Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Russia: Great Lent Has Begun

          Citizen media outlets captured the multidimensional essence of the Russian Orthodox Lenten season, which began Monday, including issues such the religiosity of post-USSR Russia, the liturgical calendar, the peculiarities of the Orthodox traditions and fasting rituals compared to those observed in the West, and the public statements made by prominent church officials.
          Holy Transfiguration Monastery Publications blog contextualized the Lenten Triodion among the other three liturgical books recognized by the Russian Orthodox Church:
Four books contain the festal services necessary for the liturgical year. 
The Menaion contains the feasts of the Lord, the Mother of God, and the Saints, for every day of the year. 
The Triodion contains the services for Great Lent, the three weeks before, and Holy Week. 
The Pentecostarion contains the feasts of Pascha through Pentecost and All Saints. 
The Octoëchos provides eight one-week cycles of services in one of each of the eight tones.
Pancake week/Maslenitsa celebration in St. Petersburg. Photo by YURY GOLDENSHTEYN, copyright © Demotix (26/02/12).
          Irina Bakaeva, a teacher of English from the village of Dergachi in Saratov region, described last Sunday the Russian festivities surrounding "Pancake Week," which occurs just before the start of Great Lent:
Russia is celebrating Shrovetide, or Pancake week, one of the jolliest, most vivid and fun-filled feasts here. 
The tradition of celebrating Shrovetide came to us from pre-Christian Russia. This is a feast of bidding farewell to winter, injected with the joyful anticipation of spring’s arrival, Nature’s awakening and the renewal of life. Shrovetide was the name of a straw effigy, dresses in women’s garments, which was first used in the general merriment, and at the end of the feast – burnt in a bonfire. 
An invariable attribute of Shrovetide were pancakes, round in shape – symbolizing the sun, and as such – a ritual dish.
          Sophia's bilingual LiveJournal blog discussed last week how the Eastern and Western branches of Christianity observe different traditions in celebrating the beginning of Lent:
Ash Wednesday, in the [Gregorian] calendar of Western Christianity, is the first day of Lent and occurs 46 days before Easter. It is a moveable fast, falling on a different date each year because it is dependent on the date of Easter. It can occur as early as February 4 or as late as March 10. 
In Russia we have Clean Monday instead of Ash wednesday, it is also known as Pure Monday, Ash Monday, or Green Monday, is the first day of the Eastern Orthodox Christian and Eastern Catholic Great Lent.
          St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church blog provides recipes for Lenten Main Dishes, while Orthodox Education Blog includes a link to printable Lenten coloring books for children.
People fight with swords during celebrations of Maslenitsa or Pancake week, a traditional Russian holiday marking the end of winter, St Petersburg. Image by Yury Goldenshteyn, copyright Demotix (26/02/12).
People fight with swords during celebrations of Maslenitsa or Pancake week, a traditional Russian holiday marking the end of winter, St Petersburg. Image by Yury Goldenshteyn, copyright Demotix (26/02/12).

