Thursday, October 25, 2018

Belarusian Draftees in Soviet Army Often Victims of Dedovshchina Crimes, Moscow Writer Suggests

Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 25 – Most discussions of dedovshchina – the mistreatment of more recent draftees by those further along in their service – in the Soviet army have focused on conflicts between Slavic nations, on the one hand, and Muslim peoples form Central Asia and the Caucasus, on the other.

               But a new article on the Russian 7 portal by Moscow writer Nikolay Syromyatnikov says that ethnic Belarusians were more often the victim of dedovshchina crimes than Russians or even Ukrainians, a report that undermines the notion that Russians don’t see Belarusians as a distinct nation (

                And it also suggests that service in the Soviet military may have been a nationalizing experience for Belarusians just as it was for many other non-Russian groups, something few observers appear to have considered but one that helps explain Belarusian attitudes about the Russian army and any combination of the forces of the two countries. 

            Belarusian resistance to service in the Soviet military in the first years after World War II is well-documented because it led to massive draft resistance and revolts by soldiers who had nonetheless been taken into service, Syromyatnikov says.  Later, Belarusians in the Soviet military appeared to have adapted better.

            But in fact, while Belarusians tended not to form the informal communities other nationalities including Russians and Ukrainians did, largely because they were relatively few in number, when their numbers grew, they were just as likely to have such groups and to become victims or victimizers as anyone else, including the notorious Daghestanis.

            Two other things have obscured the mistreatment of Belarusian soldiers, the commentator says. On the one hand, Belarusians were far more ambitious to rise in the ranks than were Ukrainians and so typically sought to conform and follow the orders of their commanders in the hopes of preferment.

            And on the other, while Slavs were victims of dedovshchina in Soviet times, they were so far less often than Central Asians and Caucasians and so the differences in the treatment of the three nations attracted and continues to attract less attention than would otherwise be the case, Syromyatnikov suggests.

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