How to survive “young” How a recruit does not get confused in the army? How to behave when meeting “grandfathers”, hazing? How not to lose your human dignity?
We publish the reference of Deacon Fedor KOTRELEV who served in the USSR Armed Forces in 1988-1990, the opinion of Oleg P., a serviceman of one of the air defense units, and the comment of Reserve Colonel Vladimir CHUMAKOV, a former military prosecutor. Salabon, scoop, grandfather Dedovshchina is sometimes called non-statutory relations of servicemen, but it is not quite correct. Let us assume that treating a superior improperly or disobeying a commander is also a violation of the military code, but no one will call it hazing. Hazing is the elevation of some soldiers over others, depending on the length of military service. There are many different forms of hazing: from basic fairness and passing on experience to junior comrades (which is quite common and has enormous educational value) to disgusting bullying and outright sadism (which is also quite common). Usually, the term of service is divided by army tradition into four parts, replacing each other every six months of two years of army service (or three years of navy service, in which case the term is divided into six parts). This periodicity is explained by the fact that the replenishment arrives every six months – the spring and fall call-ups – and at the same time some soldiers are demobilized from the army. Depending on the tradition of this kind of troops, the names of the soldiers who have served a certain period may differ: somewhere newly drafted soldiers are called “salabons,” somewhere “crucians,” and somewhere just young. In general, if the army is a kind of microcosm, then the army term is thought of as a microcosm of life. Hence the names: old serviceman, “grandfather,” old man, young man, etc. The longer the period of service, the older and, therefore, the more experienced and wiser the soldier. Of course, this is an ideal picture, it must be so, but it happens very rarely – if only because the “grandfathers” are 20 years old and have not yet acquired any real experience or intelligence. So the young men come to the army, they go through the quarantine – a kind of buffer zone where they are told that they are not at home, that they have to make their beds in the morning, that they always have to look neat, to follow the orders, to follow the uniform – and they are sent to the unit. Then what is the army’s task in relation to this rookie? To teach him to be a good soldier. A two-week quarantine is not enough; you have to keep training. And this is where hazing comes in. Those soldiers who have already served for half a year and have learned something, with a feeling and a specific enthusiasm (characteristic of 18-year-old guys) begin to explain the subtleties of service to the young ones: “We have washed the barracks for half a year, now it’s your turn”. The “older” soldiers, who have served a year, try to organize the economic life of the unit (garbage collection, collecting dirty dishes in the canteen, etc.) at the expense of the two younger categories: the six-month-old and the young. In general, the “scoopers” who have served a year are the most active and stable category of soldiers. They know everything, they have gone through everything, but the prospect of a close home life has not yet clouded their 19-year-old brains. “Cherpak”, if he is a mentally and physically normal guy, is an excellent student of service and combat training, an assistant to the commander and… the main “grandfather”. As for soldiers in the last six months of service, they are usually fed up with everything, and all their thoughts are only about home and the charms of civilian life – in a personified form or in the sense of civilian life. But in order for them to have an opportunity to wait quietly and lazily for demobilization, the old servicemen must maintain the established army order: the young wash and scrub, the “scoops” serve and manage the young, the “grandfathers” rest.
It is almost never possible to maintain such an order peacefully – the human factor gets in the way: the caprices, the pride or just the human incompetence of the “rookies,” the laziness and stupidity of the “scoops,” the general pigheadedness and grayness. In general, it is never without fists. Now to the described picture should be added youthful sadism, loverliness, bragging before friends – and we will get something similar to the army. Sometimes a sadistic “grandpa” tortures the young, and sometimes a “salabon” suddenly turns out to be a sambo wrestler. Sometimes the bastard is such a scoundrel and a snitch that you can’t help hitting him, and sometimes an old sergeant is a sissy, a crybaby and a wimp. It happens in different ways, but hazing as a model of relations in the army microcosm is not in principle a very bad thing. Because it’s an order-forming factor. But that is the ideal. But in practice, of course, hazing most often turns into bullying, beatings, and injuries. According to the information made public by the chief military prosecutor of Russia Alexander Savenkov, in 2005 more than 5,000 conscripts suffered from hazing. This is approximately 1.7% of the number of conscripts. But of course, these are only the cases that have come to the attention of the prosecutor’s office.
