Staunton, June 2 – Russia faces a serious challenge in re-integrating Russian soldiers who have fought in Ukraine, some because they have been traumatized and sunk into depression and others because they liked the military life of discipline and violence and find it almost impossible to become part of a society not at war, a psychologist who has treated many of them.
Speaking anonymously, he says that what is needed is a general discussion of their problems and a willingness to commit to helping them. Otherwise, “we will have hundreds of people who have been thrown out of society and are able to shoot and kill” (istories.media/stories/2023/06/02/na-nikh-nelzya-stavit-krest-inache-oni-budut-soprotivlyatsya-i-nam-ne-ponravitsya-eto-soprotivlenie/).
These veterans must not be thrown out of society but helped to become part of it once again. They must not be treated as if it is their job to reintegrate on their own and that the broader society can ignore them, the psychologist says. “Under no circumstances should they be treated as something that can be ignored. If that happens, they will resist and we won’t like it.”
Many soldiers who have suffered physical or psychological trauma sink into depression and turn to alcohol or other drugs. Some seek to overcome the uncertainties of civilian life by joining sects or criminal groups that promise them both discipline and a chance to continue to engage in the kind of violence they practiced in war.
The current Russian government is acting as if it can ignore this situation; but that is the worst possible choice because if the returning soldiers conclude that society feels that what they did in the war was entirely evil and that they are outcasts, then these men will respond in kind by attacking society.
The psychologist adds that this should be clear to everyone from the experience with Prigozhin’s Wagner Group which has recruited criminals and used them in the war, only to see them return to their earlier life, perhaps even more radically violent than they were before. But that isn’t some isolated phenomenon; it is part and parcel of what this unpopular war is doing.
And what is more, the war in Ukraine is taking people who were never disposed to depression or criminality and making them more likely to fall into one or the other after they return from the front.