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The Inside Story Of The Soviet Special Forces

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There are other ways in which a spetsnaz soldier can defend his position in the hierarchy, apart from punching people in the face. Spetsnaz respects people who take risks, who have strength and display courage. A man who will jump further than others on a motorcycle, or one who will wait longer than others to open his parachute, or one who hammers nails into a plank with the palm of his hand -- such people are assured of respect. A man who goes on running in spite of tiredness when all the others are collapsing, who can go longer than others without food and drink, who can shoot better than the others -- such people are also well thought of. But when everybody is thought highly of, there is still a struggle among the best. And if there is no other way for a man to show that he is better than another, physical violence will break out.

Two soldiers in leading positions may fight each other secretly without anyone else being present: they go off into the forest and fight it out. A conflict may begin with a sudden, treacherous attack by one man on another. There are also open, legal encounters. Sport is particularly admired by spetsnaz. The whole company is brought together, and they fight each other without rules, using all the tricks that spetsnaz has taught them -- boxing, sambo, karate. Some fights go on until the first blood is drawn. Others go on until one person is humiliated and admits he is defeated.

Among the various ways of finding leaders a very effective one is the fight with whips. It is an old gypsy way of establishing a relationship. The leather-plaited whip several metres long is a weapon only rarely met with in spetsnaz. But if a soldier (usually a Kalmik, a Mongolian or a gypsy) shows that he can handle the weapon with real skill he is allowed to carry a whip with him as a weapon. When two experts with the whip meet up and each claims to be the better one, the argument is resolved in a frightful contest.

When we speak about the customs observed within spetsnaz we must of course take into account the simple fact that spetsnaz has its own standards and its own understanding of the words 'bad' and 'good'. Let us not be too strict in our judgement of the spetsnaz soldiers for their cruel ways, their bloodthirstiness and their lack of humanity. Spetsnaz is a closed society of people living permanently at the extreme limits of human existence. They are people who even in peacetime are risking their lives. Their existence bears no relation at all to the way the majority of the inhabitants of our planet live. In spetsnaz a man can be admired for qualities of which the average man may have no idea.

The typical spetsnaz soldier is a sceptic, a cynic and a pessimist. He believes profoundly in the depravity of human nature and knows (from his own experience) that in extreme conditions a man becomes a beast. There are situations where a man will save the lives of others at the expense of his own life. But in the opinion of the spetsnaz men this happens only in a sudden emergency: for example, a man may throw himself in front of a train to push another man aside and save his life. But when an emergency situation, such as a terrible famine, lasts for months or even years, the spetsnaz view is that it is every man for himself. If a man helps another in need it means that the need is not extreme. If a man shares his bread with another in time of famine it means the famine is not extreme.

In the spetsnaz soldier's opinion the most dangerous thing he can do is put faith in his comrade, who may at the most critical moment turn out to be a beast. It is much simpler for him not to trust his comrade (or anybody else), so that in a critical situation there will be no shattered illusions. Better that he regards all his fellow human beings as beasts from the outset than to make that discovery in an utterly hopeless situation.

The soldier's credo can be stated in a triple formula: Don't trust, don't beg, don't fear. It is a formula which did not originate in spetsnaz, but in prisons many centuries ago. In it can be seen the whole outlook of the spetsnaz soldier: his practically superhuman contempt for death, and a similar contempt for everybody around him. He does not believe in justice, goodness or humanity. He does not even believe in force until it has been demonstrated by means of a fist, a whip or the teeth of a dog. When it is demonstrated his natural reflex is to challenge it immediately.

Sometimes in the life of a spetsnaz soldier he has a sort of revelation, a sense of complete freedom and happiness. In this mental state he fears nobody at all, trusts no one at all, and would not ask anybody for anything, even for mercy. This state comes about in a combination of circumstances in which a soldier would go voluntarily to his death, completely contemptuous of it. At that moment the soldier's mind triumphs completely over cowardice, the vileness and meanness around him. Once he has experienced this sensation of liberation, the soldier is capable of any act of heroism, even sacrificing his life to save a comrade. But his act has nothing in common with ordinary soldiers' friendship. The motive behind such an act is to show, at the cost of his own life, his superiority over all around him, including the comrade he saves.

In order for such a moment of revelation to come on some occasion, the soldier goes through a long and careful training. All the beatings, all the insults and humiliations that he has suffered, are steps on the path to a brilliant suicidal feat of heroism. The well-fed, self-satisfied, egoistic soldier will never perform any acts of heroism. Only someone who has been driven barefoot into the mud and snow, who has had even his bread taken away from him and has proved every day with his fists his right to existence -- only this kind of man is capable of showing one day that he really is the best.

[This is an excerpt from "The Inside Story Of The Soviet Special Forces" by By Viktor Suvorov]

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