By Paul Goble
Children raised in orphanages have always played an important role in Russian life, often becoming important party and soviet leaders before 1991. Now, they are among the groups most inclined to volunteer for combat service in Ukraine, according to Cherta media.
No one knows exactly how many orphans have fought in Ukraine for Russia, the news agency says; but at least 19 have been identified as such at their funerals. Likely many who have died have not been so identified; and many have managed to survive combat (cherta.media/story/siroty-na-voyne/).
Journalist Anastasiya Zhvik, the author of the report, notes that “orphans in state institutions from childhood are taught what to do, what to study, what to eat and drink and how to relax. Over time, they become accustomed to listen to the authorities – and when television speaks about the need to go to the front, often they take this as an order.”
In addition, she continues, “a certain role is played by the near universal romanticization of the war and the promises of enormous incomes which are far more than can be easily earned in a provincial city. All this makes graduates of children’s homes an ideal audience for Russian military propaganda.”
Some young men go directly from orphanages into the army. Others spend what money they have and then, without other job possibilities, join up. And still a third group, possibly the largest, end up in prison and are offered a way out only by agreeing to fight for their country in Ukraine.
As the war drags on, orphanages are likely to become an increasingly important source of soldiers for the Russian army; and they may be the most likely of all in Russian uniforms to follow orders no matter how much at variance they are with the military code. They may thus come to represent some of the most notorious shock troops Moscow has.