Terek Cossack Host (Терское казачье войско) was a Cossack host created in 1577 from free Cossacks who resettled from Volga to Terek River. In 1792 in was included into the Caucasus Line Cossack Host and separated from it again in 1860, with the capital of Vladikavkaz. In 1916 the population of the Host was 255,000 within an area of 1.9 million desyatinas.
Many of the early members of the Terek Cossacks were Ossetians.
The earliest known records of Slavic settlements on the lower Terek River date to 1520 when the Ryazan Principality was annexed by the Grand Duchy of Moscow and a lone group left and settled in the natural haven of the Terek River (modern northern Chechnya), the early settlement was located at the mouth of the Aktash River. This formed the oldest Cossack group, the Rowing Cossacks (Гребенские казаки Grebenskiye Kazaki) who settled on both banks of the still largely uninhabited river.
In 1559-71 the Tsardom of Russia in course of several campaigns build several fortifications, during which the first Terka was built, which after abandonment is taken over by the still independent Cossacks. In 1577 after the Volga Cossacks were defeated in by strelets Ivan Murashkin, many scattered, some of which settled in the Terek basin and Voevoda Novosiltsev builds the second Terka on the Terek, this date is seen as the start of the Terek Cossacks, yet in 1584 this was again abandoned and taken over by Cossacks, some of whom are recruited by the Georgian King Simon.
In a separate story, an Ataman of the Don Cossack Host, led a band of three Cossack sotnias to the Kumyk lands, founding the town of Andreev. One of Shadra's motives may have been his tense relations with Yermak Timofeyevich. In 1580, by official decree, Shadra, along with several cossacks and soldiers, relocated to the Terek, settling in the frontier town of Tersky.
In the late 16th century several campaigns by the Terek Cossacks were carried out against the Ottoman Empire (Temryuk) which led the Sultan to complain to Ivan the Terrible. In 1589 the first outpost on the Sunzha is built and a permanent Terka, later Tersky gorodok is built on the lower Terek.
In 1680 after the Raskol in the Russian Orthodox Church reaches the Don Cossacks, a number of Old Believers leave the Don River and settle first on the Kuma and later on the Agrakhan. After the aid of the Terek and Rowing Cossacks to the Don Cossacks during the Azov Campaigns in 1695, the Ottoman Empire retaliate against the Terek Cossacks and in 1707 most of their outposts are destroyed on the right bank of the Terek.
Thus in 1735 three hosts are formed: Grebenskoye (Гребенское Rowing) from the descendants of the earliest Cossacks, Tersko-Semeynoye (Терско-Семейное Terek-Family) from the re-settled Agrakhan Cossacks up to Kizlyar and Tersko-Kizlyarskoye (Терско-Кизлярское Terek-Kizlyar) also from the Agrakhan Cossacks, but also from many settled Armenians and Georgians. Simultaneously with the arrival of the Kalmyks to the northwestern Caspian allowed for a combined campaign against Temryuk during the Russo-Turkish War (1735–1739), where the Terek Cossacks were led by Atamans Auka and Petrov.
In 1736 and again in 1765 the right bank of the Terek still nominally Cossack property is offered to Chechens, who wish to adopt Russian patronage and re-settle there. Yet by the latter half of the 18th century, relations between the Cossacks and Mountain peoples begin to turn sour, in 1765 the outpost of Mozdok is founded, which becomes an immediate target for Kabardins who attack the Terek line and Kizlyar. In 1771 Yemelyan Pugachev arrives on the Terek but showing loyalty Ataman Tatarintsev arrests him. Although Pugachev does flee, the Pugachev Rebellion in 1772-1774 gains no support on the Terek.
The Russo-Turkish War (1768–1774) and the resulting Treaty of Küçük Kaynarca give Russia the pretext under which they could begin their expansion into the Caucasus, and so the almost century-long Caucasus War begins. In 1769-1770 the almost half of the Volga Cossacks are re-settled around Mozdok. In 1776 further settlers arrive including almost all of the Volga Cossacks (the remaining Cossacks on the lower Volga are separated into the Astrakhan Cossacks Host) and the Khopyor Cossacks from the eastern Don territory. These form the Azov-Mozdok defence line. Major foreposts for Russian expansion into the central Caucasus are founded by the re-settlers including: Giorgiyevsk in 1777 by the Khopyor regiment, and Vladikavkaz in 1784.
During this early phase several high-profile battles take place. In June 1774 Devlet-Girey sends a massive Kabardin Army on against the Terek Cossacks, on 10-11 of June the stanitsa of Naurskaya is heroically defended against the invaders and in 1785 Kizlyar is defended against Sheikh Mansur. In 1788-91 the Terek Cossacks take part in three campaigns which take them to Anapa in western Caucasus. However the major gap in the western section of the line there is solved when in 1792 the Black Sea Cossacks are re-settled there.
The next three decades show severe difficulties for the Russian effort in the Caucasus, after the joining of Georgia to Russia in 1801, the Terek Cossacks spare some men and take part in combat under Yerevan but on the whole most of them are in constant defence of their home lines. All this changes when in 1816 General Yermolov takes command of the Caucasus army, in 1818 he changes the Russian tactics from defensive to offensive and begins building the Sunzha-Vladikavkaz line where the strongholds such as Groznaya and Vnezapnaya are founded. Furthermore Yermolov reforms the whole structure of Cossacks and in 1819 replaces elected Atamans with appointed commanders.
