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CNN SUNDAY MORNING

Cossack Cavalry Acting in Russian Films

Aired March 10, 2002 - 11:58   ET

THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.


THIS IS A RUSH TRANSCRIPT. THIS COPY MAY NOT BE IN ITS FINAL FORM AND MAY BE UPDATED.
FREDRICKA WHIFIELD, CNN ANCHOR: On to Russia now, where the country's army cavalry regiment is celebrating its 40th anniversary. The unit has garnered a lot of prestige, not as a fighting force, but as a showpiece for film. CNN Moscow Bureau Chief Jill Dougherty reports.

(BEGIN VIDEOTAPE)

JILL DOUGHERTY, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice over): They rode into Russian history as the fiercest of warriors, the Cossacks, men who were born on horses. That history lives today, with Russia's Cossack Cavalry Regiment a separate part of the Russian Army.

But these soldiers don't fight. They act. The Soviet Army's cavalry came to an end in the 1950s when it was replaced by the horsepower of motorized vehicles. But just a few years later, it was reborn, thanks to the Russian film industry.

DOUGHERTY (voice over): 1962, Sergei Bondarchuk's "War in Peace," the debut for the Cossack Cavalry, 1,250 horses were used in that film, which won Russia's first Oscar.

Since then, the regiment has appeared in almost 1,000 films. Half their pay comes from the army, half from the Russian film industry. Today, just a few are Cossacks, but many grew up with horses. Some are regular conscripts.

"My father and grandfather were Cossack warriors, Vladimir Yakuchev (ph) tells me, and I plan on continuing the tradition.

Many say it sure beats regular service in the Russian Army, but it's hard work. Horses must be cleaned three times a day and fed a dozen times a day. Both the horses and the men have to train for the movies and teaching a horse to lie down in the snow isn't easy.

"Some of the horses get stage fright at first," Lieutenant Yuri Veloshin (ph) says. "They're afraid of performing in front of the camera, but they eventually get used to all the shooting and explosions."

The Cossack Cavalry regiment is proud of its history, proud of the bond between man and horse, even if they have no more real battles to fight. Jill Dougherty, CNN, Galitseno (ph), Russia.

(END VIDEOTAPE)

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