Military reforms DA Milyutin, modeled on the advanced bourgeois countries, in general, contributed to the strengthening of the combat capability and effectiveness of the army. From 1862 to 1874, a very important military and administrative part of the reform is carried out, connected with the reorganization of the Cossack troops control system, as well as within the Don Army (division into military districts and departments).
The new status of the Region of the Don Cossacks from 1870 almost equated the rights of the troop ataman with the governor-general. The increasing complexity of the technical management of huge armies, the emergence of new types of equipment and weapons in the era of industrial capitalism required the improvement and restructuring of training for senior officers, middle and junior command levels, including from the Cossacks. Therefore, an important area of reform was the expansion of the network of higher and secondary military educational institutions, cadet corps, an increase in the number of special schools in Russia and on the Don. Thus, in the period from 1868 to 1879, a cadet school, cadet artillery classes, military craft classes and a medical assistant school were established in Novocherkassk. The final stage of this new military educational system was the organization of the Cossack cadet corps (named after Emperor Alexander III) for the children of officers in 1883.
The next important direction of the reform implementation was the process of rearmament of the army in 1870-1879, including the Cossack units. The unified military uniform of the Cossacks has also changed somewhat. Most historians are inclined to believe that the basic military reform, as a direct act of reorganizing the old army and creating the renewed armed forces, was carried out from 1874 to 1882 and ended with the abolition of zemstvos on the Don and the resignation of war minister Milutin. As a result of lengthy discussions, after a long agreement on the views of the imperial center and the military Cossack elite, the most important documents were prepared and adopted, with the implementation of which the main stage of the reform in the Don Army began, and then (from 1879 to 1880) and in other Cossack troops. The final "Regulations on the military service of the Don Cossack Cossacks" dated 14 of October 1874 of the year and the "Charter on the military service of the Don Army" dated 17 of April 1875, were of a compromise nature. The vowel that the semi-feudal principle of land use and privileges for service, the Cossack communal land tenure, was maintained.
Military reform directly affected another important point - a fundamentally new order of formation of Cossack units. The Ministry of War sought to ensure that each unit of the war accounted for two preferential. This step unequivocally meant only one thing - to bring the Cossack service system as close as possible to the conventional one in the regular army. A centralized purchase of weapons was also tested, now the Cossack did not need to assemble a mountain of necessary ammunition while gathering for service. Twenty-five years of service life has been reduced by five years (from 25 to 20 years), and the staff has been reduced.
A prohibitive measure was introduced for one more possibility of refusal to serve: it was now forbidden to make a monetary ransom for refusing to serve or to replace the waiting person with a volunteer (hunter).
In the course of the reform, service orders for the next lists and recruitment by districts and regiment change from field service in full strength remained unchanged.
The call of the Cossacks was now carried out from 18 years and prescribed distribution into three categories: from 18 years to 21, the Cossacks were in the so-called preparatory discharge (former “small libraries”), from 21 to 33 years they were counted as front-line and 8 years in stock .
It should be particularly noted that in the new system of organizing service in army units outside the troops, a very important, but controversial, innovation was the system in which Don Cossack regiments and hundreds were now organized in an organized part of cavalry divisions (under No. XXUM, after the dragoons, ulan and hussar). This order, which the ministry insisted on, was not liked by the Cossacks either, since they transferred them practically to the category of ordinary front-line cavalry units, whose command did not always take into account the possibilities and peculiarities of the traditions of their military service (advance, reconnaissance, rearguard). The staff of the Don units has changed and increased, and their medical and veterinary care has increased particularly positively. The total number of members of the Cossack regiment has already reached more than 4 thousands of people. In the same vein, a reform was carried out on the creation of private horse breeding in the Don Army Region in 1-1875 in order to permanently organize the supply of horses of the necessary breed (donchaks) for the needs of the army and Cossack units.
By the year of 1876, when mobilization began in connection with the upcoming Russian-Turkish war, the reform was not yet complete. Despite this, innovations had a favorable effect on the course of the fighting in the Caucasian and Balkan theater of the Russian-Turkish war of 1877-1878. On the fronts, 53 of the Don Cossack regiment and 24 fought separate batteries (more than 42 thousands of Cossacks and officers) fought.
After entering the Russian throne in 1881, the emperor Alexander III, the modernization vector gradually changed to a conservative version, based on the strengthening of the autocratic regime and Great Russian national patriotism. Even in the context of the peacekeeping course of Russian foreign policy, military reformations in the Cossack units were continued in the general direction of strengthening the combat power of the new army. A special role here was played by the personal attitude of Emperor Alexander III to the Cossacks, whom he well studied and knew, from 1865, being the ataman of all Cossack troops. As a result, the statute on military service of the Don was substantially amended. Even in peacetime conditions were preserved: two guards regiments, a life guards horse-artillery battery, seven horse batteries and nine local teams.
At the same time, the number of field regiments that were on full alert in peacetime was reduced to 17 and six separate hundreds, and the number of officers in the regiment, on the contrary, was increased from 32 to 42.
The socio-economic groups of prosperous Cossacks, middle peasants and poor people that had already formed by the middle of the 19th century more clearly polarized in the 1880-1890-s. A sharp increase in the Cossack population (from 620 thousand people in 1863 year to 1100 thousand in 1905 year) in conditions of peaceful life led to a reduction in holdings, including with redistribution within Cossack families with many children. A special role was played by the “Provision on the public administration of the villages” of 1891, which restricted the right of the Cossack self-government and, at the same time, legalized the collective responsibility for equipping the “weak-working” Cossacks to the service. Now the middle Cossacks, who already constituted the majority in the community, went to work, often getting into debt and even partially ruining.
