Conscript sold into slavery for cigarettes

I generally don’t engage in RO but since this is something that could’ve just as easily happened to me if my parents didn’t move out of Russia, I’m more than a little disturbed.

Unfortunately I can only find this reported in Russian, but that means there’s slim hope it’s fabricated. Unfortunately it’s also very believable.

Since I couldn’t find an English source, so I translated the article myself. It’s late and I’m really tired, so I apologize for any typos or awkward phrasing.

Soldier sold to Chechens for a carton of cigarettes

While private Kozyrov went from one slaveowner to the next, the army gave him a discharge.

19 year old Alexander Kozyrev does not like to recall his ordeal. He doesn’t share details with friends or relatives and avoids any questions by claiming that he needs to forget about it and move on, just like with a nightmare. Unfortunately, for now, nobody in the Kozyrev family is ready to forget.

May 2006 the youth was conscripted out of Ilovlya (near Volgograd). He was attached to an army division in Mozdok, near the Chechen border. Soon thereafter he and some other privates were taken to the border under the pretense of field work. The group returned without three conscripts. Among those missing was Alexander.

“They ran away.”– was the explanation back at the base.

“In reality, as was told to us by our son, their commanding officer counted them off at the border and said ‘You, you and you will go with Ahmed.’ And Ahmed gave the CO a carton of cigarettes” – as retold by Alexander’s mother.

It appears that the deal was not limited to just cigarettes, but just how much the command valued the freedom of Russian soldiers is something we’ll probably never know. Alexander did not see any money, but only heard that they were sold.
The “goods” were loaded into a truck and were taken to a farm. Here they lived for three weeks. Almost immediately they were given marijuana, beaten, but fed – seemingly attempts to break them.

“Alexander told us that at first it was rather bearable – they were regularly fed, and only forced to clean up and herd the sheep. However, later on younger relatives of the farmers started arriving who routinely used them for entertainment by beating and torturing them. They were fed less and less, and finally the food stopped. “– says the secretary of human rights of the Volgograd region, Michael Taranzov.

“We’ll die here, and nobody will know. We need to leave” – decided the soldiers.

Emaciated and tired, Alexander and another conscript left under the cover of darkness. They went in the general direction of Mozdok, but they did not manage to get to the actual city. In the small town of Elbanovo, about 30km from Mozdok, Alexander once again managed to become prisoner, but this time with Gypsy family.

Meanwhile his parents showed up at Mozdok asking for an explanation.
“Your son was discharged from the military due to health problems, he had a psychiatric condition and attempted suicide, and, anyway we already sent him home.” – was the official answer they received.

A little later the commanding officer of the base declared that “According to the
psychiatric condition of Alexander he should have had an escort, but while we were looking for a suitable escort, private Kozyrev left on his own.” The discharge papers seemed in order, although Alexander’s signature was indiscernible.
Alexander claims that he never signed anything.

Two questions remain, and the command remained silent.

First, if he left on his own, why did they not look for him given his alleged condition? Second, how did he suddenly develop a severe psychiatric condition with no warning signs that was not revealed by the conscription board? [Groman’s note: Psychiatry works a bit differently in Russia, so that’s a valid question.
Typically if you do not need to be institutionalized and can function independently you do not qualify as having a ‘psychiatric condition’]

Alexander was found by the commission for human rights created by the president
of North Ossetia and the secretary of human rights of the Volgograd region. The human rights group discovered a Gypsy slave trading ring, and then found Alexander near Mozdok.

When the people from the commission showed up asking questions about their worker, the family took Alexander outside of town and left him by the roadside. “He was found by a local police patrolman who took him into town and let him make phone calls.” – tells Michael Taranzov

The ordeal had a severe impact upon Alexander’s health. He only talks about that period in disjoint sentences, and claims to not remember many details. It’s still not clear what happened to his fellow escapee from the Chechen farm.

The military prosecutor decided not to open a criminal case. An inspector from Mozdok came to Ilovlya and recommended to Alexander and his family to try to forget and move on.

“Well, here he is trying to forget, even refusing to talk about it!” – says his mother Valentina, tears pouring down her face.

