The War In Chechnya: Diary of a Killer
March 3, 2012 5:27 PM   Subscribe

They screamed and shouted, begging us not to kill them because they had family and kids back home. So what? As if, by contrast, we’d come from an orphanage into this s***hole. We executed them all. Diary of the war in Chechnya. (via)

Originally published by The Sunday Times. (Paywall) A 10 year account of the war in Chechnya as seen through the eyes of a Spetsnaz officer.
posted by Telf (44 comments total) 35 users marked this as a favorite

 
I read this earlier today and was taken with the candor. How many of these soldiers are doing something else for Putin now?
posted by zerobyproxy at 5:49 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


The above quote was in the context of mercenaries.

War is inhuman, but war amongst mercs is some the strangest, darkest things around. Some things really do not privatize well.
posted by effugas at 5:52 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


Wow. I am certain his experience generalizes to our soldiers in thr mid-East. Guerilla warfare is some fucked up.
posted by five fresh fish at 5:57 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


that's really incredible to read. I don't even have clear thoughts on it at the moment. Thanks for posting.
posted by sweetkid at 5:58 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


Fuck war. Fuck it.

Humans are so fucking stupid for "sentient" beings.
posted by Talez at 6:01 PM on March 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Fuck.

I know it's like that, but to think that it's steadily, relentlessly like that. With all the rage and injustice felt on each side it's a wonder that those fighting can ever stop.
posted by Songdog at 6:07 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Eh.

Chimps engage in continual low level war. They'd have Chimp Spetnaz too if they could.
posted by Chekhovian at 6:08 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


There is a book titled The Man Who Tried To Save The World. It's about an aid coordinator that disappeared in Chechnya.

He was inspiring. Restored water service to Sarajevo while the fighting was ongoing inspiring.

Chechnya ate him without a trace. The author couldn't even figure out how many sides there were in the war. At one point there were four armies that may had motives to kill him.

And all their motives ended up being the same; he might have made conditions better.

Chechnya became my analogy of hell, where all human's creativity and endurance is mustered to make things as shitty as possible.
posted by dglynn at 6:15 PM on March 3, 2012 [21 favorites]


Relevant: Kill the Messenger - What Russia taught Syria: When you destroy a city, make sure no one -- not even the story -- gets out alive.
posted by Burhanistan at 6:21 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


The Syrian regime figured this strategy out on their own.
The Hama massacre (Arabic: مجزرة حماة‎) occurred in February 1982, when the Syrian army, under the orders of the country's president, Hafez al-Assad, conducted a scorched earth operation against the town of Hama in order to quell a revolt by the Sunni Muslim community against the regime of al-Assad.
posted by humanfont at 6:54 PM on March 3, 2012


Chimp Spetnaz

Aaaaand now I need to form a band.
posted by AdamCSnider at 7:00 PM on March 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


From the totally awesome wikipedia entry on Spetsnaz. Possibly written by a Russian 13-year old boy:

The Spetsnaz are forged out of the most brutal training regime ever created. Spetsnaz are trained to make everything around them into a weapon, including themselves. Spetsnaz training is usually around 50-70 weeks long. They learn hand to hand combat techniques like Systema. The recruits are beaten in training; thus, some other procedures include smashing cement blocks on their heads and chests, Swiming in blood under barbed wire, push-ups while balancing on a rifle, sometimes they are thrown into a small room with a vicous dog armed with just a knife or nothing at all. Those are just some of the drills they follow which make them the toughest men on Earth. It is sometimes said that Spetsnaz trainies are able to withstand pain that is impossible to deal out.

-Wikipedia
posted by Telf at 7:15 PM on March 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


It is sometimes said that Spetsnaz trainies are able to withstand pain that is impossible to deal out.

