Thursday, 14 June 2007
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 aeronautics.ru, 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.