In today’s Russia, a unique phenomenon is unfolding that challenges the conventional wisdom of war and society. A growing number of individuals are making the daring choice to desert the Russian army, escaping the horrors of a senseless conflict in Ukraine. Their stories shed light on the stark realities faced by soldiers and serve as a harbinger of a potential societal upheaval.
The narratives of these deserters reveal a common theme – the realization that they were being used as mere “cannon fodder” in a war they never signed up for. These individuals, whether mobilized, volunteers, or contract servicemen, found themselves thrust into a situation where they had to choose between certain death on the frontlines or the daunting prospect of escaping their military obligations.
In the face of dire conditions, shortages of equipment and provisions, and non-existent salaries, these soldiers felt their only option was to flee. Thousands have gone AWOL, and while the exact number of deserters remains uncertain, garrison court sentences indicate a troubling trend. According to Mediazona, over “3,000+ soldiers have been sentenced for going AWOL since September, 2022,” a number that likely underrepresents the true extent of the issue.
“Get Lost” Project
Amid this growing crisis, the “Get Lost” project has emerged as a lifeline for those caught in the crossfire of conscription. The project provides legal, psychological, and financial aid to potential conscripts and those seeking to avoid the draft. Over “11,000+ people have received help already” through this initiative, highlighting the pressing need for support and guidance in navigating the complexities of wartime service.
The Social Implications
Desertion is no longer marginalized or condemned in today’s Russia. The majority of Russians remain disengaged from the war, showing a remarkable lack of opinion on the matter. Deserters are increasingly seen as heroes who choose life over senseless sacrifice. The German precedent, where monuments were erected for deserters during World War II, further underscores the shifting perception of those who escape war.
Social studies on desertion have identified key factors that influence soldiers’ decisions to flee. Discriminated groups, national, racial, and religious minorities, are more likely to abandon their posts. The abhorrent practices of the Russian authorities have led to a military dominated by residents of economically depressed regions, newly minted Russian citizens, and the entire male population of the Donetsk and Luhansk People’s Republics.
When units exhibit low morale, desertion rates increase. A sense of brotherhood and mutual assistance can deter individual desertions, but when morale is collectively low, entire units may choose to abandon their posts en masse. The collective video messages from soldiers seeking assistance illustrate the prevailing sentiment that desertion is the only viable option.
The Road to Revolution
Putin’s decision to wage war has inadvertently created a revolutionary situation in Russia. By conscripting hundreds of thousands of mature and elderly men into a war they did not ask for, Putin has pushed society to the brink. These men, whether wounded, on leave, mercenaries, or ex-convicts, have lost their social connections, jobs, and obligations.
This newfound restlessness is not limited to deserters alone. PTSD and violent experiences have left many of these individuals estranged from society. They return from the frontlines with a different perspective and a higher tolerance for violence. The social capital they once had is squandered, making them more susceptible to acts of disorder.
As time wears on, the situation in Russia becomes increasingly unstable. The longer the war persists, the greater the likelihood of social unrest and a potential revolution. The Russian regime’s constant demand for loyalty and resources squeezes the population, increasing the risk of an eventual societal eruption.
The stories of deserters in modern Russia paint a vivid picture of the toll of war and the consequences of using citizens as pawns. The choice to escape the battlefield is now seen as an act of bravery and survival. The social implications of this growing phenomenon are significant, and they point to a society on the precipice of a revolutionary situation. As the war continues, it remains to be seen how far-reaching the consequences will be and whether they will ultimately lead to a revolution in Russia.