The newspaper Moskovsky komsomelets reported November 21 on a proposal to declare President Yeltsin Commander in Chief of Russia’s Cossack troops. The proposal, which is being sent to the Duma by members of the upper house of the Russian parliament, is part of an on-going effort by Moscow to coopt and control the country’s resurgent Cossack movement. In August, Yeltsin ordered the Ministry of Nationalities to compile a register of Cossack communities. Those eligible to register range from village communities (50 or more Cossacks ready to perform state service) to Cossack Hosts (at least 16,000 men). On October 26, Prime Minister Viktor Chernomyrdin revealed that a presidential decree had been drafted ordering the relevant authorities to prepare, by December 15, regulations on incorporating the Cossacks into state service. (6) In return, Cossacks would regain lands that were confiscated from them in the early years of communist rule.
The Cossack movement was revived in the late 1980s and in Russia today some five million people identify themselves as Cossacks. Alarmed by the phenomenon, the Yeltsin government has tried to coopt the movement. Permission has been given for the formation of Cossack units in the Russian army and the border guards, but Cossack communities have been banned from forming their own armed groups or carrying firearms (sabers are allowed). Yeltsin has also ordained that Cossacks will serve under regular army officers and not, as they traditionally did, under atamans elected by the Cossacks themselves.
Military Plans Space Launches.