Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Moscow Decision Puts Cossacks on Track toward Becoming a Nation

Paul Goble

            Staunton, December 30 –Cossack activists have long sought official designation as a separate nationality rather than a stratum or subgroup of the Great-Russian nation, and they have been opposed in this by Russian officials who fear triggering the exit of more subnational groups from the Russians and spark demands for Cossack republics in various parts of the country.

            But now the Russian government itself has taken a step which will only encourage Cossacks to continue to make demands for designation as a separate nation and may even presage a decision by Moscow to grant them that status in the hopes that such a move would help the Russian authorities to keep the situation from getting out of hand.

            According to a report today, the Russian government five days ago issued an order transferring supervision of the program for the development of Russia’s Cossacks to the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs (

            Specifically, the agency will now oversee programs that had been run by the former ministry for regional development, including the monitoring of the activities of Cossack patrols, the fulfillment of government programs for the government’s program for the support of the Cossack hosts, and the training of government specialists who deal with Cossacks.

            Most people are unaware of just how large, spread out and diverse Russia’s Cossack communities are.  There are 13 different voiskas or “hosts,” some of which are Orthodox, some Buddhist and some even Muslim. They are found from the borders of Ukraine to the Pacific Ocean. And they number in the millions.

            If Moscow does recognize them as a separate nation, that step would reduce the number of ethnic Russians counted in the census by millions, something the Russian authorities are very much against; and it would spark demands not only for a potential Cossack Republic or Cossackia in the Donbas and Kuban but for Cossack entities elsewhere.

            Consequently, it is highly unlikely that the authorities will move to grant the Cossacks their wish; but it is certainly the case that this latest decision, likely the result of bureaucratic and budgetary considerations, will have a political impact, mobilizing more Cossacks than ever before and thus creating more problems for Moscow than it may now anticipate.



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