Until the end of the 17th century, the Don Cossacks were free people and remained outside the jurisdiction of Russia. They were sometimes persecuted for failure to comply with the tsarist letters, for unauthorized attacks on nomads or Turks, or for the robberies they committed on the Volga. For example, in 1581, the Cossack ataman Britous was put to death, guilty of attacking the Russian ambassador, and the ataman Alexei Stary was exiled to Beloozero.
But these cases were an exception to the rule, because “there was no extradition from Don” and everyone who managed to get to him received freedom and amnesty. This does not mean that anarchy reigned on the Don - the Cossacks had their own code of laws, according to which punishments were often more severe than in Russia. The Cossack right was divided into combined arms and stanitsa rights and was recognized by the tsars, who sometimes turned to the Cossacks with a request to punish the guilty in their own way.
As the professor of the South Russian Institute of Management Gennady Gennadyevich Nebratenko writes in his book "Crime and Punishment in the Customary Law of the Don Cossacks", punishments on the Don were different - from fines to the expulsion and resettlement of a Cossack or village in the desert steppes ... The most common were public censure, arrest, detention, flogging, shackling, stocking, confiscation of property, and even sale into slavery. For grave crimes, the Cossacks were executed and did it with imagination: they drowned them, cut them in half, shot them with arquebuses and hung them up.
Death could be easy or painful, depending on the severity of the crime. The offender could be beaten with whips or logs, beheaded, dismembered (this was done with the Gentiles), torn apart by horses, hung by the legs or by the neck, thrown with stones or burned; a person could be tied to a horse and to death drag along the ground.
The execution with the help of a large river anchor, which was placed in the main square of the town, was especially popular - it was a pillar of shame and a place of execution. Debtors were tied to an anchor, flogged under it and with its help executed, hanging by the legs, by the rib or by the neck.
Drowning was considered a shameful execution. The sentenced person was sewn into a bag of stones and thrown into the water on a rope. After a person drowned, they took him out and the body could be buried according to the Orthodox rite. If they didn't want to bury the criminal, they simply tied him up, stuffed his clothes with stones and threw him into the water.
Those who opposed their own were especially severely judged. For attacks on the villages or on the Cossacks, for the capture of the Cossacks in captivity - they drowned or cut them with sabers; for treason to the Cossacks (mortality) - they were shot from squeaks or drowned in the river. For espionage, they could be executed, or they could mutilate and leave to live - so that the Cossacks remember what could happen to them if they become Judas.
It is known that in 1637 the Turkish ambassador, the Greek Foma Cantacuzen, who was going to Moscow, was executed on the Don. He was suspected of "espionage intent", tried and executed as a "spy" (spy).
For organizing thieves' gangs, providing thieves with shelter, for supplying them with weapons and supplies for chieftains, Esauls and "best Cossacks" they were killed with logs, shot or hung at anchor, ordinary Cossacks were mercilessly beaten and deprived of allowance.