         "Why We Were Created" Blog by Catholic Eric Sammons introduced some of the differences between how the Lenten season is celebrated by the Eastern and Western traditions:
The Eastern Lent is similar in intention to the Western Lent, except it is much more severe in practice. [Russian Orthodox Christians] are asked to give up all meat, dairy products and alcohol throughout the entire season (think of that when you are complaining about not eating meat this Friday). They also calculate the days differently than in the West – [Western Christianity does] not count Sundays, whereas [Orthodox Christians] do and they end the counting before Psalm Sunday and consider Holy Week a whole different penitential “season.”
          Ancient Faith Radio Blog posted a 15-minute audio recording of Fr. Andrew Damick's discussion on the differences between the Eastern and Western Lenten traditions. In it he emphasized that Orthodox Christians observe lent more as a community and with the assistance of a confessor with the ultimate goal being to become more receptive to God's grace. For Orthodox Christians, he added, Great Lent represents a lifestyle that is merely intensified during this season.
          Aleks' bilingual blog summarized the author's understanding of why fasting is a necessary component of the Christian faith:
I do not know the official teachings of the Orthodox Church regarding fasting, but I'm sure that my views expressed here are not far from the truth. There are a lot of reasons for fasting, but the most obvious to me are (in order of importance): 
1. Christians by definition must imitate Christ. Jesus, before starting His Ministry of the Good News, fasted for 40 days. [...] 
2. Food, and, most importantly delicious, food by itself is a very good thing (trust me, I know). The problem is that its ubiquity has the potential to become the most easily accessible temptation. [...] Although I have to mention that not eating is not the essence, the reason, or the purpose of fasting. Physical fast will be useless if we, for example, continue to ignore neighbor's needs, if we continue to swear and be angry, etc. [...] 
3. Easter is the most important holiday for Christians. Without it there would be no Church, nor the saving Gospel. Therefore, Christians try to prepare for this very special celebration in very special manner. [...]
          Global Voices introduced Archpriest Vsevolod Chaplin as well as Patriarch Kirill in a January 2012 post entitled, "The Russian Orthodox Church Re-Enters Politics." Similarly, both men have made public their views on how the Great Lent should be observed by Russians.
          While Patriarch Kirill urged Russians to meditate on their own futures as well as the future of Russia, Archpriest Chaplin, according to the Moscow News, said that "people observing lent should refrain from watching talk shows or using online social networks."
          Fr. Oliver Herbel mirrored such thoughts on the importance of moderation in internet usage during Great Lent in a March 2011 post for blog:
Some in Orthodoxy pride themselves on being “luddites,” that is, as those who are generally against technological progress. This parallels those non-Orthodox Christians in America who see “www” as standing for “666.” On the other hand, some in Orthodoxy, including clergy, are quick to grab the first gadget to hit the market. With regard to the use of the internet, similar patterns may be seen amongst the Orthodox. Some Orthodox will avoid nearly all Orthodox-specific sites or at least any site that dares to address contemporary issues, believing that what matters is only “spiritual” things that can affect one’s soul and that there is nothing one can do to help with current difficulties within the Church. Others will engage any Orthodox site and/or blog and comment frequently, believing that such engagement is contributing to Orthodoxy or sometimes that such engagement is a healthy way to “vent” frustrations. Both approaches to the internet are wrong, even during Great Lent. What is needed is balance.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Russia: Dmitry Rybolovlev, the Quintessential ‘New Russian'

          Billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev serves as an example of the quintessential 'New Russian' through his controversial activities during the Yeltsin Era, his modern business practices, and his extravagant international spending, as he has just purchased the most expensive New York City apartment to date. 
           Global Voices placed Russia's 'oligarchs' in their historical and economic context in a Nov. 2011 post entitled, "FC Anzhi and the Yeltsin Era Money":
Ever since the fall of the Soviet Union 20 years ago, the world has watched Russia's transition into capitalism with great interest. The Yeltsin era of the 1990s was characterized by a struggle over who would emerge from the transition with holdings of Russia's major sources of wealth, such as its natural resources. The victors in that struggle are known as the ‘oligarchs' because they possess a degree of wealth that surpasses most people's ability to conceptualize.
          Another term for those who emerged from the process of privatization with vast amounts of wealth is 'New Russians.' While the term 'oligarchs' focuses more on the political power of these individuals, 'New Russians' emphasizes the economic component of their influence.
          ToperJokes Blog - a site that translates Russian and Ukrainian jokes into English - devotes an entire folder to jokes about New Russians. Here is one:
A New Russian asks the priest: 
- Father, my cat has died. I want you to read the burial service!  
- No, we may not do this in Orthodox Church.  
- What should I do then?  
- Across the road there is a sectarian church, they will do anything for money.  
- Will 4000 dollars be enough?  
- My son, why didn't you tell from the start that you had a baptized cat?!
          As this joke suggests, New Russians are also characterized by an often unspoken assumption that their wealth was acquired through the use of irregular methods. During any governmental transition there will invariably be periods of time when laws are vague or non-existent. Russia has yet to develop a comprehensive land registry, and so it is little surprise that the Moscow News estimated last fall that 90 percent of Moscow apartments are rented illegally.
          Analyseman Blog discussed [ru] Mr. Rybolovlev's activities during the Yeltsin era, including the 11 months he spent in prison accused of murdering a factory executive:
"In the early 1990s, Dmitry Rybolovlev was one of the most active participants in privatization in his region. Mr. Rybolovlev then headed Perm Credit Bank FD and bought shares mainly in the chemical plants. In 1992-1993, first deputy chairman of the Perm region's Property Fund, Vladimir Shevtsov, helped him to privatize a major stake in Uralkali and became his partner. In 1996, both were accused of organizing the murder of the director of the Perm factory Neftekhimik. Mr. Rybolovlev spent 11 months in pre-trial detention and was released on 1-billion bail." - a little bit of background on how the money [spent on the New York City apartment] had been made.
          Other casualties of regime change are issues of safety regulations and infrastructure. The Russian-language MCINC LiveJournal blog discussed last week how Russian factory owners are not held accountable for accidents, but rather they continue to receive monetary benefits from the state.       
          Such practices were exemplified by a major accident that occurred in Mr. Rybolovlev's Uralkali factory in 2006. released the Russian government's official findings on the cause of the accident along with the company's legal obligations regarding paying damages to the victims:
Uralkali (Berezniki, Perm region) has received the report of the re-opened investigation into the causes of the accident that occurred at Uralkali Mine 1 in October 2006. As stated previously, the second investigation was conducted by a commission established by Russia’s mining safety watchdog, Rostekhnadzor, on November 11, 2008, by order of the Russian Deputy Prime Minister Igor Sechin. [...] 
There has to date been no judicial decision requiring Uralkali to reimburse the expenses listed in the report. However, the company cannot give any assurance that claims will not arise for such reimbursements, which could exceed 3.1 billion rubles.
So then the question becomes - What do New Russians do with the money?

