Thursday, 14 June 2007

Russian soldiers

Thousands of nice and decent young men are forced to join the Russian army, where the possibility of being dispatched to Chechnya and being wounded or killed in the war is only one of many dangers.
Anyone who can avoids being conscripted (I have several Russian friends, and none of them has been in the army), and those who can't avoid it are typically from poor families in the provinces.

Human Rights Watch has written several reports on the alarming state of the Russian army:

¤ Conscription through detention in Russia's armed forces
¤ To Serve without Health? - Inadequate Nutrition and Health Care in the Russian Armed Forces
¤ The Wrongs of Passage: Inhuman and Degrading Treatment of New Recruits in the Russian Armed Forces

I also recommend the books of Arkady Babchenko and Anna Politkovskaya.

The first photo in this entry is from a news story I read a very long time ago, and I unfortunately don't remember the source. Those guys are guarding something in one of the big cities, and they don't have it that bad, I guess. All other pictures are from, gathered from various news reports on Chechnya.

The soldier's boots are worn with портянки, foot wraps, instead of socks. Until you learn the tricky art of wrapping them properly, you will have problems with your feet, they say. In Ukraine and Belarus they've decided to move on to socks and lace-up boots. But "advocates of the tradition say cheap and virtually indestructible boots and foot bindings suit the cold Russian climate better than the refined footwear of Western armies".

I think the next guy is from special forces. The dog seems to be carrying water bottles around his neck.

The following photo used to be pretty popular whenever an article about the "bestiality" of the Russian army had to be illustrated. A Russian soldier with clearly Asiatic features and a bad-ass sniper rifle (SVD, if I'm not mistaken) in front of city ruins was apparently a perfect image of the "brutal", "Asiatic" aspect of the idea of Russia.

"Never trust a man who wears his hat pulled down over his forehead", an old grandpa advised young Anatoliy Kuznetsov, who would later write Babiy Yar, a documentary novel on the German occupation of Kiev and the massacres on the Jewish population. Hitler was thus pretty untrustworthy, young Kuznetsov argued. But these two guys seem more reliable.


Ainur said...

Is that a Katyusha on the last photo?! And the evilly laughing Kalmuk with the mega machine gun cracked me up!

Reminds me of Hugo Pratt's way of drawing all Soviet soldiers with a "piippalakki" with Asiatic features. On the other hand, Pratt always gave all nationalities a fair treatment. His Soviet soldiers were straight from the picture book of Red Scare stereotypes, but they behaved as well or badly as any other military, in addition to being cute and menacing in their funny hats. I don't believe in heaven but I hope Pratt got enough hugs in life for that...

Ainur said...

Oh, and I just read a Finnish discussion thread about foot wraps or "jalkarätti", with lots of older folks debating their pros with suspicious yet respectful youngsters. The argument was that a footwrap can be adjusted so that your feet don't get chafed, and if the boot is too big or doesn't fit well (I wonder if "cheap and virtually indestructible boots" is an euphemism), the wrap can be adjusted again. Also, it absorbs more moisture and is easy to wash and dry, some say. The method of wrapping was called a "vanishing folk art"...

Thinking about that, i should have given Falco some foot wraps instead of fancy kneesocks in Goldenbird, which was standard issue in the Italian army as well as damn cool.

Tinet said...

In the last photo it's a BM-21 "Grad" (BM = боевая машина = 'combat machine', grad = hail). It replaced the BM-14 "Katyusha" in 1963. They apparently used to have them in Finland, too ...

As for footwraps, I read a Finnish "wilderness survival handbook" once, where they warmly recommended footwraps. Since they're a square piece of cloth, they dry much quicker than a tube-shaped sock.
And, indeed, when you're wearing those enormous Russian boots I guess you will probably need some flexible padding to fit your feet into them ...

In Russia, they have footwraps for summer and footwraps for winter. The ones for summer are out of cotton, and the ones for winter are either of thick flannel or half cotton, half wool. Russian Wikipedia cites a few more pros:
they are easier to make yourself;
they don't get worn out as quickly as socks;
with them, you can make any shoe fit;
they are better for your foot climate when wearing boots.

ainur said...

Footwrap update!

I just read about the Italian army in WW1. They also used footwraps, but the soldiers didn't like them and switched to woolly kneesocks out of their own accord. After all the debates about the practical advantages of footwraps, I wonder if the Italians just couldn't stand them for purely aesthetic reasons... Per fare una bella figura!

(After all, the Alpini and Bersaglieri were allowed to wear their hat feathers in the front line for "morale" reasons in 1917, although previously they had to remove them because they made such easy targets...)

sova said...

this shit is so fucking stupid i hate you stupid fucking people... i am a soldier i serve in the russian forces yes i am a conscript no i was not forced and no we dont get bullied... we get trained hard and tough sometimes but its what you have to go through to become a good soldier you stupid mother fucker!

you say you have russian friends... yet they have never served i nthe armed forces... so how then dumbass do you know what the russian military is like... oh thats right YOU DONT!
stupid mother fucker... you dumbshit americans are going to have to accept that russia is a superpower you idiots need to stop with your stupid bullshit (because thats exactly what it is bullshit)
you attempt to make russia look bad because you are either one of two things jelious, or afraid...
which one is for you to decide but your fucking ignorent and a jackass if you think russia is some 3rd world shithole and i feel truly sorry for you if you do... you are obviously misguided by what i dont know but you need to get your shit straight

my heart beats for russia!

Tinet said...

Дорогая Сова,

не надо так взвольноваться. Россия нам очень дорогая. Это не И мы не американцы. :-)

- Тинет


English version, because "Sova" in his/her misspellings sounds so American that I'm not so sure that s/he is really Russian:
Dear Sova,
Chill out. This is not We love Russia. And we are not American. :-)

Tinet said...

Okay, since I added a little statistics counter to this blog I can now see that this post is the #1 most popular page on Chirayliq. So it was only a question of time before someone like Sova would show up.

I should also add that it is absolutely impossible that anyone who has grown up in Russia could maintain such a low level of intelligence as Sova displays.
His/her comment will, of course, remain here for general amusement.

ELinuska said...

The soldier looking into the camera on the first pic is so sweet! OMG those eyes are to die for! You can see that he is smiling even though you only see his eyes. This is like the hottest guy I have EVER seen!!!