Staunton, June 17 – New draft legislation under preparation by the Russian government since the end of last year further confuses the situaiton regarding the Cossacks, muddying the waters between the few genuine Cossacks who trace their ancestry back to before the Soviet period and the neo-Cossacks the Kremlin has been sponsoring to do its dirty work.
The measure talks a lot about “the revival of the Cossacks,” Dmitry Semushkin says, but one can’t “’revive’ what has died of was killed,” as the pre-1917 Cossacks larely were. Instead, it promotes “re-enactors” in fancy dress much like the Civil War re-enactors in the United States who dress up in period clothing and imagine they are part of something.
But both the proposed law like Russian government practice is dangerous because it lumps all the Cossacks together and thus undermines the few genuine Cossacks in Russia while promoting people who are little more than thugs as they showed in whipping protesters on May 5 (eadaily.com/ru/news/2018/06/17/zakon-o-razvitii-rossiyskogo-kazachestva-pravila-igry-v-kazakov-mnenie).
The commentator provides a detailed analysis of the legislation, three points of which are especially worthy of notice and concern. First, Semushkin says, the law specifies that anyone who declares that he (and it makes no provision for women doing so) is a Cossack is one regardless of ancestry or culture or anything else.
That demonstrates, he says, that at one level, the measure is straight out of “the contemporary game culture of the neo-Cossacks” rather than having anything to do with the Cossacks as a people.
Second, just as the Putin regime has increasingly reduced nationality to language, this measure reduces Cossacks to state service and even more to fancy dress. Historically, Cossacks did not wear special clothes except during times of military service. But the new measure defines them in terms of their uniforms.
That is part of a general trend in Russian society to move back to one based on social strata, but it makes a mockery of what the Cossacks are, their traditions, and their diversity, something the measure also ignores, focusing almost in its entirety on the Don, Kuban and Terek Cossacks rather than on anyone else.
And third -- and this is in many ways the most disturbing aspect of the legislation – it specifies that Moscow will consider as a Cossack abroad only someone who cooperates with the Russian state. Those who defend their nation against a state that tried to wipe them off the face of the earth from now one won’t be considered Cossacks by the Russian state.
That suggests that the Russian government plans to launch a new effort to penetrate, subordinate and possibly even use Cossack groups abroad, yet another form of the “hybrid” wars that the Putin regime has become notorious for.
The new bill has not yet been presented to the Duma, and it remains unclear whether or if it will pass, although as a government measure, it almost certainly will. But as an indication of Kremlin intentions, it is a threat to the Cossacks as a genuine people and to others, both opponents of the regime within Russia and other countries as well.
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