Staunton, August 28 – Yesterday, Deputy Defense Minister Andrey Kaptapolov said that Moscow has completely rooted out “dedovshchina” in the Russian military, the practice in which officers, more senior soldiers, or members of ethnic groups repress and exploit others by means of illegal force.
But soldiers in the military and expert observers say that this plague has not so much ended as changed its form. Because soldiers serve only a year in the ranks, there is less time for the division of soldiers into junior and senior than there was, and commanders do what they can to ensure that non-Russians do not form large groups in any unit.
However, that has not ended the use of illegal measures by some soldiers and officers to exploit others. Instead, as Mikhail Karpov of the Lenta news agency sums up, it simply means that these practices are adopted more by individuals than by groups but can be as awful as those in the past (lenta.ru/articles/2020/08/27/dedovshina/).
In his article, the journalist traces the history of “dedovshchina” in the Soviet and Russian militaries from 1919 to the present, a history that has occasionally led to tragedies, frequently been ignored or denied, and over which officials like now have declared victory without in fact achieving that.
As Viktor Sokirko, another Moscow commentator puts it, the nature of military life means that “an army without ‘dedovshchina’ isn’t an army” because relations among those in uniform are “always arranged by special principles” sometimes based on rank, sometimes on service, and sometimes on background (svpressa.ru/war21/article/274403/).
Commanders and politicians will always be claiming victory over it, but periodic examples of brutal treatment by individual soldiers or groups of soldiers over others will periodically surface. The government and the high command will recommit themselves to combating it. But in the end, they are likely to fail just as they have failed up to now.