Extreme Poverty Makes Non-Russians Willing To Serve In Even Poorly Equipped Russian Military – OpEd


More than 20 percent of Tyvans are unemployed, and more than 40 percent live below the poverty line. As a result, they and other non-Russians are prepared to volunteer for service in the Russian army despite the inadequate support for those who do and even the risk of death, according to the Free Idel-Ural movement.

A few days ago, Tyvan media featured a photograph of a new unit of Tyvan volunteers for the war in Ukraine. It showed many of the new soldiers lacked boots, many of the soldiers were wearing glasses, and some who were clearly far above the prime draft age (idel-ural.org/archives/kreml-poshlet-tuvinczev-umirat-v-ukraine-v-ochkah-i-rezinovyh-botinkah/).

That pattern may strike many as strange given that some might assume that extreme poverty and inadequate equipment might be enough to dissuade Tyvans and other non-Russians from serving; but in fact, the reverse is true. Precisely because non-Russians are doing poorly, they are willing to serve even in an inadequately equipped military.

It isn’t surprising, the movement says, that “the needy and impoverished are prepared to become soldiers in order to have at least some employment.” But “this is a terrible situation. Still more terrible is that not a single Tyvan organization has condemned this step.” Instead, partly out of fear and partly out of understanding, they keep silent or even support their men.

Paul Goble

Paul Goble is a longtime specialist on ethnic and religious questions in Eurasia. Most recently, he was director of research and publications at the Azerbaijan Diplomatic Academy. Earlier, he served as vice dean for the social sciences and humanities at Audentes University in Tallinn and a senior research associate at the EuroCollege of the University of Tartu in Estonia. He has served in various capacities in the U.S. State Department, the Central Intelligence Agency and the International Broadcasting Bureau as well as at the Voice of America and Radio Free Europe/Radio Liberty and at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace. Mr. Goble maintains the Window on Eurasia blog and can be contacted directly at [email protected] .

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