to invite the Cossacks to an important conference with British officials, informing them that they would return to Lienz by six o’clock that evening; some Cossacks worried, but the British reassured them that everything was in order. One British officer told the Cossacks: “I assure you, on my word of honour as a British officer, that you are just going to a conference”. The Lienz Cossack repatriation was exceptional, because the Cossacks forcefully resisted their British repatriation to the USSR; a Cossack noted: “The NKVD or the Gestapo would have slain us with truncheons, the British did it with their word of honor.”
The first to commit suicide, by hanging, was the Cossack editor Evgenij Tarruski. The second was General Silkin, who shot himself. . . . The Cossacks refused to board the trucks. British soldiers [armed] with pistols and clubs began using their clubs, aiming at the heads of the prisoners. They first dragged the men out of the crowd, and threw them into the trucks. The men jumped out. They beat them again, and threw them onto the floor of the trucks. Again, they jumped out. The British then hit them with rifle butts until they lay unconscious, and threw them, like sacks of potatoes, in the trucks. — Operation Keelhaul (1973), by Julius Epstein.
The British transported the Cossacks to a prison where the Soviets assumed their custody. Most Cossacks were sent to the gulags in far northern Russia and in Siberia, and many died; some, however, escaped, and others lived until Nikita Khrushchev’s amnesty in the course of his de-Stalinization policies.