|SYCHYOV’S HAZING CASE: AFTERMATH FOR
THE RUSSIAN ARMY
MOSCOW, (RIA Novosti commentator Viktor Yuzbashev)
The court martial of the Chelyabinsk garrison has finished hearing the
case of Private Andrei Sychyov, who had to have his legs and genitals
amputated as a result of hazing.
Sergeant Alexander Sivyakov of the Chelyabinsk Tank Academy was sentenced
to four years in prison for forcing Sychyov to squat with his hands
outstretched for more than three hours on New Year’s eve, which provoked
a rapid development of the “positional compression syndrome” and
His co-defendants, Pavel Kuzmenko and Gennady Bilimovich, received
suspended sentences of one year and six months each, after being found
guilty of violating the army code of conduct.
But will the sentences handed down to Sivyakov and his fellow servicemen
change the situation with hazing in the Russian army? Will second-year
servicemen, who harass the first-years to prove their superiority over
them stop hazing youngsters?
Military specialists say this is improbable.
There are many more cases like Sychyov’s, although not all of them end
equally tragically. The media report cases of hazing in the army almost
daily, and the defense ministry prints official data about the number of
crimes and accidents in the army on its web site every month.
As of September 1, 2006, 13,190 such instances were registered on the
site, nearly 3,000 more than the year before (10,640). Privates, sergeants
and officers in the army and navy keep harassing their colleagues, despite
the declared and practical measures taken by the defense ministry to stop
this disgrace. Why?
This is a rhetorical question. General of the Army Nikolai Pankov, Deputy
Defense Minister and head of the Personnel Department, spoke about the
reasons in his report at a conference of army and navy leaders. He
mentioned the lack of a comprehensive approach of personnel officers to
practical problems in the units. In other words, Russian officers neglect
to work with military personnel.
The general also spoke about “unsatisfactory training of military
schools graduates in human relations.” This means that young officers
are not taught to talk with privates, and their alternative methods have
Other reasons for legal illiteracy in the army are connected with the
above two. Many officers neglect their personnel functions, using
punishment and strong language instead, and in general behaving in a
high-handed manner. They do not respect their subordinates and deny them
the right to human dignity. One of the possible reasons for this is
officers’ dissatisfaction with their social status and the low prestige
of military service in Russian society.
The root cause for this is the meager payment for officers’ hard work.
The monthly salary of a company commander who has 100 such subordinates as
Sergeant Sivyakov and Private Sychyov is 8,000 rubles (about $300), while
a trolleybus driver in Moscow gets 22,000 rubles (about $820). Almost
30-50% of the 150,000 Russian officers have no housing. They can barely
feed and clothe their families, and therefore have no time or desire to
“become actively engaged in personnel work.”
Besides, their subordinates are no bargain either. According to the
defense ministry, nearly a half of them are in the risk group, which means
that they had trouble with the police before being drafted, or have a
criminal record, abused alcohol or drugs, were homeless, or attempted
In this situation, it is surprising that the number of cases such as
Sychyov’s is so small, or that the military officials, society and the
press seem to be unperturbed by them.
What can be done to remedy the situation? The answer to this question has
been given many times at all kinds of conferences and meetings, including
at the top level. Unfortunately, the bureaucratic machinery grinds slowly,
and reasonable proposals tend to become lost. Potential solutions provide
for converting sergeants to contractual service, raising officers’
salaries so that they would not want to lose their jobs, and giving them
There are many facets to the task of strengthening discipline in the army.
It cannot be attained by addressing one of the problems, but calls for a
comprehensive approach and the involvement of civil society. But society
and generals now stand on different sides of the barricades, which means
the Sychyov’s case is not the last one. -0-