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Feature Story June 10, 2004
 
How to Survive the Russian Army
[ PLAGIARIZED ]
 
Page 6 of 6
 
"No matter how hungry you are, never carry bread or other food in your pockets. If they catch you, they'll take you to the canteen and make you eat a huge pot of porridge or mashed potatoes. Then they'll force a huge bottle of kissel [a sweet, gelatinous beverage, almost like a liquid Jell-O] down your throat. Nobody can last the whole bottle. Before half of it's down you, you shit in your pants. After that you stink from every hole for a week. Naturally, once they've done that to you, you're a bitch for the rest of your time.

"Cleanliness is essential. Regular washing, shaving, and haircuts are a must. Your face should always be clean, your collar unstained, your boots polished. Guys who can't take care of themselves fall apart in the Army. First their hands get dirty, then they get fungus on their legs, and they end up with suppurating boils from head to toe, and lice crawling through their hair and their clothes. Guys like this get taught hygiene by the Dyedii. And their fellow soldiers join in too. Slobs aren't even allowed to eat at the table with the others. They belong on the trash pile.

"When you're assigned duties, learn them carefully, but never show off. It's just another way of attracting the Dyedii's attention, and you want to avoid that. Just try to be no worse than the others."

Several interviewees mentioned the way their Army training stayed with them after they were discharged:

"After completing my service I came back a total asshole, even though I was sure I was a real macho man. For six months, I beat up citizens on public transport for misbehaving. I did this almost every day and nobody could do a thing about it. After a while I calmed down."

"Where do the Dyedii come from? They're not brought in ready-made; they grow from those intimidated Dukhii who are tormented into zombie-like numbness, then harden into tormentors themselves. The first few months they cry to their mamas, then they make others cry."

Soldiers' letters home offer a vivid look at the boys who undergo this process. Here are some excerpts detailing the sheer misery of Russian army life.

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