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Psychological War Trauma in Post-Soviet Russia - Conversation (1)

Interview with Igor V. Soloviev, former military psychologist, conducted in Moscow, in October 2011

Elisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski

Index terms


Russia, Chechnya
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Dedication is grateful to Alina Sari who translated this interview from Russian into English.

Full text

Forming a socio-psychological service in the Internal Troops (MVD)

1PIPSS.ORG - How did you get into the military?

2Igor Soloviev: In 1978, after graduating high school, I entered the military school. It was the Military Political School of Lvov. Now, it is in Ukraine; at that time, it was in the Soviet Union. I studied four years. Later, I earned the rank of Lieutenant and moved to serve in the Amur region of the Far East. In 1991, when I already became a Major, I entered the Military Academy. When I was entering, it was called the Military Political Academy. […] Later, after the Academy, I served in the High Command of the Internal Troops. After graduating from the Academy, I was offered to move from the military to Internal Troops. The interesting aspect of the offer was that at that time, the Internal Troops were forming a socio-psychological service. It was new and interesting endeavor. There were representatives of troops who were interested in graduates’ thesis projects. They found my project interesting. The title of the project was “Psychological Adaptation Problems of Servicemen in Armed Conflict Environment.” Later, it became my dissertation but in a slightly different angle. It happened in 1994.

3PIPSS.ORG - Who at the MVD had the idea of starting this project?

  • 1 Anatoly Sergeevich Kulikov was Interior Minister of Russia from 1995 to 1998.

4Igor Soloviev: It was the Army General Anatoly Sergeevich Kulikov, Commander of the Internal Troops1. By then, the troops had experience in regulating ethnic conflicts before and after the collapse of the Soviet Union in Sumgait, Ferghana, and Nagorny Karabakh. There were inter-ethnic unrests and troops were called to localize these conflicts. As the Commander, he saw that a certain vacuum was forming. In the times of the Soviet Union, there was a certain ideology - one state, unified people regardless of ethnicity – we all were of one nationality. When it all collapsed, it also abandoned the psyche of soldiers and officers. So, when a country collapses, ideals for which we served also collapse. He also began to realize that there should be something else, which would keep people in relatively adequate state and enable them to achieve tasks. This is a big problem. If you tackle problems of those who participated in military operations, then the personal meaning of what they lived and experienced it all for becomes a significant factor. When the society asks: “We don’t need it at all. Why were you there?” It becomes the society’s problem; he will begin to avenge this society. We understood that there should be some type of provision of certain spiritual foundation for this activity. I did not get a chance to ask him of this directly but I started to spend some time with him when we already began to work on tasks. When I joined the troops, he was already a Commander; I knew how much attention he paid to that.

5PIPSS.ORG - Who did you work with? Were you alone?

6Igor Soloviev: No, I was not alone. At the department where I ended up, there was an officer who graduated from the Academy before I did. He already held a PhD in Psychology. Together we began to draft terms of the service, develop methodologies, conduct psychodiagnoses of conditions, and so on.

7PIPSS.ORG - Was there already a war in Chechnya?

8Igor Soloviev: You know, at first, after the academy, I served in the regiment for some time. Meaning that at the time, I was not yet in the psychological services. I was driven by the intention of working on developing it immediately after the official order of forming it is given. Thus, when in December of 1994 forces entered Chechnya, in February, I was already in the High Command and began to develop this service. This served as the catalyst.

Tests in the tranches

9PIPSS.ORG - Have you done any research in Chechnya? Under which conditions?

10Igor Soloviev: When I was defending my dissertation in 1999, many members of the dissertation committee were military officers. They asked me the same question and could not believe that somewhere in the trenches, one can use questionnaires, tests, and applications. I said that if the focus group is motivated in the appropriate manner, if they are asked for help, if they are told that the questionnaire they have to fill out becomes a material, which can help those who come after, then even they can become more prepared. I used to tell them: “We really value your experience and we need your help.” My dissertation contains some of those questionnaires.

11PIPSS.ORG - What kind of questions did you ask, for example? What specifically did you seek? Adaptation? Consequences of contusion?

  • 2 I. V. Soloviev, Posttravmaticheskii stressovyi sindrom : prichiny, usloviia, posledstviia. Okazanie (...)

12Igor Soloviev: No. I primarily worked with psychological tests. And in the sociological aspect, I was interested in the personal meaning, in how they perceived what they were executing. In regards to the social context of the first conflict in Chechnya, by the way, I wrote about it in this book2, my colleagues conducted a content analysis of public publications, and it turned out to be completely absurd. In mass media, what was happening in Chechnya resembled a certain court proceeding in which there is no defendant and all participants constantly change roles – the defendant could become the accused and the prosecutor… This is how the warring parties could be called. As a serviceman, I watch television and want to understand how the society treats what is happening. I am a serviceman, I receive an order, I say: “Yes, Sir”, and I execute the order. I was interested in how they treat the conflict. To what extent they consider what they experienced there as something useful.

13PIPSS.ORG - How many people filled you survey?

14Igor Soloviev: About two hundred and fifty. The difficulty was in that there were two psychological tests plus a sociological application. Every participant had to fill out all three. The questions are contained in the book. We asked the general group: “Do you think that the military duty you carried out had importance for the society?” “Absolutely-27%”, “Somewhat-25%”; almost half were unsure or answered no. “What public perception of your military experience were you mostly confronted with?” “Indifferent-60%...” And so on. Consider this. The objectives of this research were how to prepare people in psychological way so that they act more effectively with minimal psychological loss. The topic of my dissertation is “Psychological Adaptation of Internal Troops Servicemen to Combat Activities in Armed Conflict Environment.” To provide this adaptation, it was necessary to conduct research. I had an ideal condition – what I was doing at work was also within my academic interests. It so happens in Russia for some reason, a person works on something professionally but his or her dissertation topic is in a completely different area.

15PIPSS.ORG - Did you have to report? Were you influenced? Did you work freely?

16Igor Soloviev: During my first professional visit to Chechen Republic, I fulfilled the duties as a Commander. In other words, when I conducted research, it was because of interest, not a hobby. Actually, I was Deputy Commander of a tactical group, took part in operations, planned operations, and led units. I fulfilled duties as an officer.

17PIPSS.ORG - So, you acted as both, a psychologist and an officer?

  • 3 Benjamen Colodzin, How to Survive Trauma: A Program for War Veterans and Survivors of Rape, Assault (...)

