Remembering These Russian Soldiers

by P-Francone

Typically, an officer who is found guilty of killing a soldier gets about four years in jail and families are awarded on average 1 million rouble ($35,500).

Twenty-seven young men, many in military uniform, gaze out from a page on the popular Russian social networking site Many of them are smiling, looking happy and proud for getting their opportunity to serve their country. Although they all died in the army, only a very small number of them died in actual combat, but they all died in a smaller scale combat, which may be even more widespread than fighting nationally recognized enemies like the Chechnyan rebels.

The fight against extreme bullying, crime, bad living conditions and abnormal psychological hazing is one of the biggest killers among young men in the army. Some of the soldiers have been killed by fellow servicemen, shot at point-blank range or beaten to death, there are allegations that some have even been forced to commit suicide in front of jeering bullies.

The Mother’s Right Foundation has set up the Odnoklassniki page to draw attention to the plight of their conscripted sons. Users can add the soldiers as friends, look at their photos, write on their walls, send them messages or read their bios. Their bios describe their lives and deaths, all in the first person.

Nikolay Ishimov from the village of Mezhozernyj, not far from Chelyabinsk tells his story.

“On 20 August 2007, in front of 47 fellow soldiers, I was shot by a drunken officer, Vladimir Bazelev, just like that, for no reason.

“The bullet hit me right between the eyes; I died instantly.

“After three court cases and with the help of the Mother’s Right, my mom managed to get my killer jailed for five years and eight months.

“But my mom still cries, every day√ñ Sometimes my parents see me in their dreams.”

The charity’s unique way of reaching people has already drawn plenty of attention to the soldiers’ plight and got people talking about it, says the foundation’s head, Veronica Marchenko.

“By sharing this information with the world, we show what happened not with some abstract words and statistics, but with these concrete examples, these boys, so that people start thinking about whether this is normal, and what they can do to change it.”

She explains that by using the first-person format, saying “I died, I was killed”, the charity was suddenly able to hit a nerve, to get a reaction from people.

Ninteen-year-old Igor Andreev from Saint Petersburg died in 2005. He was found hanging in a train while being transferred from one military unit to another.

“We were so shocked and shaken by the news that we never performed an autopsy,” says Igor’s mother Lyudmila Strugova.

“They told us that his body had been lying in the coffin for five days and that they had forgotten to embalm it, so they said not to open it.”

“How is that possible? Why wouldn’t they let us open the coffin?” she asks.

On the website, Igor’s story is laid bare for all to see.

“I was constantly bullied and abused by other soldiers: they demanded money, beat me, I was covered in bruises and haematomas,” Igor “writes”.

“In March 2005, I was very badly beaten by a soldier, Ruslan Romadov, because I was unable to get the money for him. I had to ask my parents for money, and I come from a poor family.

“Serving in the president’s unit, these constant beatings, extortion and humiliation broke me.”

In court, Igor’s mother was finally able to look at her son’s killer and ask why her son was tortured, deprived of sleep for nights in a row, made to stand in the corner and was constantly and severely beaten. She was not able to get a full answer, but thanks to The Mother’s Right Foundation she was able to get the main aggressor behind bars and get some financial compensation.

These cases are by no means isolated at all. Many other young soldiers die every year, the Ministry of Defense admits that about 500 soldiers die every year in peacetime, however several NGOs say that the figure is closer to 2 000 – 3 000 per year.

One of the most famous stories about a conscripted soldier is 19-year-old Andrei Svchev, who had to have his legs and genitals amputated after he was forced to squat for several hours during New Year’s Eve, then tied to a chair and brutally beaten.

His complaints of severe pain were ignored, until four days later when he was finally admitted to a hospital and diagnosed with gangrene and was operated on.

Nothing will bring back these soldiers lives, but sharing their stories online could help to save the lives of other young sons across Russia.

Read more:

Russian Social Networking Site Speaks For Dead Soldiers |

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