Vienna, May 7 -- A Moscow journalist found his April fool’s joke turned into a sociological experiment when more than 50 Russians responded positively to his offer to arrange for them to serve in the American armed forces in Iraq or elsewhere, a commentary in the current issue of “Politicheskiy klass” reported.
It author, Aleksandr Yusupovskiy, says the journalist -- who he does not name -- on April 1 put up a poster in a town -- also unnamed -- near the Russian capital offering to help anyone who wanted to volunteer to serve in the U.S. military in Iraq for $1,000 a month to sign up (http://www.pointless.ru/cgi-bin/issue.pl?id=770).
Instead of simply laughing at was clearly an April fool’s joke, Yusupovskiy reports, more than 50 men -- about half of the adult male population of the town but only half of whom had prior Soviet or Russian military service -- called the journalist to volunteer to fight for the Americans “in Iraq, Serbia, North Korea, Iran, Cuba and … Belarus.”
The callers, the “Politicheskiy klass” commentator notes, asked about the pay and benefits that the Americans were supposedly offering to Russian “volunteers,” with at least one caller inquiring as to whether those who served in this way would be given U.S. citizenship.
Overwhelmingly, he continues, the callers were unconcerned about the possibility that they would have to take an oath of allegiance to the United States or serve under the command of American officers. Instead, with but three exceptions, the callers said that the only thing that mattered to them was being paid.
The three exceptions raised questions about whether serving for a foreign military could get them in trouble with Russian courts. Only one said he would not take an oath of allegiance to the U.S. And only about 10 -- one in five of the callers -- said they would be comfortable serving as American peacekeepers in Belarus.
There are many possible explanations for this report, even assuming that it is genuine: high unemployment, grinding poverty, or even the possibility that the callers were simply playing along with. But Yusupovskiy offers his own take on this story, and it worth quoting in full:
He writes that “now, every time when I hear remarks about insufficient interethnic tolerance and the rise of xenophobia [or] about awful Russian nationalism or anti-Americanism or suggestions about the special spirituality of Russians and the synthesis of all-human values as a panacea for inter-ethnic and inter-religious conflicts, I recall this April fool’s joke.”
And when such recollections arise, Yusupovskiy continues, “I cannot avoid thinking that politicians and all kinds of ‘specialists’ are calling on the Russians to cure themselves of obesity when in fact what Russians are suffering from is anorexia or malnutrition.”