Monday, May 28, 2018

Russian Government Heavily Funding Many Cossack Groups, MBK Investigation Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, May 28 –  The Russian authorities in Moscow and “from Kaliningrad to Salekhard” provides generous funding to neo-Cossack groups prepared to cooperate with the state and “gives them rights which have converted them into a special subject of the administrative code with large authority and special social protection.”

            That is the conclusion journalist Darya Bayeva reaches on the basis of an MBK news agency investigation into the overt and often covert programs of state support for people who want to call themselves Cossacks whatever their real background is (

                Bayeva notes that the way in which such Cossacks are funded by the government “is difficult to describe as open and transparent.” Not only is such aid coming from many different parts and levels of the government but the Cossack groups, despite laws requiring reporting by such non-profit groups, typically fail to declare their income.

                The question of government financing of Cossack groups attracted public attention only after members of the Central Cossack Host were involved in the beating of demonstrators on Moscow’s Pushkin Square on May 5. There have been reports that the group received 15.9 million rubles (300,000 US dollars) from the government since 2016.

            But that almost certainly understates the amount, the MBK journalist says.  There is evidence that the Central Cossack Host, which was set up in 2009, has received a variety of state contracts, grants and subsidies from various government agencies far exceeding what it has reported or what has been reported in the media, at least by a factor of four.

            The Central Cossack Host because it is centered on Moscow appears to have received far more money than those elsewhere, most of which are funded by regional or local governments or sometimes even private businesses typically for guard duty or to organize patriotic actions and parades.

              The Yenisei Cossack Society, one of these regional groupings of neo-Cossacks, has received from 100,000 to 300,000 rubles (1600 to 5,000 US dollars) for each time it took part in patriotic parades or helped with youth training. But others have received truly strange contracts, such as for laying low-pressure gas pipelines.

            “Another important source of financing” for Cossack organizations are various regional state organizations involved with patriotic training of young people, Bayeva continues.  But no one knows for sure just how much Cossack groups get from the government as a whole: Only 129 of 2762 Cossack groups declare how much they are receiving.

            But two things are very clear, she concludes. On the one hand, pro-government Cossack groups are being given more money from the government than are programs for handicapped or critically ill children, a clear indication of the Putin government’s real priorities.

And on the other, many of those flocking to Cossack groups funded by the government are doing so not because of any sense that they are really Cossacks in any sense but rather because they see this as an opportunity to make money and to win government protection for activities that otherwise would be corrupt or illegal. 

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