Home » Culture and History

The Cossacks Are Coming

28. November 2012 by Lorena 0 Comments

The Cossacks, Russia’s fearsome fighters known for their distinctive uniforms and impressive swordsmanship have been called to face new enemies. Eight Cossack soldiers, wearing the traditional tall fur hats, were recently stationed in Moscow train stations. They are there to keep a lookout for such threats as loud drunks, panhandlers, and illegally parked cars.


No one knows the origin and full history of the Cossacks. There are possible references to them that go back as far as the 10th century. However, the first official records date back to the 1400s. They were loosely affiliated groups that would form into an independent army on-hire by various Russian tsars. They maintained their separation and independence until the Cossack nations were dissolved by Catherine the Great in the 1800s.


Cossack villages were small spots of democracy within monarchist Europe: Cossacks elected their own leaders, paid taxes within their small villages, and had public schools and communal farms. All Cossack men served 20 years in the military: they would enlist at 18, spend three years training, 12 years in active service and the last three in the reserves.


Vladimir Putin, in keeping with his love of ultra-manly activities, was inducted into the Cossacks in 2005. He holds the rank of Cossack colonel, which was the rank previously given to Russian tsars. His induction was part of a plan to renew that part that the Cossacks play in Russian military defense. 


The first night of Cossack presence in Moscow was something of a bust. Cossack spokespeople say that an overabundance of journalists meant that the soldiers spent more time doing interviews than enforcing the law. By the end of the evening, they had dealt with an unlicensed kiosk selling socks, an old lady peddling dried mushrooms, two beggars and two drunks. Moscow city officials distanced themselves from the Cossack operation after the fact, so, it is uncertain what role, if any, the group will have in the future.

Photos: Quinet and purpleslog