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Committee of Soldiers' Mothers

COMMITTEE OF SOLDIERS' MOTHERS

The Committee of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia (CSMR) was organized in 1989 at a time when glasnost and perestroika had led to greater information about the abuses within the Soviet military and its conscript system and created opportunities for the actions of nongovernmental organizations. In 1989 the mothers of 300 student-conscripts protested against their draft and lobbied successfully to change the conscription law to allow student deferments. Their successes include the granting of deferments and the early return of 180,000 students from the army to finish their studies. The Committee was also involved in seeking to end abuses in barracks life, especially the bullying of junior conscripts (dedovshchina), and in promoting the transition from a conscript system to a volunteer military. The CSMR has worked to expose human rights violations within the military, given legal and material assistance to the families of dead servicemen, consulted on legislation affecting military service, and published research on service-related deaths in the military. It operates hostels in Moscow for AWOL soldiers.

The CSMR actively protested the First Chechen War (19941996) and in March 1995 organized the "March for Compassion" from Moscow to Grozny. The March drew attention to the horrific violations of human rights by both sides and sought to draw support from Chechen mothers opposed to the war. Media attention to these efforts, as well as efforts to secure the release of Russian prisoners of war, won broad international praise for the CSMR. In 1995 the committee received the Sean MacBride Peace Prize from the International Peace Bureau and was nominated in the same year for the Nobel Peace Prize.

Between 1996 and 1999, the CSMR continued to lobby the Russian parliament for legislation to protect the rights of servicemen, reform the military, rehabilitate veterans of regional conflicts, and provide support to the families of dead servicemen. It also supported the efforts of deserters to secure amnesty through the military prosecutor's office.

The CSMR has continued its efforts to support the rights of soldiers and their families during the Second Chechen War (September 1999) but with much more limited success and less public support.

See also: chechnya and chechens; civil society, development of; military, soviet and post-soviet

bibliography

Lambroschini, Sophie. "Russia: Expressions Of Civil Society Gain Ground." Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty. http://www.rferl.org/nca/features/1999/11/F.RU.991130131712.html (Accessed November 12,2002).

Jacob W. Kipp

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