Dedovshchina

views updated

DEDOVSHCHINA

A term used for "hazing" in the Russian military from the Russian word for grandfather.

This set of practices, a long-standing feature of Soviet army life, appears to have accelerated dramatically in the 1990s. Observers note that "hazing" is itself a problematic translation, because it fails to grasp the severity of the systematic violence, humiliation, and torture visited upon new conscripts by their elders. Official estimates place the number of conscripts murdered at the hands of their comrades-in-arms at perhaps a thousand per year. Independent organizations, including the well-known advocacy group for military conscripts, Soldiers' Mothers, estimates that as many as three to four thousand conscripts are murdered each year by other soldiers and believes that a large number die as a result of the collective practices known as dedovshchina. The problem has also contributed significantly to the very high rate of suicide evident in the Russian armed forces. Anatol Lieven argues that nothing has done more to destroy morale and cohesion than the problem of dedovshchina. The lack of an effective system of non-commissioned officers, capable of providing the disciplinary structure and rule-enforcement necessary to head off such hazing, contributes significantly to the widespread nature of these abuses. The general lack of resources available to the Russian military in the 1990s, including the basic means of life, such as food, have also contributed to erosion of military morale, which many observers say has contributed to the high level of atrocities committed by Russian forces in the two campaigns in Chechnya, from 1994 to 1996, and from 1999 to the present. Lieven sees dedovshchina as a symbiosis between tyranny and anarchy in which rules and restraints are crippled "leaving only a veneer of autocratic but in fact powerless authority over a pit of chaos, corruption, and a host of private tyrannies."

See also: nationalities policies, soviet

bibliography

Lieven, Anatol. (1999). Chechnya: Tombstone of Russian Power. New Haven, CT: Yale University Press.

Weiler, Jonathan. (1999). "Human Rights in Post-Soviet Russia: Progress or Regression?" Ph.D. diss., University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Jonathan Weiler

About this article

Dedovshchina

Updated About encyclopedia.com content Print Article Share Article