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The Cossacks of Russia are a unique group of people. They are not an ethnic group, but instead, what they have in common is a history of being mercenary soldiers. They fought for any army that paid them. Now, they are considered the warrior cast, and as the famous Russian writer, Pushkin, put it, are 'eternally ready to fight'. Even today, some Cossacks play an active role in military conflicts, for example, in the 1994 war in Chechnya.

Things are different for the Cossacks now. In the ancient past, the Cossacks owned the land. This did not mean that they were wealthy, but at least they felt that the land was theirs and the people received protection. Some want to be able to enjoy that feeling again-they want their old way of life back.

The Cossacks are in general a very patriotic people. They feel very strongly for their motherland, Russia. In the Second World War, many fought on the side of the Soviets to protect Russia from the German enemy. Being excellent horsemen, they often rode ahead of the army, as part of reconnaissance teams. They were the information gatherers that the army depended on. Their skill with horses is a tradition that has been passed down through the generations. Today, unfortunately, with the development of roads and vehicles, expert horseback riders are rarely needed.

Another tradition among the Cossacks was a strong devotion to the Russian Orthodox Church. This tradition is not very strong now, but Cossacks can still be found defending churches from thieves and vandals. Sometimes, they are not even paid to do so. Since 1991, with the collapse of the Soviet Union, the country has seen a vast increase in levels of crime. Again, the Cossacks sometimes take things into their own hands and try to put a stop to crime.

Today, young Cossack men are sent to school where military training is an important part of their education. If a male is the only one supporting his family, he wears an earring in one ear. He will then be exempted from any dangerous duty. These young men learn how to shoot rifles and how to march smartly. They also study Cossack history. Their military training puts them in a good position to help uphold public order.

   
Answer the following questions using complete sentences
  1. What were the Cossacks once known as that put them in a bad light ?
  2. According to paragraph 1, what kind of soldiers belonged to the warrior cast ?
  3. Why do you think the Cossacks felt that the land belonged to them ?
  4. The Cossacks 'feel very strongly for their motherland' (paragraph 3). What does this suggest about their loyalty towards Russia ?
  5. What do 'reconnaissance teams' (paragraph 3) do ?
  6. Why are expert horsemen rarely needed today ?
  7. The Cossacks are still 'defending churches' (paragraph 4) from thieves and vandals in current times. Give a reason for this.
  8. Quote the six-word phrase in paragraph 4 that has the same meaning as 'do something by themselves'.
  9. What are two things that soldiers undergoing military training do ?
  10. Why is a Cossack soldier who wears a earring exempted from any dangerous duty ?
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Answers
 

1.

They were once known as mercenary soldiers who fought for any army that paid them.
 

2.

They are soldiers who are always ready to fight.
 

3.

Since the Cossacks fought for their land and protected the people in it, they felt that the land was theirs.
 

4.

They are very patriotic and willing to protect Russia from enemies. / They love Russia very much and are willing to fight to protect Russia.
 

5.

They gather information that the army uses.
  6. As there are more roads and vehicles today, horses are hardly used for traveling. thus, there is hardly any need for expert horsemen.
  7. It is a tradition for the Cossacks to be strongly devoted to the church, so just like before, they still protect the churches from thieves and vandals.
  8. The phrase is 'take things into their own hands'.
  9. They learn to shoot a rifle and march smartly.
  10. He may be killed or seriously injured while on dangerous duty and his family would be left without someone to support them.
 
 
 
 
 

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Comprehension 1

 

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