I wonder how that conclusion was arrived at.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:24 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I read the diary. It didn't leave me in a mood capable of finding anything totally awesome for a while yet.
posted by Diablevert at 7:25 PM on March 3, 2012 [5 favorites]


Yeah, it sounds like one of those "Could Jesus microwave a burrito so hot that he couldn't eat it" type conundrums.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:26 PM on March 3, 2012 [7 favorites]


Spetsnaz cannot be hurt by Firestarter girl who starts fire with her mind. Spetsnaz feels no pain from pyrokenesis.
posted by stinkycheese at 7:48 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I'm just going to assume those of you who are making jokes about the Spetsnaz didn't read the article. Because I couldn't imagine reading that and thinking "Ha, Spetsnaz sounds like a silly word! Let's make jokes about russia." I'm not even sure I'll be able to joke about anything for the rest of the week.
posted by FirstMateKate at 7:55 PM on March 3, 2012 [9 favorites]


> I'm just going to assume those of you who are making jokes about the Spetsnaz didn't read the article.

I read it a few hours ago and felt shitty. Then later, I made a joke. Life continues.
posted by Burhanistan at 7:56 PM on March 3, 2012 [16 favorites]


At times you start to have doubts, and ask yourself if all of this is in vain.

I'm sorry, but coming where it did in the narrative, this made me laugh.
posted by haricotvert at 7:58 PM on March 3, 2012


I'm all for black humor. I have made extensive arguments on this site suggesting that it plays a useful role in releasing certain otherwise unbearable tensions, and that not everything all the time has to be treated with the grave and reverential tone of a eulogy in order to be acceptable discourse for metafilter.

It is possible, then, that someone might find what I about to say hypocritical, and yet: I think this diary is a really compelling and fascinating document. But i don't think a graphic litany of the war crimes this guy personally committed with some ancillary commentary about which ones did and did not rip another shred off his soul is really an awesome thread for sniggering about some G.I. Joe pain don't hurt bullshit. There's a movie for that, if you're into that sort of thing. This ain't that.
posted by Diablevert at 7:59 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


As it happens, I've been fascinated by Spetsnaz for about thirty years now and have read many similar accounts as this, thanks. The Wikipedia excerpt quoted does not make logical sense and, like anything quoted from the Internet that doesn't make sense, jokes are made.

If I'd been cracking wise about mercilessly wiping out injured Russian mercenaries hiding in the basement, well... That might be different, I grant.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:08 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


I think this diary is a really compelling and fascinating document.

Me too.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:10 PM on March 3, 2012


These are abhorrent stories but they are inevitable in combat, particularly a guerrilla war where nobody's quite sure who the bad guys are. If you don't think you can stomach hearing about your countrymen gunning down wounded prisoners or accidentally tossing a grenade at an elderly couple, you should not send them to war. I'm certainly not saying we should ever turn a blind eye to war crimes, but a certain tolerance for them is an excellent measure of how necessary a conflict truly is. There were plenty of atrocities committed against the Germans and Japanese during WW2, but they were accepted as the residue of a just war.

That being said, I hope to God we never have to fight the Russians.
posted by Nahum Tate at 8:13 PM on March 3, 2012 [4 favorites]


That Wikipedia article must've been written by Ivan Chesnokov.
posted by adamdschneider at 8:13 PM on March 3, 2012


Its the shit like this at the end that really gets me.
    "My child once asked me to bring back a donkey as a present. At first I laughed but then thought, why not? As our deployment neared its end I got a Chechen to find me a small one, for a little money. We pumped it with heavy painkillers to keep it calm and loaded it onto our train, in the ammo carriage. At a checkpoint on the way home a general was checking our column’s paperwork when the donkey started braying like crazy. “What the f***’s going on?” he said. At first his jaw dropped when we opened up, but then he was in hysterics. After a few hundred miles, we were home. I barely managed to cram the animal into a car, and delivered it to my child. Everyone was astonished. Mission accomplished."
That's the kind of thing I would do and find hilarious, does this mean there could be a set of circumstances that could happen to me that would cause me to be some fraction of how callous and unfeeling this dude is towards human life? I'm going to go ahead and not laugh at the asshatesque derail either.
posted by Blasdelb at 8:14 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


We made a cocktail; 50 grams of pure alcohol, 200 grams of beer and 50 grams of pickle.

