Now here’s why our former(?) enemies couldn’t measure up. Compulsory Russian Army service is quite different from my voluntary two-decade sojourn in the Air Force. You know, different; like a fire cracker and a nuclear bomb.
Every few weeks there's a story about a Russian soldier who "goes crazy," shooting down fellow soldiers or officers, then himself. These Army rage murders are so common that many in the more remote provinces are largely unreported. News reports rarely say anything about how Army service turns ordinary Russian boys into mass murderers.[SNIP]
... for many unlucky Russian boys, it is literally a matter of being dragged into service. The Militsia routinely pounces on kids who've gotten their call-up papers but haven't shown. The trashes' favorite tactic is to strongarm their way into the apartment at six in the morning, when all sane people are asleep, drag the kid out of his nice warm bed, and put him in a cell until the Army guys come down to pick him up. If the cops are in a nice mood, they may let the victim's parents give him some extra clothes or a little money -- though he probably won't be able to keep it very long once he's in barracks. [SNIP]
It helps if you grew up in a mean, institutional world -- say, an orphanage, or an English private school. At least then you'll know what to expect: the strong terrorizing the weak, while those in charge look on indifferently. As one interviewee put it, "In the barracks there's nothing to do but turn on each other, like spiders in a jar." The officers don't need to worry about what the troops do to each other; officers get to go home at night to be with their families. Soldiers may not get to see their families at all during their two years' service. That leaves a lot of time for refining and perfecting the little cruelties that make Russian army life so miserable that many soldiers would rather blow their own heads off than finish off the full 24-month sentence.
The rules are simple. For the first year of your service, you're a "dukh" (ghost) -- a victim until proven otherwise. Your only purpose in life is to be humiliated, robbed and terrorized by those who've served longer than you.
If you make it to the end of that first year, you become a "cherpak" ("scoop"). And if you do OK in the first six months of your second year, you become one of the predators, a "Dyed" (grandpa) . Those lucky enough to become Dyedii are initiated in typical Army manner: by inflicting as much pain as possible. First the Dyedii order the candidate to do something impossible, like bring them a glass of water in five seconds, or crawl on hands and knees, heeling like a dog, beside a Dyed who walks quickly over uneven ground. When he fails, he's beaten with fists, then laid on the floor or on a table, given something to bite on, and whipped on his bare ass with belt buckles -- usually about 20 strokes. When that's done, the Dyedii help the candidate to stand up, tear off his camouflage uniform, and pronounce him a Dyed.In short, the Russian Army has many similarities to the unlamented Soviet Union’s gulags. As King Buzz jokingly said when I pointed this article out to him, “why tinker with a system that works?” Now we know why it really never did. This is one of the reasons that we won the Cold War. A voluntary, relatively well-treated military is an efficient one.
But to reach this proud moment the conscript has to survive his first 18 months in the Army.