Streetwise Professor

July 20, 2010

The Grandfathers Are Dead. Long Live the Elephants.

Filed under: Military,Russia — The Professor @ 10:10 pm

I have written from time to time about the practice of dedovshchina in the Russian army.  When Russian conscripts served two years, the second year soldiers–the “grandfathers” or dedys–brutally hazed the first year soldiers.  The violence was sickening, often resulting in horrific injuries and deaths, and leading many recruits to commit suicide.

In an attempt to eliminate the practice, the Russian military replaced the two year service term with a single year stint.  But to no avail.  For dedovshchina lives, in an arguably more twisted form.  In the old two year system, there was a natural progression from oppressed to oppressor.  In the new one year system, evidently, there is a Darwinian struggle to determine who gets to be “elephants”–the soldiers that brutalize the others.  There is arguably more violence in the current system than the old one: it is more anarchic.

No amount of rejiggering the terms of service will cure this cancer.  At root, the problem is attributable to the abdication of the responsibility of Russian officers, and the lack of a professional cadre of NCOs.  The Russian army is notoriously over-officered.  Just what do these people do?  The isolation from the enlisted men, the failure to exercise any control over the barracks, fosters a sort of Lord of the Flies environment.  Until that changes, all that adjusting enlistment terms will do is alter the process by which the elephants evolve; it will not render them extinct.  But the likelihood of that happening seems remote, at best, as it does not appear to be even a subject of discussion, let alone action.

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1 Comment »

  1. […] Professor discusses how the Russian dedovshchina – penalism during military service – tradition has changed into an […]

    Pingback by Global Voices in English » Russia: Staying power of penalism — July 21, 2010 @ 12:21 am

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