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Free Cossacks
Members of the first Cossack congress. Chyhyryn October 1917.jpg
1st Congress of Free Cossacks (Chyhyryn, October 1917)
Active 1917 - 1918
Country Ukraine
Allegiance Ukraine
Branch Free Cossacks
Type Corps, territorial army
Role infantry, law enforcement
Size ~3,000 (18 May 1917)
60,000 (at the 1st Congress of Free Cossacks)
Semen Hryzlo

Nykodym Smoktiy (left) and Semen Hryzlo (right)

Free Cossacks (Ukrainian language: Вільне козацтво ) were the Ukrainian association volunteer militia units that arose somewhat spontaneously in the spring of 1917. The Free Cossacks were precursors of the Ukrainian national law enforcement organizations such as the National Guard of Ukraine or the Internal Troops of Ukraine.

The primary purpose of those militia formations was to provide security and civil order for the local population. The consolidation process of various smaller units started sometime in April near the town of Zvenyhorodka, Kiev Governorate during the local assembly of the Free Cossacks which created the Zvenyhorodka Kosh (battalion). The assembly elected Semen Hryzlo the Kosh Otaman, who became the otaman of Kalnyboloto Kurin (company). Under this title, he was delegated to the 2nd All-Ukrainian Military Congress in Kiev in June 1917.

Hryzlo was also one of the organizers of the 1st All-Ukrainian Congress of the Free Cossacks that took place on October 3, 1917 in the former Cossack capital of Chyhyryn. The congress elected the Hetman of All Ukraine, who became General Pavlo Skoropadskyi. Hryzlo was elected as the General Yesaul. The Free Cossacks units distinguished themselves during the Ukrainian-Soviet War (particularly from December 1917 to April 1918) and were disbanded around May and June 1918. In January-April of 1918 the Ukrainian government tried to create the Free Registered Cossack Troops for county security, but after the April coup-d'etat led by Pavlo Skoropadsky all Free Cossacks formations were officially dissolved.


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