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Cossacks asked President Putin on Wednesday to help return Russians to North Caucasian republics
They met with Vladimir Putin in the Veshenskaya Cossack village, where the president arrived at to mark the 100th anniversary since the famous writer and Nobel prize winner Mikhail Sholokhov was born. Chieftain of the Tersky military unit Vasily Bondarev said that the Russian population had reduced from 23% to 3.7% in Chechnya and from 23% to 1.2% in Ingushetia (a republic bordering on Chechnya) in recent decades. "The exodus of Russians from Chechnya and Ingushetia has reached terrible scales and become virtually irreversible in recent decades," Bondarev said. In the 1990s, over 20,000 Russians were killed and more than 650,00 forced out of Chechnya and Ingushetia. Few people remained on the left bank of the Terek River, where over 80% Cossacks used to live. "And some of the houses where Cossack families lived, now shelter the families of Chechen militants," Bondarev said. Addressing the chieftains of Cossack military units, who had come to meet with him, President Putin stressed that the exodus of Russians had become the problem of the whole North Caucasus. "Russians lived on this territory for centuries, and the authorities of North Caucasian republics understand that the current state of things has also become a problem of other ethnic groups living on this land," the president said. Putin underlined that "the exodus of Russians means shortage of qualified workforce, the decay of entire industries and technologies. And which is most terrible is that the culture of ethnic coexistence is on the decline in these republics." "Such ethnic coexistence gave birth to what made the North Caucasus a viable region of the Russian Federation. And the authorities of the North Caucasus and its republics know this. Many of them follow the example of Ingushetia and make effort to return all refugees, regardless of their ethnicity," the head of state added. "Of course, it is necessary to prompt people to return to their homes on the federal level, no matter what their ethnic status is," President Putin said. He noted a gradual revival of Cossacks, who had lived in the North Caucasus for centuries. However, he said that not everything had been done for that yet. "Cossacks serving in Cossack units keep law and order. They have seized a lot of criminals and drugs," the president remarked. Cossacks also keep up Russian traditions, culture and the Orthodox faith, he noted. The president also highly appreciated that Cossacks contributed much to foster patriotism with the youth. "All these facts is evidence that there is a long-felt need to confer a legal status on the activity of Cossack units," the president said. He mentioned that a bill on Russian Cossacks' state service had been introduced in the State Duma (Russian parliament's lower chamber). It was passed in the first reading a week ago. "We must think over what else we can stipulate in the law and what we can do for the revival of Cossacks in general," head of the state said. Cossacks were a community that existed in the pre-revolutionary Russia (before 1917) in the country's southern and eastern extremities. They owned land on favorable terms and served the Czar in return, had their own uniform, possessed cold steel arms, horses and harness. During World War II Cossack cavalry units were formed again on the Don and Kuban (south of Russia), which made a significant contribution to victory.
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