Tuesday, July 20, 2021

Moscow’s Creation of Cossack Units in Russian Guard Likely to Backfire, Drize Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, July 14 – At the urging of North Caucasus plenipotentiary Yury Chayka and with the support of Vladimir Putin, Moscow is creating Cossack units within the Russian Guard, something the regime hopes will help restore glories from the past but that in fact is likely to have exactly the opposite effect, Kommersant commentator Dmitry Drize says.

            The current powers that be hope to profit from restoring figures redolent of imperial glory from the 19th century, Drize continues; but they bring with them so many problems that it is difficult to believe that the Kremlin takes them seriously or won’t discover that this latest step will backfire (kommersant.ru/doc/4898524).

            First of all, he says, the Cossacks of the Russian empire are associated thanks to decades of Soviet propaganda with repression. Bringing units of them back will only reinforce the conviction of an increasing number of Russians that government repression of the population is returning along with them.

            Second, there is a big question as to who these Cossacks are. Stalin and the Soviets destroyed most of the real Cossacks in a genocide, and many who declare themselves Cossacks today do so only because they like to dress up in fancy uniforms and to get money from the government. Few are real Cossacks and including them in the Russian Guard won’t change that.

            Instead, it will raise even more questions about that domestic security force, especially as in recent years, the powers that be have used Cossacks as informal bully boys against their opponents. At least some Russians are going to be asking whether that is the future of what is supposed to be a law-governed police agency.

            It would be a good thing to revive the Cossacks spiritually, but Russia isn’t equipped to do so, Drize says. That is because patriotism which would be at the center of any such revival is “in the first instance love for those closest to one and observance of the laws. The authorities must provide an example. And they haven’t.

            As a result, what Moscow is doing with its “registered” Cossacks is likely to produce yet another “split in society.” Expressed in academic language, that means “the hatred of one social group toward another” in this case, between the government’s Cossacks on the one hand and the Russian people on the other.

            Drize is far from the only Russian observer who is suggesting that establishing Cossack units within a domestic security structure like the Russian Guard is a mistake. Others stress that this will attract lumpen elements rather than real Cossacks and will be yet another drain on the budget (kavkazr.com/a/oskolok-proshlogo-ili-boevaya-edinica-kremlya-kazaki-i-rosgvardiya/31359475.html).

            More seriously, some analysts say that these Cossack units are likely to end by fighting with each other, as some will look to Moscow against regional officials while others may support the governors and oppose the center. If that should occur, it would compromise the Russian Guard and much else as well.

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