"The word Cossack is derived from the Turkish word 'Kazak' meaning freedom. In Russia, Cossack history inspires and emboldens. Dating back to their settlement of the steppes of southern Russia and the Ukraine in the 15th century, Cossacks were famed for their horsemanship, valour and ferocity. During the middle ages Polish and Russian rulers enlisted Cossacks to defend their kingdoms against marauding Tatars. They were brutally repressed under Stalin's reign due to their traditional power being viewed as a threat. Thousands more were transported to the Siberian Gulags. After the Soviet collapse in 1991, Cossack society slowly began to resurface. Authorities assigned Cossacks to patrol city streets on horseback, to snatch up pickpockets and thugs and perform passport and document checks in the southern Russian area of Krasnodar.
Nowhere is the Cossack ideology stronger than in southern Russian cities and towns. The region boasts dozens of military bases, military academies, regional recruiting stations, and the headquarters of the great Don Cossack Army where Cossack children from the ages of 11-17 are taught the rich history of their culture. In addition to learning mathematics, science and language, the boys also learn everything from hand-to-hand combat, and ballroom dancing. After graduation the boys are then propelled in to the military where they are likely to serve in the war torn republics of the Caucasus's for a minimum of 3 years. At the very least they will patrol the southern borders against terrorists or help in stemming the tide of refugees fleeing from some of Russia's economically downtrodden republics. Indeed in Southern Russia, enthusiasm for a Cossack revival is far from unanimous. The region is a volatile mix of Muslim-Christian ethnic divisions; Ossetians, Chechens, Ingush, Dagestanis, and of course, ethnic Russians."