Preparing for Sochi, How Powerful Are Russia's Cossacks?

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Preparing for Sochi, How Powerful Are Russia's Cossacks?

Return of the Cossacks (2006): President Putin's recruitment of more than 800 Cossacks to patrol Sochi during the Winter Olympics is one step in his years-long effort to bring them back to prominence in Russian affairs. What are the consequences of this Cossack resurgence?

In pre-revolutionary Russia, the Cossacks were the Tsars' most feared enforcers. Now, they've been re-enlisted as Protectors of the Motherland and are using their new powers to target minorities.

"If I face a tough situation, I simply let my horse loose on that person," states one Cossack. Keen to exploit their military skills, the Kremlin has granted Cossacks responsibility for law and order in certain districts. Using their official powers, they harass minorities like the Meskhetian Turks. "They come to our houses and beat people up", states one refugee. Turks claim the harassment is increasing and believe the orders are coming from above. But the Kremlin refutes any suggestion of state-sponsored persecution.

These Russian Cossacks Will Be Out In Force At Sochi

March of the Cossacks (2005): Russian President Vladimir Putin has recruited more than 800 Cossacks to patrol Sochi during the Winter Olympics. The decision marks a return to prominence of the Cossacks, warriors believed to be descended from Khazars, who helped expand and guard the Russian Empire. This film, shot almost a decade ago, looks at how they regained their influence under Putin's patronage.

Repressed under the Soviet regime, Russia's traditional warriors are making a comeback. The Cossacks are once again protecting Russia's border. Putin wants to pay them to form their own security force.

The Cossacks have always had a strong idea of what Russia should be -- white and Christian like them. Muslims are seen as a threat to their way of life. "They beat me very badly and said 'we are sick of your Muslim customs. Get out of Kasnodar'", describes one Turkish victim.