           The aforementioned Global Voices article about Suleyman Kerimov's FC Anzhi, along with one pertaining to Mikhail Prokhorov's New Jersey Nets, discuss how many New Russians buy international sports teams.
           Coincidentally, it was to Mr. Kerimov that Mr. Rybolovlev sold his stake of Uralkali in 2010 amidst a costly divorce from his wife of 21 years, Elena. Analize Faktor blog discussed [ru] the details of the divorce that had international implications:
A Geneva court imposed an interim measure on the assets of Uralkali, a major Russian Federation potassium fertilizer producer, in connection with the divorce between the shareholder Dmitry Rybolovlev and his wife Elena […] 
Elena Rybolovleva initiated divorce proceedings in late 2008 in Switzerland. She's claimed to have a legal right to half of her husband's assets and has filed lawsuits against him in the United States, the Virgin Islands, and in Cyprus, as well as in the UK and Singapore. […]
A mill at one of Uralkali’s processing plants in Berezniki, Russia. Flickr photo by ICT Group
(CC BY-SA 2.0)

          Agent 4 Stars Blog contextualized Mr. Rybolovlev's Dec. 2011 investment in AS Monaco FC, following the sale of his stake in Uralkali:
Monaco’s Prince Albert II says Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev is eager to invest €200 million into the local football club. “We’re going to discuss the investment issue with the club’s administration in the coming days,” the monarch told Nice Matin newspaper. Seven-time French champions AS Monaco are experiencing serious money shortages after being relegated from Ligue 1 last season. Rybolovlev, who used to be the owner of Russia’s biggest potash fertilizer company, Uralkaly, currently lives in Monaco. […] 
Previously, the Monaco club enjoyed the support of another Russian tycoon, Aleksey Fedorychev.
The post went on to list other assets held by Mr. Rybolovlev and his ex-wife Elena:
Donald Trump’s Palm Beach mansion now belongs to Dmitry Rybolovlev and ex. wife Elena Rybolovlev. Through County Road Property LLC, Rybolovlev in 2008 paid cash for the 515 N. County Road estate, which boasts 475 feet of unobstructed oceanfront and 6 acres. Rybolovlev closed the deal for $5 million less than Trump’s $100 million asking price. Trump snapped up the property in 2004 for $41.4 million.In a June 2008 statement to the Wall Street Journal, Rybolovlev confirmed he was the mystery Russian behind the Trump purchase. He said he did not plan to make Palm Beach his home. Palm Beach County’s property appraiser has assessed the estate’s value at $48 million for 2010. 
Dmitry Rybolovlev also owns a string of lavish properties from London to Singapore and an unfinished Dream home a replica of the Petit Trianon, which he planned to build in Cologny, the most upper-crust hill of Geneva. 
Mr Rybolovlev’s assets also include an art collection stuffed with paintings by Picasso, Van Gogh, Gauguin and Monet. These paintings were originally intended to decorate the property of Cologny.
          Finally, last week both the English- and Russian-language media were filled with mentions of a record-breaking purchase: Mr. Rybolovlev had aquired the most expensive apartment in the history of New York City and placed the property in the name of his 22-year-old daughter. LiveInternet user dispepsia provided [ru] the specifics of the sale:
Last week a 22-year-old Russian student, Ekaterina Rybolovleva, purchased an apartment in Manhattan for $88 million. Of course, Ekaterina is the daughter of the Russian billionaire Dmitry Rybolovlev who recently sold his shares in Uralkali. […] 
Uralkali shareholder Dmitry Rybolovlev is worth an estimated $9.5 billion - which makes him the 93rd richest person in the world. 
The former owner of the apartment, Sandy Weill (Former CEO of Citigroup), sold it to the rich Russian for $88 million! Mr. Weill had purchased the apartment in 2007 for $48 million. […] 
The apartment is located in a building considered the best ever built in 15 Central Park West. It was built in 2006-2007 by the famous architect, Robert Stern. The apartment occupies the 20th floor in its entirety and has an area of 6,774 square ft (626.5 square meters). Also, the apartment is surrounded on three sides by a 2,077 square ft terrace (193 sq. meters).
Replying to a commenter, user dispepsia wrote [ru]:
In my opinion, it's a good investment - because the place is so beautiful! And he didn't spend the money on booze or on gambling, and the fact that it's so expensive - well, he [can easily afford it]! Unlike us, [the ordinary people].

