Sunday, February 20, 2011

Window on Eurasia: Reducing Length of Draft Service May Have Increased ‘Dedovshchina’in Russian Forces

aul Goble

Staunton, February 20 – The reduction in the length of service Russian draftees are now required to spend in the military may have increased the amount of “dedovshchina,” the situation in which soldiers who have been in uniform longer oppress in one way or another their more junior colleagues, investigators say.

But this development, one exactly the opposite of what officials and experts predicted earlier, may reflect two other developments: the increasing willingness of soldiers and their parents to complain about such violations of the military code and a reduction in the number of officers responsible for morale (

Citing, Interfax and other outlets, the New Region agency reported yesterday that on Friday, the press service of the Chief Military Investigation Administration of the Russian Investigation Committee had reported that “in all military districts and in the fleets, there has been an outburst of crimes committed by draftees.”

“More than 90 percent” of these violations of military and civil law have been committed by draftees even as the number of crimes committed by officers has declined, the investigators said. And Aleksandr Sorochkin, the head of that agency, linked this upsurge to changes in the draft cycle.

When everyone served two years, he said, most crimes among soldiers were committed by the 25 percent in their last six months of service, a pattern that gave rise to the term “dedovshchina.” With the reduction in service to a year, Sorochkin said, “now almost half of those drafted consider themselves” senior enough to oppress those more junior.

At the same time, the investigator continued, some of this increase reflects the cutback in the number of training officers, a reduction that has allowed “informal leaders” to fill that gap and “affect the psychological climate in military collectives,” often in an extremely negative way.

According to an article in “Svobodnaya pressa,” the number of soldiers ready to oppress their fellow draftees has risen by a third, exactly the opposite pattern that those who argued for a reduction in the length of service said would obtain. But as the New Region agency report makes clear, it is hard to evaluate these numbers.

Aleksandr Sharavin, the director of the Moscow Institute of Political and Military Analysis, suggested that it may simply reflect a greater willingness on the part of soldiers and their parents to complain. “Earlier, they remained silent on the principle” that things could get worse. But now, they are ready to complain.

Thus, this rise could be a statistical artifact and instead point to a positive trend in which soldiers and their parents are less afraid to complain because they have become convinced that they will be protected and that perhaps commanders or others will prevent things from getting worse.

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