Suspicion, Trust, and Brokerage among Contemporary Don Cossacks in Rostov Oblast of Russia

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Aleksei Boiko


This study explores the construction of authority and formation of reputation inside the contemporary Don Cossack community/movement in Rostov Oblast of Russia. The subject of the study is the structure of informal relationships based on the interpersonal acts of reciprocal categorization and recognition. I explore the emergence of authority of contemporary Don Cossack leaders that takes place in the context of permanent suspicion, mutual surveillance, and recognition seeking among Cossacks inside and outside of formal Cossack organizations. Drawing on ethnographic fieldwork data, interviews, and network analysis, I explain the rise of Cossack intragroup brokerage and the noninstitutionalized authority of Cossack leaders. The article emphasizes the importance of symbolic communication, especially the use of semantic polysemy of nominative categories to connect distinct groups, cliques, and individuals. The structure of distributed authority among Cossacks is explained by the discursive strategies of framing the perpetually contested group boundaries. This explanation requires a reconceptualization of “brokerage” in anthropological theory as a practice that relies on switching between the symbolic frames of mutual categorization and recognition.

Article in English


Authority, Brokerage, Cossacks, Frame Analysis, Mixed Methods Research, Social Network Analysis

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