Colonel Alexandra Kudasheva was a Russian soldier and sportswoman who lived in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. She was famed for her endurance horse riding skills and for commanding one of the first mixed-sex military units.
Born around 1875, Kudasheva is believed to be the daughter of a soldier in the Orenburg Cossacks, and although details of her childhood are uncorroborated it seems she was raised among Cossack soldiers. She married a cavalry officer in the 6th Ural Cossack Regiment, and according to some sources fought alongside him in the Russo-Japanese War. However her husband died, leaving her to raise their children alone.
In 1910, once her children had left home, Kudasheva decided to ride solo across Eurasia from Harbin, China to St Petersburg in order to demonstrate the physical prowess of a female Cossack. She set out on the 8000 mile journey in May 1910, equipped with only her traditional Cossack uniform and weapons, and what she could carry in her saddlebags. She was honoured by a number of Cossack regiments along her way and had become a celebrity in the media by the time she reached St Petersburg in August 1911. In 1913-4 she undertook a second cross-continental ride from Vladivostok to St Petersburg, for which she rode the Tsar’s personal horse. She published a diary about her experiences as well as writing poetry.
With the outbreak of World War I in 1914, Kudasheva enlisted in her husband’s old regiment as a volunteer and fought alongside them in East Prussia. Her bravery earned her a promotion to lieutenant and the Order of St George medal, the highest military decoration. By 1915, she had risen to command the 600-strong light cavalry regiment, which was notable for containing women troopers and officers among its ranks. By 1917 women formed approximately half the regiment, including the notable woman soldier Olga Kokovtseva.
In 1917 Kudasheva was travelling incognito through Central Asia, possibly on an espionage mission, after which records of her cease. It is possible that she was the woman named Alexandra Kudachev who is recorded as being executed in Kazakhstan in 1921, however her fate is not definitively known.