Cossacks! Being polite to power. Immigration dilemma

View 836 Thursday, July 31, 2014

“Transparency and the rule of law will be the touchstones of this presidency.”

President Barack Obama, January 31, 2009


A reader says

Every time I read about the chaos and machismo of the "pro-Russian rebels", something in the back of my head whispers:


The tinge of excitement is palpable to anyone familiar with Russian literature. Gogol, Pushkin, Tolstoy, all wrote of the “Russian Cowboys.” One of Yul Brenner’s best movies was Taras Bulba, a Cossack leader from a Gogol novel. My late friend Claire Huffaker’s novel, The Cowboy and the Cossack, romanticizes both cowboys and Cossacks. (It’s a good read, too.)

Although most Cossacks were Slavs, the name has no racial implications, and can be translated as “The Free”; many Cossacks were fugitives, including runaway serfs, of various ethnic origins who were assimilated into the Cossack society and ethnos. There were several bands of them, and at one time the land now called the Ukraine was as often named Cossack territory.

Although the Cossacks were often rebellious, they enjoyed a special status with the Tsars, and considerable autonomy. They were instrumental in many Tsarist conquests, and served as Imperial guards; the rumor that the Cossacks had abandoned the Tsars was important in the early victories of the Bolsheviks. After the early victories of the Bolsheviks the Cossacks became a major part of the White (anti-Bolshevik) army during the Civil War. They were defeated by Trotsky and his new Red Army. Stalin’s vengeance against them was terrible, and most were exiled from the Ukraine.

Cossacks regard the Ukraine as their own territory, and many Cossacks, exiled to Siberia and other remote parts of the Soviet empire, have returned to claim their land. Numbers are unreliable, and since Cossacks are not an ethnic group, many adoptions have taken place to swell their numbers.  They are, after all, The Free, obedient to their hetmen, who may or may not be obedient to government. Cossacks are said to be a major component of the ”rebel Ukrainian” faction in the civil war in eastern Ukraine. Organized Cossacks were employed by Putin as guards and escorts at the Sochi Winter Olympics.

They served as both modern police, and in more traditional costume at Sochi shows them suppressing Pussy Riot

There is considerable sentiment both for and against the Cossacks in modern Russia. Their legendary loyalty to but independence from the central government looms large in contemporary thought. One thing is certain. If Putin is using the Cossacks, as Cossacks, in his efforts to destabilize today’s Ukraine, and this is successful, he will have gained allies who are not obsequious servants.


The melting pot

Hello Jerry,

I read Phil Tharp’s piece about immigrant’s casual approach to leaving their kids at home unattended. His example was a couple of kids 9 and 11 left alone at night.

It reminded me of an experience that I had back in the mid-70’s, when I was working for NSWC, Dahlgren, VA, and had occasion to do a job in Istanbul.

The other tech I was traveling with and I checked in to our hotel, then went to the Consulate, where we met our point of contact, and asked him about decent restaurants in the area. He told us about one in easy walking distance from our hotel, so that is where we went. We arrived about 5:30, not realizing that in Turkey restaurants are just getting going good around 9:00.

The place was deserted, except for us, and we were greeted by a nice English lady who gave us a menu and went back to the kitchen. A little later, a small girl, about 5 or 6, showed up, identified herself as ‘Ann’, and struck up a conversation with me and my companion. We told her our names. She disappeared into the kitchen, came back with a pencil and paper, and informed us that she would make us a book. The English lady came back and took our order. Ann worked on our books during the process of ordering and cooking, maintaining a conversation all the while.

My book was entitled ‘Bob’s Book’. With capitals and apostrophe. And no input from me, except for providing my name, verbally. It contained several pictures (mountains, trees, etc.), all labeled with properly spelled names. She made a similar book for my fellow tech, appropriately entitled ‘Dave’s Book’, again proper spelling, with no prompting from us, and a few labeled pictures. I put mine in my wallet and thanked Ann.

When our food was ready, Ann (5-6 years old) went to the kitchen, wheeled it out on a serving cart, and proceeded to serve us, including serving the veggies with the big fork/big spoon thing that I have never learned to do, and went back to the kitchen.

We were suitably impressed.

The next night after work, we decided that the food was great and we loved Ann, so we went back to the same restaurant. This time, we were served by the English lady, start to finish, with no sign of Ann.

Finally, when we were ready to pay up and leave, we asked about Ann. The English lady, Ann’s mother, told us that Ann wasn’t able to come to the restaurant that evening, as she was home babysitting her little brother.

Turns out that Ann’s mother was English, her father was Iranian, and they owned and were running a very nice restaurant in Istanbul, Turkey. Ann routinely spoke English, Farsi, and Turkish, as required by the customer. While waiting tables, making and annotating ‘books’ for random customers, and babysitting as required. I don’t KNOW that she wrote in Turkish and Farsi, but I have no reason to believe that she didn’t.

I carried ‘Bob’s Book’ in my wallet for many years, before I somehow lost it, and showed it to a good number of people while telling them the story.

I don’t use this tale to demonstrate that Ann was a super genius (she just seemed to be a sweet little girl), but rather to demonstrate YOUR point, that you have made many times, that small children are ‘learning machines’ and are capable of what appears to be astounding feats of learning, by OUR ‘educational standards’, if simply given the chance and encouraged. Which our education system is seemingly designed to prevent at all costs.

Bob Ludwick

The American education system cannot believe that Ann can exist.  Some of us know better.  And many of the charter schools in Harlem and in the District of Columbia could show the Department of Education if anyone there cared to look.




Hello Jerry,

When I came back from a tour in Germany in 1992 I had to go to the DMV to get re-Americanized. Winchester, VA turned out to be convenient at the time, so that is where I went. With no appointment.

It was ‘Take a number’ and watch the monitor; when your number comes up, go to the window directed. There were a few people in front, but the wait was reasonable. When I got to the window, the person behind the window was pleasant and competent. She told me what I needed to do, provided the proper papers, and got me out quickly and efficiently.

I asked her if her supervisor was available. She looked nervous, and told me the supervisor was out on a driving exam. I waited. When the supervisor returned, my window lady called her over, introduced me, and went back to her window. I told the supervisor about my experience, identified the person I had dealt with, and thanked her for the excellent service that her staff was providing (My experience was the norm; I watched.). The supervisor seemed to be pleasantly surprised, as I suspect that being complemented for providing excellent service was fairly rare.

Since then I have routinely dealt with the office in Front Royal, VA, with similar results. I have also made it a point to thank the ‘Big Boss’ in FR a few times.

At least in my experience, and realizing that when you are dealing with a bureaucracy things can ‘go horribly wrong’, small town VA DMV’s may not be the best of examples when I want to whine about government incompetence.

Bob Ludwick

Well done. I should have done something of the sort myself.


Congress is still dithering over immigration. I would think it obvious that the first move should be the repeal of the well meant 2008 amendment that entitles youthful refugees from Central American countries to formal hearings once they manage to get into US territory. The intent was to help those who were victims of sex slavery by the cartels, but the result has been a mass movement of youngsters toward the United States.

So long as that law is in place, they will come: and if we are going to invite them to run that dangerous gauntlet through Mexico, we must be prepared for them to be here – and to have some notion of what should happen to them. A program that allows them to become apprentice soldiers and administrators – Janissaries – is not likely to be favored.

Note that one of the murderers of the legally resident Chinese USC student was an illegal immigrant, who apparently was part of a group that makes a living by mugging people in the USC university area.


It’s time I went upstairs and worked on a large naval battle taking place right now in Mamelukes…


Freedom is not free. Free men are not equal. Equal men are not free.




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