Cossack’s Revival. Tool of the Imperial State and Ethnic Cleansing?

Weekend Reading on the Cossack Revival

Since the fall fo the Soviet Union and more prominently under President Putin, there has been a great revival (See Radio Free Europe’s Piece) of the Cossack culture and increasing political clout including a movement to reassert their role as a security/military instrument of the state. And already it seems like they are back to performing ethnic cleansing duties in Russia.

Why is Putin using an old Imperial Russia approach to solving his country’s ills? Or is enigmatic Russia to be held by a different standard?

Just last week, a bill pushed by President Putin was approved by the Duma approving for essentially the reinstating of the Cossack military role in the Russian State:

“According to the bill, Cossacks are to be sent for military service, as a rule, to military units with traditional Cossack names, to border units and the Internal Troops. Cossacks can also participate in the military and patriotic upbringing of young people, preventing and handling the consequences of emergency situations and natural disasters, guarding the state border and combating terrorism”

And week later, the Washington Post reports on how this Cossack revival is already showing its ugly self in the role of Cossacks in “soft” ethnic cleansing:

Thousands of Muslims from a small ethnic group known as the Meskhetian Turks are fleeing this Black Sea region for the United States. The exodus is caused by what human rights groups call a campaign of persecution sanctioned by local authorities and spearheaded by the Cossacks, a Russian militia that fought for the czars and is being revived.

In the past year, just more than 5,000 Meskhetian Turks have resettled in the United States as refugees, and 4,400 have approval to immigrate, according to the U.S. Embassy in Moscow. Another 7,000 have filed applications that U.S. officials are reviewing.

Keep in mind that the Cossack has been pursuing for a greater role in the North Caucasus – where troubled Chechnya lies and the place of the “Nalchik Raid“. If armed Cossack were brought to the North Caucasus, this would escalate an already deteriorating situation. Russia needs a holistic socio-economic, political and military solution to the Caucasus region, not the brute force of the Cossacks.

Meanwhile the Don Cossacks are trying to reassert themselves by pushing for recognition of their own oblast (province). They are trying to take advantage of Putin’s initiative to reduce the number of oblast in Russia, currently over 80 to a more manageable 20-30 oblast.

The Russian authorities will formally reject any request by the leaders of the State Register Don Cossacks to recreate the Don Cossack Oblast that existed a century ago by merging the present-day Rostov and Volgograd oblasts, “Nezavisimaya gazeta” reported on 3 November.

In the 16th century, Cossack settlers founded the republic of the Don Cossacks on the steppes along the lower and middle course of the Don River.

A spokesman for the Don Cossacks, Vladimir Ryabov, told that paper that the Don Cossacks intend to hold a referendum next year on merging the two regions. He also said that the Cossacks will revive their demand, first raised in the early 1990s, for the Cossacks to be given the status of a distinct ethnic group within Russia.







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