Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Many Potential Donbas-Like Field Commanders Across Former Soviet Space, Study Warns

Paul Goble

            Staunton, April 12 – A new sociological study of the field commanders in the Donbas says that most are middle-aged males with diplomas from second-tier higher educational institutions, mid-range incomes who have been working in jobs for which they were not prepared and did not aspire.

            What makes that finding important, the authors of the study say, is that there are a large number of people who fit that profile across the post-Soviet region, a pattern that makes the emergence of more such regional violence more rather than less likely almost regardless of what the governments of states there do.

            Indeed, the characteristics of these people and their number recall the individuals and groups who formed the Freikorps among defeated German forces following the end of World War I, people who posed a serious threat to the political and social stability of many of the countries that emerged at that time.

             The detailed, 17-page survey of the field commanders by sociologists A.N. Shcherbak, M.O. Komin and M.A. Sokolov is published in the current issue of the journal “Politeia” (politeia.ru/content/pdf/Scherbak_Komin_Sokolov_Politeia-2016-1%2880%29.pdf) and is summarized by the Tolkovatel portal (http://ttolk.ru/?p=26590).

            The three sociologists examined the biographies of 57 field commanders, about half of whom were on the Russian side and about half on the Ukrainian one.  Their study highlights their age, education, employment history, and political activity prior to assuming their command positions.

            The average age of the commanders was 40.6 years, with the youngest being 23 and the oldest 58. There is a statistically insignificant difference between Russian and Ukrainian commanders.  Thirty of the 57 had higher educations, but only six received them from prestige institutions. Most came from second or third tier institutions.

            About one of four of the commanders had careers in military or law enforcement, with about one in five having been entrepreneurs and one in five having been political figures or public activists. Nearly half had experience in politics, but “none of them were in human rightd, civic or democratic organizations.”

            In reporting this, the Tolkovatel portal suggests that all this raises a logical question with enormous consequences for the future of the entire post-Soviet space:  “what are the prospects for democratization if the main moving force of the [post-communist] transformation is not the middle class but the underprivileged who suffer from poverty, corruption, inequality and the lack of life chances?”

            And as the portal adds, “as a rule,” such people have remained “outside the field of view of investigators of the change of regimes” in this region.

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