Michael Taranzov does not agree with the handling of the situation

“As we see it here, and as told by our colleagues, the trade of conscripts into slavery in North Ossetia is nearly streamlined. Literally several days ago a soldier from Perm was freed from almost identical circumstances, and nobody here cares. We’re planning to send a letter to the minister of defense of Russian Federation” –
says the human rights official – “We’ll hope that it won’t be ignored.”

Olga Aleksandrova
+7 (8442) 91-94-81
+7 (8442) 91-94-82

So if it’s true, although not surprising, it’s … well I’m kind of speechless.

Truer words were never spoken.

There are reports (and from credible sources, or at least as credible as The Guardian) of conscripts being sold as prostitutes or sex slaves. As unbelievable as it might sound, you have to realize that post-Soviet Russia descended from being a major superpower–if but one with a stagnant, bare-bones domestic economy–to being esssentially a Third World nation almost overnight. The main employer, the Federal government, essentially laid off millions, and the West stood aside while the Soviet Union came apart like a cheap gold watch and vultures and thieves picked the carcass clean of any value, while people literally starved and froze. Soldiers–mostly conscripts–were paid in foodstuffs if at all. So, in that near-apocalypic environment, it’s not surprising that a reversion to atavistic behavior occured. Take a detailed look at some of what occured in the tail-end days and Reconstruction after the American Civil War, or in post-WWII Europe, or after the fall of French Indochina, and you’ll see not disimiliar acts.

And you wonder why Putin, with his saber-rattling and bombast about rebuilding the Soviet Empire is so popular with the masses…


I don’t disagree with any of the rest of your post, Stranger. But this one clause bothers me. Do you really think that there would have been any mechanism whereby the West could have intervened to prevent, or even seriously ameliorate the domestic chaos following the fall of the Soviet system? I’m not sure that any externally operated aid would have been able to work - and anything filtering through the official government arms would have been looted just like everything else that they could take.

To put it a different way - the government is the former USSR was failing, but any outside attempt to intervene could have been used to provide the appearance of an external threat, which would have increased the government’s power.

On second thought, I don’t object to the phrase ‘stood aside’ but I think it wasn’t through indifference, but a paralyzing fear that anything else might make the situation even worse.

This is a really complex issue, and it came, surprisingly, as almost as much of a shock to the West as to the East, to the point that many strategists continued to uphold the notion that it was all a sham and that there was a government within a government in the Soviet Union that wished to use the chaos as cover for their real plans. (This isn’t as far out as it seems, as there was literally two governments in the Soviet Union–the Federal Socialist Republic, nominally governed by the Council of Ministers and the Supreme Soviet which legislated and oversaw the bureaucratic apparatus of government, and the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, headed by the General Secretary and run by the Politburo and Secretariat, which did all of the actually policymaking and most of the high level relations with other nations.)

There was no doubt fear–fear on who would take over, on who would have control of nuclear weapons and ICBM/SLBM launch codes, fear over the economic and social impact of the fall of the Iron Curtain, and what ended up being justified fear about the now-unsuppressed ethnic differences and conflicts in the former Warsaw Pact nations. But I think in retrospect–which is a privilidged but perhaps unfair perspective on which to judge the actions of the time–that there were significant things the Western powers could have done to bolster and cement support of pro-reform leaders in the new Commonwealth. The time was ripe to offer economic incintives and aid in the form of infrastructure and trade that would have benefitted legitimate, nascent open market economies and a faith in the value of democracy. Instead, the Western nations took the long view of “wait and see”, and the always embattled reformist Yeltsin continuously lost power against corrupt and residual hard-line elements, to the point that people there now look back toward the impoverished but consistent 'Seventies and 'Eighties with nostalgia.

Western money still flows and spends freely in Russia, but not (mostly) from legitimate sources. I suspect a lot of policymakers looked at the collapse of the Soviet Union not as an opportunity to mend fences (or rather, pull down the Steel Shade that divided Europe), but as a vulnerability to press home the economic attack against the Bear to make certain that she’d never rise again. To that end was formented the poverty, corruption, and general failure of reform.

But like I said, this is all hindsight, and few really saw this coming, at least not in the form it took of utter and complete collapse. In retrospect, it’s obvious that once the outer shell was fractured, the inner layers of matryoshka dolls would be revealed as cracked as well, and the whole structure would crumble into fragments, but at the time the West was still thinking in terms of trickery and power vacuums within the established stratetic threat of the Soviet Empire.