I'd drink that.
posted by nathancaswell at 8:17 PM on March 3, 2012


You do realize the soldier who wrote the linked piece is from Spetsnaz, right? And that the writing is about his activities in Spetsnaz, right? So no, I don't think linking to the Wiki entry on Spetsnaz is a derail, even by the furthest stretch of the imagination.
posted by stinkycheese at 8:21 PM on March 3, 2012


These are abhorrent stories but they are inevitable in combat, particularly a guerrilla war where nobody's quite sure who the bad guys are.

I sure as hell don't know chapter and verse of international war crimes treaties, so I may well be wrong in my suppositions here, but the old couple incident didn't necessarily strike me as a war crime per se -- they were being shot at by snipers hiding in the village, that's a mistake I'm sure gets made a lot in these situations.

Stripping an enemy naked and making him stomp through snow and gravel on his fucking bloody stumps and then kicking the shit out of him when he falls is something I would hope my army isn't doing, certainly not as a matter of routine.
posted by Diablevert at 8:21 PM on March 3, 2012 [6 favorites]


I read this a bit ago and had to let it sink in.

I remember hearing accounts such as this when the war was ongoing. War almost always results in unreported atrocities like those described in this diary. The problem gets worse when the war is executed without anyone watching, which was largely the case in Chechnya.
posted by IvoShandor at 8:40 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


War, what is it good for?
posted by Damienmce at 8:52 PM on March 3, 2012


Meme replication.
posted by obiwanwasabi at 9:06 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given the previous post on Wikipedia editing standards, it's quite amusing that the Wikipedia entry for GRU (the military intelligence organization in charge of Spetznas troops) has this entry under "Historic Agents"

Adamska Ocelot,a GRU Major under the command of Colonel Volgin and leader of his own "Ocelot unit" within Spetsnaz.

posted by FuturisticDragon at 9:10 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


Oh Wikipedia:
Spetsnaz shovel
One of the most famous weapons of the Spetsnaz is a small, metal hand shovel, much like a spade. It is balanced for throwing and has a flat head with sharpened edges. In the hands of a trained soldier, it can be used for numerous purposes ranging from hand-to-hand combat to use as a shield, with the soldier angling the blade to deflect an oncoming bullet.[citation needed]


Yes, a citation would be helpful...
posted by Chekhovian at 9:28 PM on March 3, 2012 [3 favorites]


I remember seeing this diary online years ago. It was online in its entirety and it was some chilling stuff.
posted by AElfwine Evenstar at 9:39 PM on March 3, 2012


with the soldier angling the blade to deflect an oncoming bullet.[citation needed]

Yes, a citation would be helpful...


Chekhovian, I believe that would be filed under "Female Warriors, Chainmail Bikini-Wearing, Effectiveness Of".
posted by IAmBroom at 9:59 PM on March 3, 2012 [1 favorite]


Stripping an enemy naked and making him stomp through snow and gravel on his fucking bloody stumps and then kicking the shit out of him when he falls is something I would hope my army isn't doing, certainly not as a matter of routine.
Me, too, but...
posted by MrMoonPie at 10:30 PM on March 3, 2012 [2 favorites]


War unleashes the sickness that lies dormant in every human heart. It's just what happens. People enter into it thinking that it's not going to happen to them, that it's an honorable thing they are going to do. Remember the huge, swelling lines of ordinary kids signing up after 9/11? They believed in what they felt called to.

But then it keeps happening, combat does, fighting does, and they see things no one should ever see, and done in their names, too. And then of course they see the inevitable payback, then they begin to engage in payback, to avenge, and so it goes, on and on.

After a short while, no one even knows why it even started, and they're damn sure not fighting for that anymore. It's war now, it's got them, and it's got into them.

It's in your heart, too, that sickness. It's dormant, but it's there. Go on, tell me it isn't. Better, tell your mirror, and see a liar. You'd do it, esp if you were conditioned to do so, esp if you'd seen your brother die, if you'd seen your friends die, maybe esp when you're in huge danger, and your friends are also, when you're in the heat and heart of battle. You'd do it, too, if you lived long enough to do it. You'd become a warrior.

Which is to say that you'd become mentally ill. Spiritually sick. If we cut your chest open, and could smell what was in there, it'd smell like dead, rotting fish.


