A revealing aspect of Svetlana Alexievich’s interviews with Russian people, conducted first in the aftermath of the Soviet Union’s collapse, and then again in the early part of this century, is the extent to which they believe their society to be militaristic and geared up for war, and yet, according to some of them, soldiers are treated abysmally, with poor conditions and apparently endemic forms of ritual humiliation. 

Sadly, both elements are being borne out in the biggest war on European soil since 1945. 

In this interview, Aleksander Laskovich describes the petty humiliations endured in the army. 

According to the regulations, soldiers were not permitted to have forks or teaspoons.   The only utensil you get is a spoon. One time, someone received a pair of teaspoons in a package from home.  Christ!  You should have seen how giddy we were sitting around stirring our tea.  Civilian luxuries! You’re constantly told you’re swine and then, all of a sudden, somebody hands you a teaspoon. 

See another thoughtful comment by Aleksander, concerning the time it takes to build democracy. 

Source: Aleksander Laskovich, interviewed periodically between the ages of 21 and 30, in Svetlana Alexievich, Secondhand Time: The last of the Soviets, trans. by Bela Shayevich (New York: Random House, 2017), p. 374

Photo credit:  FaceGuard at pixabay


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