‘Aren’t You a Man?’: How Russia Goads Citizens Into the Army

The campaign appeared to start in April. Online, the Defense Ministry published a splashy video ad focusing on two central motivations: machismo, and money. It defines military service as more meaningful — and manly — than what’s depicted as the Russian man’s typical, humdrum existence. After moody shots of civilians transforming into modern warriors, the ad ends with a more down-to-earth reminder: “Monthly payments starting at 204,000 rubles,” or about $2,000.

The themes in the Russian Defense Ministry’s recruitment campaign are picked up frequently in television newscasts — as would be expected, since all of Russia’s major television channels are controlled by the state. But the news anchors and reporters delivering the message are essentially acting as glorified recruiters themselves, repeatedly reminding viewers of the quick-dial phone number — 1-1-7 — they can turn to if they want to sign up to fight.

Since the invasion’s beginning, state television newscasts have been offering viewers a sanitized view of the war. Death and injury of Russians are rarely mentioned. The war itself is referred to with the Kremlin’s anodyne term, “special military operation,” or simply by the term’s Russian initials: “the S.V.O.”

But there are signs that, at least in some regions, the costs of war have now become too widespread to ignore. During a local morning newscast in the city of Irkutsk, in Siberia, on Aug. 9, a reporter introduces a piece about new “mobile” recruitment stands with an interview of a Ukraine war veteran wounded last year.

“I got all the payments that contract servicemen are entitled to if they’re wounded,” the veteran, Nikolai Karpenko, says.

“Contract military service, Nikolai says, gave him the chance to show that he’s a real defender of the fatherland,” the reporter intones.

The message: Yes, you could get hurt, but the government will take care of you. And you will have shown your patriotism.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *