Many Senior Russian Officers Psychologically Unfit For Their Positions – Study


The results of a new MVD study of senior militia officers has confirmed various high-profile cases have shown and many Russians have long suspected: many of these officers are “psychologically unfit” to perform their studies and should receive counseling or be dismissed.

This week, the MVD released a study on “the social-psychological problems in particular territorial organizations and educational institutions” of the ministry, a description probably intended to distract attention from what the study’s findings say about the Russian militia command as a whole (

The MVD report found that in these organizations in 2009 there were “526 leaders with an inadequate style of leadership,” a figure up from 367 in 2008. The new study, which was conducted without prior notice, involved a survey of more than 21,000 militiamen and identified “1906 leaders with violations of social-psychological adaptation.”

The report said that officials had resolved 2758 “conflict situations” in MVD groups, including 91 “in educational institutions of the MVD of Russia.” And with some 3,000 leaders, “complete psychological work” otherwise unspecified was begun on the basis of this broad survey.

According to the authors of the report, “despite a general improvement in the quality of psychological work with employees, included in the reserve for promotion to leadership positions, there were a number of shortcomings in the organizations” of various regions, including perhaps especially importantly, in the North Caucasus transportation militia.

But what is particularly disturbing, the report continued was that the number of psychological problems among MVD officers in educational institutions increased more than twice as fast as the rate among all MVD officers, an indication that new officers on the way up may be more troubled than longer serving ones.

Two experts provided their assessment of this report to “Svobodnaya pressa.” Vladimir Ovchinsky, a militia major general who serves as an advisor to the chairman of the Russian Constitutional Court, said that such an investigation “should have been conducted a long time ago” (

He said he had repeatedly called for such research and believes that “it is necessary to introduce a system of regular investigation of the entire staff of the Ministry of Internal Affairs.” Every six months, he said, militia officers should undergo psychological testing and checks for alcoholism and drugs, with lie detectors used to ensure reliable answers.

“Thank God,” Ovchinsky said, “this process has begun,” adding that he was confident that the figures released this week “reflect the real situation” and are “above all true.” That is something that the entire chain of command in the ministry is now going to have to take seriously in the future.

The militia major general said that he was not interested in using such testing only to get rid of bad officers. Some should be separated from the service, but others simply need treatment or reassignment. “One needs to understand what is taking place with each individual” rather than make sweeping judgments.

Ovchinsky’s most intriguing comment is his call for testing not only militiamen and their commanders but also “the leaders of the MVD and Administrations of Internal Affairs of the subjects of the federation and their deputies.” There would not be “anything terrible in doing this, and on this basis could be identified anomalies” before they lead to problems.

He added that “the very same thing should be done as well in the central apparatus of the Interior Ministry, the procuracy, the narcotics control agencies and the FSB.” Challenged that such testing might not be realistic, Ovchinsky said he saw no reason to conclude that. After all, he said, officers in Western countries routinely have to take such tests.

The second expert, Mikhail Pashkin, who heads the Union of Militia Officers of the City of Moscow, says that the real figures of militia officers with psychological problems “must be increased by a factor of ten.” But he stressed, “the question is not in the bosses themselves but in the system” in which they work.

Officers are paid far too little, they have learned from their commanders that they can behave brutally toward one another, and because of that, he said, they behave the same way with ordinary citizens, treating them as little more than “slaves.” The only way to address these problems, he says, is to turn the system upside down, something he does not expect to happen.

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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