On Russian Military Traditions

Mastodon user @kravietz@agora.echelon.pt wrote a small post on how the Russian army behaved during the Afghan war of 1979-89 quoting soldier memoirs1, noting that nothing has changed in their behavior and they still act the same today:

In the village one of the sergeants remarked, without hiding his emotion, that ’the young women are good’. The sergeant’s words set all the others on fire like a spark, and then he threw off his overcoat and moved on one of the women: — Row, lads! In front of the aksakals and the children, our internationalists had their way with the women. The rape went on for two hours. The children huddled in a corner, screaming and shrieking, trying to help their mothers somehow. The old men, trembling, prayed to their God for mercy and salvation. Then the sergeant commanded, “Fire!” - and was the first to shoot the woman he had just raped. Quickly they finished off all the others as well. Then they poured fuel from the tank of the infantry fighting vehicle, poured it all over the dead bodies, covered them with some clothes, rags and even the scanty wooden furniture and set them on fire. The flames flared up inside the adobe…".

There is no surprise for me in nothing changing in thirty short years because nothing changed for hundreds of years. Let’s compare the very fresh quote above with this quote from the pillar of Russian literature Leo Tolstoy2 describing the war of the mid-nineteenth century:

The aoul3 which had been destroyed was that in which Haji Murad had spent the night before he went over to the Russians. Sado and his family had left the aoul on the approach of the Russian detachment, and when he returned he found his saklya4 in ruins – the roof fallen in, the door and the posts supporting the penthouse burned, and the interior filthy. His son, the handsome bright-eyed boy who had gazed with such ecstasy at Haji Murad, was brought dead to the mosque on a horse covered with a barka; he had been stabbed in the back with a bayonet. The dignified woman who had served Haji Murad when he was at the house now stood over her son’s body, her smock torn in front, her withered old breasts exposed, her hair down, and she dug her hails into her face till it bled, and wailed incessantly. Sado, taking a pick-ax and spade, had gone with his relatives to dig a grave for his son. The old grandfather sat by the wall of the ruined saklya cutting a stick and gazing stolidly in front of him. He had only just returned from the apiary. The two stacks of hay there had been burnt, the apricot and cherry trees he had planted and reared were broken and scorched, and worse still all the beehives and bees had been burnt. The wailing of the women and the little children, who cried with their mothers, mingled with the lowing of the hungry cattle for whom there was no food. The bigger children, instead of playing, followed their elders with frightened eyes. The fountain was polluted, evidently on purpose, so that the water could not be used. The mosque was polluted in the same way, and the Mullah and his assistants were cleaning it out. No one spoke of hatred of the Russians. The feeling experienced by all the Chechens, from the youngest to the oldest, was stronger than hate. It was not hatred, for they did not regard those Russian dogs as human beings, but it was such repulsion, disgust, and perplexity at the senseless cruelty of these creatures, that the desire to exterminate them – like the desire to exterminate rats, poisonous spiders, or wolves – was as natural an instinct as that of self-preservation.

Russians are right when they are claiming that they are a country of ancient traditions. I’m quite sure we could trace this kind of tradition even further back in time, maybe all the way to the Golden Horde.

  1. Soldiers of Afghan War (Russian Language)  ↩︎

  2. Haji Murad by Leo Tolstoy, Chapter XVII ↩︎

  3. village ↩︎

  4. house ↩︎