18Igor Soloviev: Yes, I did. Later, during subsequent professional trips, I was only a psychologist. We organized psychological rehabilitation events. I do not want to say that I am the first to join the military psychology discipline. But I only discovered it in the works of one author; of course, I did not read all the literature, especially non-Russian literature. The only one who talked about it to some extent is my American colleague Benjamin Colodzin3. He stated that rehabilitation should begin there, specifically in areas of combat activities. Therefore, we tried to organize something in those areas. Troops are not always attacking and shooting; there were periods of peace and quiet [...]

The results taken into account

19PIPSS.ORG - How did MVD view your results?

20Igor Soloviev: Just fine.

21PIPSS.ORG - How did they utilize them? Has anything changed?

22Igor Soloviev: I think it did. You know, we conducted officer rotations, returning some from there, later sending them back. The ideal option was – 45 days of combat, then – home. Unfortunately, it was not always possible. But rarely, it was more than two months. We could do from 45 to 90 days, not more than that. In some way, I would not say directly but rather indirectly, it affected (I was not alone in doing so; many of my colleagues and psychiatrists did as well) the fact that for conscripts, a day spent in combat environment equated to three normal days. Their term of service ended earlier.

23PIPSS.ORG - Do you think these research activities help at all?

24Igor Soloviev: Yes I do. There was experience from Afghanistan. In 1980s, officers in Afghanistan served for two years. Among my friends who served in Afghanistan, there is only one who kept his family together. After serving there for two years, they returned as completely different people. Their wives had to accept completely different people. A man who returned from there was not the one she married. Families fell apart. This is additional trauma. Thus, there should be some critical deadline depending on the intensity level of the conflict, on its public popularity or unpopularity, and many other factors. Human psyche is capable to operate quite stably in this environment for some time, but later… Our command issued an order on mandatory psychological rehabilitation in military units returning from combat operations. It happened in 1995 and was based on some of our findings. A complex of medical rehabilitative events was developed; a special regime and a particular daily schedule were implemented. I traveled to these units and saw how it was all organized.

25PIPSS.ORG - Can you tell how it was organized?

26Igor Soloviev: It was organized in different ways. I do not want to claim that it was organized well. But it was important that unit commanders understood that it should exist. To have an opportunity or not came later. But they understood, already thought of the importance of having such an element.

27PIPSS.ORG - Did everyone have to go through it? Did the recruits have to as well?

28Igor Soloviev: Yes, to a large extent, they are at the center of concern. Here is where the difficulty lies if we talk about recruits. As they returned from combat zones and scattered throughout the country, a combat group began to disappear. Officers stayed in this group. I have friends who I served with; we meet sometimes. It becomes group rehabilitation – we talk, drink, reminisce, and laugh. I know that I have a phone in my pocket. If I do not feel well, I simply make a phone call and will have my friends next to me. Recruits lack that; they go back to their cities and towns.

29PIPSS.ORG - Did the recruits leave immediately? Was there an opportunity for them to stay and get help?

30Igor Soloviev: We actually wanted to do that. But when the term of service ended sooner, we were not catching up. We, thank God, developed such a staff structure; we already had military unit psychologists. We began this in 1995. Slowly, step-by-step, every regiment acquired such officers. We organized their training. We published a book titled “The Unit Psychologist’s Workbook.” What else can I call it? The ABC Book. It contained training materials. Starting with when a soldier begins his service, how he should be accurately tested, to how to identify his abilities to adapt. Immediately, a group with low adaptation abilities was identified. These are people who lack adequate potential to exist in modified and unfamiliar living conditions. Well, you understand that military service with its harsh regulations on everything, with its limitations on many types of freedoms, very strict daily schedule, and so on creates for many young people impossible conditions.

31PIPSS.ORG - How many recruits went through this then?

32Igor Soloviev - If a military unit had a psychologist, he had to test all new recruits and identify such a group. So, he was identifying such a group. Moreover, we were gathering data from each draft. There are two drafts per year. If it is spring, then by around June we had data on all of our units: how many and what type of soldiers had low adaptation abilities in terms of percentage. They were placed into psychodynamic observation at their units. And a psychologist had to conduct with them conversations in accordance with a particular algorithm, or, to put it in different terms, observe them.

33PIPSS.ORG - I met former military men who served in the MVD at that time and never heard of this; they never participated in any psychological conversations.

34Igor Soloviev: I do not think that this could happen. Although I know that some employees of OMON and MVD units were tested to the point of saying “I am fine; just let me be.” Perhaps, it depended on the level of preparedness not only in professional terms but also on motivational level of a psychologist who had to provide that service at a particular location. I have some acquaintances at the MVD, civilians; they paid great attention and were seriously engaged in this matter. There were those who formally worked on it. Maybe, it depends on this. [...] The same took place in our units; for example, in mine, there were very good psychologists. There is also another big problem. There is a need for professional training. We sent large groups of people to the MVD Advanced Training Institute; they took training courses in psychology for four months. By the time of my separation from the service, perhaps, not everyone completed this training. I know that now we have an academic department in Saint-Petersburg where they are purposefully trained. At that time, it was not the case. You know that we had significant difficulties with financing. If our budget had limited funds for officer salaries, therefore, what could be said about funding for training and other programs…?

The conscripts – a higher psychological resistance than the officers

35PIPSS.ORG - At that time, were you able to speak about sensitive topics? Was there censorship?

36Igor Soloviev: You know, I did not face it. Maybe not because it did not exist; perhaps, because I was not afraid. Perhaps because, I will speak rather pathetically, I personally went through this war; I shot and was shot at. And if I thought I am doing a good deed, and I hope it was a good deed, then, believe me, censorship did not scare me. When I reported it all to the dissertation committee, I saw the eyes of those who sat there. I understood that there is no censorship and there is no need to be afraid of it. On the contrary, I was accepted rather well. Although there were things that could have been… Well, for example, one of the hypotheses that I discussed at my dissertation defense sounded something like this: “Psychological resistance of a conscript is incomparably higher than the one of an officer and somewhat higher than the one of a contractor”. This was quite a shocking statement especially because there were many officers and generals there. They were surprised. But an officer’s psychological resistance is lower than the one of a conscript. Nineteen is the average age of draftees. Peculiarities of youth psychology, you know, consist of a need to acquire radical experience, a need to self-determination as a representative of the male half of humanity. You know of teenage gangs, which organize fights provoked by nothing but a need to get together and fight, and to show who is stronger and cooler. Also, they have less social ties; they lack families, children. They have parents but it is not the same. Their perception of death is still abstract. Plus, there is youth groupocentrism; when in a group and in combat one has to show himself as a strong and brave man, and so on. And they suffered from psychogenic factors in combat environment less than officers did. An officer is responsible for the unit, for the family, and has more difficult moral concerns. Not because he is afraid to die more but because the threat of death affects him more. I spoke with officers; they say that the first thing that comes to mind is not fear for himself but fear for the family – what will happen to it. We should remember that these were the 1990s; the socio-economic situation in the country was quite bad. I already said that we used to not receive our salaries for several months; families were barely surviving. Imagine that instead of a husband who supported his family in some way, a coffin returns home. This causes more fear. I simply gave you one of the examples of some implementations as a result of research findings, some conclusions… But I was able to explain it. […]

