May 01, 1996

Russia, Widen Your Step

Russia, Widen Your Step

Any idea why grandfathers serve in the Russian army? No, it’s not because of personnel problems. The army may be understaffed, but not to that extent. For now the Defense Ministry can do without pensioners.

In fact, the “grandfathers” serving in the Russian army are only 20 years old: деды (grandfathers) is the slang word for soldiers in their second year of service. Hence the ill-famed дедовщина (hazing).

The administrative euphemism for the word дедовщина is неуставные отношения (literally, “non-statutory relationship,” from the word устав, meaning statute or army code). So if a дед is caught red-handed, bullying or beating a новобранец (young conscript), this is what he will be accused of. The дед could then be indicted by a military court (военный трибунал).

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