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1Among numerous troubles that Russia is experiencing on its course away from the totalitarian past, the central ones are weakness of the democratic state (in the sphere of protection of fundamental human rights and development of a mature citizen) and underdevelopment of the civil society. Interfacing these two inter-related problems is the topic of “dedovshchina”, which the Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies addresses in its first issue.

2Dedovshchina,” or acts of human/mental abuse of raw draftees by longer serving soldiers, often involving or leading to acts of violence, should not be mistaken for “hooliganism in the barracks” (violence evolving from criminal misbehavior ingenerated by controversies between national and/or regional fellowships, drug and alcohol abuse etc.). The Russian Ministry of Defense uses a more general term of “violations of regulations on service relationships.”

3Specific hierarchical relationships between long-serving personnel and freshmen are typical of many military and non-military entities not just in Russia. But only abuse of superior status of service experience turns this relationship into a criminal dedovhschina. Together with the hooliganism in the barracks these two types of violations of regulations on service relationships are the main causes of violent deaths and suicides among the enlisted personnel in the armed forces and other power institutions in Russia.

4The uncured threat to recruits’ physical and mental health is the primary concern for the families of conscripts in Russia and a major source of contradiction between the Russian society and its military, as well as one of the main factors undermining combat readiness of the army. Indeed, dedovshchina is the disease of the Russian society as a whole, not only of its armed forces. Thus, both the society and the military should join efforts in urgent treatment of this social sore.

5The military should foster the formation of the career non-commissioned officer corps as a backbone of law and order in the units; should toughen the selection of recruits to prevent criminal elements from penetrating the armed forces; should ensure that the enlisted personnel is tasked with combat training, rather than with extraneous work like building generals’ dachas or harvesting potatoes.

6The society – family and school – should oversee that criminal seeds of dedovshchina were not cultivated among the teenagers; that the constitutional duty to defend the nation has truly universal character for all the social strata; and that the teenagers are brought up and educated as citizens who fully recognize their constitutional rights (and legal ways of upholding them) and duties.

7* Alexander A. Belkin, Executive Vice Director of the Council on Foreign and Defense Policy, Moscow, Russia.  Views expressed in this foreword are the author's solely and do not necessarily represent those of the CFDP or any other association.

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Electronic reference

« Foreword by Alexander Belkin », The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 1 | 2004, Online since 08 July 2004, connection on 15 July 2018. URL :

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Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License

This text is under a Creative Commons license : Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 2.0 Generic

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