Vallance, Brenda J. “Shaping Society’s Demands: Russian Soldiers’ Mothers and Military Reform,” Conflict Studies Research Centre, December 1996.
Vallance’s article outlines the various methods used by SOMO to convey their message to civilians. What this article emphasizes above all else is the legality of SOMO and the way in which they conformed to the legal structure in order to gain legitimacy. It seems that this practice definitely made SOMO more appealing to western nations, but I’m unsure how Russian civilians viewed this strategy. Considering the tension between people and state, I wonder I SOMO was conflated with governmental structures, and if this alienated potential support.
Здравомыслова, Е. “ОТ СОЦИАЛЬНОЙ ПРОБЛЕМЫ - К КОЛЛЕКТИВНОМУ ДЕЙСТВИЮ: ПРАВОЗАЩИТНАЯ ОРГАНИЗАЦИЯ ‘СОЛДАТСКИЕ МАТЕРИ РОССИИ,’” 25-26.02.95 г. http://www.indepsocres.spb.ru/zdrav3.htm
Zdravomislova speaks to the prior invisibility of dedovshchina and the Sakalauskas case that made the public aware of problems in the military. This raises the question; is dedovshchina confined to military origins, or is it a manifestation of pre-existing cultural trends? As of now it’s difficult to see dedovshchina as not having roots in cultural trends. Many authors discuss how the military was considered the institution of male socialization, and most of these authors point to the apparent lack of male role models in young men’s lives as the reason for the necessity of this institution. I’m curious if young conscripts go into service with certain expectations of masculinity and violence- or they conflate the two. I want to find a study on this.
The Russian military is often considered a “state within a state” due to its isolationism, and I think this may be the root of the problem. For too long the military was seen as “off limits” to civilians. Zdravomislova argues that SOMOs biggest accomplishment should be that people started talking about military service.
Elkner, Julie. “Dedovshchina and the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers under Gorbachev,” in The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies, iss. 1, 2004.
SOMO largely served in a watchdog position which was met with scorn from the military. This in itself isn’t surprising, but Elkner explains some of the methods the military used to discredit SOMO.
1) Referred to women as hysterical and characterized them as incapable of viewing information objectively and without emotion.
2) Claimed that women knew nothing of military service, and thus could only contribute ignorant ideas to the conversation.
3) Claimed that women were overemphasizing the dedovshchina crisis, and that women would actually make up cases in order to get their son discharged.
Podrabinek, Kirill. “Vozvrashchaias’ k teme,” Index, no. 19, 2003.
Podrabinek explains the historical basis for military hazing (world-wide) and concludes that switching to a contract based military provides the only hope of ending the practice. For the most part, Podrabinek paints a very bleak picture about the nature of individuals serving in the military. Since commanding officers benefit from hazing, there is no chance of reaching them or changing their behavior. Even though hazing would still exist (to perhaps a lesser extent) in a volunteer force, at least soldiers would know what they signed up for, explains Podrabinek.
Podrabinek ultimately raises more questions than he answers. He asks the reader to consider whether or not just abolishing the military altogether would be better for the course of the country since Russia has caused more harm to itself than any external country ever could. This was the first I’ve read calling for the abolishment of the military, and I’m somewhat surprised I haven’t found SOMO at some point entertaining the same idea. I’m curious as to if it just seemed to radical an idea that it would have alienated potential support.
Dedovshchina in the Post-Soviet Military: Hazing of Army Conscripts in a Comparative Perspective
Ed. Francoise Dauce and Elisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski
Ibidem-Verlag: Stuttgart, 2006.
Bannikov, Konstantin. “Regimented Communities in a Civil Society,” 2002.
Bannikov investigates how dedovshchina spreads beyond military service to pervade civil society. His main argument is that young men go from wielding power and being feared (by men only a few years younger) and inevitably attempt to transfer that new sense of self onto their new social life. He describes three main approaches:
1. Ex-military tend to gravitate towards policing/security positions which require experience with violence. In this way, these men seek to maintain the validation of their authority through civil society.
2. Some men will seek to transform societal structures around their past experience with authority and violence. The workplace becomes a new arena for drastic hierarchical orders.
