Publication: Monitor Volume: 8 Issue: 79

Russia’s southern regions have seen a major upsurge in organized nationalistic activity. On April 16, the leadership body of the largest and most influential Cossack organization in Russia, the All-Powerful Don Host, called for persons who possess neither Russian citizenship nor local registration to be expelled from Rostov Oblast (, April 17).

“A deadly danger threatens Rostov Oblast,” the Cossack group declared. “This lies in the violation of the ethnic balance on the Don. Uncontrolled migration with the connivance of the authorities has overwhelmed Rostov Oblast… and the land along the Don may experience the fate of Yugoslavia’s Kosovo” (Vremya Novostei, April 17). The Don Cossacks, who are traditionally based near Rostov-on-Don, would like to borrow from the experience of neighboring Krasnodar, where a law entitled “On sojourn and residence on the territory of Krasnodar Krai” recently went into effect. According to that law, the local commission on migration control determines whether to register a migrant to the krai, meaning that thousands of Meskhetian Turks, Kurds and Armenians now have no status (, April 17). What is more, the Don Cossacks are now ready to get directly involved in the battle against illegal migrants: They are demanding that the oblast authorities arm municipal Cossack detachments and increase their numbers for this purpose (Vremya Novostei, April 17).

These events in southern Russia have aroused a highly negative passion in parts of the national media, which have referred to the specter of fascism and ethnic cleansing in the Kuban and Don regions (, April 19). There has been almost no reaction, however, from the federal authorities–aside from suggestions from unofficial sources that countermeasures will be taken. The Krasnodar Krai prosecutor’s office, for example, is reportedly planning to go to court to get the law on residence in the krai declared invalid. According to the krai’s prosecutor, Anatoly Shkrebets, it violates the Russian constitution and several federal laws (Izvestia, Russian agencies, April 19). The Kremlin, however, has remained silent about the controversy. Some in the media suspect that it is complicit, at least tacitly, in what is going on in southern Russia. Some observers even believe that the Kremlin wants to use these kinds of developments to bolster Putin’s image as a moderate in the eyes of the West, much in the way that the Kremlin once used the “threats” posed by ultranationalist leader Vladimir Zhirinovsky and, later, Communist leader Gennady Zyuganov (, April 19). If this is the case, the Don Cossacks’ initiatives, like the increased activities of skinheads throughout Russia, suggest that attempts to manipulate nationalism and ethnic politics may be spinning out of control.