Deacon Fedor KOTRELEV
“One of the main problems in our units is national compatriots. Of course, in elite units, such as the Airborne Forces, Marines, GRU special forces, soldiers go through an iron selection, and about 75-80% of them are Russian guys. In such units there is usually a healthy environment, a healthy team, and a lot depends on the team. And the “ordinary” units are formed on the residual principle, that is, they are formed by people who either simply have nowhere to hide, or from dysfunctional families where they almost didn’t make a living. Even before the army they got used to the indifference of their relatives and to the pressure of their stronger comrades from the neighboring street, from the neighboring village. And so they come into the army, where they encounter strong fellow countrymen: Daghestani, Ingush, Kabardino-Balkar, Karachai-Circassian. Guys from these regions are very well organized, and, most importantly, they go to serve not because they have nowhere else to go, but because they have to. If you haven’t served, you’re not a man. There is a different mentality there, the mentality of a warrior, a fighter. We Russians have always had it, too, but the Bolsheviks destroyed it in every way, because they were afraid not so much of the Church as of the community that would gather around the Church. As a result, our sense of mutual assistance was destroyed. And it has not been destroyed in the Caucasians. When they find themselves in a hostile environment, as they think, their degree of self-defense immediately takes precedence. And they, brought up in this spirit, try at once to subdue everything that interferes with their mentality, as a matter of fact, although individually they can be wonderful guys. They respect power, and they respect people who respect themselves. And take our village: wherever you go – drunkenness and filth. God gave us such a land, and a man can not name his grandfather or great grandfather, does not know how to be baptized, does not know his holy places. What to respect us for? That’s what happens, we are simply being pushed under ourselves. How can we fight it? Only by force multiplied by spirit. Of course, not all the guys are physically strong enough, but if a person is not broken spiritually, as a rule, the community retreats. They begin to respect * . Our misfortune is that we often do not know how to be together – the way Caucasians do. Russian soldiers rarely have a leader. But it is very important to have one, so that others unite around him. And what about us? Suddenly the whole unit is taken off and goes on the run – allegedly hazing. They start watching, and then they see that some kid, who served for half a year, intimidates all the young guys. One – all of them. And they’re usually intimidated already here, in civilian life – intimidated by all the constant talk about the horrors of the army and the horror stories. Of course, they then come to the army and shudder at everything. And then there’s our own hazing, unrelated to the national question. But here we must remember: a “grandfather” is a “grandfather”. In non-combat units you should not go along with them. He served just over half a year and didn’t really see anything, he just ate in the kitchen! So what did he do that he learned? Maybe do push-ups? Or shoot? He’s just a nobody! There’s no way he should obey. Another thing is the combat unit, the experienced “grandfathers” and demobilized men. Here, it’s more of an exchange of experience between the older and the younger. Often the reason for the difficulties of young soldiers in the army becomes an elementary thing, it would seem – appearance. Many guys just don’t understand that you can’t walk around in dirty clothes, and you have to look human, no matter how tired or how bad you feel. And then there’s the attitude toward things.
Suppose you had your hat stolen in civilian life. Well, they would feel sorry for you and say: they stole your hat, scoundrels! But in the army they say differently: you… missed your hat, you’re to blame, you’re responsible for yourself. In the army only those who can collect their spirit and know how to say “no” survive. And everybody has to be ready for both physical and psychological pressure. Here, say, a young soldier comes into the unit. Immediately the inspection begins, like in prison: come here, bring me this, go there, bring me that. But what is perceived as a normal human request in civilian life is a test of readiness to obey. That’s where you have to be tough and not obey! And for this, before the army, guys have to do sports: boxing, wrestling, other power sports. I would also advise all the guys who’ve been exposed to hazing not to keep quiet, not to try their luck, and to call the prosecutor’s office – everyone has a cell phone. If you’re attacked, call immediately. And now they all react very quickly to such calls.
