Wednesday, March 23, 2005

Law and Order, today's Russia: a snapshot

You think David Klinghoffer has a tin ear for history? How about the Russians, who are re-establishing a Cossack Army in the Russian Far East -- including in the Jewish Autonomous Region (Birobidzhan)! -- to fight 'terrorists and criminals'??
As this op-ed explains,
[S]ince the collapse of communism in 1991, the Cossack communities have experienced a rebirth. Many Cossacks today, of course, are simply interested in reviving other, more positive aspects of their community traditions, but some want to go further and again play a role in maintaining public order.
In some parts of the Russian Federation, regional officials have encouraged them to serve as adjuncts to the militia.
But at least occasionally in the Russian Far East and elsewhere, the Cossacks involved in such law enforcement activities have routinely violated the law, ignoring statutes that protect the rights of citizens and employing disproportionate force in the name of maintaining "law and order." Consequently, at least some observers may argue that what Moscow's man in the Russian Far East [Konstantin Pulikovsky, Putin's envoy in the Far Eastern federal district, who took this decision -- M.S.] did last week with regard to the Amur Cossack Host is nothing more than an entirely reasonable attempt to regulate and rein in the actions of the Cossacks in that far-flung region of the Russian Federation. But there is a real danger that the Cossacks will see this latest move in a different way, as representing an official blessing of what they are doing and an invitation for them to behave even worse than in the past -- especially when they are dealing out of the media spotlight with Jews and others they have traditionally seen as their enemies.
Wonderful news. Next up: the return of the crusaders.

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