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Feature Story June 10, 2004
How to Survive the Russian Army
Page 4 of 6
Several interviewees were especially bitter about the way Slavs failed to show the sort of ethnic solidarity shown by Caucasians:

"The blacks believe in helping their own. If one of them gets beaten, the rest will come to his aid. Whereas if a Slav gets beaten, his fellow Slavs will stand around smoking and shrug: 'Well, if they're kicking his ass, he probably deserves it. Why should I get involved?'

"If the 'Islamic Warriors' get on your ass, you're in serious trouble. All you can do is run away, and I mean all the way -- desert from your unit, and when they catch you, demand to be transferred to a unit of Slavs.

"The only Russians I ever saw show any solidarity were the ones from Trans-Baikal. They're very serious people and nobody ever messed with them. I salute them. By the way, their bandits are also the toughest.

Dear Parents,

I'm in the hospital, but it doesn't cure, only maims. Every disease you get a shot of penicillin, which I'm allergic to, which I told them and so got cough pills instead, 8 or 10 pills each day. We get up at 6 am to wash the floors, we clean two floors and a toilet.

The food is very little and bad although it looks OK, even like home, if you just look at it.

Sunday we had to wash the doctors' smocks. I wouldn't do it and a doctor made me clean the WC. Here you easily turn into a beast, they're all just scum, laugh at stupid jokes and become proud because they've beaten somebody up, I'm afraid I'll be like them when I get well.

Now it's 9pm, we're going for a bath, 20 basins for 90 men, but I haven't washed for a month so what can I do?

Everyone tries to be worse than the rest, one killed a cat and they laughed, they can hit you, kick or push and it's considered funny. I have no friends, everyone humiliates and betrays each other. For some reason I keep dreaming about porridge and chocolate.


"Friendship has to be absolute, able to stand up to any stress. I remember one of my friends, Kolya, telling me about his time in the Army. One of the Dyedii ordered him to wash his shirt. Kolya is a man of character; he refused. The Dyedii knew it was no use beating him, so they grabbed a friend of Kolya's and started beating him, and said they wouldn't stop till Kolya washed the Dyed's shirt. Kolya just said that if the guy was a true friend, he'd understand and take the pain. If not, he wasn't a real friend and deserved what he was getting.

"Beware of any 'kindly' Dyedii. There's no real kindness in the Army; it's just a trick. A Dyed will say nicely, 'Hey, could you pass me my boots?' You're so glad he asked you nicely that you bring them and even polish them for him! Pretty soon they've got you making all their beds, shining all their boots, and suddenly you're a laughingstock, playing servant to the whole unit!

"You have to know what chores to accept, what to refuse. For example, cleaning toilets is OK, weird as that may sound -- but washing somebody's boots for him, no way! Not even with the threat of a savage beating should you ever do that.

"As for officers -- just try to avoid them. They don't give a damn about you; to them, you're a worm. It's not that they're such evil people, it's just that they don't live the same kind of life you do. They go home every day to another world: an apartment, wife, children. If you try to complain, they'll think you're just exaggerating. And God forbid you should ever try to run to them with your stories about being beaten up by the Dyedushkii. They'd use the 'incident' to 'strengthen discipline.' It would go like this: the whole regiment would be lined up and an officer would say, 'You bastards are undermining discipline, and among you there is only one good soldier -- Private Ivanov here, who has told us everything about your behavior!' After that you're marked as an informer, and your life will be much, much worse than anything that happened to you before.

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