Our country vastly suffers from…the army. We imply not , but an active service of young men. Here is a typical, alas, situation: a young lad, even a child still, goes beyond the law. Instead of being properly strapped and his parents being fined, he is imprisoned for 2 – 3 years and comes back from the prison having grew a habitual criminal not able to adapt to a peaceful life. The army is half a prison our young men are put into for the only fault – for inability to get out of this very army. Recruits are firstly tormented as «greenhorns» then «demobees» jeer at recruits. After all these horrors a soldier finds himself in a Civy Street having got if not a physical, but a mental invalid with all the ensuing consequences – see above.
I was lucky with the army. I was inducted
I was lucky with the army in that I did not find myself put neither in «greenhorn’s» nor «demobee’s» shoes. The point is that my military service started with study in the sergeant’s school (my specialty was – steam boiler operator that led me finally to the Moscow Power Engineering Institute) which was naturally and fortunately free from oppression and outrage upon «greenhorns». I was an old soldier («demobee») for only a fortnight: I was called in the army for 3 years, but an edict concerning transition to a two-year service had been issued soon and I was the first to serve for 2 years and was demobilized (in June 1969) two weeks later those served for 2,5 years had been demobilized.
Another success to me in the army was to be engaged in a real business: on graduating from the sergeant’s school (Gomel Region of Byelorussia) I started working at a military unit as the boiler-house master (New Kazanka Settlement, Ural Region of Kazakhstan – a branch of the well known training ground Kapustin Yar). The boiler-house master – sounds grand: three firemen were under my command, but for a longer time I had to be not their supervisor but an electrician, mechanic, sanitary technician…
Being an institute teacher everyday I face the second negative impact of the army on our present-day life. Many students regard the Institute not as «the temple of science», but as… an effective and inexpensive place of refuge from the army. Such students, truth to tell, have no ability for studies but they could have become good builders, mechanics, tailors, cooks, but… the army phobia drives them to institutes where teachers can’t bring themselves to put them «poor» and to expel from the institute.
It seems to me that the problem of transition to a professional army lies not only in lack of money but in something else. The trouble of our army (and armed people at all: navy, interior forces, militia (police) etc.) is that very rarely its representatives possess two peculiarities essential for their labor. Recruits, as a rule, are conscientious, but they have no professional skills. And gaining experience is frequently accompanied by loss of all that is inherent to inexperienced warriors and has been called at all times by a short but capacious word honor.
The dilemma of
honor and professionalism is unexpectedly applied to the most significant
Russian event of 2000 – to the presidential election. It is quite reasonable
for many people to be surprised on the way a man, being absolutely unknown to
everybody just a year ago, could be elected to the Supreme State Post. Some of
them therewith consider our electorate to be …at this point words are selected
by means of a wide semantic spectrum – from «imbeciles» to «developing
electorate». Others allude to public relations men and say that they can create
everything from anyone for the sake of making money. Yes, certainly, we would
like our president to be, for example, a governor having gained an abundant
(successful) experience of ruling over a province (region). The province in
which, as Chichikov had said,
«you drive as in
Let's hope (ask the Lord) we have elected «a respectable man», and an experience – that’ll come. It is essential only not to sit to this notorious swing: «experience – up, honor – down». But a backward motion is impossible and this is the most terrible in the circumstances.
Since we have adverted to «Dead souls» by Gogol, we shall extract a description of… contemporary Russian mass media from the book: «There are people, crazy on playing dirty tricks on their neighbors and sometimes for no reason whatever». <…> «The closer they become friends with anyone the greater they spite him: they set tall stories afloat being so silly it is quite impossible to fabricate something more ridiculous, they break off the engagement or a trade deal». <…> «and that it is why the trick is very frequently concluded with another trick: they are either battered down by boots or…» <…> «And what is the most queer, that is only in Russia possible, after a while they meet their friends having pummeled them and meet these friends as if nothing had happened, and those are, as they say, alright, and these are alright».
The first sign of a standard democracy is the authority pyramid circulating by means of election of specialists, so let’s point out the second one. We would like any publication narrating criminality of a governor to result in an arraignment of this governor or a newspaper editor (and/or an author of the article) according to the law. And now everything goes just like 150 years ago: and those are, as they say, alright, and these are alright. There is a feeling that branches of the authority have undertaken an artful play making fools of electors (readers, spectators, and audience…). But this play, truth to tell, is often finished with «another trick»: he (a deputy, an editor) is either beaten in a porch of his own house or, worse (and maybe better – for whom how), is shot to death.
Translation into English by I.Repkin.
Please send your corrections on spelling and grammar of the text by e-mail: Pat33@mail.ru.
 The hero of the unfading poem by N.V. Gogol: «Dead Souls».