A Little Lapta, Anyone?

The Moscow Times buys the “Cossack” myth hook, line and sinker:

“The Cossacks are an ethnic group within Russia with a strong military tradition. They often take on roles as police or security guards to maintain peace in Russia’s streets.”

In this frame from video provided by Anapa Today, Cossacks throw milk at opposition leader Alexei Navally, center right, at the Anapa airport, southern Russia, Tuesday, May 17, 2016. A group of Cossacks attacked Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his associates outside an airport in southern Russia Tuesday, injuring Navalny and six others, his spokeswoman said. (Dmitry Slaboda/Anapa Today via AP)
In this still from video provided by Anapa Today, “Cossacks” throw milk at opposition leader Alexei Navalny, center right, at the Anapa Airport in southern Russia, Tuesday, May 17, 2016. A group of “Cossacks” attacked Russian opposition leader Alexei Navalny and his associates outside the airport, injuring Navalny and six others, his spokeswoman said. Courtesy of Dmitry Slaboda and Anapa Today via AP. (The quotation marks are mine – TRR.)

Maybe there are real cowboys left in the US, but wearing a cowboy hat does not make a you a cowboy, even though lots of Americans do just that: put on a cowboy hat and imagine they are “cowboys.” The same thing goes for the “Cossacks” flooding and terrorizing Russian public space the past several years.

Meaning, it has recently became fashionable for violent pro-regime thugs or recovering alcoholics or just plain old security guards to dress up as “Cossacks” and behave dreadfully or just gad about looking anachronistic and as if they are in charge, although no one put them in charge of anything, and if the police had any moxie they would haul them away to the hoosegow on sight.

I’ve seen such “Cossack” security guards with my own eyes slouching around Our Lady of Vladimir Church, in my hometown of Petersburg, the achingly lovely church where Dostoevsky was a parishioner in the later years of his life.

Another thing I have been told at least three dozen times by various folk in the Motherland over the years is that lapta—an alleged Russian bat-and-ball game not played by anyone for at least two centuries and that no one (least of all, the folks telling me about it) has ever seen played by anyone—is the “Russian equivalent of baseball.” Some even claim it inspired the invention of baseball in the US.

Young people pretending to play lapta so there would be a picture of people playing it for the relevant Wikipedia article
Modern young people pretending to play lapta so there would be a photograph of modern young people playing it to put in the Wikipedia article on lapta. Courtesy of Wikipedia

I think an actual nationwide lapta fad would be a great way of diverting the aggressive energies of all the thugs, alcoholics, and security guards currently pretending to be “Cossacks.” We should see if we can make it happen.

Of course then maybe the ex-“Cossacks” would start running around whacking Navalny & Co. with their new lapta bats. It’s a risk we’ll have to take.

Sources: Moscow Times, Wikipedia

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