Staunton, October 29 – In 2012, Vladimir Putin issued a program for the Cossacks designed to run through 2020. That strategy has failed in every respect, according to Aleksey Zborovsky, a Cossack writer who had hoped for better, and wants the follow on document now to try to overcome the problems of the past.
Drawing on the publications of the loyalist Kazakh Information-Analytic Center (kazak-center.ru/), he lists in an article on the Materik.ru site eight goals Putin set in 2012 that have not been achieved (materik.ru/analitika/gosudarstvennaya-politika-v-otnosheni/):
1. Laws rehabilitating the Cossacks haven’t been fulfilled.
2. The creation of an All-Russian Cossack Society uniting registered and unregistered Cossacks hasn’t happened.
3. No economic base has been established for the continuing operation of Cossack communities.
4. Cossacks have not been integrated into state service as the 2012 document promised.
5. The destruction of traditional Cossack culture has continued.
6. Separatist and even “extremist” attitudes have expanded among Cossacks.
7. Cossack groups based abroad and foreign intelligence services are playing a greater rather than a lesser role among the Cossacks of Russia.
8. Ever more Cossacks are turning away from the Russian Orthodox Church and adopting neo-pagan views that often support militarized anti-regime groups.
As a result, he says, the authority of the Cossacks as such has fallen and the number of Cossacks instead of increasing has fallen among both registered (that is “official” Putin Cossacks) and “unregistered” (that is, people who identify as Cossacks for cultural and historical reasons but do not want to associate with the Russian state).
Many Cossacks had hoped, Zuborovsky says, that the preparation of a new strategy document would be the occasion for change. But the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs accepted only five of the 40 proposals Cossack units and leaders made, an indication that officials at least aren’t much interested in improving things.
But as the editors of Materik note, after Zuborovsky submitted his article, the Presidential Administration rejected the Agency draft for the 2021-2030 Cossack program. The question now is whether Putin will genuinely tilt in the direction of the interests of all Cossacks or allow bureaucrats to continue their destructive approach to this community.
The fact that the Cossacks have protested about the failures of Putin’s 2012 strategy is striking in itself as that suggests there is an increasing sense of corporate identity even among those who want to cooperate with the Kremlin and a willingness to signal to the Russian political system that the Cossacks are a group to be reckoned with.
And the decision of the Kremlin to reject as unacceptable the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs draft signals that some near the top are seeking a way to quiet Cossack concerns, even if there is little evidence at presence that there is the political will or available funds to make a difference in the coming years.