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Kozma Kriuchkov, a Don Cossack, was a real person. He was born in 1890 and died in 1919 in the Russian Civil War (1917-1922). Don Cossacks lived in an autonomous republic in the present day Southern Russia (in the basin of the river Don) from the end of the 16th until the early 20th century. They had their own military tradition and formed independent army forces, playing an important part in the historical development of the Russian Empire and successfully participating in all of its major wars.
Kozma Kriuchkov was the first hero of the First World War to be awarded the Cross of St George, a reward for ‘undaunted courage’ by the lower ranks of the military. He received the Cross for the battle where he fought on his own against superior numbers of Germans and killed 11 of them. He later became a popular figure in mass literature and culture and his portrait even appeared on sweet wrappers branded as ‘St George’ sweets.