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An absolutely brutal practice.
Many young men are killed or commit suicide every year because of dedovshchina. The New York Times reported that in 2006 at least 292 Russian soldiers were killed by dedovshchina (although the Russian military only admits that 16 soldiers were directly murdered by acts of dedovshchina and claims that the rest committed suicide). The Times states: "On Aug. 4, it More..was announced by the chief military prosecutor that there had been 3,500 reports of abuse already this year (2006), compared with 2,798 in 2005". The BBC meanwhile reports that in 2007, 341 soldiers committed suicide, a 15% reduction on the previous year.
Dedovshchina (Russian: дедовщи́на) is the name given to the informal system of subjugation of new junior conscripts for the Russian armed forces, Interior Ministry, and (to a much lesser extent) FSB border guards to brutalization by the conscripts of the last year of service as well as NCOs and officers.
Dedovshchina involves a spectrum of subordinating activities performed by the junior ranks: from carrying out chores of the senior ranks to violent and sometimes lethal physical and Psychological abuse, being not unlike an extremely vicious form of bullying or even torture. It is often cited as a major source of poor morale in the ranks.
This started as a modern parallel to the worst historical forms of fagging in British schools, even with an organized hierarchy, but there the very professional hierarchy actively joins in making it utter abuse, causing many recruits to avoid service for fear of their health or even their lives.
The origin of this problem is often attributed to the change in conscription term with a new law of October 12, 1967, when two different groups of conscripts were simultaneously present in the army: those who were drafted for 3 years service and those only for 2 years. While oppression by older conscripts has probably always taken place in the army, after that date, with the introduction of the four-class system it became organized and with its own rules and ranks.
In 2007 the Russian government lowered military service time to 1.5 years and plan to finish the reform with 1 year military service in 2008. The expectation is that this action will positively affect the situation with Dedovshchina.
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