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Russia, U.S.: An Overview of Alexander Ovechkin's NHL Career

          Alexander Ovechkin is a Russian-born NHL hockey player who is surrounded by controversy due to his aggressive style of play, but who remains in the public spotlight because of his talent and pure sensationalism.
          At the age of 26, Mr. Ovechkin is the only player ever named to the 1st NHL All-Star team in each of his first five seasons. He's also the only player ever to have received the Art Ross Trophy for leading the league in scoring points, the Maurice Richard Trophy, which is given to the league's leading goal scorer, the Lester B. Pearson Award, which is given to the NHL Players Association most outstanding player, and the Hart Memorial Trophy, which is the Professional Hockey Writers' pick as the league's most valuable player - as well as win all four in a single season.
          Although he was the first overall selection in the 2004 NHL draft, due to the NHL lockout during the 2004-2005 season, it was not until October 2005 that Mr. Ovechkin scored two goals in his first game for the Capitals in their 3-2 victory over the Columbus Blue Jackets.
          Less than two years later, in January 2007, Yahoo Sports Blog announced that Mr. Ovechkin had been named team captain:
And enough with the talk of him not accepting it a few years ago because of his poor command of English. Ovechkin himself confirmed it Tuesday that he just wanted to get more NHL experience and earn the respect of his peers and teammates before accepting the honor. Becoming the sixth Russian captain in NHL history, Ovechkin will try to be the first to actually win the Cup. Until recently Don Cherry's myth that a team can't win a Stanley Cup with a European captain was alive and well. Not anymore [...].
          The post went on to quote Ilya Kovalchuk, the only other Russian who was at that time serving as a Captain of an NHL team:
"I would like to congratulate Alex on being named captain. He is a great player and a leader of their team, so I think he is a great choice and deserves to be their captain. I am proud that another Russian is getting this honor."
          After his rookie contract ended in 2008, Mr. Ovechkin signed a 13-year deal with the Washington Capitals worth $124 million - the most lucrative in NHL history. In an April 2008 post on his Russian-language LiveJournal blog (now dormant), Mr. Ovechkin discussed the contract along with how his NHL career would affect his participation on the Russian National Team:
Another popular question - the [Russian] National Team. I've already agreed to play, as long as it does not conflict with Cup games. [...] 
[...] A 13-year contract - it's excellent! I play for Washington and I want to do this in the future, I want to keep winning with this club, and [me getting tired of it is out of question]. After all, there are many players who play for a single club throughout their careers.
          A year later, in March 2009, Yahoo Sports Blog captured the controversy surrounding Mr. Ovechkin in a post entitled "Ovechkin's 'stick on fire' goal celebration ticks off coaches":
Faced with recent criticism about his boundless enthusiasm by both Canadian blowhard Don Cherry and arch rival Sidney Crosby of the Pittsburgh Penguins, Alexander Ovechkin did the punk rock thing tonight and celebrated his 50th goal with the theatrics of an NFL touchdown celebration. 
Ovechkin's first-period goal in Tampa Bay gave him the third 50-goal season of his young career; and to celebrate, he dropped his stick to the ice and treated it like it was made of lava.
The post went on to provide Head Coach Bruce Boudreau's reaction to the incident:
"We had a little talk," he said. "I won't say what we talked about, but we talked." 
After a pause, Boudreau added: "It's the first and only time I've seen that happen in all the time I've been watching Alex. I've never seen him do a celebration like that. But I don't expect it to happen again."
Alex Ovechkin addresses the crowd in front of the Wilson Building in Washington DC after receiving the key to the city in honor of his winning the NHL's Hart Memorial Trophy as league MVP for the 2007–2008 season. He has just said, "Everybody have fun. No speed limit today." Photo by 1995hoo - June 13, 2008 (CC BY-SA 3.0; Wikimedia Commons)

