General of the Army Nikolai Pankov, Deputy Defense Minister, announced recently that the institution of “regiments’ sons” would be revived in the Armed Forces. Pankov adds that the army is doing its best to “warm up and accommodate children who find themselves on the streets and those who have no parents.” Pankov believes that there is no clear youth policy in Russia now. He adds, “The Defense Ministry is ready to work on the youth not only in the so-called applied aspect in the court of drafting citizens to the military basis but also on the permanent basis.”
Six years ago, when Igor Sergeev was the Defense Minister, the Defense Ministry already tried to work with homeless children. In 2000, Sergeev issued an order and the government released relevant provisions on the status of children being brought up by military units. Thus, residence, upbringing and education of orphans and homeless children in military units was legalized in Russia. In the past, Captain First Rank Valery Shabanov, director of the main ideological department of the Armed Forces, told the author of the present analysis that besides the resolution on status of children being brought up in military units there was the law on basics of the system for prevention of homeless status and crimes of children under legal age working in Russia, as well as resolution of the government on inclusion of orphans in military units. All these documents constituted the legal base in 2000, on the basis of which military units started recruiting boys from 14 to 18 years old. At that time there were 60 “regiment’s sons” in military units. It was expected that their quantity would grow to 3,000-5,000.
Officials of the main ideological department said that teenagers were recruited in military units at their consent and with consent of the guardian bodies. Teenage squads (7-12 people) or platoons (25-30 people) were formed from them. Local authorities had to allocate tutors for the boys. They also had to control maintenance of the boys in military units, how their study was going on, what was their health condition etc. Dismissal of “regiment’s sons” from military units was done with agreement of the commission for affairs of children under legal age and protection of their rights and after achievement of the 18-year age.
However, after Sergei Ivanov became the Defense Minister the main ideological department and the troops somehow forgot about “regiment’s sons.” There was even an unofficial opinion that it was not the affair of the army to bring up teenagers and this should be done by society and other social institutions. Some time later the Defense Ministry wants to revive the idea of bringing up homeless children as a kind of know-how. Why?
According to various estimates, there are from 500,000 to 3 million homeless children in Russia. There are no accurate figures. This circumstance shows the situation in solving this problem in the state. Is it possible that the Defense Ministry will be able to accept and accommodate all these children? Is it possible that this will not be another populist step?