37Igor Soloviev: The psyche suffered more. I can provide one example. In arrangement of military bases, there are twenty-five to thirty soldiers per officer. In casualties, every fourth is an officer. This indicates that officers tried to protect their subordinates and personally took part in everything. […] You know, when I was thirty-five, I have already looked at those boys as if they were my children, my sons. Also, when I was seventeen, I wrote a report, I wanted to study at the military school, I took an oath, I was taught for four years. I am an officer who is responsible for these young men. The government sent these young men to serve there for two years not because they wanted to go but because it was their duty according to the constitution. And from the moral perspective, who was supposed to do this in this first place? I saw an armed vehicle, which had a sign painted by the soldiers: “We will avenge the death of Captain Naidyonov”. The Captain was killed and they painted the armed vehicle stating that they will take revenge for the loss of their commander. There were instances when soldiers covered their commanders. […] When I first arrived there, one unit was already withdrawn from Chechnya and sent to the permanent deployment point in Rostov region. I traveled there to see how it was all happening, how we were implementing rehabilitation. I went to see one company; there was a commander, a lieutenant, who was probably no more than two years older than his soldiers. When I talked to him, we were standing in corridor of the barrack. Soldiers surrounded him and he put his arms around their shoulders when he was talking to me. Those were the soldiers he was in combat with. They were like brothers; although he was a lieutenant, a commander, addressed as “Sir”. As a matter of fact, one of the problems that people returning from war have, and I am often asked about it, is why are they not drawn back to there, can they carry on without war? Most interestingly, people are not drawn back to war but to those relationships that are formed there, at war. You know, one should be a psychologist, a physiognomist, in order to understand in thirty-forty minutes a person who arrived there. Everything is in plain sight there; a person is exposed. People there immediately try to eliminate all human shortcomings; they become secondary. Every person there realizes that one can only survive by staying together with others. Even my commander, a general, asked me: “Igor, I cannot seem to understand. Tell me, do the real villains ever go further than Khankala? How come such wonderful people end up here?” I said: “I do not know. Maybe this is who they become here.” A completely different value system forms there; to be more precise, it does not form, but instead becomes what it should be. In the first place is human life and in the second place are friendship, interpersonal relationships, and normal human relationships. Value of money, material things move to another level. You know, if tomorrow, God forbid, something happens to you, you will not need money, yachts, or villas… When people return from there [...].

A «limited combatant value brigade» sent back to combat

38PIPSS.ORG - Let us return to the study you conducted. Were you able to offer any help to those who were not well? What happened with them?

39Igor Soloviev: There was a condition – everything was done anonymously. Unfortunately, I could not determine who they were. But because we, at some point, conducted such research, evaluated it, and received results; we learned to conduct express diagnosis of the unit’s conditions. Meaning that by surveying approximately thirty-five percent of a given unit, we could conclude about the level of preparedness of the entire unit. There was one of the Internal Troops brigades, which participated in 1999 when militants entered Daghestan from the Chechen territory. Two towns Chabanmakhi and Karamakhi formed a type of bandit state with its own laws… In any case, this brigade was responsible for liberating these two towns. They lost almost one hundred and seventy people. They fought well, but suffered loss. Afterwards, they were withdrawn and began to guard the Mozdok-Kizlyar highway that stretches through Chechnya. And when the troops began to enter Grozny again, it was expected that this brigade will be called back from the highway to take part in the siege of Grozny. It was then when the Commander Ovchinnikov ordered to evaluate combatant value of this brigade. We conducted the express diagnosis; I myself wrote the report… Well, this brigade’s term of service practically came to an end because of the “one day equating to three” concept. They were going to be dismissed at any moment. And it was essential to take them back to Grozny. Without disclosing any classified information, I can say that the conclusion of this research was the following: the brigade’s combatant value was limited. In case of repeated participation in combat operations, the brigade would completely lose its combatant value due to previously acquired and evident psychological traumas. Nevertheless, the brigade was sent to Grozny because of the shortage of forces and resources.

40PIPSS.ORG - And what was the percentage of those completely incompetent, incapable of going back to combat?

41Igor Soloviev: It was an interesting situation. About twenty percent had evident psychological trauma. They were primarily those who were in contact with the killed; who witnessed death of a friend. Approximately the same number had symptoms of possible trauma. Thus, almost forty percent of the brigade has psychological trauma. According to our military principles, in this case, a unit is considered to have limited combatant value. It may have combatant value but it is limited; almost fifty percent can lose adequate reactions.

42PIPSS.ORG - Nevertheless they were sent?

43Igor Soloviev: They were sent.

44PIPSS.ORG - How many people are in a brigade?

45Igor Soloviev: More than a thousand. And the brigade did not attack assigned objects. A group of our psychologists was then formed; we went there. But we were no longer needed there. The battalion commander, a 27-year-old Captain, gathered the battalion and said: “I have no moral or legal right to give you orders. You have completed your service (remember, I told you that their term of service ended). Tomorrow morning, officers and contractors will attack the target with me. “In the first attack, there were about thirty people, only officers and contractors. In the second attack, it was the entire battalion. The conscripts got up and joined without the order. And the psychologist who went there simply gathered the soldiers and said: “Who if not us?” This is how the conversations approximately took place. I cannot explain how it was done. We had a meeting at out headquarters where the commander, who I once wrote a report to, scolded us for not providing certain things. These were approximate words: “We began to form the service in 1995 (this was now 2000, it has now been five years) – what have we done?” There were also other words, quite memorable: “The only ones I have no complaints about (there are words of genuine gratitude from a commander) are those from the psychological services. Because of their efforts alone, the combat value of the brigade was restored.” The brigade accomplished its task. This is what you asked me about. I do not want to say that everything went well and was flawless. There were bad things, a lot was unaccomplishable, and much was done for the checkmark. To be frank, I was not delusional that we created this service and in a year all became happy. But if we did not do that… Perhaps, it is better now [...]

A major traumatizing factor: seing the result of shooting

46PIPSS.ORG - Were there questions (in questionnaires) about the soldiers’ condition; about how they feel? Did you ask any questions regarding what they had seen there? Did they witness killings of civilians? Was it even possible to ask about this?