          Russian Machine Never Breaks Blog posted last fall that Mr. Ovechkin had become the second NHL player ever to be immortalized by Madame Tussauds Wax Museum:
Alex Ovechkin, sporting 10 stitches on his forehead after taking an errant puck to the face during Caps practice, traveled into DC this afternoon to celebrate his new wax immortality. 
Surrounded by children from the Fort Dupont Ice Hockey Club, who were all rocking The Great 8′s signature gap-toothed smile, Ovechkin unveiled the figure to a horde of media and a few hundred passersby. To the surprise of no one, the wax figure’s resemblance to the Capitals captain is uncanny. 
And rightly so. Ovechkin spent hours over the summer allowing studio artists from Madame Tussauds to take more than 250 precise measurements and photographs, capturing the two-time MVP from every angle. The artists then began work on the figure in early July and finished it just a few weeks ago. Ovi donated his Capitals uniform, pads and equipment – in which the figure is dressed – to ensure its authenticity.
          ESPN Blog quoted Madame Tussauds Washington DC's General Manager Dan Rogoski as he paid tribute to Mr. Ovechkin:
"Alex Ovechkin is a tremendous athlete who has captivated hockey fans not only in the Washington D.C. area, but across the nation as well," Madame Tussauds Washington D.C. general manager Dan Rogoski said Monday in a statement. "We are honored to add a figure of Alex to our roster of sports icons and know our guests will enjoy interacting and lining up alongside him for photos in our Sports Zone."
          And then last month Mr. Ovechkin was suspended for three games as a result of his hit on Pittsburgh’s Zbynek Michalek. ESPN blog included analysis of validity of the suspension in their Daily Debate between Scott Burnside and Pierre LeBrun.

This is the fifth suspension/fine for reckless behavior Ovechkin has incurred in his career or roughly one a year. I didn’t like the hit. [...] 
Well, hard to imagine that three games is anything more than an extended All-Star break for Ovechkin. [...] You know what might have made an impact? A 10-game stint on the sidelines. Time to start making both teams and players pay for their dangerous work.
Ten games? That is crazy. I actually think that hit didn’t warrant more than one game, but Ovechkin got three because of his two prior suspensions and two prior fines. [...]
         In light of his suspension, Mr. Ovechkin decided not to attend this year's NHL All Star game. The Washington Post Blog quoted Mr. Ovechkin:
“My heart is not there. I got suspended, so why I have to go there?” Ovechkin said. “I love the game, it’s a great event, I love to be there but I’m suspended.” [...] [...] 
“My game is play physical, my game is play hard, and I don’t think it was bad hit, dirty hit. Yeah, I jumped, but he don’t get hurt. I don’t get two minutes. I don’t think it was three-game suspension.” [...]
          Dmitry Chesnokov translated a 2009 article from for Yahoo Blog, where Mr. Ovechkin articulated the real meaning of controversy:
I do not get angry with criticism. It's a good thing. If you are talked about, that means that you are liked and respected. But not in an ordinary form.

