Not long ago I remembered my time in the army, when I was young.

I served in the outback of Russia in the Soviet (back then) Army (spring 1986 – spring 1988).

Hazing and communities based on the areas were very common at that time.

In my military unit there were two squadrons. In one commander was a seasoned captain, who had served several years, the second squadron was headed by a young lieutenant.

And between them was an ideological war.

From the very beginning, the captain found the most authoritative “old-timer” in his squadron, an Armenian of about twenty-three (I have no idea why he was among us, 18-20 year olds), appointed him his deputy and assigned him full responsibility for order in the squadron. This Armenian established an “iron” order. Domination in the squadron was taken by a small group of Caucasians and the “coolest” representatives of other nationalities. All the rest under the pressure of force, backed by official authority, obeyed unquestioningly. Not only did these few people never work, they appropriated all the best products in the kitchen and out of other people’s parcels, received unlimited leave warrants, drank alcohol at night, and bullied “rookies” (novices) and weaklings. At night, when there were no officers in the barracks, there were forming-ups, ups and downs, push-ups, fights without rules, etc. But outwardly the squadron seemed to be in perfect order. When the captain came to the squadron in the morning, all the soldiers were slick-haired, their clothes ironed, boots and belt-buckles polished, undercollars washed, beds made impeccably. Moreover, according to all indices, the squadron was in the top: at the competitions, the “rookies” ran faster than everyone, so that at night they would not get punished by the “old-timers”, the marching step was better than that of the Kremlin guard, all combat indicators were at the highest level. Fear worked wonders with people.

The lieutenant’s case was the opposite. He set himself the goal of eradicating “hazing” and building a statutory order in his squadron. At night he sat in the squadron and watched that the “old-timers” did not offend the “rookies”, he sent several “old-timers” together on duty (this meant that the work would not be done, because the “old-timers” would never take a broom in their hands) , encouraged the complaints of “rookies” about “old-timers” and punished the latter for any violations. As a result, this squadron was always among the laggards, the rare facts of assaults emerged right here, violations of order were here, and the figures in the military exercises were the lowest here.

The captain always laughed at the lieutenant and used to say, “Well, Mr. A-Student, (the lieutenant graduated with honors from a military academy) whose system is better?”

The lieutenant was nervous and angry and said, “What are you doing? You encourage lawlessness and pull in the army! You put the crime in the service of power! You undermine the army from the inside!”

The disputes between them ended in nothing. Everyone held by his opinion.

And then Perestroika came to the Soviet Army. Hazing started to be fought hard. Several “old-timers” were convicted, several officers were demoted and sent to other commands. Our captain was among them.

I remember before he left for a long time he smoked, cheered up and finally told the lieutenant, “That’s for no good. The hazing was good. Fear is the best way to maintain order. And you breed democracy and demagogy. That’ll bring the mess.” And he left.

These two officers and their argument often arise before my eyes.

Comments: 0