It's being done in my name as I key this in. Who knows how many warriors are destroying their lives and taking the lives of others? Who knows how many grenades have been thrown in the past twenty minutes, who knows how many bullets fired?

I ate a cheeseburger and fries and a coke earlier tonight, and enjoyed it. While I did so, drones were flying around. Smart bombs were flying about, smartly. Well-educated men in rooms in Idaho were guiding missals at poor men in Afghanistan and Pakistan and who knows where else. Aircraft of every description landed on the aircraft carriers, loaded up with fuel and bombs, and they're off again.

I don't think that human beings will ever be able to learn. I'm 57, I've seen a couple of things, one of my favorite quotes of Marcus Aurelius: Look back over the past, with its changing empires that rose and fell, and you can foresee the future too. Its pattern will be the same, down to the last detail; for it cannot break step with the steady march of creation. To view the lives of men for forty years or forty thousand is therefore all one; for what more will there be for you to see? (I think it's important to note that Aurelius wrote those words in his camp, away from his throne, with his troops as they fought a war; I love Marcus with all my heart but he surely was a human being.)

Anyways. Always the young will fall for the lies of clever men seeking oil and/or land and/or glory. By the time they learn what's really going on it's too late, they're up to their throats in it. Here's Erich Maria Remarque explaining that in All Quiet On The Western Front : They surpassed us only in phrases and in cleverness. The first bombardment showed us our mistake, and under it the world as they had taught it to us broke in pieces.

Not to be a big downer on anyones Saturday night here; I'm just so, so disappointed in the US (maybe in humanity but hey, that's a large order; the US is enough for me to be disappointed in), how easily US citizens bought into the wars without a thought for tomorrow, without a thought of what happened in Viet Nam, just without a thought, period.
posted by dancestoblue at 10:50 PM on March 3, 2012 [40 favorites]


This isn't that bad as Chechnya goes; someone else has a story that ends up with ordering the dropping of chemical weapons into the local drinking water reservoir. It was a very dirty war.
posted by jaduncan at 11:27 PM on March 3, 2012


This is horrific, but also really interesting (for lack of a better word). Is this something the Sunday Times got a hold of and translated/published on their own, or are these excerpts from an upcoming book or similar? Anyone know?
posted by Joakim Ziegler at 2:47 AM on March 4, 2012


Jadincan:This isn't that bad as Chechnya goes;
someone else has a story that ends up with
ordering the dropping of chemical weapons
into the local drinking water reservoir. It
was a very dirty war.


That sounds terrible. Have you got a link to the story?
posted by Petrot at 3:45 AM on March 4, 2012


Sorry, it's IRL (and I am aware that comes across very "I know more about chemical weapon use than you can possibly imagine", for which I apologise).
posted by jaduncan at 4:17 AM on March 4, 2012


It takes me a conscious effort not to refer to them as Spaznutz. I've taken some ballistic knives. Stupidest goddamn weapon I've ever held in my hand. And it speaks volumes of the mindset and the fetish. And by extension, the expectations, the "behavor" required from the image.
Although we do it in the U.S. too.

Also too Marcus: "Whatever the world may say or do, my part is to keep myself good;" we can't control the world, or save it, or even change or control one person. We can only control ourselves.
posted by Smedleyman at 10:42 AM on March 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


Chimp Spetsnaz

Aaaaand now I need to form a band


At least those Chimp soldiers are going to be naturally much more reluctant to participate in any kind of Guerrilla/Gorilla war....*rimshot please*.
posted by Chekhovian at 11:59 AM on March 4, 2012


"For the common soldier war has the feel -- the spiritual nature -- of a great ghostly fog, thick and permanent. There is no clarity. Everything swirls. The old rules are no longer binding, the old truths no longer true. Right spills over into wrong. Order blends into chaos, love into hate, ugliness into beauty, law into anarchy, civility into savagery. The vapors suck you in. You can't tell where you are, or why you're there, and the only certainty is overwhelming ambiguity. In war you lose your sense of the definite, hence your sense of truth itself, and therefore it's safe to say that in a true war story nothing is ever absolutely true." - Tim O'Brien, The Things They Carried
posted by bukvich at 3:09 PM on March 4, 2012 [4 favorites]


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