Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia
- Nongovernmental organization. As the Soviet-Afghan War drew to a close, the returning soldiers and officers began to tell their accounts of the disorder and brutality they had experienced in the Soviet army. Many of their stories leaked into the press and became one of the main concerns of the burgeoning glasnost and perestroika period. In 1988, the Soviet government changed the existing conscription law, keeping young men from postponing military service in order to complete their higher education. The alteration of the law caused an uproar in the nation and triggered a wave of protests across the country, led by the mothers of young conscripts. At the same time, Mariya Kirbasova, responding to the rise in political action among military families, founded the Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia (later known as the Union of Committees of Soldiers’ Mothers of Russia) in 1989. Its main objective was to protect human rights of soldiers serving in the Russian military. The members of the organization lobbied successfully to change the conscription law, bringing back a set of laws allowing student deferments.Since then the committee has sought to end abuses in the army, especially the unofficially institutionalized bullying of junior conscripts (dedovshchina>). Their campaigning resulted in a series of new laws and practices that were introduced by the Soviet and eventually Russian government. For example, in 1990, Mikhail Gorbachev established a special government committee to investigate deaths and trauma in the Soviet army. In 1991, for the first time, life and health insurance was provided to Russian service members. The same year, it was decided that voluntary consent rather than mandatory conscription was necessary for military service in the Caucasus. In the mid1990s, many soldiers who had refused to serve in the army in Chechnya (and thus faced criminal prosecution) were released thanks to the efforts of the committee. Also in response to the organization’s efforts, the government allocated funds in the army budget for the search and identification of deceased military personnel. Thus, the committee helped to shape a more humanistic environment in the Russian military; however, members of the committee recognize they are still far away from eradicating all atrocities. Therefore their strategic goal is promoting the transition from a conscript system to a volunteer military service.While working with service members, the committee also provides legal and financial assistance to the families of dead soldiers. With its main task being to expose the violation of human rights in the army, the organization conducts research on service-related deaths and injuries in the military. The committee has been involved in educational projects to inform recruits, army soldiers, and their families of their rights. The members of the committee have also been involved in political activism; in 1995, they organized “The March of Compassion” that went from Moscow to the Chechen capital Grozny and drew support from Chechen mothers opposed to the first Chechen War. The work of the committee has been recognized internationally; it was nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize in 1995.
Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. Robert A. Saunders and Vlad Strukov. 2010.
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