Russian kids get sent to boot camp
Note, If these had been Muslim kids, they'd be talking about forced child
labor/ slavery and building a jihaadi culture/terrorist training
Russian kids get sent to boot camp
By Alan Quartly
BBC correspondent in Moscow
It was an experimental military unit set up at the height of the Soviet
war in Afghanistan.
To reverse mounting casualties among inexperienced conscripts, Russian
generals set up "Kaskad".
In the woods near Moscow, the soldiers learnt survival skills, shooting,
hand-to-hand-combat and "the art of destroying the enemy".
The difference was that some of these troops were just 10 years old.
That was in 1982. Twenty years later, Russian troops have long since left
Afghanistan, but the kids of Kaskad are still training.
These days the cadets, aged 10 to 16, don't necessarily go on to join the
army, but those who do, are far better prepared for conscripts' life than
those who don't.
Russia's army is notorious for its brutal bullying and underfunding. Many
of today's soldiers face the real prospect of active duty in war zones
The members of Kaskad all say they want to become soldiers in Russia's
spetznaz, or special forces, units.
Misha Tsybulevsky, 14, has been attending the military courses for four
years. When we met him at Kaskad's summer camp he had just crawled out of
a swamp on his belly, clutching his model Kalashnikov, while his
instructors fired volleys of blank shots and let off smoke grenades.
For Misha, Kaskad's spetznaz training provides the best preparation if
you're going to be called up.
"You earn courage. The people who join the spetznaz are the best," he
said, "not like people who smoke and drink on the street. Those people
don't make it. The kind of people who make it are those you can rely on,
who won't let you down later on."
The organisers of Kaskad stress the social role of the group. They claim
the month-long summer camp in the forest outside Moscow keeps many
children from deprived backgrounds off the streets.
But it's hard to escape the military thread running through everything the
As Andrei Samotoin, himself a former spetznaz soldier and now one of the
Kaskad leaders, points out, the army is very happy to have a supply of
well-prepared youngsters to conscript.
"There's already a tradition that kids from our unit will go on to serve
in various spetznaz units," he says. "Some of them go on to serve in
Chechnya. They have a good reputation among officers and men."
It's no surprise, says Andrei, that for the second year running the army
has supplied officer cadets from across Russia to work as instructors for
these boy soldiers. Certainly they see themselves as a replacement for the
network of now defunct Soviet youth organisations.
"We used to have the Komsomol and the pioneers. Now the kids do what they
want. But we make patriots out of the kids who come here," says Vadim
Volkov, one of the instructors.
Queuing up for his mess tin of porridge at the camp's field kitchen is
Vanya Gladchenko. He's only eight years old, but in Kaskad terms, he's
already a veteran with four years' service under his belt.
The patriotic side of his education at Kaskad has already left its mark.
"I want to defend my motherland so that nobody insults it and to protect
the Russian people," says Vanya. "For me, being a spetznaz is my life. I
have a dream of becoming a commander and destroying all Russia's enemies."
Since 1982 more than 8,000 children have passed through the ranks of
Kaskad. According to the commanders, in the last 10 years former cadets
have fought in all the wars that have flared up across the territory of
the former USSR.
And, they say, not one of them has been killed.
With more than 4,000 dead in the last two years of war in Chechnya, that's
no mean feat.
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