Monday, February 6, 2012

Russia: Practice of Compulsory Military Service Comes Under Attack

          Russia's compulsory military service practices have come under attack for a variety of reasons, including the issues of economic inefficiency, governmental corruption connected with determining exemptions from service, dynamics of Russia's demographic status as it affects the military's ability to meet its quotas, and the practice of dedovshchina (from the Russian word for 'grandfather'), a violent form of hazing directed at young conscripts.
          Known as the first Emperor of Russia, Peter the Great included a "recruit obligation" in his efforts to form the Imperial Russian Army. The term of service in 18th-century Russia was for life, until it was reduced to 25 years in 1793, 20 years with an additional 5 years in reserve in 1834, and 12 years active duty in 1855. Russia's modern conscription practices date back to a 1967 law that remained largely unchanged until the mid-2000's, when the term of service was reduced to 1 year in 2008 for all men aged 18-27.
          Writing for The Volokh Conspiracy Blog, a group blog comprised mostly of law professors, Ilya Somin put the practice of conscription in its historical context by paraphrasing an article written by economist Joshua Hall:
Economist Joshua Hall has an interesting article describing an oft-ignored, but very important expansion of freedom over the last several decades: the declining use of military conscription. He notes that, as of 1970, some 80% of the world’s governments used conscription, including the US and many of the democratic nations of Western Europe. By 2009, that had declined to 45%, and many of those nation that still have conscription have reduced the length of conscript’s terms and made it easier to escape the draft. Even France, the nation that first pioneered conscription in the 1790s, abolished it in 2001. 
Hall also gives a good summary of the economic case against conscription. Most knowledgeable people are aware of the standard points that conscription reduces the quality of the military because professionals are, on average, better soldiers than short-term conscripts, and that conscription creates major social costs by forcing people to serve who would be more productive in other occupations. Hall notes two other ways in which conscription is inefficient that are less well-known – that it creates deadweight losses by diverting people from their preferred occupations to those which have draft exemptions, and that it encourages governments to underinvest in military equipment and instead sacrifice more lives in battle rather than capital [...]
          In addition to the economic inefficiency issues associated with conscription, there are governmental hazards as well in that it is known to incite corruption. International Defense and Security Programme Blog discussed in general terms the importance of applying a mandatory military service law equally, regardless of socio-economic status, and then cited Russia's military as a specific example of the methods by which conscription corrupts the military, along with efforts the Russian government has taken to address these issues:
Compulsory military service can be a cause of pervasive corruption within the armed forces. Such is the case in Russia. In order to avoid conscription, would-be soldiers pay bribes to the military authorities, medical personnel in charge of assessment and officials in draft boards. Such practices are widespread and publicly acknowledged. 
In July 2010, Russia’s nationalist Liberal Democratic Party, led by Vladimir Zhirinovsky, tabled draft legislation which would allow potential conscripts to pay a sum equivalent to US $32,500 to avoid military service. The resulting funds would be channeled toward the costs of the Ministry of Defence (MoD). This measure, aimed at Russia’s military commissions, signifies both the great extent of draft corruption in the country and a clear recognition of this reality. 
Serious attempts to deal with this issue have been made in recent years by the Russian government. The length of conscript service was shortened by six months in April 2008 to one year, while the list of exemptions from conscriptions has also been made more restrictive. However, the 2004-7 federal government programme designed to trial a transition to fully professional armed forces was largely ineffective, due to poor design and pervasive corruption which prevents full remuneration from reaching the contracted soldiers.
          Mikhail Prokhorov's 2012 presidential election program included putting an end to Russia's compulsory military service by 2015:
• Create a professional, mobile, high-tech army, able to respond quickly to local and regional conflicts; 
• Pay special attention to our strategic nuclear forces and space-based weapons as means of ensuring Russia’s independence and security; 
• End military conscription from 2015 while moving to a professional army; 
• Ensure social benefits for war veterans (free education, tax exemptions and soft loans to start businesses or buy housing) [...]
          Global Voices discussed in a post entitled, "Russia: Demographic Collapse Means 'No One Left to Draft'," how the low birth rate of the 1990s has affected Russia's ability to maintain conscription quotas. However, demographic decline was only one of the major factors that General Nikolai Makarov, Russia's chief of the General Staff, mentioned in a RIA Novosti article quoted in the aforementioned GV post; dedovshchina was the other one:
Russia has no conscript-age young men left to recruit [...]. 
The current conscript service crisis in the Russian Armed Forces is mainly due to demographic decline, bullying and brutal treatment of conscripts. [...]
          Marina Litvinovich reported for Global Voices on a relatively new trend where social media accounts of those who have died have been converted into memorials. One such memorial was dedicated to Evgeniy Shamukhin, a Russian soldier who had been drafted and then beaten to death during a dedovshchina ritual:
I was drafted in November 2007 and served in the Academy of the Ministry for Emergency Situations in Moscow region. On May 13, 2008, I was brutally beaten up by my fellow soldier Alexandr Revyakin. He was beating my head with his feet regardless of my appeals to stop it, and at the end I lost consciousness. Suffering serious injuries and not coming to my senses I passed away in a hospital on May 19, 2008. On August 14, 2008, the military court of Solnechnogorsk city sentenced Revyakin to 6 years and 6 months of detention.
Russian soldiers march during a rehearsal for the Victory Day military parade at Palace Square in St. Petersburg. Photo by Elena Ignatyeva, copyright © Demotix (18/04/11)

