Tuesday, March 22, 2005

Cossacks to keep Jews in line

What's old is new again:

In the name of fighting international terrorism, Russian authorities have taken another step that many are likely to find disturbing: They are currently organizing Cossack units to combat what they see as the threat of terrorism and crime in the Russian Federation's Jewish Autonomous Region.

On March 16, the Council on Cossack Affairs attached to the Office of the Presidential Representative in the Far Eastern Federal District decided to re-establish the Amur Cossack Host to oversee more than 15,000 Cossacks in the Khabarovsk area, the Amur region and the Jewish Autonomous District.

In speaking out in support of this action, Konstantin Pulikovskiy, who was named head of that district by President Vladimir Putin, made the following argument: "The main enemy we have today is terrorism," adding, "If we are not united, terrorists and criminals will continue to beat us from all sides."

By registering with the authorities and working together with the government, Pulikovsky continued, the Amur Cossack Host "can become a force that will defend the residents of the Far East from the criminal world and from terrorists." ("Russkiy Kur'er" report online at rusk.ru/st.php?idar=10635)

Not everyone is likely to be so optimistic. The symbolism of this step is especially troubling. Cossack units in the pre-1917 Russian Empire were frequently involved in anti-Jewish pogroms, and the Amur Cossack Host -- and especially the Ussuri Cossack Host, which is now being subordinated to it -- were especially notorious in this regard during the Russian Civil War.

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