Violations of Human Rights in the Russian Military

Cathy Smith
The military reform in Russia is a big hoax. All military reforms in other countries have amounted to the demobilization of the old army and the creation of a new one, which is based on a different recruitment mode, doctrine, etc. This has not been done in Russia. The old army has not been disbanded, no new one has been built, and meanwhile the military are decaying somewhere in between" (Anonymous Russian Officer, Russian Military Reform, 2003). In 2005, an estimated 450 deaths were caused by
more » ... njuries due to internal military violence. The degradation inflicted on Russian soldiers within their regime necessitates reformation by the government and implementation of resolutions. Since the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Russian military has been experiencing heightened levels of personnel decline despite the compulsory draft. The prestige that the Soviet Army of the 1950s received through the late 1980s is dwindling rapidly. Despite the military code of conduct, today's army is afflicted with perpetual violations of human rights. For the future of the Russian military, extensive action must include systemic reconstruction. If modifications fail to be put in place, the system will continue to facilitate massive human rights abuses that will affect the efficacy of the military. In terms of prestige, size, and wealth, the military had been a major contributor to the supremacy and power of the Soviet Union. With the collapse, the military has experienced significant breakdowns and economic failure. During the World War II period and thereafter, soldiers qualified under elite status. The ideal of the "Army and the People are one" infiltrated itself into public propaganda with the notion that the army had the capacity to defend and protect a plethora of republics. With the continual decline of military prestige and current resistance to the compulsory draft system, which requires two years of service by men between the ages of 18 to 27, the military system has inevitably weakened. Less than ten percent of those who are summoned for service comply with their patriotic duties, due to the inherent economic and health problems and fear of abuse associated with the military. Those who are affluent often pay bribes to avoid their two years of service. Various exemptions such as pursing further education, primary family wage earner status, or fleeing the country are utilized to avoid the system. Daily life for first year conscripts consists of menial and degrading tasks. There are explicit distinctions within the military between ranks; the second year soldiers, known as "Dedy," have absolute authority over first year conscripts, a status which promotes the frequent usage of hazing; unfortunately, reprimands are seldom. Food distribution is imbalanced, and the rations given are often insect infested, spoiled, or nutrient deficient. Medical access is lacking and,when available, most first year soldiers are denied adequate care or are punished for seeking assistance. The lack of attention given to sanitation is illustrated by poor living conditions and insufficient time for cleansing especially for first year conscripts. Often labor is enforced throughout the night, which causes chronic sleep deprivation. The fear and terror that exist within the ranks has perpetrated a rise in fleeing soldiers and suicide rates. Despite the military code of conduct, which emphasizes justice, fairness, and equal rights for all, human rights violations are common among personnel. Instead of breaking the cycle of violence and creating camaraderie amongst ranks, vengeance for past abuses is the prominent cause of hazing by second year soldiers. One particular case that took place New Year's Eve 2005 demonstrates the heightened level of torture and demise between ranks: