From Combat Trauma to Abandonment and Social Marginalization.
Violence towards Disabled Veterans of the Chechen Wars in Post-Soviet RussiaElisabeth Sieca-Kozlowski
This post is the first of a series of 5 dedicated to violence towards disabled veterans of the Chechen wars in post-Soviet Russia. The research conducted is a work in progress.
The first steps and hypotheses were presented at the Franco-German workshop on Culture and Experience of Violence in the Russian History (programm and details available on http://lodel.ehess.fr/cercec/docannexe.php?id=1684) titled “5èmes Journées franco-allemandes – Culture et expérience de la violence dans l’histoire russe” – Culture and experience of violence en Russian history”, Supported by Fritz Thyssen Foundation, Cologne on the 8/9 September 2011 in Paris.
In 2010, I conducted 15 interviews of veterans of the Chechen wars – among the interviewees were officers, kontraktniki, military journalists, conscripts met thanks to the help of the Veterans Organization Boevoe Bratstvo as well as the Moscow Cheshire Home, which supports disabled military servicemen by providing temporary accommodation, meals, health and medical care and assisting in the provision of prostheses.
As many studies have shown, violence is very present in the military (in particular with dedovshchina) and outside the military -through the vector of veterans. But during these interviews I was struck to hear that violence is also present in many forms not only in the servicemen’s experience on the battlefield but at every stage of their experience of disability, through the healing process and the return to civil life. Interviews show that interviewees have been faced with violence and brutality on the part of their commanders, doctors, and have been abandoned by the state. Not only have they been exposed to the brutality of war, its physical violence but have they encountered « betrayal » (that is the word used), despise, neglect, violence, disengagement from the doctors and from the state. Violence is particularly exerted on conscripts. Aware of the violence undergone by this category of servicemen, one of my interviewers – an officer – created his own organization to help conscripts back from the Chechen war. Although the history of the Soviet Union shows that lost wars as much as victorious ones lead to the social abandonment of veterans, the fate of disabled veterans seems to be particularily acute and conditionned by a cultural heritage from the Soviet time which glorifies a muscular body and favors work capacity as a criterion for citizenship.
Through 4 more posts, I will share the material of my research – notably 3 interviews with 3 conscripts-invalids who participated to the Chechen warss (posts 2 to 4). The final post (post 5) will be dedicated to the first steps and hypotheses of that research.
– Post 1/5 – Presentation (in English)
– Post 2/5 – Interview (in French) with Sergei, 35 years old, born in Novokuznetski, Kemerovo region. Conscript during the first Chechen war, injured during the storm of Grozny in 1994 (interview conducted in July 2010).
– Post 3/5 – Interview (in French) with Valentin, 27 years old, born in St-Petersburg, voluntary conscript during the second Chechen War. He was injured by a mine while crossing a Russian minefield as ordered by his (drunk) commanding officer on the Armed Forces Day (interview conducted in July 2010).
– Post 4/5 – Interview (in French) with Alexander, 28 years old, born in Kovrov, Vladimir Region, voluntary conscript during the second Chechen war. He was injured by a defecting weapon – his commanding officers and himself having full knowledge of this fact (interview conducted in July 2010).
– Post 5/5 – First steps and hypotheses
 Interview with Gennadi, officer, founder of the Rusich Organization. Boevoe Bratstvo, Moscow, 8 July 2010.