Agence France Presse
Published — Thursday 15 November 2012
Last update 14 November 2012 11:28 pm
MOSCOW: Russia is to send out Cossacks in traditional tsarist uniforms to patrol Moscow streets and crack down on petty crime, a city official said Tuesday. “We have agreed with the Moscow Cossacks that they will patrol to help ensure order near the Kremlin,” said deputy head of Moscow’s central Tverskoy district Andrei Kuleshov.
But the traditionally warlike group will not be allowed to ride horses or carry swords. And since they are not policemen, they will not be allowed to make arrests. “We will need them mostly to stop illegal sales of souvenirs and flowers and illegal parking near the Kremlin,” Kuleshov told AFP.
Famed for their horsemanship, Russian Cossacks were a major military force before the Russian Revolution of 1917, predominantly in the south where they were charged with patrolling the troubled border region. Under the tsars, the Cossacks were recognized as a separate social group and when the Bolsheviks came to power, they targeted the Cossacks in one of the earliest waves of repressions, wiping them out as a class.
However the remaining Cossacks are currently making a comeback, reviving their culture and promoting traditional values including Russian Orthodox Christianity. Cossacks have also harassed participants in gay parades and contemporary art exhibitions and recently protested against feminist punk band Pussy Riot after they performed in Russia’s main cathedral.
A Cossack representative confirmed to AFP that patrols will begin “any day now” and will see groups of three men in blue tsarist uniforms, on foot and without their traditional swords and riding whips.
“Cossacks don’t even need their swords or whips. Their mere posture will be enough,” said Gennady Afonin, the chief state major of the central Cossack troops. Similar patrols have already been introduced in the southern city of Krasnodar, where Cossacks have accompanied police officers.