Woman in the Military: 50,000 Women Work in Russian Armed Forces, But Not on the Frontlines
Many Russian women serve in the Russian Armed Forces, serving not only on the home front but on the frontlines.
Today, Alexander Sladkov's show will talk about women in the military.
Hello, welcome to Sladkov+, featuring me, Alexander Sladkov, plus specialists and experts who'll clarify this week's topic for us.
Women in the military, what is it about? How do women influence combat readiness? Can they compete with men in the service? Let's find out.
So, women in the military. We are at the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School. It is represented by a woman.
Tatyana Vinogradova reconciled ballroom dancing with hand-to-hand combat. She has had hundreds of parachute jumps. Before she joined, she worked at the Institute of Sociology of the Russian Academy of Sciences. Now, Tanya is in the airborne forces. Let's talk. The Russian Armed Forces number slightly more than a million servicemembers, including 50,000 women working in 150 military jobs.
— Tanya, what do you think? What's the best military job for a woman?
Tatyana Vinogradova, General V.F. Margelov RVVDKU spokesperson: By nature, a woman obeys a man. And, probably, it's men who should be in command. And women must fulfill the orders to such a tee, that man can be confident that the missions they assigned are accomplished.
— Such as?
— There are wonderful girls who can complete tasks that not every man can cope with. There are top-notch snipers, there are frogwomen. There are female EOD specialists. The fair sex is represented in almost all the jobs dominated by men.
— I remind you that we are at the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School. There was a competition this week to determine who the best female paratrooper of the Russian Federation is. 12 girls from multiple divisions and units competed. They fired guns, they cooked, etc.
Tanya, does the competition in the military mostly take place between men and women or among women? I mean in terms of career, society, status in a team?
— First of all, it's a battle with yourself. A woman must decide whether she wants to be the best in the service or to reconcile the qualities of a woman and a good servicemember. If she chooses to live only with arms, only fulfilling tasks to protect the homeland, then she will have to compete with men.
— Being here, at the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School, I noticed Olga Ivanova, a member of the 56th Guards Air Assault Brigade. She's the deputy commanding officer, she's known to be a very tough person. You should've seen her at the competition. We saw such a close-knit relationship in the airborne family. I discussed it with Olga Ivanova and her husband. I mean, a woman, a family, the service? Here's what they said.
Demyan Ivanov, airborne company commanding officer: «When she entered the communications school, she had had no jumps. Her first jump was even scarier for me than mine. I worried a lot. But she has a strong-willed personality, she wasn't nervous at all, on the contrary, she supported me, assured me that it would be OK. Finally, she jumped, and it was excellent».
Olga Ivanova, airborne company commanding officer: «The service helps us, we're used to it. This is the life we know. Civilian life wouldn't be a good fit for us. When someone talks about civilian life, I can't relate. I've been in the military for 10 years now. I can't think of anybody that has a better life than me.»
— Tanya, can the girls who take part in the competition be tough and uncompromising towards themselves and, most importantly, the enemy, during exercises or war?
— I think they can. Each of them didn't just join the military. They chose airborne troops. Each of them faces deadly peril every year. Each parachute jump is a combat mission. And a woman, a mother, by the way, one of the participants in the competition has 3 children, she jumps into the abyss, conscious of the risk, not only for her but for her family. If she managed to make such a choice, to decide on such a step, then nothing can be scarier for her.
— Speaking of women and war, I remember seeing something. It was when I was in Donbass, I saw a female sniper returning from the frontline through the ruins of a village. That woman's codename was Sour Cream. She was in high spirits because on the Ukrainian side, a commander had appeared, and she had shot him dead. She had a Dragunov sniper rifle, the distance was 800m, which is pretty far away. I also remember going with Sour Cream and her partner as we moved through the ruins of that village near Donetsk. And her assistant picked flowers in an abandoned garden and offered them to her. When she was back home, she was so happy about receiving flowers. She was embarrassed, changing from a predaceous hunter into an ordinary lady.
Tanya, on a personal level, what can make you go to war, shoot, and spend a lot of time in the trenches on the frontline? What is your motivation?
— An order. An order from command. Having taken the oath, which was my conscious choice, I assume that the orders are peremptory. I will fulfill the order I'm given. Even if it's war. Even if it's on the frontline. In any case, this order concerns my son's safety. If I'm sent there, then it's necessary. Thus, by doing this, I protect my own family.
I'll tell you a story about what happened to my friend Alexey Leskin. Imagine the city of Volzhsky, which is near Volgograd. It was late at night. Somebody knocked on the door. There were 3 recruitment officers.
— Are you Alexey Leskin?
— Would you like to join the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation?
— Do you know who I am?
— Yes, we do. You're the most famous gynecologist in our city. But, we have many women stationed in Chechnya, and they don't even have a gynecologist.”
Women waited in line to see Captain Leskin. Ladies wanted to see the doctor. There were various cases, some women were pregnant. In fact, 9 women got pregnant despite the fact that, from a medical point of view, they were thought to have been barren.
— Tanya, does female physiology influence a woman's status in a military unit? Does it hamper competition? I can give you an example of female pilots who were prohibited from having children as it would interfere with their career. What do you think about it?
— Children can't hinder a career. As for physiology… Women have a lot more stamina. But it was nature that proved it long ago, not the army nor the armed forces as a whole. Indeed, women have a lot more stamina, although they're not as strong, they're far more poised. Take snipers for instance. A woman can wait much longer and more calmly.
— Let's get off the Russian military a bit, to turn to the US military, just to compare. Over there, overseas, in the United States, 15% of the personnel are women, which makes 200,000 servicewomen. And some US servicemen, when they spoke with me, admitted being a bit embarrassed by such a big number of women in the military.
But the increasing number of women in the US military was followed by the increasing number of acts of sexual harassment against women. During the Iraq campaign, 80 servicewomen of the US Armed Forces were raped by their brothers-in-arms.
What about sexual harassment in Russia? How safe does a woman feel in this tough male environment? In this tough male community, this military community?
— For all the time I've served in the military, I've never seen men harass women or be overly aggressive towards women. I've never seen them beat them or anything like that, well, except for the ring during sparring. I can't imagine a man, a paratrooper, harassing his sister-in-arms. I can't imagine it.
— It might be a silly question, but still. Can women perform feats?
— For a woman, joining the military is already a feat. If she joins the airborne forces, it's twice a feat. A peaceful life is out of the question. Not only does she manage to fulfill her duties as a servicemember, but also those of a homemaker and a loving mother. Now that's a feat.
During the Second Chechen War, I witnessed a mass feat of servicewomen at war. I am referring to the medical battalion of the 42nd Division of the Ministry of Defense. Anatoly Kalmykov was its commander. His female kingdom consisted of 58 girls. In the field, with all the dust, trailers, surgeries in tents, they were to help numerous wounded soldiers, giving each of them a bit of their warmth. Probably, that warmth was what some needed to survive. By the way, the battalion's codename was Hot. Yes, the Hot Battalion. Still, there's a difference between the sexes in the Russian Armed Forces. We don't have a featureless Jane in a uniform, like in the USA, but a lady, a woman, doing great things, both at war, take Syria for instance, and here, in peacetime, still being of service.
Happy Women's Day, dear girls!
Happy Women's Day, dear women!
This has been Sladkov+