Morale: Russia Seeks Salvation from Sergeants


May 28, 2006: Russia has decided not to from a military police branch, as part of its effort to reduce the violence and hazing in the ranks. 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, or simply stronger and more ruthless, 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. It was believed that a Military Police branch, to investigate and prosecute hazing incidents, might do the job. But after examining how this would work, it was determined that not enough of the abused troops would be willing to come forward. Without specific cases to work on, the Military Police would not have much to do.

Russia has never had military police, as many other nations did. Military Police functions were taken care of by several other organizations, including traffic control troops, criminal investigators and, until the Cold War ended, civilian secret police (KGB). The Russian military has decided that beefing up existing institutions is a better way to deal with the hazing. They also recognize that the basic problem is simply poor discipline. But now the Russian army has an NCO corps, and one that is growing in size and experience. Moreover, the number of volunteer (or "contract") troops is increasing. In the next few years, some 70 percent of the troops, and all of the NCOs, are expected to be volunteers. These soldiers are much better paid than conscripts, and more is expected of them. The Russians want to see if their new NCO corps actually works, when the sergeants are ordered to shut down the traditional hazing. Time will tell.




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