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Dedovshchina (Russian: дедовщи́на, IPA: [dʲɪdɐˈfɕːinə]; lit. reign of grandfathers) is the informal practice of initiation (hazing) and constant bullying of junior conscripts during their service, formerly to the Soviet Armed Forces and today to the Russian armed forces, Internal Troops, and (to a much lesser extent) FSB Border Guards, as well as the military forces of certain former Soviet Republics. It consists of brutalization by more senior conscripts serving their last year of compulsory military service as well as NCOs and officers.

Dedovshchina encompasses a variety of subordinating or humiliating activities undertaken by the junior ranks: from doing the chores of the senior ranks to violent and sometimes lethal physical and psychological abuse, not unlike an extremely vicious form of bullying or even torture, including sexual torture and rape.[citation needed] When not leaving the army seriously injured, conscripts can suffer serious mental trauma for their life time.[citation needed] It is often cited by former military personnel as a major source of poor morale in the ranks.

Often with the justification of maintaining authority, physical violence or psychological abuse can be used to make the “youth” do certain fatiguing duties[citation needed]. In many situations, hazing is in fact not the goal. Conscripts with seniority exploit their juniors to provide themselves with a more comfortable existence, and the violent aspects arise when juniors refuse to "follow traditions".[citation needed] There have been occasions where soldiers have been seriously injured, or, in extraordinary situations, killed.


The term is derived from "ded" (Russian: дед, meaning grandfather), which is the Russian Army army slang equivalent of gramps, meaning soldiers after their third (or fourth, which is also known as "dembel" (Russian: дембель or "DMB" (Russian: ДМБ) half-year of compulsory service, stemming from a vulgarization of the word "demobilization" (Russian: демобилизация demobilizatsiya) - this word is erroneously used by soldiers to describe the act of resigning from the army); soldiers also refer to "dembel" half-year of conscription, with the suffix -shchina which denotes a type of order, rule, or regime (compare Yezhovshchina, Zhdanovshchina). Thus it can literally be translated as "rule of the grandfathers." This is essentially a folk system of seniority based on stage of service, mostly not backed by code or law, which only grants seniority to conscripts promoted to various Sergeant and Efreitor ranks.


The origin of this problem is often attributed to the change in conscription term brought about by the law of 12 October 1967, causing two different groups of conscripts to be simultaneously present in the army: those who were drafted for 3-year service and those only for 2-year service.[1] During the same year, a decision was reached to draft conscripts with a criminal history into the ranks, due to a demographic crisis following World War II. While oppression by older conscripts has probably always taken place in the army, after that date, with the introduction of the four-class system (created by the bi-annual call-ups)[clarification needed] it became systematic and developed its own rules and ranks.

Current situation[edit]

Many young men are killed or commit suicide every year because of dedovshchina.[2][3] 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).[4] The Times states: "On Aug. 4, it 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.[5]

Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia works to protect the rights of young soldiers.

In 2012, a draftee from Chelyabinsk region, Ruslan Aiderkhanov, was tortured to death by his seniors.[6] The one witness who was willing to testify against the alleged perpetrators, Danil Chalkin, was later found shot dead in his military base. A contract soldier, Alikbek Musabekov, was later arrested in this incident.[7]

Government actions[edit]

Overall, the state has done little to curtail dedovshchina. In 2003, on the specific issues of denial of food and poor nutrition, Deputy Minister of Defence V. Isakov denied the existence of such problems.[8]

Since 2005, the Ministry of Defence has published monthly statistics of incidents and crimes including cases of death.[9]

Beginning in 2007/08 the conscript service time was reduced from two years to one; dedovshchina primarily occurs when second year conscripts abuse first year conscripts, this measure is partially intended to curtail the practice.

Dedovshchina in popular culture[edit]

Several Soviet and Russian films portrayed the dedovshchina despite the military's abstention from helping the production. Following is the selected filmography:

Also, in the novel The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy writes that veteran Soviet naval captain Marko Ramius refused to allow dedovshchina to be practiced anywhere on his ship, dismissing it as "low-level terrorism".

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Those who date the present dedovschina system to 1967 include Odom, William E. (1998). The Collapse of the Soviet Military. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07469-7.
  2. ^ The Consequences of Dedovshchina, Human Rights Watch report, 2004
  3. ^ Ismailov, Vjacheslav (2006-07-10). "Terrible dedovshchina in General Staff". Novaya Gazeta (in Russian). Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  4. ^ "Hazing Trial Bares a Dark Side of Russia's Military". The New York Times. 2006-08-13.
  5. ^ "Russia army suicides cause alarm". BBC News Online. 29 May 2008. Retrieved 2009-01-24.
  6. ^ "Russian family alleges 'suicide' conscript tortured to death". London: Telegraph. 2011-09-21. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  7. ^ Младший сержант застрелился, не вынеся издевательств рядового. Novye Izvestia (in Russian). 2012-02-13. Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  8. ^ "To Serve without Health?". Retrieved 2013-08-01.
  9. ^ (in Russian) Информация о происшествиях и преступлениях в Вооруженных Силах РФ Archived 2009-08-27 at the Wayback Machine,

Further reading[edit]