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The Cossacks are a military estate that existed in Russia before the revolution of 1917 and served in border areas. Russia's Cossacks numbered more than 4.4 million in 1916. There were 11 Cossack military formations in the country in the early 20th century. The Cossacks were abolished as an estate in 1920. In 1936, several Cossack cavalry larger units were activated and later fought Nazis in the Great Patriotic War of 1941-45. The revival of the Russian Cossacks began in the late 1980s with the emergence of the early public organizations.

Cossacks - a unique phenomenon on the planet Earth, which arose in the process of natural historical selection, were established on the basis of military fraternity and the Orthodox faith. The unique military glory of the Cossacks caused many states to create their own Cossack troops: hussars appeared in Hungary, dragoons in France, and Cossack hundreds in England and Prussia. The practice of their combat use led to the inevitable conclusion: Cossack not first-class dzhigitovka [trick riding], not masterly possession of cold and firearms, not even the ability to fight and a rare fearlessness, but the "special state of mind" inherent in the best representatives of the Eastern Slavs.

The Cossacks remain an important force in Russian society, with around 180,000 people registered as such and about 2,000 civic organizations. Officially, there are 12 “hosts” (regional formations) and 9,500 Cossacks are engaged in protecting public order. Although there are people with Cossack heritage in Russia, most members of Cossack organizations are not necessarily their descendants: one evidently becomes a Cossack by donning the uniform. Thus, the interpretation of what it means to be a Cossack is very diverse. According to the “ancestral” Cossacks, most of the registered Cossacks in Russia are “fancy-dressed reenactors” and preference seekers.

From a onetime fringe movement in the 1990s, mostly confined to Russia’s south, the state-organized Cossacks seem to be expanding their role. The presidential decree On Reform of Military Structures, Border and Internal Troops in the North Caucasus Region of the Russian Federation and State Support to the Cossacks (March 1993) called for the approval of a list of Cossack units of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation and giving Cossack-styled names to attract Cossacks for the military service. In addition, the decree called for developing a policy of land allotments to the Cossacks in military service.

In November 1993, the Cossacks of the Caucasus Line Cossack Host reached an agreement with Oleg Lobov, Secretary of Russia’s Security Council, to vest the 21st Separate Airborne Brigade with the status of a Cossack brigade. After the First Chechen War, the brigade was reorganized into the 247th Airborne Caucasian Cossack Regiment (military unit 54801, Stavropol).

On 13 April 2005 Vladimir Putin submitted a draft law On State Service of the Russian Cossacks for consideration by the State Duma. According to the presidential spokesman, the head of state sent a relevant letter to Boris Gryzlov, chairman of the lower house of the parliament. The draft law spells out the legal and organizational fundamentals for involving the Russian Cossacks in state service based on the current practice of regulating the issue by other Russian law-making instruments. The draft law does not regulate any other activities of the Cossacks, unrelated to state service. The law covers only Russian nationals being members of Cossack societies.

The draft law defines "Cossack society" as a voluntary association of citizens in the form of a non-profit organization established under the federal law and included in the Russian Federation's Cossack societies registry, with its members having committed to state or other duty according to the established procedure. The Russian Cossacks are to exercise state civil service under the law of the Russian Federation and military and law enforcement service in accordance with the federal legislation.

On 28 December 2021 Presidential Aide Dmitry Mironov chaired a meeting of the Council for Cossack Affairs to sum up the results of 2021 and outline plans for 2022. Aide to the President and Chairman of the Council for Cossack Affairs Dmitry Mironov said that he was confident that the professionalism of the Council members would be helpful in developing new approaches to involving the Cossack society in public service, promoting cadet education, preserving the Cossack culture and traditions, and strengthening Russia’s influence on new generations of Cossacks living abroad.

Anatoliy Seryshev is Presidential Council for Cossack Affairs (PCCA) deputy chairman and presidential adviser. Presidential Plenipotentiary Envoy to the North Caucasus Federal District and Deputy Chairman of the Council Yury Chaika reported on the prospects of implementing state policy on Russian Cossacks in the North Caucasus. Head of the Federal Agency for Ethnic Affairs Igor Barinov reported on the results of the State Policy Strategy Regarding Russian Cossacks. Ataman of the All-Russian Cossack Society Nikolai Doluda presented initiatives on improving Russian legislation pertaining to the state policy on Russian Cossacks.

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