The problem of purchasing equipment and a drill horse has escalated. The Cossacks, who were called up for service, were forced to buy horses "on the side" because horse breeding, which had previously satisfied the need for combat horses, fell into great decline.
From this, the cost of a combat horse was 100-120 rubles and above.
In addition, at his own expense, the Cossack also bought up to 50 the main items of military ammunition. In order to fully equip for service, it was also necessary to purchase uniforms and everything needed equipment for the horse, all this eventually had to be spent from 250 to 400 rubles, and for four years of service - to 1600 rubles and above. Even if it was possible to partially reduce the costs, the Cossack family, especially those with many children (five to seven people), almost always needed the large amount of money needed to equip sisters with waiting lists for service with honor.
This state of affairs could not help but worry the government, which creates special commissions one after another under the leadership of generals Maslakovets, Grekov, Gazenkampf, War Minister Kuropatkin at the end of 1890 - the beginning of XX century, who surveyed the Don Army, came to a sad conclusion.
Only 21 percentage of the Cossack population was in favorable conditions and could perform military conscription, for 45 percent of the population this was associated with significant upheaval for economic life, the remaining 34 percent belonged to the poor and were equipped with public funds.
It is noteworthy that as early as 1896, before the 10 percent of the Cossacks, the medical commission returned back to the hamlet due to a number of physical disabilities: respiratory and heart disease, underdevelopment, chest narrowness and other diseases began to occur more often among the Don secondary conscripts.
It was proposed to urgently expand the composition of preferential parts, allocate repair money (up to 25-30 rubles) and money for a front horse and ammunition - allowance up to 100 rubles from the state. Cossacks of military age to the beginning of the passage of the military service were supposed to be elementary literate, but the problem of ignorance remained. In 1890, Sunday schools and Cossack schools of preparatory discharge were additionally created in the villages. But the level of training left much to be desired and already in place, in military units, the Cossacks continued to teach literacy.
Also, the concern of the higher generals was caused by the general physical training of the Cossack youth. And if earlier there were no complaints about this, today military training has decreased, the Cossacks hardly mastered new types weapons, and the traditional equestrian horse-riding was given to many Cossacks already with difficulty. And only some Cossacks could now boast the skill of skillful possession of a horse and their body.
However, these circumstances could not break courage and dedication in the coming wars: the Donians after a long break (25 years) took part in the Russian-Japanese war 1904-1905 and the First World War with honor.
The fact that the tsarist government was giving superiority to the Cossack troops, says the fact that Emperor Nicholas II came to the front.
History recorded numerous feats. For example, in the raid in the direction of the city of Inoko, Cossack units were among the foremost and were able to show the rest examples of courage and heroism. The Donets distinguished themselves in the Sandep operation, an offensive under the general command of General Mishchenko in January 1905. Particularly distinguished in special operations were Century F. Mironov, Esaul Chekanov, Kalmyk B. Shorginov. They became an example for others, their exploits were universally described in periodicals.
It is necessary to agree with the opinion of the three Don historians (Akoevoy, Kozlov, Kislitsyn) that “already from the end of the 19th – beginning of the 20th centuries, the actions of state bodies did not correspond to the image of supreme government authority established in the consciousness of the Cossacks. In the new situation, the imperial government increasingly began to attract Cossack units to carry out internal police service, to disperse demonstrations, rallies and strikes. In punitive operations in the years of the First Russian Revolution of 1905-1907, more than 100 Cossack regiments and some hundreds were involved. However, some Cossack hundreds tried to refuse to perform such a service, demanding that the government use them for their traditional purpose. ”
Historians convincingly showed that one of the achievements of the revolution was the participation of elected Cossack deputies in the work of the I-IV State Duma in 1905-1913, the creation of a special Cossack faction by them. Representatives of the Cossacks prepared important draft regulations and laws: on reducing service life, on increasing preferential units, on equipment at the expense of the state, on restoring the traditions of Cossack self-government and zemstvos.
However, the implementation of the agrarian reform begun by Peter Stolypin in the Cossack regions was directly blocked by the military ministry. His leadership, relying on the support of the emperor and the State Council, prepared and conducted in 1909-1911 a number of important reformation measures aimed at enhancing the combat capability of the Don Cossacks, reviving the Cossack military and patriotic traditions. Despite the shortening of service life (up to 18 years), payments to the front-line and repair money, expansion of the composition of privileged parts, the conditions of serving the service of that time can be called historical anachronism.
The Cossacks began to take a bad example, in some parts there were cases of insubordination and disrespect towards the higher leadership, many servicemen were punished and, serving their punishment, became even more infected with the spirit of controversy.
Cossack unrest in the camps, at training camps in the spring and autumn of 1911, on the Upper Don River, thundered all over Russia.
The deepening of the revolution and the civil war in Russia, the socio-political split among the Cossacks sharply deformed, and then stopped the search for the reorganization of the military organization, the conditions and principles of the service of the Cossacks as a traditional component of the Russian armed forces. The Soviet version of modernization was very tragic for the Cossacks and in fact destroyed this once elite combat unit of the Russian army.