Thursday, February 23, 2017

‘Military is Only Upward Mobility Ladder Left for Most Russians’

Paul Goble

            Staunton, February 23 – On this year’s Day of the Defender of the Fatherland, many Russian outlets are celebrating the increasing support Russians show for the military and are suggesting that this holiday is well on its way to becoming the main one for the country as a whole given the increasing militarization of Russian life (

            But as usual, the real causes for an upsurge official media present as a manifestation of growing patriotism and support for Vladimir Putin are more complicated. One group of analysts in fact argues that popular backing for the military reflects the fact that today, military service is almost the only latter of upward mobility left to ordinary Russians (

            Polls show, the URA news agency says, Russians have an increasingly positive image of the military. It queried four experts – Anatoly Tsganok of the Academy of Military Sciences, Col. Viktor Murakhovsky who edits Arsenal Otechestva, Dmitry Yelovsky who runs a communications company, and Mikhail Shchapov of the Duma’s security committee – about the reasons behind this trend.

            Tsyganokov said that this change of heart reflected the fact that military salaries have gone up and the conditions of service have improved.  As a result, many draftees are choosing to stay in the service rather than risk unemployment in the civilian economy.  Moreover, military service is now viewed as “prestigious,” something it wasn’t a decade ago.

            Murakhovsky seconded that judgment. He said that he has visited numerous military units and conditions and attitudes about service are completely different. The relatives of those in uniform know this and are pleased.

            Yelovsky added that the participation of the Russian military in various foreign actions has won it prestige. But he added that there are at least two other reasons for the rise in the military’s standing with the Russian population.  On the one hand, the defense ministry is handing PR far better than ever before.

            And on the other, given the problems elsewhere in the economy, “it is important as well that the army has become the single stable social lift in Russia. ‘Any young person understands that service in the military will give him a good technical education, good pay, and respect in society” and thus a better chance for a position in the civilian economy later.

            Shchapov for his part says that one consequence of the military’s new prestige is that higher educational systems want to restore the military faculties that were largely shut down earlier. There are now fewer than 70 and none at all in large swaths of the country, including “from Krasnoyarsk to Khabarovsk.”

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