Russia has a high suicide rate by world standards. And a significant number of 18- and 19-year-old Russian males are prone to suicide for various reasons – everything from problems with girlfriends to drug abuse and psychological or behavioral disorders. But subject them to the stresses of compulsory military service and suicide appears to become more likely.
Russian Army service is dangerous even without suicides. “Noncombat losses” result from training mishaps, infectious diseases, ordnance explosions, transportation accidents, and murder.
Though intended to, the shift to one-year conscription has probably not reduced dedovshchina – the catchall term once connoting petty hazing of younger conscripts by their elders but now encompassing a wide range of barracks violence, abuse, and crime against soldiers.
Dedovshchina has always had potential to drive desperate conscripts to take their own lives to escape it. Hence, the majority of Russian Army suicide cases are investigated under Article 110 of the RF Criminal Code, “Incitement to Suicide.” Western legal tradition has long experience with incitement, but “incitement to suicide” is a little unusual. Not so for Russian military prosecutors and criminal investigators.
With only a little digging, here’s a sad list of some recent Russian Army suicide (or attempted suicide) cases:
- In late August, a conscript on guard duty in Volgograd shot himself, leaving a suicide note blaming dedovshchina in his unit. The case is being investigated under Article 110.
- In late August, a conscript from a Krasnoyarsk unit was detailed to the Railroad Troops brigade in Abakan to help prepare for Tsentr-2011. With only three months left to serve, he went AWOL, and apparently hung himself.
- In mid-August, a conscript in Kaliningrad jumped off the boiler house roof and sustained a number of serious injuries, but survived. He had left a note asking that no one be blamed in his death.
- In early August, a conscript in the 735th Missile Regiment, 62nd Missile Division in Uzhur killed himself while on guard duty at night. He had served six months.
- In early March, in Belogorsk, a conscript due to demob in a few days shot himself to death.
- In early February, a conscript in Sergeyevka shot himself to death. The case was being investigated under Article 110.
It’s rare for the Russian press to publish much follow up on what exactly happened with these young men.
Tomorrow we’ll look at some less routine cases.