Morale: Hazing Horror Improves Russian Army

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February 3, 2006: There's yet another horrific case of hazing in the Russian army, this one causing the victim to have his legs and genitals amputated. This has caused a furor in Russia, especially since it is known that 16 soldiers died from such beatings in 2005. Twelve soldiers were charged with participating, and three arrested (including a junior sergeant), for this incident. This sort of thing will speed the demise of conscription in Russia. The hazing is most frequently committed by who have been in a year, against the new recruits. This hazing developed after World War II, when Russia deliberately avoided developing a professional NCO corps. They preferred to have officers take care of nearly all troop supervision. The NCOs that did exist were treated as slightly more reliable enlisted men, but given little real authority. Since officers did not live with the men, slack discipline in the barracks gave rise to the vicious hazing and exploitation of junior conscripts by the senior ones. This led to very low morale, and a lot of suicides, theft, sabotage and desertions. Long recognized as a problem, no solution ever worked. But getting rid of conscripts probably will. Volunteers will be in for more than two years, and Russia is developing professional NCOs to keep things under control in the barracks. The only problem with all of this is finding the money to pay for it. Volunteers cost a lot more than conscripts. Russia already uses some volunteers, especially for combat duty in places like Chechnya. These troops get paid on a scale equal to, and, with combat pay, above civilian wages. Conscripts get a few dollars a month. The volunteers will also require better living conditions.

An all volunteer force is also expected to save money as well. The hazing has been one of the basic causes of crimes in the Russian armed forces. The hazing accounts for 20 to 30 per cent of all soldier crimes. This has caused a suicide rate that is among the highest in the world. Poor working conditions in general also mean that Russian soldiers are nearly twice as likely to die from accidents, or suicide, than American soldiers.

With hazing, and the resulting poor morale and discipline gone, the military will also be able to keep more of its experienced and NCOs. Many of the best ones have been leaving the military, despite better pay and living conditions. All noted the problems, caused by hazing, as a major reason for getting out.

Conscription itself, and the prospect of being exposed to the hazing, has led to a massive increase in draft dodging. Bribes, and document fraud, are freely used. Few parents, or potential conscripts, consider this a crime. Avoiding the draft is seen as a form of self preservation. Thus a lot of the money added to the defense budget is going to end up paying for higher salaries, and producing much more effective troops.

 


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