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Russia News: Window on Eurasia — New Series: To Keep Number of Cossacks from Growing, Moscow Introduces Multiple Cossack Identifications for Census

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 20 – The Russian census will again count Cossacks as a distinct nationality as the last two enumerations have, but two changes appear designed to reduce the number of those who declare Cossack as their nationality, a reflection of Moscow’s fears that more Cossacks means fewer Russians.

            On the one hand, the upcoming census allows people to declare more than one nationality, an arrangement that means many Cossacks may declare that they are both Russian and Cossack and opening the way for those who organize the results to include them as Russians rather than Cossacks.

            And on the other hand, the new count will list 13 different Cossack groups as separate nationalities, thus minimizing the change that the Cossacks as a whole will have their numbers, possibly as many as three to five million, counted and thus collectively subtracted from the ethnic Russian number.

            Both of these developments have been reported before – see— but the Kavkaz-Uzel news agency has now focused attention on these arrangements and provided additional details (

            In 2010, the agency notes, the census reported that 67.573 people had declared Cossack their ethnic identification. That led to the formation of a Cossack Party in 2012, and demands by Cossacks that the government recognize them as a nation. Now, Moscow has confirmed a list of 13 Cossack nationalities.

            These include the Astrakhan Cossacks, the Don Cossacks, the Transbaikal Cossacks, Cossacks who speak Bashkir, Cossacks who speak Kalmyk, Cossacks who speak Ukrainian, Kuban Cossacks, Orenburg Cossacks, Orthodox Cossacks, Russian Cossacks, Siberian Cossacks, Terek Cossacks, Ural Cossacks, and Ussuri Cossacks.

            Some but not all of these correspond to the Cossack “hosts” [voiska] into which the Cossacks were subdivided before 1917 when the tsarist authority treated them as a social stratum rather than a nationality and included them within the Great Russian nation, Kavkaz-Uzel


            This enumeration suggests that those who process the census may include most Cossacks within the Russian nation if they identify in terms of Russian language or Orthodox religion but perhaps will include others in the Bashkir, Kalmyk, and Ukrainian nations for those who declare those as their native languages.

            Specialists on the Cossacks of Russia with whom Kavkaz-Uzel spoke say that these things as well as the fact that so many Cossacks have left their traditional lands and moved to places where they are viewed and come to view themselves as Russians do not augur well for the growth of Cossack numbers, exactly the outcome.

            (For background on this issue and both Cossack and Russian calculations, see,


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