Jewish World Review March 6, 2014 / 4 Adar II, 5774
The Cossacks are back
By Paul Greenberg
My mother was puzzled. As she regularly was by this strange country and haven, where they did things differently from the old country, thank God. So she asked my older brother to explain something to her. "Irving," she was saying, "I know the
"Ma, they're shock troops," he said.
"Shock troops," he repeated. "They go in before all the others, land on the beaches, wipe out the enemy and everything else in the way, so the regular troops can follow."
Recognition dawned. "Ahh," said my mother, "Cossacks!"
Of course. The Cossacks have been called on by every Russian regime, tsar and commissar alike, whenever an enemy needed to be repelled, or another land annexed to the empire and its people exiled, or protesters at home need their heads cracked.
No film about the Russian revolution, any Russian revolution, would be complete without Cossacks on horseback breaking up a demonstration, sabers swinging, whips cracking, blood flowing. Just as every posh Russian café in
It was only natural that this latest Russian tsar would call out the Cossacks, and maybe the Black Hundreds, too, another feature of Russian revolutions, to quell any sign of freedom. Thuggism comes in all kind of uniforms. Or in plainclothes, as an old KGB man like Vladimir Putin would know.
Nothing was allowed to interfere with the great and glorious Olympics at Sochi, the most recent and elaborate version of the
The curtain parted only on rare occasion, as when a video surfaced of a Cossack caught horsewhipping a punk-rock group that tried to crash the big show and do an anti-government number. The more
Raised on a battlefield in eastern
From the glamour and glitter of Sochi, you could almost see
Did anybody expect anything different? Well, maybe
In the midst of the Cold War, someone once compared Soviet strategy to that of a hotel burglar: He proceeds down the corridor trying every door till he comes to an unlocked one. The comparison isn't exact. It helps if the house detective is taking a nice long snooze. Or better yet, if the house dick has made a deal with the burglar. Only in diplomacy, it's called by a more elevated name. Detente, maybe, or, these days, Reset.
It is the Europeans -- would you believe it? -- who understood what was happening from the first. And why not? They've had lots of experience with dictators and aggression. When they offered the Ukrainians a warm welcome to the
But the Americans were separated from the British Empire by an ocean. What a blessing. Poor
"It's a wonderful world," as my mother used to say. "If only they'd leave you alone. But they won't leave you alone."
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Paul Greenberg is the Pulitzer prize-winning editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette.
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