Oleg P., a serviceman from one of the air defense units
We asked him to comment on this opinion of a person who knows firsthand the situation in the Armed Forces. Reserve Colonel Vladimir Naumovich CHUMAKOV served in the army for 35 years (2.5 years of them in Afghanistan), was a military prosecutor and investigated several hundreds of cases, among them those related to non-statutory relations. – In the opinion expressed, there is an emphasis on the fact that hazing comes from the national associations. In reality national associations are only one tenth of all hazing cases. And it happens mainly in the units where the majority of soldiers are from the Caucasian or Asian republics. In my opinion, the problem is that the Russian people do not have a unifying national idea, which even the Communists had. Young soldiers ask: Who should we serve in the army? Whom should we defend? The oil pipelines of the oligarchs? Their land, “factories” and “steamships”? I fundamentally disagree with the fact that the Bolsheviks destroyed the mentality of a warrior and a fighter in a Russian man. I was born after the war, in Belarus. With the milk of my mother I imbibed the idea that it is a shame to avoid serving in the army. The Bolsheviks supported this idea with all their might, creating youth paramilitary organizations, like OSOAVIAHIM or DOSAAF. I also do not agree that the peoples of the Caucasus overwhelmingly believe that it is necessary to serve. Our experience shows that in Moscow young Dagestanis, Azeris and others “ditch the army” in exactly the same way. But, of course, there are also thoughts with which it’s difficult not to agree. Oleg rightly says that you should be able to pull yourself together and say “no” if you’re forced to do something that humiliates you. Only the commander has the right to command a soldier. Therefore, to this kind of “orders” at all should not respond. On the other hand, I cannot accept the recommendation to resolve difficult issues by force. Under no circumstances should this be done! I say this as a military prosecutor. Yes, we should do sports, but I don’t think everyone should be engaged in hand-to-hand combat. You can unite people like you around yourself first of all by example. If you don’t shirk your job, if you behave normally, if you know how to do something well, like do something with your hands, or if you’re a good athlete, if you sing or write well – you’ll have authority. You just have to be good at something. That way you can unite other guys around you. But if you’re neither fish nor meat, they’ll just keep kicking you. You don’t get real authority with your fists. And now I would like to give some advice to the guys going into the army. 1. If you start to feel that you are being “pressed”, first try to handle the situation yourself, without going to anyone else. Whether it’s one old soldier or a group of soldiers. Try to walk away from the conflict so you can resolve it peacefully later. Do not hit the other soldier under any circumstances. This option is possible only in extreme cases, when, as they say, there was a knife to his throat and there was no other way out. In any case you run the risk of having a criminal case brought against you, and who knows if it will be closed later. I know from experience that it is very, very difficult to evaluate the degree of acceptable self-defense. 2. It is necessary to decide with the command. Find out for yourself what kind of commanders you have, to which of them you can ask for support: the platoon commander, deputy company commander, petty officer, company commander. Usually in a military environment you don’t like it when someone complains.
But I don’t think all officers are indifferent or indifferent to other people’s troubles. There’s bound to be someone you can turn to. 3. 3. Address the Military Prosecutor’s Office, the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers or the unit commander only as a last resort. Because sometimes the decision of the company commander is enough to stop the bullying. If a soldier immediately calls the procuracy without using those forms of protection, he may harm himself by doing so, since he is setting himself against both the command and his fellow soldiers. After such a call the prosecutor’s office starts to shake everybody. The snowball turns into an avalanche, even though the case was not worth it. 4. If you do decide to go to the prosecutor’s office, make sure that you have a witness, who will confirm the facts you stated. One last thing. If you decide to run from the unit, as soon as you are at home, immediately contact the state authorities in your place of residence: the police or the prosecutor’s office. But it is useless to run to the military registration and enlistment office: from the moment of sending to the military unit it is no longer responsible for the soldier.
