Dedovshchina (Russian: дедовщина, IPA: [dʲɪdɐˈfɕːinə]; lit. reign of grandfathers) is the informal practice of hazing and abuse of junior conscripts historically in the Soviet Armed Forces and today in the Russian armed forces, Internal Troops, and to a much lesser extent FSB, Border Guards, as well as in other armed forces and special services of former Soviet Republics. It consists of brutalization by more senior conscripts, NCOs, and officers.

Dedovshchina encompasses a variety of subordinating and humiliating activities undertaken by the junior ranks, from doing the chores of the senior ranks, to violent and sometimes deadly physical and psychological abuse, not unlike an extremely vicious form of bullying or torture, including sexual torture and anal rape.[1] There have been occasions where soldiers have been seriously injured or killed.


The term is derived from "ded" (Russian: дед, meaning grandfather), which is the Russian Army slang equivalent of gramps, meaning soldiers after their third (or fourth, which is also known as "dembel" (Russian: дембель or "DMB" Russian: ДМБ) half-year of compulsory service, stemming from a vulgarization of the word "demobilization" (Russian: демобилизация demobilizatsiya) – this word is erroneously used by soldiers to describe the act of resigning from the army); soldiers also refer to "dembel" half-year of conscription, with the suffix -shchina which denotes a type of order, rule, or regime (compare Yezhovshchina, Zhdanovshchina). Thus, it can literally be translated as "rule of the grandfathers". This is essentially a folk system of seniority based on stage of service, mostly not backed by code or law, which only grants seniority to conscripts promoted to various sergeant and yefreitor ranks.


Having existed in some military schools of the Russian Empire, including the Page Corps.[2]

The origin of this problem is often attributed to the change in conscription term brought about by the law of 12 October 1967, causing two different groups of conscripts to be simultaneously present in the army: those who were drafted for three-year service and those only for two-year service.[3] However, A.D. Glotochkin researched psychological problems of young soldiers before 1967.[4]

During the same year, a decision was reached to draft conscripts with a criminal history into the ranks, due to a demographic crisis following World War II. While oppression by older conscripts has probably always taken place in the army, after that date, with the introduction of the four-class system (created by the bi-annual call-ups)[clarification needed] it became systematic and developed its own rules and ranks.

Current situationEdit

Many young men are killed or commit suicide every year because of dedovshchina.[5][6] The New York Times reported that in 2006 at least 292 Russian soldiers were killed by dedovshchina (although the Russian military only admits that 16 soldiers were directly murdered by acts of dedovshchina and claims that the rest committed suicide).[7] The Times states: "On Aug. 4, it was announced by the chief military prosecutor that there had been 3,500 reports of abuse already this year (2006), compared with 2,798 in 2005". The BBC meanwhile reports that in 2007, 341 soldiers committed suicide, a 15% reduction on the previous year.[8]

Union of the Committees of Soldiers' Mothers of Russia works to protect the rights of young soldiers.

In 2012, a draftee from Chelyabinsk region, Ruslan Aiderkhanov, was tortured to death by his seniors.[9] The one witness who was willing to testify against the alleged perpetrators, Danil Chalkin, was later found shot dead in his military base. A contract soldier, Alikbek Musabekov, was later arrested in this incident.[10]

In 2019, according to the Russian military prosecutor office the situation with dedovshchina is getting worse. Incidents of hazing in the army during 2019 have increased. 51,000 human rights violations and 1,521 sexual assault cases.[11] In the same year, Ramil Shamsutdinov shot 10 of his colleagues at a Gorny military base, 8 of them fatally. In court, he alleged that he was subjected to beatings and threats of anal rape.[12]

Government actionsEdit

Overall, the Russian state has tried and has had mixed results in curtailing dedovshchina. In 2003, on the specific issues of denial of food and poor nutrition, Deputy Minister of Defence V. Isakov denied the existence of such problems.[13]

Since 2005, the Russian Ministry of Defence has published monthly statistics of incidents and crimes including cases of death.[14]

Russia has changed some of the rules made in 1967. Most notably, criminals are no longer accepted into the army.

Beginning in 2007/08, the conscript service time was reduced from two years to one; dedovshchina primarily occurs when second year conscripts abuse first year conscripts so this measure is partially intended to curtail the practice.

In 2011, the Russian Ministry of Defence established a military police force as a way to counter dedovshchina.[15][16] According to Russian media reports, up to 20,000 service members may be assigned to serve as military police.[17]

Dedovshchina in popular cultureEdit

Several Soviet and Russian films portrayed the dedovshchina despite the military's abstention from helping the production. Following is the selected filmography:

Also, in the novel The Hunt for Red October, Tom Clancy writes that veteran Soviet naval captain Marko Ramius refused to allow dedovshchina to be practiced anywhere on his boat, dismissing it as "low-level terrorism".[citation needed]

See alsoEdit


  1. ^ "Russian army sold recruits for sex, rights group claims". 14 February 2007.
  2. ^ Kropotkin, Peter (1899). Memoirs of a Revolutionist. London: Smith, Elder & Co. pp. 63. peter kropotkin memoirs revolutionist.
  3. ^ Those who date the present dedovschina system to 1967 include Odom, William E. (1998). The Collapse of the Soviet Military. Yale University Press. ISBN 0-300-07469-7.
  4. ^ "Глоточкин Алексей Данилович".
  5. ^ The Consequences of Dedovshchina, Human Rights Watch report, 2004
  6. ^ Ismailov, Vjacheslav (10 July 2006). "Terrible dedovshchina in General Staff". Novaya Gazeta (in Russian). Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  7. ^ "Hazing Trial Bares a Dark Side of Russia's Military". The New York Times. 13 August 2006.
  8. ^ "Russia army suicides cause alarm". BBC News Online. 29 May 2008. Retrieved 24 January 2009.
  9. ^ "Russian family alleges 'suicide' conscript tortured to death". London: Telegraph. 21 September 2011. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  10. ^ Младший сержант застрелился, не вынеся издевательств рядового. Novye Izvestia (in Russian). 13 February 2012. Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  11. ^ "DocumentCloud".
  12. ^ The Moscow Times (6 November 2019). "'They Warned They'll Rape Me': Russian Soldier Stands by Mass Shooting". The Moscow Times. Retrieved 23 April 2022.
  13. ^ "To Serve without Health?". Retrieved 1 August 2013.
  14. ^ (in Russian) Информация о происшествиях и преступлениях в Вооруженных Силах РФ Archived 27 August 2009 at the Wayback Machine,
  15. ^ Sputnik (20 April 2010). "Russian military police plans on track – defense minister".
  16. ^ Sputnik (5 April 2012). "Russian Military Police to Be Set Up 'in Two Stages'".
  17. ^’s-new-military-police-about-time-and-about-order/[user-generated source]

Further readingEdit