Poor souls - or: A strange form of suicide

In recent weeks, we have been able to read a lot about the culture of the Russian army. It is now obvious that the fighting power of the Ukrainian army differs from that of the Russian army. One has a goal and fights with highly flexible mission tactics, the other - yes, what actually?

They come to Ukraine, it seems, mainly for two things: to fire missiles and - to die. 

The Russian soldiers are fighting for a myth that has little to do with themselves. Even if they are hardcore nationalists or military enthusiasts: If we take seriously what scientists have found out about the fighting power of armies, then a myth is not enough. 

Combat strength, as countless analyses have concluded, is rooted above all in the bond between soldiers (among themselves and with their officers). And if Russia still has the dehumanising military culture that is often talked about these days, then they are "poor souls" caught between two fronts - pressure from the front and pressure from above. 

 If there is no success, the point of the action is not convincing, the logistics are not right and you see comrades dying - what is the psychological consequence in the face of the pressure from the front and the pressure from above?

You kind of give up inside.

Against the backdrop of all-too-Western established evidential patterns, one might think that one is rebelling. But the opposite is more likely: rebelling would have even scarier consequences than giving up. Some sabotage their weapons, some refuse, but the - psychologically - most likely case, I would suggest, is that of inward surrender.

One does not do what one is supposed to do, or does it only very half-heartedly. At the same time, there are no other options because of the pervasive pressure. No matter what you do, you can only - die. And that's what the soldiers do.

It is a form of suicide that is as senseless as it is understandable: I don't know what I'm doing here, I might have wanted to at one time, but I don't want to any more, at the same time I can't change anything and I can't escape. No matter what I do, all I can do is be angry and carry on. I keep seeing comrades die until, given the situation, dying myself seems a possible option.

In Western terms, one would perhaps speak of learned helplessness. But it may be much worse: accustomed to having few or no options, the hopeless situation becomes a hell in which it makes sense to give up the last will to live and be shot.

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