* While this issue was being prepared, three representatives of the Caucasian community were sentenced to various terms of imprisonment in the unit where Oleg is serving for inflicting bodily harm. Cemetery communities can be curbed, Oleg is convinced.
How to behave in the army
Life in the army is from beginning to end subject to strict military discipline – the absolute observance of rules and order. There are practically no half-measures here: you either can or you must not. Regulations of the Armed Forces not only regulate the daily routine and duties, but also impose a mark on human relationships.
Daily activities and overcoming challenges against a backdrop of social isolation can either bring people closer together or drive them apart. In case of misunderstanding or outright dislike of the person can not slam the door, leave and never meet again. Thinking about the question of how to behave in the army, it is important to remember that the soldier is always in sight.
Personal space, in which the young man was comfortable in civilian life, is violated in the army 24/7. Any deed, a display of meanness and cowardice will not go unnoticed by fellow soldiers and commanders. The first thing a young man has to accept is that there will be a permanent control over his behavior.
Therefore, in order not to create acute (sometimes dangerous) situations, you will have to “step on the throat of the song of his independence”, and sometimes his ego. The army is not a place for displaying ambitions unrealized in civilian life.
The formation of the team is a personal responsibility and personal merit of each individual. From the first days of being among new comrades, you need to take into account that together with them will have to spend a whole year.
It is enough of one unworthy deed in the period of acquaintance, and to restore the reputation, proving “that I am not a camel”, will have a long time. It would not be out of place for a conscript to get acquainted with some rules of adaptation in the army.
Skopidom deserves no respect
Before being sent to the recruiting station, a recruit usually has a food kit carefully put together by his parents. In the time allotted for a snack, it is necessary to share with comrades. It doesn’t matter how much food anyone has, offering up one’s own means showing friendliness and generosity.
This will be a kind of “plus in karma. The food will eventually run out, but the good attitude will remain. The rule applies for the entire period of service in the army and in all respects (not just in terms of food).
Calmness, only calmness
During the “adjustment” period, provocations are not excluded. Unconscious disruption of co-workers because of the fact that the mood is ruined, expectations collapsed, often cause a rude reaction. You should refrain from this and try to switch the situation in a more positive way.
A conscious effort to take the man out of himself is a provocation in order to test it. And in such a situation it is better to show restraint. Violent reaction will lead to open conflict, which will be regulated by the commander, through disciplinary action.
You may or may not be punished fairly, but you will be “on the pencil” for sure. It is easy to ruin one’s reputation in the army in front of the superiors, and problematic to restore it.
Homesickness for home, relatives and loved ones usually begins on the train on the way to the unit. You should not cultivate thoughts about how good it was at home and how bad life will be in the army. As wise people advise: if you can’t change the situation, you must change your attitude toward it. Service, like demobilization, is inevitable. This should be accepted as an axiom.
“You are not even spirits, but only smells.”
A conscript wears the status of “scent” during the CMP (young soldier course), that is, before taking the oath. And no matter how much you want to assert yourself, no one has cancelled the military hierarchy. In the army, you have to be a “smell”, a “spirit”, and an “elephant. There is absolutely no point in arguing about it, or in indulging the outright whims of the “grandfathers”. Integrity and defiant (“donkey-like”) stubbornness are not the same thing.
Respectful attitude to the senior, to commanders and superiors is prescribed by the Statute, but manifestation of respect to senior servicemen should not turn into outright subservience. Excessive servility will cause contempt on the part of fellow servicemen, and “grandfathers” will be recorded as “whipping boys.”
Set aside introversions.
Introverts (closed, fixated on themselves people) cause wariness in the team. Being closed off from communication is a chance to be alone for the duration of your military service. Being in a socially isolated human environment, it is necessary to be part of the collective, to take part in the discussion and solution of common problems, to express your opinion.
Surviving in the army alone is impossible. If there are problems, you must not shut yourself away. You can’t cope on your own, and the situation will come to a standstill. It is necessary to share with a comrade, to ask for advice from the commander. In some cases, it is worth turning to a garrison psychologist (today in the army this position is quite common).