Monday, October 26, 2009

Are the Cossacks mercenaries?

The above article, written by Paul Goble, is entitled Cossacks Increasingly see themselves as Moscows Victims, not its Agents. Ill quote a bit from the article and comment below.

. . . Most non-Russians and many Russians . . . think of the Cossacks as little more than a paramilitary force of the Russian state, but many Cossacks have defined themselves as a separate nation and argue that Moscow has oppressed them . . . just as harshly as it has other ethnic communities.

. . . the Russian government has co-opted most of the leadership of Russia’s 13 Cossack hosts . . . [but] . . . the Cossacks share many elements of Russian nationality, including attachment to the Orthodox Church; [so negative] attitudes are typically ignored by the media.

But . . . an increasing number of Cossacks view themselves as victims and are prepared to act as an independent force and . . . the Russian government is increasingly concerned about that possibility, something that could undermine Moscow’s control of the North Caucasus and other parts of the Russian periphery.

One such article, posted online over the weekend [written by Temerev, a Cossack], argues that Soviet oppression of the Cossacks is continuing under the post-Soviet government . . .

At the dawn of the Soviet period, Temerev notes, the communist authorities pursued the physical liquidation of the leaders of the Cossack hosts, many of which fought on the side of the anti-Bolshevik White Russian movement, and of ordinary Cossacks, whose fiercely independent stance put them at odds with Moscow.

These actions, he continues, were in fact “instruments of genocide” intended to eliminate the Cossacks as a people. Now, in post-Soviet Russia, acts of physical violence are no longer needed to achieve that goal: media “brain washing” is sufficient “to cut people off from their native cultural milieu” and make them part of “the culture and traditions of the conquerors.”

Among the mechanisms the occupiers use is the church. Most Cossacks are Orthodox, Temerev notes, but “among the clergy, there are very few Cossacks, and those who are [are] russified – and do not represent any danger” for the Russian government.

The Cossacks need their own Orthodox church in order to block Moscow’s policy of “cultural genocide,” Temerev says. He notes that in July 2009, Greeks in the Don were able to lay the foundation for their own Orthodox church without any particular problem and thus are more likely to survive as a community [than the Cossacks].

[A factor favoring the Cossack cause is that] Moscow wants to portray itself as a democracy and thus is “limited in the means [it can use to suppress] the Cossack national movement.”

[Also, it would be awkward for Moscow] to conduct ‘anti-Cossack’ propaganda without [defining the issues, for if they explained them it would] become obvious [to] Cossacks male and female [that] independent national development [is possible].

Many Cossacks will want to recover the independence that was taken from them and get involved in the struggle for the restoration of the Cossack state. And as a result, almost anything Moscow does do regarding the Cossacks will [draw attention to the issues and have an effect opposite to what Moscow intends].

[Moscow knows] very well that many supporters of the rebirth of a Cossack state link their hopes to the weakening and collapse of the Russian Federation, [so Moscow is striving] to prevent any discussion of Cossack issues at all.

But that lack of any discussion in the central media does not mean that the . . . restoration of Cossack identity [is] not proceeding quickly. . . .


I have had a fondness for the Cossacks ever since I read the Mikhail Sholokhov Don series of novels. Any rating of the premier fighting peoples of the world must included the Cossacks. This brief article makes the use of the Cossacks in Russia seem like the use of the Gurkhas by Britain and the French Foreign Legion by France. I certainly had the impression that the Czar used the Cossacks as mercenaries, but then they went up against the Red Army during the Revolution, and later, during the Second World War, many of them fought on the side of the Germans; so how is it that the Cossacks have lost sight of their distinctiveness? Obviously some havent. The Cossack writer Goble quotes hasnt, but many have. Many have been russified; which is evidence that Communist brain-washing worked.

But now in the era of the Federation, some Cossacks are rethinking their relationship with Moscow. Are they truly as integrated into the Federation as they are encouraged to think, or are they one more element in the Federation that would prefer to retain, or in this case re-obtain a separate nationality. They already are a separate ethnicity but they have been taught to think of themselves as united with the other ethnicities in the Russian Federation. However, as we read recently, the One-hundred percent ethnic Russians think of all other ethnicities as second-class citizens.

If the Cossacks retain any semblance of the identity and self-respect that Mikhail Sholokhov wrote about, I cant see them reconciling themselves to second-class-citizen status.

And if the article is truly indicative of the current state of Cossack thinking, then this is one more case of an old dominant culture (Russia) refusing to accept another culture (the Cossacks) as equal. We have seen the problems this sort of thinking has been causing in Europe. France, Germany, the Netherlands, Spain etc., refuse to accept their immigrants as equal, and the immigrants resent it.

Each time I read an article about an ethnic problem in the Russian Federation, I think of Moscow, putting itself forward as a superpower equal to the U.S. and China. I have no objection to Russia being a superpower. But such problems as the one described above causes me to doubt that Russia has their act together. They seem to have too many internal problems to have the freedom and leisure to play a major role on the worlds stage. Show me where Im wrong, oh ye Russians.

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