Staunton, June 6 – Russian officials and most Russian scholars have long insisted that the Cossacks are not a nation but a sub-group of the Russian ethnos, a position they have been able to maintain because of the diversity of Cossack hosts culturally and because almost all Cossacks as a result of military service and Soviet policies use Russian as their language.
But an increasing number of Cossack activists insist that the Cossacks are a nation with the same rights as any other and that their national language, while suppressed at present, is Cossack, a tongue with deep roots in Turkic languages and one that they are confident can be revived in a post-imperial setting just as regional languages have come back in Europe.
Aleksandr Dzhikovsky is among them. The leader of the All-Cossack Social Center points out that “the ancient Cossack language was preserved in the Don as late as the beginning of the 20th century,” largely among women who remained at home even as Cossack men who served in the Russian army gave it up for Russian (voccentr.info/podumaem-o-nacionalnom-yazyke-v-budushhem-kazachem-gosudarstve/
As Zolotaryev puts it to Dzhikovsky’s clear agreement, this does not represent any denial of “the great Russian culture.” Just as he does not deny “the great Roman” one. After all, while a student, “we read Cicero and Vergil, but to be sure, already not so much in the original.” Cossacks will adopt the same approach to Russian, the Cossack activist says.