3. The family becomes a unit to dominate. Hazing is used to socialize children and wives.
What is so striking to me about dedovshchina is the relatively small age gap between perpetrator and victim. Bannikov explains that there is a sense of reciprocity at work; even though new soldiers may not have done anything to warrant hazing (to any degree), older soldiers want to repay the damage done to them. This cycle, unfortunately, seems impenetrable.
Bannikov also talks about the societal expectation for military service, which is something I’ve definitely seen differing accounts of. Bannikov explains that generally middle aged and older men generally felt in favor of conscription, whereas the majority of women and young men opposed compulsory service. While for some it may be easy to explain this by characterizing women as the “weaker sex”, Bannikov sides in favor of SOMO as the emergence of strong women, capable of risking everything for the well-being of their children.
Yet what stands out most is Bannikov’s tacit assertion that boredom is at the root of dedovshchina. It seems that soldiers at posts with little to do, and few resources among them, would turn to treating each other violently as opposed to any other alternative. This is something work exploring.
Lebedev, Anna Colin. “The test of reality. Understanding Families’ Tolerance faced with mistreatment of conscripts in the Russian Army.”
Of everything I’ve read, Lebedev’s article is the only which seeks to explain parental acceptance of the practice of dedovshchina. Several authors talk about apathy and lack of faith in the government to make reform, but none so far go beyond a defensive position.
Similar to Maya Eichler’s argument (and the inspiration for my research) that “the waging of war depends on women’s and men’s acceptance of their militarized identities as patriotic mothers and soldiers,” Lebedev demonstrates the role women can play to support conscription and traditional forms of militarized patriotism. One mother expressed regret for getting her son out of the military service because she fears it made him weak. Contrary to Bannikov’s claims above, Lebedev considers women to have had a stronger hand in pushing militarized masculinity, or at least expressing regret for taking that opportunity from their sons.
Some parents recognized the potential dangers of military service but felt that these dangers were less than those of staying at home. Unemployment and alcoholism awaited young men, whereas some parents believed the military could offer a better/disciplined life for their sons. A corollary to this was the sense of pride some parents felt for their sons not evading military service. One letter from a mother of a dead soldier expressed anathema for mothers who tried to take their sons out of service, claiming that SOMO let sons “stay tied to mother’s apron strings.”
While most parents seem to have taken more moderate positions on conscription evasion, there is again a sense of powerlessness. Many felt that the job of the family was to serve as a watchdog, but not to have the responsibility of fixing societal problems. Again, responsibility is relegated to the government, even though they expressed doubt about its ability to enact reform.
Lebedev also brings to light the economic politics of military service. Several letters from mothers contacting SOMO speak to the high cost of bribing officials and allude to the idea that their sons were fighting the rich man’s war.
Though admittedly anecdotal evidence, Lebedev questions to what extent society actually considered conscription necessary for the socialization of young men. In one letter, the author argues it didn’t matter whether one went to university or the military in terms of their masculinization, which was actually dependent on their prior character. Another author spoke to the importance of attending university as a better tool for socialization than military service.
Obraztsov, Igor V. “The Reasons for Dedovshchina and Ways to Prevent it: A Retrospective Analysis.”
Obraztsov spends the first half of the article defining dedovshchina, explaining it in relation to the technical term “relations violating the regulations.” Though RVR is a wider term to encompass “any negative phenomenon taking place between conscripts,” the term seems sterile and detached. I discovered that while dedovshchina is commonly used in the media, RVR is the preferred term for military reports.
Obraztsov then discusses the modern roots of dedovshchina in the Russian army. He finds two main roots; 1) in the late 1960s military service decreased by one year, and those who were conscripted before the cut off took their aggression out on those able to serve less time and 2) Khrushchev’s general loosening of discipline in conjunction with the conscription of those with previous criminal records allowed for violence to go unpunished. The point Obraztsov is trying to make is that dedovshchina did not exist in the Imperial army because 1) soldiers were conscripted for much longer amounts of time, making them functionally career servicemen and 2) older soldiers played a more active part in training of young conscripts.
The article also seeks to expel the notion that dedovshchina is an inherently Soviet legacy, instead arguing its spread in any country that does not engage in contract service. Ending conscription, then, would be the first necessary step reversing the cycle. Overall, Obraztsov is optimistic that improving material conditions of soldiers and providing better training would go a long way in ending the practice.