Ukraine Stories: In Russia, humiliation is learned in school
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This text is from the “Ukraine Stories” project launched by the English-speaking partner of “Temps” Geneva Solutions, which deals with international Geneva. It is about supporting and publishing the work of dozens of Ukrainian and Russian journalists who have lost their jobs or media but not their know-how.

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“They started hitting me… Crushing their cigarettes on me. Spitting on me. One day they even pissed on me. Just for fun. ”

These events reported in the book “The Right Ear” by journalist Alexander Borisov take place in a school. According to Russian news agency TASS, nearly one in two Russian schoolchildren is humiliated.

In Russia, the prison and the military have long been a symbol of cruelty to others. Humiliation is used daily to deal with soldiers and prisoners. But it is at school that this tradition begins.

We condemn violent teachers in schools but the daily brutalities between comrades are trivialized. Unpunished violence is learned in school and flourishes in barracks and cells. In general, inmates humiliate each other, just as soldiers do.

According to psychiatrists, this is the spiral of violence where the perpetrators are often former victims. Crimes must not be justified, but their origins must be understood, because this year we have witnessed the damage of the cult of brutality. If we do not question the mechanisms that feed this cruelty, we risk, after the war, facing rampant demons.

Kill and you will live

The similarity of humiliation at school, in prison, and in the military is both obvious and frightening. “Violence develops where there is a routine and where everyone is in their place. Everyone is divided into groups, and uniforms depersonalize and take responsibility. This is when a certain type of behavior develops, ”says discrimination psychologist Valentina Likhoshva.

In the military, for example, some sergeants force soldiers to kill a rat in turn. Those who refuse are beaten. The others are watching. This creates complicity through blood, even if it is the blood of a rat. The lesson is clear: kill and you will live yourself.

Sexual assault is also very common in these groups. “They are an indicator of the level of social development. Primates use it to bring down a rival, says the psychologist. Unfortunately, our society is not far from their level. ”

Control those who intimidate to control everyone

The state condemns the violence in the wake of high-profile scandals. But attempts to make it disappear often boil down to advertising effects. Leaders accept violence because it allows them, by controlling those who intimidate, to control an entire group.

Someone who develops in a violent environment develops mechanisms of survival: the active psyche of defense mechanisms. “I was beaten, spit on and harassed at school, but it wasn’t until adulthood that I realized it was violence.” , testifies a woman.

To survive, a victim stops thinking when she follows the absurd and unpleasant orders of the army. But when the humiliated person is sent into battle, he applies the rules of battlefield survival to his return to civilian life. The model is acquired for life.

For some, this will result in domestic violence. In others, this will manifest when they are in a group again. And in hostilities with a clearly defined enemy, it will lead to war crimes. According to a Red Cross study, the conditions for it are group conformity, obedience to authority, and a vague sense of responsibility.

“If you want to understand the level of development of a society, look at schools and prisons,” says Valentina Likhoshva. In Russia, their common denominator is humiliation.

Only by raising awareness among others will we be able to accept that the atrocities of war are committed by those who have been humiliated. These people are no longer bound by the blood of rats, but by human blood. And we have to live with them.

This article has first appeared in News Gazette Europe (in Russian). Translation and adaptation: Aylin Elci

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