Interview with Ataman Nikolay Erimychev

In a TV program entitled Period, host Maxim Shevchenko revisits the topic of Cossacks. Shevchenko opens the show stating that 2015 marks the 25th year anniversary of the Russian Federation Law pertaining to Cossacks. However, the real identity of Cossacks still remains a relevant question today as it was 25 years ago. Are the Cossacks a military class, or are they an ethnicity, formed many centuries ago and are the indigenous people to the lands of southern Russia and other parts of Asia? In earlier October, Russia hosted a 5th World Cossack gathering in the Rostov region, however, the purpose of gathering was as confusing as is the government’s interpretation of Cossacks. When asked about line of duty of the registered Cossacks, the two ethnic Cossacks featured in a video interview standing in the country said, “It is not our job. We are not policemen, we are not guardians of towns. We are ethnic Cossacks. It is embarrassing to call policemen dressed in a sheep skin hats a Cossack. They are not one.”

However, as shown fragments from the TV show period, government officials and church representatives at the 5th World Cossack gathering paint a different picture of Cossacks, tying them to a life devoted to the protection of the motherland.

Historian Andrey Venkov mentioned “Today we have Cossack Communities formed where there never existed Cossack historically. We also have 99% of the Cossack population not registering themselves as a Cossack. Why? It is as because a born ethnic Cossacks does not have to register to be a Cossack. Unfortunately, there is no distinct difference between the ethnic Cossacks and the Registered Cossacks of the government, as there was centuries ago.” Another interview with Ataman Peter Fedosov also mentions the importance of not having Cossacks being controlled by the government. “There are no benefits for the ethnic Cossacks from government control.”

Ataman Nikolay Erimychev appeared on the Period show to help shed some on the Cossack Identity.

Maxim Shevchenko: “We always hear about the term Voisko . Don Voisko, Kuban Voisko, Terskay Voisko, why are they called Voisko?”

Ataman Nikolay Erimychev: “The problem originates in the translation of the word Voisko. Voisko in Russian is understood to be Army. However, the proper translation is Orda, as in a People living on their autonomous territory, with their own established government and rules; and when needed, have the ability to mobilize in times of war. These territories includes men, women and kid, so it was not an army as understood by many people today. ”

Maxim Shevchenko: “If Cossacks are an ethnicity as you say, then we have a law in Russia relating to the Nations, cultures and autonomy, for example, but for some reason we always see a person in Cossack tradition clothing wearing General shoulder boards, awards and etc. It feels like the government is forcing people to play pretend Cossacks, yet the ethnic Cossacks end up unseen.”

Ataman Nikolay Erimychev: “If we look at pre-revolutionary Cossacks, it was a People who were living their lives, but also had a real military influence on its neighbors. However, starting 25 years ago, the only real effort to revive Cossacks by the government was done so from a military point of view, ignoring every other aspects of Cossacks People. In addition, many persons involved in the Cossack movement In the early 1990s decided this was a great way to achieve some type of income, as the government agreed to sponsor a program entitled the rebirth of Cossacks. The end result is a group of people, whom we can call recreational Cossacks.”

Maxim Shevchenko: “I want to understand, who does the president support, the leaders of ethnic Cossacks, or the leaders of some militarized group of people?”

Ataman Nikolay Erimychev: “I would go as far as to say it’s the Historic Military Club, not the people that the president supports.”

Maxim Shevchenko: “We hear a lot today about ethnic Cossack leaders asking for the return of their lands, give the Cossack back their autonomy…”

Ataman Nikolay Erimychev: “I do not think it is a necessary step right now. We need to allow the Cossacks to live the way they wish to live on their historical lands. They will then eventually start to fill up a Stanitsa, then two,then towns, and then the whole region. The whole region will becomes a Cossack region. There is no need to have certain laws here. It should be the free will of the people.”

Maxim Shevchenko: “What would you propose then, for ethnic Cossacks to do, in order to regain their identity back?”

Ataman Nikolay Erimychev: “I propose we simply educate the newer generations. Allow the Cossacks to take care of their own, and educate their newer generation.”