Staunton, Feb. 19 – Kyiv’s arguments that the Kuban is properly part of Ukraine (jamestown.org/program/the-kuban-a-real-wedge-between-russia-and-ukraine/) have brought a Russian rejoinder that it is not (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=42444). But they have also forced Russians to address two other issues that Moscow generally prefers to ignore.
On the one hand, because the Kuban is the traditional home of one of the three most prominent Cossack groups, the others being the Don and Terek Cossacks, Russians wading into this political thicket have had to revisit the issue of whether the Cossacks are a nation or only a sub-ethnos of the Russian nation.
And on the other, because the Russian state used a variety of strategies including ethnic engineering to extend its rule into the Kuban as well as other parts of the North Caucasus, Russian commentators have also been forced to be explicit in their view that Russian expansion was not an act of colonialism.
But in making these arguments, Russian writers frequently offer evidence that undercuts their own arguments and unwittingly provides support for both Ukrainian and Cossack claims on the Kuban as well as for the contention that what the Russian state did there can only be described as an act of colonialism that should be subject to decolonization at some point.
A classic example of this is provided by Igor Vasiliyev, a regular commentator for the Russian nationalist APN portal (apn.ru/index.php?newsid=43158
The details he provides are thus grist for the mills of both Ukrainians and Cossacks who see the Kuban as properly theirs as well as for other North Caucasians who have been victims of Russian imperialism and now want to see the de-colonization of that country and the emergence of their own nation states.