Sunday, September 2, 2018

Moscow Plans to Divide Its Pseudo-Cossacks into Five Districts to Monitor Population and Counter Dissent

Paul Goble

            Staunton, September 2 – In yet another step that sets Vladimir Putin’s pseudo-Cossacks apart from genuine Cossack communities, the state-backed Council of Atamans of Russia has announced plans to divide the country into five “Cossack districts,” each of which will create a power vertical including a counter-intelligence function.

            Gennady Kovalyev, a general in the Federal Counter-Intelligence Service and deputy head of the Council of Atamans of Russia, says that in order to preserve “the state order,” the Cossacks will be divided into five corps districts,” each with a counter-intelligence staff (

            The general adds that these staffs “will exercise control over the political attitudes of the population,” an indication of the real way that the Kremlin intends to use its own Cossacks and one that sets them apart from traditional Cossacks who are divided into more than a dozen hosts and typically unwilling to be used against the political opposition.

            According to Kovalev, a staff will be set up attached to the Council of Atamans which will oversee the activity of the entire counter-intelligence staffs at the district level. “Strict vertical subordination will be established,” and the corps counter-intelligence staffs will be responsible for reporting on all their activities and their monitoring of the population.

            “On the basis of that,” Kovalyev says, “we will carry out analysis and generalization of reports about the political situation in the regions and monitor information about subversive activity of opponents of the Cossacks in the Internet.” The network of its agents will reach “into the smallest Cossack units.”

So far, the Cossack counter-intelligence operation has been gathering two kinds of materials: documents compiled on the basis of political monitoring and case records about “persons identified as being active in anti-government and anti-Cossack activity and propaganda.”

These staffs, the general continues, will also monitor both relations between Cossacks and the local population and efforts by Cossack units not under its control who seek to compromise the Cossacks that are officially registered and seek to fulfill their patriot duty of supporting the state.

Kovalyev’s brief remarks suggest that Putin’s pseudo-Cossacks are going to go over to the offensive against traditional Cossacks, demanding that the latter either conform to the Kremlin’s definition of Cossackry or disband, something many will be unwilling to do. And that in turn may lead to clashes, especially in the southern regions of the country. 

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