Staunton, Dec. 5 – Almost 70 percent of Internet comments about the Cossacks are negative, Igor Barinov says, with most specialists on this issue suggesting that Russians have a far more negative vision of Vladimir Putin’s officially “registered” Cossacks than they do about that nation overall.
Igor Barinov, head of the Federal Agency for Nationality Affairs, says that 67 percent of the 2210 mentions of Cossacks on social media over the last year are negative, despite the fact that Russian government media coverage of the Cossacks has been 97 percent positive (kavkazr.com/a/ot-geroev-do-ryazhenyh-pochemu-sotsseti-ne-lyubyat-kazakov/31594500.html).
Barinov doesn’t acknowledge, but Gennady Podlesny, a scholar at Krasnodar’s Center for Applied Sociology and Political Science, points out that the negative comments almost all concern Putin’s “registered” Cossacks, the money they get and their repressive and aggressive behavior, rather than the real Cossacks who are seen in a more positive light.
Many of those who join the registered units know nothing of Cossack traditions and see dressing up and using force against the population as something rewarding. As soon as they take off their fancy dress, they are indistinguishable from the rest of the population. They weren’t Cossacks before, and they aren’t Cossacks still, Podlesny says.
Many of them behave badly, drinking excessively and attacking not only demonstrators but ordinary people, he continues. Not surprisingly, Russians are angry especially after all the money they are given and all the support they have received from Vladimir Putin and his government.
What he and the leaders of the traditional Cossacks say has happened is that the Kremlin has revived the worst Soviet-era stereotypes about Cossacks with nagaikas but has been unwilling to help the real Cossacks celebrate their past and recover as a community. Unfortunately, the behavior of the registered Cossacks casts a shadow on all of them.