Forward Thinking

The Cossacks Are on the Rise Again. For Real.

By J.J. Goldberg

  • Print
  • Share Share

Time magazine has one of the scariest news reports I’ve read in a while. It seems the Cossacks are on the rise again. No, not figuratively — literally. The fanatically religious pan-Slavic paramilitary tribe that terrorized your great-grandmother’s great-grandmother in the old country is recruiting, operating youth training camps, running for office (successfully) in Russia and Ukraine and agitating for a reunification of Belarus and Ukraine with Mother Russia, all with the active encouragement of Russia’s prime minister, ex-president and permanent strongman, Vladimir Putin.

The Ukrainian government is fighting them, because they threaten Ukrainian independence, but Russia and Belarus are both encouraging them, Time’s Simon Shuster (that’s his name, not his publisher) reports. He visited a training camp for teenage boys in Crimea and interviewed their leader, General Viktor Vodolatsky, a former plumber and a member of parliament for the United Russia party, which is chaired by Prime Minister Vladimir Putin.

Their latest graduates — some of them Cossacks by birth, others newly initiated — took in their commander’s speech on Aug. 10 with all the requisite decorum. “The unification of the Slavic state is the guarantee of our future,” Vodolatsky told them. “And the children who stand beneath these Cossack banners are ideologically pure, physically strong and secure in their faith. Now you must serve as an example to the youth in whatever town you come from.”

There was a major violent clash in July between an organized band of Cossacks and a large force of police in a Ukrainian city where Cossacks erected a metal cross in front of city hall without a permit.

“These actions send an effective message, and we will continue them,” said Vitaly Khramov, one of Ukraine’s most prominent Cossack elders. “We want them to understand that the state of Ukraine is a stillborn project, a tumor that Ukrainians must extract from themselves … We are the immunity against this disease.” As the head of Sobol, the radical Cossack battalion whose flags adorned the training camp last week, Khramov is one of the movement’s key ideologues in Ukraine, and his preaching has reached many of the boys who attend the Cossack camps. (Among the ideas he spouted during his interview with TIME were the notions that the U.S. is a satanic nation secretly run by the Rockefeller family, that Jews practice ritual sacrifice and necrophilia, and that Vladimir Putin, Khramov’s political hero, is a future saint of the Russian Orthodox Church.)

Here is Time’s photo gallery from inside the training camp.


Permalink | | Share | Email | Print | Filed under: Vladimir Putin, Ukraine, Russia, Crimea, Cossacks, Belarus

The Jewish Daily Forward welcomes reader comments in order to promote thoughtful discussion on issues of importance to the Jewish community. In the interest of maintaining a civil forum, The Jewish Daily Forwardrequires that all commenters be appropriately respectful toward our writers, other commenters and the subjects of the articles. Vigorous debate and reasoned critique are welcome; name-calling and personal invective are not. While we generally do not seek to edit or actively moderate comments, our spam filter prevents most links and certain key words from being posted and The Jewish Daily Forward reserves the right to remove comments for any reason.




Find us on Facebook!
  • Move over Dr. Ruth — there’s a (not-so) new sassy Jewish sex-therapist in town. Her name is Shirley Zussman — and just turned 100 years old.
  • From kosher wine to Ecstasy, presenting some of our best bootlegs:
  • Sara Kramer is not the first New Yorker to feel the alluring pull of the West Coast — but she might be the first heading there with Turkish Urfa pepper and za’atar in her suitcase.
  • About 1 in 40 American Jews will get pancreatic cancer (Ruth Bader Ginsberg is one of the few survivors).
  • At which grade level should classroom discussions include topics like the death of civilians kidnapping of young Israelis and sirens warning of incoming rockets?
  • Wanted: Met Council CEO.
  • “Look, on the one hand, I understand him,” says Rivka Ben-Pazi, a niece of Elchanan Hameiri, the boy that Henk Zanoli saved. “He had a family tragedy.” But on the other hand, she said, “I think he was wrong.” What do you think?
  • How about a side of Hitler with your spaghetti?
  • Why "Be fruitful and multiply" isn't as simple as it seems:
  • William Schabas may be the least of Israel's problems.
  • You've heard of the #IceBucketChallenge, but Forward publisher Sam Norich has something better: a #SoupBucketChallenge (complete with matzo balls!) Jon Stewart, Sarah Silverman & David Remnick, you have 24 hours!
  • Did Hamas just take credit for kidnapping the three Israeli teens?
  • "We know what it means to be in the headlines. We know what it feels like when the world sits idly by and watches the news from the luxury of their living room couches. We know the pain of silence. We know the agony of inaction."
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.