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Feature Story June 10, 2004
 
How to Survive the Russian Army
[ PLAGIARIZED ]
 
Page 5 of 6
 
"Even if you're just suspected of being an informer, they'll make you pay. Looking for informers is always a big recreational pastime in closed groups: prisons, army units, spy services. And once you're suspected you can never clear yourself.

My Dear Parents,

On April 25 I got ten letters from you. I was in the canteen and right there they gave me ten blows on the neck, sort of payment for the ten letters. Everybody was surprised I got so many, and that made them envy me, so they beat me.

I didn't get the money you sent, though, so don't send any more in your letters.

But Mother, I need you to send 200 rubles somehow. I'm trapped. A Dyed told me to wash his new striped vest, so I washed it and hung it up to dry. When I came back there was an old, torn vest in its place. Now the Dyed wants a new vest or 200 rubles.

Mother, no one likes me here. Not just the Dyedii but guys who were drafted with me. A few days back eight guys beat me up and all the Dyedii stood around and watched, because I can't steal like them and don't have money, don't buy the Dyedii cigarettes and don't smoke myself, because I don't have a girl and didn't have one before the army....

Here we have these laws, like that if you let somebody walk in front of you you get beaten up, or if you help someone you get beaten, or you won't steal you get beaten. And they beat with all their might.

The officers know what goes on here but they prefer not to notice, the swine...

Oleg, Pskov Region, Paratroops

"Don't trust the guys who came in at the same time as you, either. They're as bad as the Dyedii. The strong ones will make the weak ones do all the dirtiest work. For example, in the showers, the Dyedii are using the hot showers, and over in the other corner the "Dukhii" are using cold water from a tap. A Dyed comes along and throws his dirty pants and socks over at the Dukhii. He doesn't care who washes them, but they'd better be washed and wrung out by the time he's finished his shower. So the question is, who among the Dukhii is going to do the washing? The strong will always make the weakest ones do it. And once a guy's given in, done the washing, he'll be stuck doing it forever.

"So when one of your fellow Dukhii throws the Dyed's dirty clothes at you, don't get all philosophical and tell yourself that everybody has their share of dirty work. Just grab that basin and start clubbing the nearest cleanliness-lovers over the head with it.

"The same bickering among Dukhii happens when ten guys are given only enough food for two or three. Naturally the food goes to the strongest, and the rest stay hungry. Once something like that happens, there's no more talk about sticking together; it's every man for himself. And of course the Dyedii love that. They'll make you fight each other. They love that.

"They sometimes even arrange 'boxing matches' among the Dukhii. They make you fight each other. If you do it badly they'll make you do it again and again, or they'll give you belts and make you beat each other with the buckles. They'll make you practice hitting each other, and naturally every guy thinks the other guy's hitting too hard, so pretty soon there's a real brawl going on, and the Dyedii even have to pull them apart before they kill each other."

As several interviewees stressed, there are rules of good conduct even in the Army, though they seem to be limited to theft, hygiene and generosity:

"Never take anything without asking -- not a button, a bar of soap, or a squeeze of toothpaste. Taking without asking is the same as stealing, and they'll make you wish you were dead if they catch you doing it.

"If you get a parcel from home, always share the food with your friends. Never eat alone, in secret. If they see you doing this, you're good as dead. Never hide with food, especially in the toilet. Seriously -- that's the only place you can hide, but to eat in the toilet is contemptible.


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FROM THE VAULT

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Your Letters :

How to Survive the Russian Army : [ PLAGIARIZED ]
 

 
 
 
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