47Igor Soloviev: Yes it was. I conducted many interviews in this manner; just like we are talking now. I did not say: “Soldier, I will now conduct an interview with you. Can I record it?” Those were simply conversations. I can evaluate based on a person’s condition. Do you know what the most psychologically traumatizing factor is? It is when a person has seen the results of using a weapon. You know, when you fire from the distance of three to four hundred meters, you cannot see anything. I saw a small light, his weapon firing, and then he disappeared. But if it was a close combat contact and I got him, then I experience loss of sleep for two-three days, lack of appetite, and a complete depression. If we rate it, the second most psycho-traumatizing factor is seeing dead, mutilated bodies. And then, almost equally, is the death of a close friend, a colleague.

48PIPSS.ORG - Did you ask about the “sweeps’?

  • 4 On trials of high ranking military and MVD officials see A. Regamey’s article in our issue 8, 2008 (...)

49Igor Soloviev: No, I did not ask because here, it is more or less clear to me. You know, when there is a game with no rules, it becomes immoral to ask about it. It so happened that before meeting with you, yesterday late in the evening, I watched a television show. The Internal Troops Officer Arakcheev, by the way, has been tried and sentenced to fifteen years in prison for killing civilians in Chechnya. He did not accept his guilt. There were two jury trials; they acquitted him of all charges4. Prosecution appealed and the third trial eventually convicted and sentenced him to fifteen years. The show was presented in the following way. There were twelve celebrities: politicians, journalists, writers, and so on. There were also a human rights activist from Chechnya, a Chechen woman, and a Muslim Community leader. And they labeled it accurately – it was a game with no rules. Fine, it was a counterterrorist operation. Who are the terrorists? Show us his portrait; what does he look like? Is this a man with a green bandana? But a green bandana does not necessarily make him a terrorist, right? Is it a person with a weapon? But, typically, they do not appear in front of military with guns. This officer was blamed for allegedly killing people who were in a truck. But before this, a truck full of explosives entered a government building in Grozny. Here is a question. If a truck is approaching, should it be shot at? There is no need. But what if it is a truck filled with explosives? I hope you understand what I am talking about. There are peaceful civilians and militants there; where do you draw the line? I know very well that during the day, when we entered a town, the majority of people there were peaceful civilians. A many of these peaceful civilians came in the evening and shot at our troops; we lost many. What is “sweeping”? Well, one can enter a town and declare over a speaker: “Dear citizens of brotherly Chechnya. We will now conduct weapons searches in your homes and see if you are hiding any militants,” and so on. What would the result be? It can be done differently. You can simply come and knock out the doors. I agree it would be bad, but what is the alternative? Write down rules of the game. You know, most interestingly, that neither in 1994, 1995, or 1996, nor later on the territory of this armed conflict, a state of emergency was even declared. In the 1990s, our country did not even have a law on the state of emergency. It was desired to be passed but it did not happen. But now we have this law. And when this law starts to work, and in some region a state of emergency is declared, all the rules, obligations, and responsibilities are clearly stated. There is a concept of curfew, regulations for checking documents – it addresses everything. Maybe then we would not talk about “sweeps”. Maybe then there would not be any trucks filled with explosives. I do not remember if it is in the book, this metaphor about a compressed spring: a person who ended up there is a spring, which constantly compresses under the influence of these factors. As the maximum compression of this spring is reached, there are two options for the outcome: either it simply breaks or it decompresses. And now imagine soldiers who are sent to “sweep” a town, to check if there are militants, weapons, explosives, etc. Remember, a compressed spring? So, he was standing on the outskirts of this town, he was shot at during the nights, in the mornings there were demining activities, explosions from landmines planted by the militants, and so on. The spring kept on compressing. And suddenly they entered a town. I am not sure that in some this spring did not decompress. Even if he suddenly felt that there might be some threat from behind a fence or a house or a gate. This can be simply understood from the perspective of a person’s normal psychological abilities. And I agree that an overwhelming responsibility is put on military servicemen, they carry weapons. Imagine what a weapon is. Nowadays, the society talks about weapons as they do in America. I told myself once that I will never pick up a weapon again. Well, maybe one for sports, to play paintball. But I will never pick up a weapon again because I know what it is like to have a weapon in my hands. Yes, military servicemen have a great responsibility. But no matter how much we prepare servicemen for this responsibility, no matter how much we worked on it, they also have a psyche, a vulnerable human psyche, which can react.

The watermelon syndrom or the transposition of war violence to society

50Igor Soloviev: To talk about morals and ethics is one thing; but how many unconscious and subconscious psychological reactions are there, which moral norms cannot control. Meaning that a person makes a deed first, and then he starts to think whether he did it right. You know, I even once spoke at a trial. Actually I did not speak but was prepared to participate in a trial as a public defender. One of the servicemen from the Internal Troops Special Forces in a street fight hit a man from, well, not the Northern Caucasus but the Far Transcaucasia; that person later died. He died not from the hand punch but from hitting his head. I conducted a psychological diagnosis at the detention center. I talked to him. Besides the post-traumatic stress and anything related to Chechnya, he said that the street vendors themselves provoked the fight. Imagine, several strong good looking men in camouflage are returning from their shift and those selling watermelons somehow started a fight with them. He told me: “I thought that one of them (when they sell watermelons they have knives in their hands) definitely had a knife in his hand, and when he approached my friend, his knife was still in his hand; he could have attacked with a knife. And I was beating him to disable him. I did not want to kill. But when I hit him and he fell down, I realized that I could have done it differently by blocking his hand.” The person was psychologically prepared for a combat reaction. […] This is a subconscious reaction. How can I explain it to you? We do many things subconsciously. For example, when you walk, you do not order the right leg muscles to lift and switch; you just do it… […] So it becomes automatic to people who must act in a particular way in warfare situations. Meaning that when the conscious is distracted by fear, he acts. It is similar to having a weapon in hands […]. I spoke with this young man. I saw how uneasy he was that because of him a person died; not in a war but in this fight. Yes, he should have been given a black eye. But he was uneasy, he was blaming himself, he did not need to do this…

51PIPSS.ORG - And what happened to him?

