Greek Battalion of Balaklava
The Greek Battalion of Balaklava was a military unit of the Russian Army which participated in the Russo-Turkish wars
History of the Russo-Turkish wars
The Russo-Turkish wars were a series of wars fought between the Russian Empire and the Ottoman Empire during the 16th, 17th, 18th, 19th and 20th centuries...

 of 1768–1774, 1787–1792 and 1806–1812. It was consisting of Greek expatriates who were living in the Balaklava
Balaklava is a former city on the Crimean peninsula and part of the city of Sevastopol which carries a special administrative status in Ukraine. It was a city in its own right until 1957 when it was formally incorporated into the municipal borders of Sevastopol by the Soviet government...


Initially the battalion was named "Greek Infantry Regiment" and in 1797 was renamed to "Greek Balaklava Battalion". Its soldiers were from Peloponnese
The Peloponnese, Peloponnesos or Peloponnesus , is a large peninsula , located in a region of southern Greece, forming the part of the country south of the Gulf of Corinth...

, the Aegean islands
Aegean Islands
The Aegean Islands are the group of islands in the Aegean Sea, with mainland Greece to the west and north and Turkey to the east; the island of Crete delimits the sea to the south, those of Rhodes, Karpathos and Kasos to the southeast...

, the Ionian Islands
Ionian Islands
The Ionian Islands are a group of islands in Greece. They are traditionally called the Heptanese, i.e...

 and the Venetian dominions in Albania
Albania , officially known as the Republic of Albania , is a country in Southeastern Europe, in the Balkans region. It is bordered by Montenegro to the northwest, Kosovo to the northeast, the Republic of Macedonia to the east and Greece to the south and southeast. It has a coast on the Adriatic Sea...

. They were experienced in the guerilla warfare and contributed significantly to the Crimea
Crimea , or the Autonomous Republic of Crimea , is a sub-national unit, an autonomous republic, of Ukraine. It is located on the northern coast of the Black Sea, occupying a peninsula of the same name...

 conquest and the expulsion of the Ottomans from the area.

In the 1787-1789 war they fought also at sea with the Dnieper oared flotilla and the Black Sea fleet. The battalion's contribution was crucial in the battles for the capture of Kaffa (Theodosia
Feodosiya is a port and resort city in Crimea, Ukraine, on the Black Sea coast. During much of its history the town was known as Caffa or Kaffa .- History :...

) (1783) and the siege of the fortress of Sudak. They participated in the Russian suppression of the Tatar uprising of 1777-1778 which was supported by the Ottoman Empire
Ottoman Empire
The Ottoman EmpireIt was usually referred to as the "Ottoman Empire", the "Turkish Empire", the "Ottoman Caliphate" or more commonly "Turkey" by its contemporaries...

 and of the Tatar rebellion during the 1812 war against Napoleon. In the 1853-1856 Crimean war
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 they successfully defended the city and port of Balaklava
Balaklava is a former city on the Crimean peninsula and part of the city of Sevastopol which carries a special administrative status in Ukraine. It was a city in its own right until 1957 when it was formally incorporated into the municipal borders of Sevastopol by the Soviet government...

 against the British.

The base of the Greek Infantry Regiment was Balaklava after the imperial decree of February 18th 1784. The soldiers settled in Balaklava with their families, a total number of about 500 adults in 1778, increased to about 1,700 in 1802.

According to the April 4th 1797 imperial decree the battalion was composed of three companies, each having 100 soldiers. Including officers and other staff its total force amounted to 396 people. The soldiers were issued red and green uniforms and weaponry of the same type. The battalion’s organisation and operation was modeled on the armed divisions of the Cossacks of Don, since these were closer to the Greek character and ethnic traditions. Among the battalion’s commanders were Captain Stefanos Beis Mavromichalis (1775-1779, 1794-1801), Major Konstantinos Zaponis (1790-1794), General Theodosis Reveliotis (1809-1831) and Lieutenant Colonel Lykourgos Katsonis, son of Lambros Katsonis
Lambros Katsonis
Lambros Katsonis was a Greek naval admiral of the 18th century. Born in Levadia, he joined the Orlov Revolt in 1770, but not pleased by the result he built up a small fleet and began harassing the Ottomans in the Aegean Sea...

, (1831-1859).

The battalion was disbanded in 1859.

The "Amazons" of the Battalion

In 1767 Catherine the Great embarked on a long inspection tour in Tauris which lasted from January to July. Invited to the tour were the diplomatic delegates of England, France and Austria, Stanisław Antoni Poniatowski, king of Poland, and Austria’s emperor Josef II. The tour was aiming to show the economic and military abilities of the New Russia and the newly acquired territory. For the occasion Grigory Potemkin (Potyomkin), one of the Russia's highest officials and Catherine's favourite, was inspired the formation of a military unit of women as a re-enactment of the mythic Amazons who used to fight in the Russian plains leaded by a queen. Under the orders of the commander K.G. Zaponis and his friend Pavlos Sarantis (Sarantov) some one hundred wives and daughters of the Greek soldiers were enlisted and formed an "Amazons battalion" headed by Eleni Ivanovna Sarantova, the wife of the Greek Ioannis Sarantis. The latter was Potemkin's friend and later was appointed councilor in Crimea's Court. The women followed an intensive military training in riding, swordplay and firing guns. On May 24 (June 4) 1787 the "Amazon's battalion" gave an official reception to Catherine in the village Kadıköy, on horseback, in colourful uniforms and armed with long barrel rifles. Other Greeks, including a priest, from the nearby Balaklava took part in the reception ceremony. It seems that the spectacle impressed the foreign noble visitors as Joseph the II expressed his gratification with warm embraces and a visit to the camp of the battalion while other diplomats noted it as part of the spectacular events that Potemkin used to organize to impress Catherine and foreign guests. Eleni Sarantova was granted the rank of Captain, together with a diamond bracelet. The battalion was awarded with the amount of 10.000 rubles. They escorted Catherine further in her tour and dissolved after its completion.
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