Dedovshchina Revisited

Last year I was in a Moscow taxi riding from Sheremetevo to my apartment at Profsoiuznaia after spending Christmas in Germany. Of course I began talking to the driver, asking questions about himself, and his family. He happily told me that he had four sons. As a joke I told him that he was raising an army. To this day I don’t know if it was my bad Russian or that my mention of the word “army” brought him such immediate and undeniable disgust. “I wouldn’t send one of my sons to the damn army. I won’t let them take not a one.” I then explained to him what I meant by the comment. He replied, “Not an army, a football team!”

The near death beating of Private Sychyov by an officer at the Chelyabinsk Armor Academy is just another example of why Russian parents like my taxi driver will do anything to get their sons out of the draft. Articles on the incident call Sychyov’s beating, which resulted in the amputation of his legs and genitals because they developed a gangrenous infection, as “hazing” or dedovshchina. I’ve dealt with dedovshchina elsewhere. But the English word “hazing” doesn’t fully capture the violence and brutality of this incident. This was not some fraternity prank. This was not some simple initiation ritual. “Hazing” just doesn’t do it. This is just pure violence.

Here is how former Russian Army Colonel Viktor Litovkin describes the incident on Russia Profile:

Military prosecutors are still investigating the details, but what we do already know is that that a number of drunken “older” enlisted men and NCOs, led by Corporal Alexander Sivyakov, spent several hours tormenting Sychyov, who had only joined the Logistics Battalion at the Chelyabinsk Tank Military College two days earlier. He was forced to crouch for with his arms stretched out in front of him for an extended period, and was then tied tightly to a stool. There have been reports – unsubstantiated as of yet – that the 19 year old soldier was also raped.

The result was severe swelling of Sychyov’s legs, the death of some of the muscle and, ultimately, gangrene. He turned to military doctors for help only four days after the attack, and then only because he was unable to get out of bed. The doctors not only failed to diagnose his condition properly, they failed to treat him at all. Sychyov ultimately had to call the emergency service of a municipal hospital where, in order to save his life, doctors were forced to amputate both of his legs, his genitalia and one finger. He remains in a critical condition, with no guarantees from the doctors that he will survive.

I wanted to write something more substantive on this incident. Time just doesn’t permit me. I urge readers to continue reading Litovkin’s commentary.