52Igor Soloviev: I came to the detention center with a lawyer. I was told there: “The lawyer is fine, and who are you?” “I am a psychologist, I must talk to the person to understand if and how he should be defended.” When we came to the trial, the President of the Court, before the trial began, stated that my participation in the process is unnecessary. My written conclusions would suffice. I wrote that this could also be a result of psycho-traumatic reactions when a person reacts appropriately to threats. Especially, since he returned from professional trip not long ago. He was put on probation. He was convicted, was proven to be guilty. But he remains to be free. He has a conviction, I cannot remember, two or three years, but probationary. If during this time period he commits a crime, he will be incarcerated and will receive additional time. The military unit where he served was not far from my place of service. I met him sometimes, we talked. He was a contractor, later graduated from a military school, became an officer.

Debriefing “à la russe”

53PIPSS.ORG - Did he later go through any type of psychological rehabilitation?

54Igor Soloviev: There was a psychologist in their squad. You know, it was already enough for him that he returned to his unit and people were prepared there to help him. I want to say that we had some Special Forces units, and we still do. I observed and was surprised about certain things they did there. We could have taken notes and implemented them, these psychological techniques. Well, for instance, [in my book] I describe the methodology of a situational response. Meaning that after a combat episode, a group reports specifically and in accordance with a particular algorithm on the day, on the time of the day, and on what was seen. Americans called it “debriefing”, we call it something else. And all report on everything. What they had seen at that time before the fighting began, what they felt, what they heard and sensed. Everyone in the circle talks about it. What they had seen during the fighting.

55PIPSS.ORG - Should this be done after every fight?

56Igor Soloviev: It is recommended to be done. But before I described and proposed it, I saw the following. One Special Forces Unit a day after a combat operation sat down. You know, when there is a threat of a fight, they sit down on the floor and their commander asks: “Alright, tell us how you fought your fear yesterday.” “How would I fight it when I am fearless?” “Do not lie. Only idiots and drunks are fearless. I have no idiots in my group. And you are not allowed to drink alcohol. Answer me.” I later asked him: “Ivan, how do you know all this?” He said: “I do not. My commander used to talk to us this way; now, so do I. It really helps.” A captain said this to me. As you can understand, they intuitively found certain things, which helped to cope. I once went with my civilian colleague to Stavropol. The 101st brigade, which was in Chechnya, was sent there in July when in 1996, per Khasavyurt negotiations, troops were withdrawn from Chechnya. Well, we went there to conduct rehabilitation of this brigade. We worked there; we told them that they can also come and visit us at the gym in the evening to talk and get to know each other. At first, almost ten people from the Special Forces came to see us. There was a special system of physical exercises, which my colleague conducted. It was a type of psycho-physiological unloading; simple exercises, light physical load but in ten minutes a person sweats. Well, it would take long to talk about… We then asked: “Boys, why out of everyone, ten of you people were the first to come?” They took a look at us and said: “Well, we are Special Forces.” “So what?” “Well, we always have to be at the forefront.” These boys were contractors. When they left, Ivan Stepanovich, my civilian colleague, said: “Igor, I am amazed. Can you imagine what responsibility these boys took on? They voluntarily accepted that they are the risk-takers and need this before everyone else does.” That is why I am saying that certain people intuitively utilized some techniques. You know, there, people begin to have faith. I cannot tell which religion specifically. But even those who were quite far from religion and never planned to follow it. And not because that some supernatural things occur there but because a need to fill oneself with some spiritual meaning arises. You know, there were also some things (I did not witness them but a unit commander told me). When we came to Chechnya, we met them and asked: “Did you go?” “We went.” “Did you parents come?” “They did.” “Did you lie down on the pavement in front of the gate?” “We did.”

57PIPSS.ORG - What does this mean?

58Igor Soloviev: Parents would come knowing that a unit was going to Chechnya. Parents of soldiers would block the gates and almost lay down on the pavement. “Well, what did you do?” “We invited clergy, lined up the brigade; the priest would come out to give his blessings and sprayed the holy water on everyone. And the parents? They waited, cried, waved their good-byes and…” The parents were shocked that the priest blessed the military. Why am I talking about this? There is a certain spiritual vacuum that has to be filled. Sometimes, the Church fills it, but not always. Those far from the Church need psychologists. In any case, I met with many priests in Chechnya, they had positive feedback. They did not say that we take away some pasture from them; instead, they reacted kindly to the fact that psychologists try to do something there. […]

Interethnic relations

59PIPSS.ORG - Were there draftees from the Caucasus in Chechnya?

60Igor Soloviev: […] Two soldiers who were always around me. One of them was Bashkir, a Muslim. I used to tease him: “Just tell me when your prayer time is approaching so that I do not take you to operations.” I did not work on this problem as it does not exist for me. There is no such a problem. Maybe I am wrong, but there is no such a problem. There is a problem of socio-economic inequality and a simple problem of socio-economic injustice. And it can be masked by anything. I participated in negotiations with the other side in 1996. In the spring of 1995, I talked with an imam in Chechnya. He told me, in a private conversation, that before 1991 you could not find truly faithful Muslims in Chechnya in plain day light. Nowadays, as he said, they all became so pious. And he said it with a degree of irritation; he did not believe it himself. He said that the idea of independence of Chechnya was forced by Moscow. “How could you be forced?” “Well, we were.” How can ethnicity be part of this?

61PIPSS.ORG : Before the war in Chechnya, did you know any Chechens?

62Igor Soloviev: Yes, I did. They have their own culture, traditions, and customs – so what? Yes, hot-blooded Chechen boys, and what? We are one way; they are the other way, so what?

63PIPSS.ORG - Did you have any Chechen friends?

64Igor Soloviev: Before the war, I have never been in Chechnya. My mother went on many professional trips and visited Grozny; I do not remember the exact years. She was a teacher and traveled to gain and share professional experience. She came back quite fascinated; she told me about Grozny, Chechnya in general, and what kind of wonderful hospitable people live there; she was impressed with respect towards the elderly. There is a cult of the elderly there. But when I was at war, I did not notice it for some reason. No matter how strange it may sound. Yes, I knew Chechens and know them to this day. I can tell you more. We were at the negotiations in 1996. If you remember General Lebed; we actually worked on preparing these negotiations. I participated as well; we were sitting with them at the same table. Moreover, we once stood in the beautiful mountainside, and I emotionally proclaimed: “We have to come here for vacation and you started a war here!” I understand why you are asking…

65PIPSS.ORG - It is very difficult to wage a war against your own, those you know well. Does this affect the psyche?

