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A Soldier's Tale

openDemocracy Russia now puts together in one document the 9 letters written by Tolya (probably not his real name), a private in the Russian army. Tolya preferred to serve in the army rather than study at university. These letters were written some time ago, but few publications give such a clear indication of the state of affairs in the Russian military.

A Soldier's Tale 9: changed, but not utterly dehumanised

In his final letter home from the army our conscript Tolya “finds” a mobile phone, is pursued by a mad officer and wonders what kind of man the army’s made of him

A Soldier’s Tale 8: violence is no joke

Our conscript Tolya continues his study of violence in his airborne division of the Russian army

A Soldier’s Tale 7: Hopes dashed, business as usual!

Our conscript Tolya had such high hopes of his new posting in the elite regiment of the Russian airborne division, but the bullying goes on – if anything it’s got worse

A Soldier's Tale 6: new beginnings? Perhaps!

Conscript Tolya has been moved again, this time to a show regiment. Life suddenly looks rather better, but is it for real?

A Soldier’s Tale (5): a new life? Not b… likely!

Our conscript, Tolya, has left basic training. He hopes that things will be different, but his hopes are soon dashed when he meets his demobbers or dembels.

A Soldier’s Tale (4): the army paradox

Letters are a life-line for Tolya. The army’s a mysterious entity, unknowable by anyone outside it, the conscript reflects. Awful though it is, he wouldn’t have missed it. He’s learned a lot. And even (possibly) made a friend

A soldier’s tale (3): hospital, then what?

In this third excerpt from his letters, our Russian conscript ends up in hospital, with time to reflect on what lies ahead. He reflects on the bullying of the ‘bitches’ by the ‘grandpas’. So deeply entrenched is it, he reckons, that the army would fall apart without it.

A soldier’s tale (2): trying to blend in

In this second letter home our new conscript Tolya is starting to settle in to his two-year stint in Russia’s army. He tells us about the food and how he has learnt to avoid being beaten up.

A soldier’s tale (1)

A new Russian army recruit writes home about life at a parachute regiment basic training camp
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