          Russia has one of the highest suicide rates in the world, and it is believed that close to 1 million Russian people have taken their own lives since the fall of the Soviet Union in the early 1990s. Russian Defense Policy Blog argued that the dedovshchina practices associated with Russia's compulsory military service make young soldiers even more prone to suicidal actions:
Dedovshchina has always had potential to drive desperate conscripts to take their own lives to escape it. Hence, the majority of Russian Army suicide cases are investigated under Article 110 of the RF Criminal Code, “Incitement to Suicide.”  Western legal tradition has long experience with incitement, but “incitement to suicide” is a little unusual. Not so for Russian military prosecutors and criminal investigators.
          The author went on to list recent accounts found in the Russian press of young Russian soldiers who had indeed taken their own lives or who had attempted to do so:
In late August, a conscript on guard duty in Volgograd shot himself, leaving a suicide note blaming dedovshchina in his unit. The case is being investigated under Article 110. 
In late August, a conscript from a Krasnoyarsk unit was detailed to the Railroad Troops brigade in Abakan to help prepare for Tsentr-2011. With only three months left to serve, he went AWOL, and apparently hung himself. 
In mid-August, a conscript in Kaliningrad jumped off the boiler house roof and sustained a number of serious injuries, but survived. He had left a note asking that no one be blamed in his death. 
In early August, a conscript in the 735th Missile Regiment, 62nd Missile Division in Uzhur killed himself while on guard duty at night. He had served six months. 
In early March, in Belogorsk, a conscript due to demob in a few days shot himself to death. In early February, a conscript in Sergeyevka shot himself to death. The case was being investigated under Article 110.
          Public awareness of the soldiers who have taken their own lives has grown recently. A June 2011 Radio Free Europe article described an incident where protesters gathered in Moscow in response to the surge of soldiers who had died under such circumstances in the previous months.
           In a November 2011 post, Russian Defense Policy Blog relayed the results of a poll conducted by the Public Opinion Foundation, which surveyed 3,000 people living in 64 of Russia's regions. Many of the questions that were asked reflected a widespread awareness that dedovshchina exists, that it is related in some way to compulsory military service, and that many young men resort to illicit activities in order to avoid military service:
Finally, buried deep in the results, participants were asked for their views on the state of affairs in the Russian Army in coming years: 
• 19% said it will improve. 
• 19% said it will worsen. 
• 35% said it will stay the same. 
• 26% said hard to answer. 
However, when asked to compare military service conditions today against those 10-15 years ago, more respondents said they are easier (39%), and many fewer said they are harder (14%), by comparison with Russians asked the same question in 2002 (just 6% and a whopping 64% respectively).