A Conscript’s Year

A Picture for Ufimtsev’s Demob Album

Young Komsomolskaya pravda (Chelyabinsk) journalist Sergey Ufimtsev returned from conscript service in May.  He recently published a cheerful, humorous account of time as a soldier.  He doesn’t regret his wasted year in the army.  But he describes an army that Serdyukov’s (and Putin’s) reforms have not changed substantially.  At least not his remote unit, and probably many others as well.

Ufimtsev drew his ill-fitting uniform items and was sent to Ussuriysk in the Far East.  He describes skimpy rations which left him hungry again an hour later.

Officers left Ufimtsev and other new soldiers largely in the hands of senior conscripts, the dedy.  They still exist despite the fact that one-year conscription was supposed to eliminate them.  Ufimtsev says dedy took their new uniforms and cigarettes, and threatened them at times.  But they weren’t really so bad.  He actually learned from the soldiers who’d been around for six months.

The non-Russians, Tuvans and Dagestanis, in the unit and their petty exactions were worse.  Even officers feared them, according to Ufimtsev.

He goes on to describe training in his air defense battalion.  He got bloody blisters from endless close-order drill, and finally received his unloaded AK-74, which he cleaned often but never fired.  It was kept with others under seven locks in the weapons storage room.

This is why Serdyukov didn’t want to buy new automatic weapons for the army.  It already has massive stockpiles of unused ones.

Ufimtsev says he and his cohorts were kept busy with non-military work.  Money to hire civilians into housekeeping jobs apparently hadn’t reached his unit.  His battery commander took most of their meager monthly personal allowance (about $13) to go to “the needs of the sub-unit.”  The soldiers, mostly farm boys or technical school graduates, wore lice-infested underwear and got to bathe once per month.  The situation improved some when a new major took command, according to Ufimtsev.

Ufimtsev’s article drew so many comments that it’s possible only to summarize.

A few readers were critical of today’s youth.  One called them dolts, who cry to mom and dad, and wimps, not defenders of the fatherland.  Another says real men should be silent about the privations of army life.

Many readers drew the obvious conclusion that the author’s experience shows Russia needs an all-volunteer army.

One reader said, in a couple of months at home, he could train soldiers better for less.  He asks, “What’s the sense in such an army?”  Several commentators remarked that generals’ complaints about a lack of money for recruiting career military professionals is a lie.

One reader put it in the context of Yevgeniya Vasilyeva and the Oboronservis scandal that brought down Anatoliy Serdyukov:

“No, they won’t do away with conscription.  There’s no money.  They lost their conscience in their 13-room apartments and can’t find it.  But then they never will.  They have to decide which of 120 diamond rings to wear today.  Therefore, there’s no money for a professional army, and there won’t be.  And so there will be an army of slaves — it’s so expedient and cheap.”

7 responses to “A Conscript’s Year

  1. So he said he “wasted a year” …or maybe this is the assertion that this website made. Either way, an outlook of that type says much more about that boy – or this website analysis – than about the army. Some people just waste time no matter where they are. The political historical analysis and philosophical depth of most posts by this website are on par with that boy’s use of his one year. My impression is that he wold have wasted 1 year no matter where he was or what he did.

  2. Conscription is slavery, end of story.

    Russia’s great strength is the past has been her huge pool of manpower; but in these days of vastly improved mechanised killing the act of throwing lots of troops into the machine will mean nothing more than lots of bodies to get rid of. Not good.

    Face it, you get what you pay for.

    If you want a good army you will have to (in the first place) do away with conscription and immediately do some ‘root-cause’ analysis: compare what you want with what you actually have and work to eliminate the differences.

    It really is that simple, anywhere; making sure that your ‘powers that be’ are both well informed and taking responsibility.
    Failing that keep on doing what you’ve described above and hope that if it ever comes to the crunch you have more conscripts than the other guy has bullets, bombs, aircraft, missiles and troops.

    • Rubbish…”conscription is slavery…throwing lots of troops into the machine…etc”. So just because Russia despises her people and treats them like slaves means a whole concept, that wasnt even invented in or solely utilised by that state, is damnable?! Thats circular logic and contributes no insights whatsoever.

      Plenty of countries, most significantly nearly all NATO-countries, have used conscription to great effect and within modern, well equipped forces. The reason they have abolished it is quite simple and has nothing whatsoever to do with technological progress or inherent disadvantages of conscription. That reason is, that no dire threat that questions the very existence of national integrity exists anymore and thus money spent on a disproportionate capability cannot be justified. If the Cold War would suddenly return tomorrow, conscription would be in use again the very next day, its the only way of fielding substantial forces for territorial defence for most countries.

      The UK these days pride themselves with deploying two divisions worth of combat troops across the globe, Germany and France half that number at best. Thats the state of the art. and it will be until further notice.

      Will Russia benefit from an all-volunteers army? Yes, quite likely so. Can they screw it up the same way as their conscription forces? Absolutely. Corruption, incompetency and a contempt for human lives are not an outgrowth of conscription, they are an outgrowth of “Modern” Russia.

  3. Pingback: Las reformas militares rusas y el regalo envenenado de Shoigu / Aleksandr Golts « Sociología crítica

  4. Good to see you posting again. You know this is not my main area of interest but I try to read your take on things. Hope all is well

  5. Pingback: An Ordinary Conflict | Russian Defense Policy

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