66Igor Soloviev: What do you mean against your own? If I see a Russian person in the street, the one who looks just like me, and he attacks someone threatening them with a weapon, would it be difficult to fight against him? Please understand there are horrible things, killings, revolt taking place in one part of the country’s territory. God forbid, but you, of course, remember the recent events in the outskirts of Paris? Police forces were sent there and all of a sudden, some people appear; they begin to shoot at the law enforcement. Is it difficult to wage a war against them? I remember when officers told about the federal troops entering the territory of Chechnya. Meaning the troops of your own country; and they get shot at. Those shooting at government representatives are already criminals. What should we do with them? Where is the line? People… A criminal is also a representative of the people but he is a criminal. I used to talk a lot with journalists. But in 1995, the journalist content was understandably ambiguous in regards to what was taking place there. I used to ask them simple questions, similar to those I ask of you: “I am in a military uniform; all citizens of the country know that I represent the armed forces of the Russian Federation. I have a right to be where the orders take me regardless if a certain number of people declared themselves independent. If I arrived there, they have no right to shoot at me. If they open fire at representatives of the law, they a priori become criminals. Therefore, it is difficult to judge here who are our own or not. […]

67One of the former chief commanders of the internal troops, General Shkirko, was born in Grozny. He grew up there and left Grozny to study at a military school. I was invited to his fiftieth birthday party, and some of his friends from there came as well. This person was in Grozny in 1996 when during the alleged siege militants tried to take him hostage. And he, unfortunately, ordered to open fire and destroy his hometown. This took place too. Do you think it was easy? Not at all. This is a person who did not even look at the map when I was reporting on my movements from one point to the other; he knew it already. “This is my hometown,” he used to say. I can only imagine what I would be feeling if this was happening in my hometown. There were also other situations. Officers from both sides, field commanders, as they were called, would connect over the radio and agreed to meet somewhere on a neutral territory. It turned out that they studied at the same military school, in one company, and for four years their beds in barracks stood side-by-side. There was also this. I once negotiated with a militant commander on the radio station; we had an agreement when there were negotiations in 1996. Later, we went to Novye Atagi and he recognized my voice. He asked: “Are you the Star?” I said: “Are you the Pennant?” Well, we had these callings. He extended his hand and shook mine. We are enemies at war, but outside… […]

“Parents and wives suffer even more”

68Igor Soloviev: Here is another topic I touched upon a little bit – there is a need to work with families. At some point, I pondered on it; began to observe. You know, parents and wives suffer even more. Why? Because when I am there, I know every minute that I am fine. I know that now, at this very moment, I am in Khankala, in a cozy trailer, and nothing is threatening me. But my wife does not know this; neither does my family. The entire time he is there, they are worried every minute. This also deserves great attention.

69PIPSS.ORG - When did you realize this?

70Igor Soloviev: When I returned from there the first time. When I returned home. Actually, my wife did not know when I would exactly return. There was no phone service like there is now at that time there. There was no cell phone service even. And later, when it became available, it was crushed, simply “muted.” Also, later, one could call using satellite service. But then, she did not know when I would return.

71PIPSS.ORG - Do you have children?

72Igor Soloviev: Yes, I have a son. He was born in 1983 and when I went to Chechnya the first time, he was already twelve years-old. I actually left on his birthday on April 17.

73PIPSS.ORG - Was he hurt by that?

74Igor Soloviev: There were already news of human loss, that some died. Among those there were officers. He watched what was happening on the television. You know, it was good that there, in trenches, there was no television, no newspapers. If only they saw all of it... For example, how could you explain these actions? During the first siege of Grozny, one of our human rights activists, let us not remember his last name, arranges a cease-fire. He goes to soldiers and asks them to lay down the arms and surrender. You realize that according to law, the criminal code, voluntary surrender is considered to be military crime. According to the Wartime Law, one could be shot for that. How can a soldier who took an oath... Again, I do not want to say that law is good or bad; but it is law, and there is an oath. A person took an oath; and there are military crimes – to lay down the arms and surrender. And then a human rights activist appears and offers to surrender. As they seized fire and listened to the human rights activist, a Chechen sniper killed two soldiers. […] Why did I say that it is good that during the first Chechen campaign in 1994, 1995, 1996, there were no televisions. They came later. They saw what was going on there and they realized that putting an end to it is necessary. There should be some order there; there should not be killings, robberies, and so on. And soldiers believed that they created some kind of order there. And if they saw comments on the television and what is said about them – that they are murderers and so on. […]

Another traumatizing factor: society's non-recognition of the accomplished duty

75Igor Soloviev: […] But, you know, there is already plenty of violence in the society. In my opinion, the lack of recognition by the society of the accomplished duty was the major factor there. How can I explain? I would not walk around saying: “People, I have been in Chechnya. I experienced a lot. Please tell me some words of sympathy or respect”. Some decided to enforce respect in this manner. Maybe. But we have numerous examples of unreasonable police brutality; they were not even close to being in Chechnya. This problem already exists and, maybe, can worsen because a person has also been there. Although, I can say that a person who has been there and really participated in something important, will, most likely, find strength in himself. Do you remember I said that it is not easy to shoot at a person? In order to understand people, to understand the psyche, and what happens to a person there, I would like to recommend a film. Steven Spielberg made a great film Saving Private Ryan. It received five Oscars. I once conducted a psychological rehabilitation methodologies seminar with civilian colleagues. And at some point, I began to feel that they simply do not understand what a person feels. I brought a video cassette, and we watched the film. Then, I broke it down into some episodes and we began to interpret it. The film begins with this – a very old American man and his big family come to a military cemetery. They stop by a headstone where it is written “Captain Miller”. Then the retrospect of all these events begins. He is actually that Private Ryan, who had to be rescued and for whom this captain lost his life. So then, when the film comes to an end, he returns to this cemetery, to the headstone. The veteran put flowers on the headstone, turned to his wife and asked: “Emma, did I live a good life?” This man lived his entire life so that the life of the captain was not wasteful. Watch this film and you will understand that this man really experienced war. [...]

76PIPSS.ORG - When you were preparing the questionnaires, did you think about rehabilitation? Did you think that the data will help the rehabilitation? Were there any questions targeted at the rehabilitation?

77Igor Soloviev: Yes, there were. There was a hypothesis that a serviceman who understands the societal value of this military experience will rehabilitate relatively easily and the influence of these events will affect him in a lesser way. Let me give you an example. The French Resistance during the 1940s is appreciated by the society to this day. I do not think that the Resistance participants had many psychological problems after they booted out Hitler’s army. The United States and Vietnam during the 1970s – the best American boys fought in the jungles of Vietnam. The sincerely believed that they were defending the national interests of their country. They returned to the States by sea; there were anti-war demonstrations there, they were called killers, and so on. This is how we got the “Vietnam Syndrome”. “Rambo: First Blood” showed the person exiled from the society. A Sheriff is trying to kick him out from a town; he was patient to an extent, and then the spring decompressed. I actually only had to get confirmation there. A confirmation that these young men believed that what they did there, what they risked for, and what lost friends for was important for the society. And as I told you, sixty percent thought that the society was indifferent. This was already a bad symptom.

