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Saturday, December 20, 2014


A Conscript's Life: Inside The Belarusian Army

Published 5 December 2012


Every Belarusian man from age 18 to 27 is required to serve in the country’s military for a year or more. The Belarusian Army considers itself a successor to the military of the Soviet Union; the traditions, relations between officers and enlisted men, and even the equipment have changed little since the 1960s. Young soldiers are subjected to hazing by their superiors, relieved only by the thought of later being able to treat new recruits the same way. Photographer Alexander Mihalkovich took these photos of daily life during his army service in 2010-11. (22 PHOTOS)

1

Conscripts chat as they ride on a train before starting their service, which will last 12 to 18 months.

2

The recruits eat food from home as they approach the base, knowing that their officers are likely to grab it for themselves.

3

New recruits set off on a 40-kilometer march during their training.

4

A soldier works for 22 hours without sleep while guarding the armory. Some soldiers work this grueling shift every other day.

5

Recruits keep their heads closely shaved in a military custom inherited from Soviet times.

6

A soldier carries water to clean the barracks.

7

Soldiers return to their quarters, which have no hot water or showers, after a long day outside in subzero temperatures.

8

A soldier guards his bed, which he dragged outside during a fire alarm.

9

Soldiers spend the day clearing snow off the shooting range using a plywood contraption seen here.

10

Soldiers take a quick break during the daily snow-clearing.

11

An exhausted soldier falls asleep in his chair.

12

A soldier grabs a bite to eat while serving a 24-hour shift in the kitchen, where three people must wash the dishes for 1,200 others after each meal.

13

The evening routine: mending uniforms in front of the state-run news broadcast. When the officers leave, the men change the channel to an action movie.

14

A recruit digs a hole for the officers' latrine.

15

A secret smoking break. Cigarettes are in high demand among the soldiers, and many try to keep their supplies hidden.

16

One soldier plays with a dog named Kalashnikov while others fall asleep on the grass during a short break.

17

Some things -- like push-ups -- are the same in armies around the world.

18

A soldier who has finished his military service receives a train ticket, paid for by the army, to return home.

19

Soldiers wearing the blue beret of the special forces wait for the train home.

20

A boozy celebration after 18 months of service. Recruits who have college degrees serve just 12 months.

21

Some soldiers return home from the army to girlfriends they hope to marry. The conventional wisdom among soldiers is that a woman who has waited for her sweetheart for 18 months will make a good wife.

22

A family celebration welcomes a soldier back to normal life at home.