In Transcaucasia Line Cossacks take part in the Russo-Turkish War (1828–1829) where they participated in the siege of Kars and other key battles. After Yermolov was recalled from the Caucasus, a new reform took place and the interim regiments in the central Caucasus were united with the three Hosts on the Terek to form the Caucasus Line Cossack Host (Кавказское линейное казачье войско, Kavkazskoye lineynoye kazachye voysko) in 1832, and the new Nakazny Ataman is named Peter Verzilin. Several reforms followed in 1836 the Kizlyar and Family regiments are united into one, responsible for the Terek Delta and in 1837 a Malorossiyan regiment (formed in 1831 to combat the November Uprising in Poland]]) is resettled on the upper Terek north of Vladikavkaz and in 1842 the regiment is incorporated into the Line host. This was followed by the formation of the Sunzha regiment with its Ataman Sleptsov.
By this point the Russian control in the Caucasus has drastically improved, with the initiative firmly in the Cossack hands. Most of the battles now took place in Chechen and Dagestani territories far away from the Cossack homes. During the 1840s several victorious expeditions were mounted deep into the mountains. The line Cossacks participated in the Crimean War (1853-1856) and finally in the closing phase of the Russian advance against Shamil in 1859.
The end of the Caucasus War marked the end of the line Cossack Host. In 1860 it was divided with the two western regiments joining the Black Sea Cossacks to form the Kuban Cossack Host and the remaining into the Terek Cossack Host. The next decade shows a gradual reform from military control to a civil one. In 1865 a permanent police is formed, and in 1869 the Terek Oblast is formed which is split into eight mountainous districts (populated by indigenous people) and seven Cossack subdivisions. Several regimental reforms follow: Kizlyar and Rower as well as Mountain and Mozdok regiments are united into two (thus reducing the number of sub-divisions from to five), and in 1871 a charter for Terek Cossacks is published.
From the 1870s onwards the Eastern Caucasus remain largely peaceful, Terek Cossacks due however take part in several Imperial Wars, including the campaigns against Khiva in 1873. During the Russo-Turkish War (1877–1878) the Terek Cossacks sent six cavalry regiments, one Guards squadron and one mounted artillery regiment to the Balkans whilst further seven regiments and mounted battery were mobilised against the rebelling Chechens and Dagestanis.
In the 1880s the arrival of the railways the discovery of oil made the Terek Oblast one of the wealthiest in the Caucasus, which also saw a great growth in Cossack and indigenous mountain population. This created friction between land ownership however as the former held extensive areas, and the latter only in the mountainous zones. However the combat ability of the Terek Cossacks never extinguished as in 1879 they took part in campaigns against Geok-Tele and in 1885 right up to the Afghan border in Central Asia.
Although Cossacks did form a substantial part of Denikin's units, the Terek Cossacks were mostly involved in fighting the Caucasus insurgency against their traditional adversaries. In 1920 some Terek Cossacks were deported to Ukraine and northern part of European Russia and a new Mountanous ASSR was formed. This left the former Sunzha-Terek Mesopotamia triangle split between the new Chechen land passing through the middle. The remaining parts were formed as the Sunzha Cossack District which also encompassed lands around Grozny.
In the 1930s however, to make the mountanous autonomies more sustainable in economical terms, they were united with remaining Cossack lands, such the Sunzha district was swallowed up by the Chechen-Ingush ASSR, the former capital of the Terek Oblast, Vladikavkaz became the administrative centre for North Ossetia, likewise Cossack territory of the Kabardin-Balkar Autonomous Oblast was also awarded with Cossack territories. On the lower Terek the Dagestan ASSR between 1923 and 1937 administered the extensive territory there (Kizlyar, Terek Delta). Thus by the start of the Second World War only the historical Terek Left-bank was not administered by autonomies.
The Chechen collaboration in 1942 caused the whole Chechen and Ingush populations to be deported to Kazakhstan. The successors of the Terek Cossacks became once again the absolute majority in the newly established Grozny Oblast within the RSFSR. After the rehabilitation of the Chechens in 1957, it was split between the Dagestan and Checheno-Ingushetia republics. This time even the regions north of the Terek River, which had previously been part of Stavropol Krai, were handed over to the expanded ASSRs. Afterwards the systematic emigration of Russians from the Northern Caucasus into other parts of the USSR, notably the Baltic states, took place.
During the separatist regime of Dzhokhar Dudayev in Chechnya in 1990s, many non-ethnic Chechens found themselves threatened by criminal elements and faced with an indifferent government that showed no intention to protect them. Many of the educated elites also lost their positions in government, industry and academia to locals connected with those in power. Nadteretchny, Naursky and Shelkovskoy raions of the Republic of Chechnya practically lost the traditional Cossack population. In both Chechen wars many Terek Cossacks fought against the Chechen separatists.
Today, part of the traditional Cossack land was lost due to the exodus of Russians and the conflict in Chechnya. In Northern Dagestan, North Ossetia and the adjacent regions of Stavropolye a strong minority still remains.