An area invested by the combatants: the training of youth

78Igor Soloviev: You know, people who fought and destroyed things, later, like according to the principle of nature where everything has to be compensated, start to develop quite substantial constructive potential. They are needed by the society, they can do a lot of good, but they are not demanded by the society. I conducted a survey on the professional areas one would be most useful for the society. Because I had a large number of officers there, they obviously answered: in areas providing public safety. And almost half of the conscripts answered: in training and mentoring of youth.

79PIPSS.ORG - Was this answer given as one of the options or they provided it themselves?

  • 5 Military sociologist at the Humanitarian Military Academy (Former Lenin Academy) in the 1990s. He i (...)

80Igor Soloviev: No, I included it in the confidential questionnaire. So, almost half of conscripts understood that in the present moment, they could train and mentor others. For example, Mikhail Kibakin5 did an interesting thing. In the 101st brigade in Grozny, soldiers who were preparing to be dismissed were given a piece of paper and told to write a “Letter to the Future”. A letter to a soldier who will replace them. Some would write him about what he must know, do, and behave. Misha gathered it all; I later saw what he included into his articles and books. Do you know what they wrote? They were just twenty-years-old but they wrote such wise things that not every person with grey hair could think of. I will try to remember now. “In combat, always help a friend even if he is really not one”. What could this mean? Help a friend even if he is not a friend but someone who happened to be nearby? “There many commanders in combat, you will know who to follow”. “Always stay in pairs”. Well, you really need to read it. I would say this: they wrote such wise things that their potential, which they have acquired consciously, could have been in fact transferred. I am invited to the commemoration of the 101st brigade on August 6. They actually decided to get together every year. Unfortunately, I do not know the names, there are so many who gather there. But they have no goal of remembering each other’s names. We all are part of this brigade; we were all there together. One young man said a toast there; commander of the brigade said he was a director of a specialized school. He was a soldier in the 101st brigade, then graduated from a pedagogical institute, worked as a teacher at first, and now became a director of a specialized school. I looked at this young man, at his inner state… Imagine what kind of children study at this school, how fortunate they are. When I look at him, into his eyes, his face, I become glad for him and for the people who are next to him. But there are also boys I am uneasy and worry about; those who could not actualize themselves. Remember, I talked about constructive potential which these boys have. They could not utilize it. But he did. By the way, many of those boys became police officers. They are doing fine as well. Recall what I said about two areas in which they see themselves to be most useful – public safety and youth training.

81PIPSS.ORG - Is there any research comparing the results of Afghanistan and Chechnya? For the conscripts. I think that war in Chechnya was dreadful.

82Igor Soloviev: I would not say so. You know, it is kind of inaccurate to state – dreadful or less dreadful. I do not know of any of such comparative research findings; I did not encounter them. I would not simply state what was dreadful and what was not. I knew officers who were in both places.

83PIPSS.ORG - Yes, so did I. And some told me that it was a very violent war. That after Chechnya, they needed to rest a year or two to get back to senses.

84Igor Soloviev: I do not know; I would not make any claims. I was not in Afghanistan. I almost went there. By the way, here is another simple example. I was supposed to go to Afghanistan to replace an officer who died. But it was almost at the time when the troop withdrawal was announced and the withdrawal timeline was settled. All of a sudden, the human resources told me that I am staying and not going anywhere. Why? Officers there, in Afghanistan, said: “We will appoint our officer; there is no need to bring one from the USSR because we will stay here and withdraw with our units”. There was replacement there, planned rotation, therefore, military brotherhood. Those officers were saying: “We already know everything here, why bring new ones who will need to adapt?” Thanks to those officers I did not end up there. You know, I could try to explain it this way. If I went to Afghanistan at that time, I would have been less than thirty. I ended up in Chechnya when I was thirty-five. I can say that my reaction and perception of war at the age of twenty-something could be different from those at thirty-five. Also, a first psychological trauma is one thing, but when there is an additional one on top of it, it becomes more difficult to accept. Therefore, their evaluation of what is terrible and worse, is also, perhaps, related to what I am talking about. Maybe. I do not know. Although, you see, officers stayed in Afghanistan for two years. With no leave time. Well, once a year they had some vacation time. At least in Chechnya, they stayed for shorter periods of time. Maybe because Afghanistan is an entirely different county. But here, it is your own country, your own state, and people and passports are the same. In addition, the Russian Army participated in military operations in Chechnya and the mentality of military officers is to defend the country, to defend the motherland against the external aggression. I ended up in the Internal Troops; officers there understood that banditism and crime can exist anywhere, they were prepared for it; but these are Internal Troops. But for the military officers it is a complete shock. I can tell about these things, I thought of them recently, the Marines, the units, which are used to attack sea shore areas. Do you remember the Normandy in 1944…? The Marine units were detached from the Navy and sent to Grozny, to forest and mountain areas. Can you believe it?

85PIPSS.ORG - When was this happening?

86Igor Soloviev: It happened in 1995. I simply traveled to organize interaction in the Marine battalion. I saw how these boys fought. It could be that there was lack of strength and resources. But they still fought. You know, there are special flags on ships. There is a Russian Naval flag called “Andreev’s” – blue cross on the white canvas. When they reach a height, they raise Andreev’s flag. At the thousands of kilometers from the closest sea! I think it was not easy for them to work on completely different tasks. But they completed them. Perhaps, what you mentioned about the person who went through Afghanistan and Chechnya saying that Chechnya was scarier, perhaps it is related to his inner personal memories and not to what actually took place there. I tried to explain it. Firstly, he is already of an adult age. That previous experience has already left a certain mark, and a new trauma left another mark on top of it. Typically, it is more difficult to overcome this. And to talk from the perspective of combat intensity…

87PIPSS.ORG - But the siege of Grozny was quite intensive.

88Igor Soloviev: I do not know. I have a lot of respect toward people who went through Afghanistan. And I equally respect those who went through Chechnya. However, I once presented to journalists, and, by the way, knew that there were those who had to write in response to what I had spoken about. I asked them: “Tell me about those things like debt, honor, and courage. Is there a single society where these things are unimportant and rejected? Does such a society exist?” “No it does not.” “Tell me, does our society recognize such virtues as debt, honor, and courage? Then why do you speak poorly of those people who safeguard these virtues for the society?” Do you understand what I am talking about? The audience went silent. A person took an oath, put his signature. There is a constitution, there are other laws. The strength of implementing these laws lies in him saying “Yes, Sir,” in going to fulfill his duty, in not being scared, in not betraying, in not abandoning his comrade. Am I right? Then he returns. He opens his favorite newspaper or magazine and reads: “Murderer. Criminal”. As we say, he lost it. And now he will go “berserk” (bespredel) in the streets, kill everyone, and so on. How can this person now exist in this society?

