Friday, 30 May 2008

Dedovshchina and high suicide rates in Russia's Armed Forces

Sergei Fridinsky, Russia's chief military prosecutor, reported yesterday that there were 341 military suicides recorded in 2007. Although this represented a drop of 15% on 2006 it still equates to approximately 30 suicides per 100,000. This compares to about 17 per 100,000 in the US military and 7 per 100,000 in the UK Armed Forces (2006 figures).
Rights groups and some former commanders say the high rate of suicides in the Russian army is caused by a culture of violence and negligence by officers and senior generals. Bullying of conscripts by older soldiers, the so-called dedovshchina, is rampant and tens of thousands of young men and their parents try every year to avoid the compulsory draft by bribing officials. But Mr Fridinsky did go on to say that half of the suicides were among regular contract servicemen who would not face the same level of bullying.
The Russian Soldiers' Mothers Committee has estimated that around 1,000 soldiers die every year as a result of non-combat situations. According to the Gazeta newspaper, 24,000 soldiers suffered serious injuries in 2007 in non-combat accidents - road accidents, mishandling of firearms and arguments between soldiers, etc.

Russian military top brass have said they are trying to cut out bullying and reduce the number of non-combat casualties in the armed forces but they have been saying this for years and the situation remains very grim.