Monday, January 21, 2013

Window on Eurasia: Cossack Patrols in Krasnodar Focus on ‘Persons of Caucasus Nationality’ While Non-Russians Ask Why They Can’t Have Similar Units

Paul Goble

            Staunton, January 21 – Members of the Cossack police that Krasnodar Governor Aleksandr Tkachev has armed with pneumatic weapons say that “in the first instance, they always direct their attention to persons of Caucasus nationality,” setting the stage for new conflicts and prompting some non-Russians to ask why they are allowed to form similar units.

            The Russian news agency reported the comments of the Cossack police in Krasnodar, noting that Tkachev last fall asked “the Cossack police” to involve themselves with “migration control,” a clear reference to non-Russians from the neighboring North Caucasus and to “harshly establish order” in the kray (

            One Cossack involved in these patrols told the local press, reported that members of these units check the documents of people on the street to ensure that everything is in order. Obviously, he continued, “we always turn our attention to persons of Caucasus nationality” because they are the ones most likely to have shortcomings in that regard.

            When they began their patrols, the Cossacks say, the regular militia were “skeptical” about their utility.  “But there are now conflicts, at least with us. And even when they find themselves on patrol with an Armenian or an Adyg, [members of the Cossack units] never say: I’m a Cossack and that means I won’t help you.”

            The Cossacks add that they believe they should be given greater authority in law enforcement than they have received so far.  “In fact,” one of them said, “we cannot check documents or independently detail anyone.”  Because they know the law from the Internet, he continued, people are not prepared to see their rights violated. 

            The Cossacks at least in Krasnodar may get more powers soon. On Friday, Governor Tkachev announced that he was arming the Cossack units with pneumatic weapons so that, in his words, “they will be able to defend the residents of the kray to the full extent possible” (

            Human rights activists have criticized both the use of the Cossacks as a law enforcement agency and this latest step to provide them with non-lethal arms.  But according to, the idea has the support of local government officials and many ethnic Russians in the population there.

            But this latest step may soon provoke more problems elsewhere as non-Russians ask why the Cossacks should have the right to form such armed patrols when other nationalities do not.  On the site, one Bashkir activist asks” “why should the Baskirs not have their own Cossacks?” (

            “Why can the Russians but not the Bashkirs?” he continues, pointing out that “for a long time in the Russian Empire Bashkirs were Cossacks and guarded the southern frontiers.” Why should that tradition not be established rather than allowing “the southern Urals to be filled up only with ethnic Russian Cossacks.”

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