89PIPSS.ORG - But only those who could not avoid it went to the first war? I mean, they had no choice.

90Igor Soloviev: There was no such a choice. I will tell you more. When I served in the Far East, one of the neighboring to us unit regiment had an officer who refused to go to Afghanistan. Other officers stopped shaking his hand. He had to move to another unit. There, he was kicked out from the Communist Party (we were all members of the Party at that time) and moved somewhere else.

  • 6 Edouard vorobyov, cf. C. Gall, Waal, Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus, 1998, New York Unive (...)

91PIPSS.ORG - Nevertheless, were not there some generals who did not want to end up in Chechnya? I remember, there was a famous general6 who did not want to go, I cannot remember his name.

92Igor Soloviev: There was. I do not want to remember his name. I remember one television segment showing a First Lieutenant, a Marine Company Commander, who also refused to go to Chechnya. The journalists asked him “Why?” and he replied: “My company is not prepared; we had no time to train and prepare the soldiers. How can I go there with unprepared soldiers?” What do you think of him refusing and the company still going? Of course, it went. […]

93PIPSS.ORG - What happened to [the officer]?

94Igor Soloviev: I do not know. Firstly, a good officer would not act this way. He knew well that he would refuse but the company would go. I know other generals. I know generals who lost children there. I know the son of our former Commander, the former Minister of Internal Affairs, Sergey Anatolyevich Kulikov. I knew this officer personally; he was awarded two medals for Chechnya. Sergey is a wonderful person. It so happened that when his father already became the Minister of Internal Affairs, we were both at our sanatorium on the Black Sea. And later my wife said: “I was told that Kulikov’s son is also here.” I replied to her: “He says hello to you twice a day – at breakfast, lunch, and also at the beach!” And pointed to the beach: “There is Sergey.” She said: “You are right. He looks like his father.” This man is a people’s person. His friends from nearby units came to visit him often at the sanatorium. There was a television segment about him. When he led the Special Forces, there was an element of preparedness – to be shot at with real bullets. There was a machine gun, a soldier had to crawl, and real bullets flew over him. This was such big responsibility. What if the hand of the one shooting the machine gun shakes? Who shot the machine gun? “I did,” he would reply. “And why?” “Who would if not me? Who would be responsible for this? Only I can be. I am the Commander.” The former Air Force Commander, General Shpak, lost his son there. General Kulikovsky also lost his son in Chechnya. There was a Division Commander in the Far East, General Nalyotov, whose son disappeared in Chechnya. He was a Second Lieutenant. Do you think that such generals could do something so that their sons do not end up there? Because not all ended up there. Nevertheless, they did not do it.

95PIPSS.ORG - How old is your son now?

96Igor Soloviev: Twenty seven.

97PIPSS.ORG - Is he in the military?

98Igor Soloviev: He is an officer in reserves. He studied at a university where there was a military department, just to make sure if there is a need… […]

End of service & «rehabilitation» ...

99PIPSS.ORG - When did you get discharged?

100Igor Soloviev: In 2003. At that time, my colleague Volodya Suvorov stayed behind.

101PIPSS.ORG - Why did you leave?

102Igor Soloviev: Perhaps, I did everything I could. One has to serve twenty five years and then can be discharged. I left due to medical reasons. I got some trauma in Chechnya, contusions. After the medical exam it became apparent that I could leave due to medical reasons. To tell you the truth, I already lost interest. After serving for twenty five years, I was already a Colonel. I think that motherland will not judge me; I did all I could. If there is need, I am ready to serve again. With God’s will, I hope there will not be one.

103PIPSS.ORG - May I ask, since you have had contusions, what happened to you when you were hospitalized?

104Igor Soloviev: Nothing happened. A mine exploded not far from me; it was like a blast of area to the head. Then, a headache. You cannot come to senses; you are nauseated.

105PIPSS.ORG - So, you were not hospitalized?

106Igor Soloviev: No. You know, when there are so many injured soldiers at a hospital, how can I, a Colonel, complain that I do not feel well? I laid down, slept, drank some tea, and came back to normal. […] I did not talk about rehabilitation. Only those closest to me knew about it. I was a Lieutenant Colonel, an officer from the Chief Command who had two soldiers for protection in combat environment. How could I, in front of these soldiers, ask for medical help after receiving contusion? How could I go to hospital? And tomorrow they will go into combat without me? I do not know how to explain but an officer cannot act like that. I knew some people who would ask for a doctor’s note after cutting a finger. There were all types of people. […]

107PIPSS.ORG – But did you spend any time in a sanatorium?

108Igor Soloviev: I did, it is mandatory. After returning from there [combat], I had a right to ask. I wrote a report, received permission, and went to Kislodovsk. Yes, I used the permission to simply get a vacation. I simply did not say that all military sanatoria, we had special ones, reserved spaces for officers returning from combat. I simply did not consider myself to be part of a risk group that requires special rehabilitation.

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1 Anatoly Sergeevich Kulikov was Interior Minister of Russia from 1995 to 1998.

2 I. V. Soloviev, Posttravmaticheskii stressovyi sindrom : prichiny, usloviia, posledstviia. Okazanie psikhologicheskoi pomoshchi i psikhoreabilitatsiia, Ufa, 2001.

3 Benjamen Colodzin, How to Survive Trauma: A Program for War Veterans and Survivors of Rape, Assault, Abuse or Environmental Disasters, Station Hill Press, 1998.

4 On trials of high ranking military and MVD officials see A. Regamey’s article in our issue 8, 2008 at

5 Military sociologist at the Humanitarian Military Academy (Former Lenin Academy) in the 1990s. He is today (October 2011) the deputy director of the All-Russia Public Organization of Disabled Veterans of the Afghan War (OOOIVA).

6 Edouard vorobyov, cf. C. Gall, Waal, Chechnya: Calamity in the Caucasus, 1998, New York University Press, pp. 177-181.

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Electronic reference

Elisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski, Interview with Igor V. Soloviev, former military psychologist, conducted in Moscow, in October 2011The Journal of Power Institutions in Post-Soviet Societies [Online], Issue 14/15 | 2013, Online since 25 July 2013, connection on 29 May 2023. URL:; DOI:

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About the author

Elisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski


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