Unfriendly Fire

Russia’s armed forces scarcely receive good publicity, and whilst their lack of structure, insufficient funding and superannuated facilities receive fairly constant criticism, these are certainly not the most worrying flaws of the services.  Non-governmental organizations have been trying for many years to raise awareness of the institutionalized abuse young conscripts face, a form of extreme bullying known as “dedovshchina”.  The Soldiers’ Mothers of Saint Petersburg is one particularly active group, making headlines on a fairly regular basis through protest activities.  Today the BBC reports on an innovative way in which another organization, the Mother’s Right Foundation, has drawn attention to the suffering of the soldiers who have lost their lives to internal conflict:

Twenty-seven young men, many in military uniform, gaze out from a page on the social networking site Odnoklassniki.ru – a Russian equivalent of Facebook.

Many smile, looking happy and proud.

All of them have died while in the army – but only a few perished in actual combat operations in Chechnya or Dagestan.

A non-governmental charity, The Mother’s Right Foundation,has set up the unusual page. It says that the majority died fromextreme bullying, crime, bad living conditions or the abnormalpsychological climate in the army.

Some were killed by fellow servicemen, shot at point-blank range or beaten to death.

Others were forced to commit suicide by constant violence and abuse, the charity claims.

But on Odnoklassniki.ru, the men all look very much alive.

Users can add them as friends, look at their photos, write on their walls or send a private message.

And in their bios, they describe their lives – and deaths – 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 wasshot by a drunkenofficer, Vladimir Bazelev, just like that, for noreason.

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

Read the whole article here.