Staunton, November 10 – Since its emergence at the end of perestroika, the neo-Cossack movement in Russia appears to have “been under the direct control” first of the KGB and then the FSB, a pattern that gives special meaning to Vladimir Putin’s promulgation of a state policy for the development of the Cossacks over the next decade, according to a Russian analyst.
In an article for the Lenta.ru news agency, Dmitry Kovalyev says that Putin’s action has its roots in the developments of the years 1989-1990. “Apparently, from the very first years, the Cossack movement was under the direct control of the KGB-FSB” and for the most intriguing of reasons (http://www.lenta.ru/articles/2012/11/07/cossacks/
At least some of these neo-Cossacks, the Lenta.ru journalist continues, seek to “work with state structures [like the Presidential Council for the Affairs of the Cossacks, now headed by Aleksandr Beglov] and the Russian Orthodox Church which has created a Synod Committee for Cooperation with the Cossacks.”
Under Russian law, Cossacks have the same rights to join state institutions as other Russians, but now Vladimir Putin has indicated that he is open to a more corporate status for the Cossacks, one that might allow them, under the control of the intelligence services, to play a bigger role.
As Kovalyev observes, Putin “who has called the Cossacks ‘a special caste’ and ‘a special subculture in the good sense of this word,’ declared during the last electoral campaign that ‘the state has supported and undoubtedly will support the Cossacks,’” a promise he now appears to be making good on.
On October 15, Putin signed a Strategy for the Development of the Russian Cossacks Up to 2020, a document which treats the Cossacks as a social collective and seeks to use them to promote economic development as well as law and order in the areas where the Cossacks now operate (ria.ru/society/20121018/904090213.html
If participation in law enforcement, admittedly defined according to their own lights, is a longstanding Cossack tradition, this new role of the Cossacks suggests, given Kovalyev’s references to the security agencies, that Putin and those around him may want to use the neo-Cossacks to advance positions in a way that allows the Kremlin to disown them if need be.