How to survive the Russian Army

It helps if you grew up in a mean, institutional world -- say, an orphanage, or an English private school. At least then you'll know what to expect: the strong terrorizing the weak, while those in charge look on indifferently. As one interviewee put it, "In the barracks there's nothing to do but turn on each other, like spiders in a jar." The officers don't need to worry about what the troops do to each other; officers get to go home at night to be with their families. Soldiers may not get to see their families at all during their two years' service. That leaves a lot of time for refining and perfecting the little cruelties that make Russian army life so miserable that many soldiers would rather blow their own heads off than finish off the full 24-month sentence.


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