Recent news reports from Russia point to links between militarism and the sex industry which have been previously not been noticed by feminists and antimilitarists alike. According to the Soldiers' Mothers of St Petersburg, young male recruits of a military unit in St Petersburg were forced into prostitution by their older peers. “Instead of having a well-earned rest, young recruits are ordered up by phone and delivered nightly to their top-ranking clients — including army generals,” said Ella Polyakova, head of the St. Petersburg arm of Soldiers’ Mothers, according to a report in the St Petersburg Times.
Bullying, extortion of money, physical abuse and rape in the Russian army have been documented, but the prostitution claim is new.
Potential prostitutes are carefully selected by older recruits, and those who resist are physically tortured, according to the recruit’s evidence that Soldiers’ Mothers has passed on to the military prosecutor’s office.
Soldiers’ Mothers visited the signal corps detachment seeking contact with two recruits described in the letter as phone-order prostitutes. But Polyakova was told both men were demobilized on medical grounds — one with Hepatitis C and one with HIV.
According to the evidence obtained by Soldiers’ Mothers, the young recruits-turned-prostitutes were either ordered up by phone, or woken suddenly at night after a client’s contact asked for a man of a certain build and looks.
In July 2005, a Yaroslavl-born recruit, Denis T., sent a letter to the Leningrad-district military prosecutor’s office describing the horrors of forced prostitution. The soldier, who is now back at home, compared his army service to brutal slavery.
“The older conscripts demanded money from us, and forced the newcomers to earn the money selling themselves on the street,” Denis wrote. “I really did not want to go. But in the end they got me and broke my will.
“At nights, they sent me — along with the others to that spot by the monument to Catherine the Great’s.”
The garden surrounding the monument is a well-known local cruising area for male prostitutes and those who seek their services.
“Drive past the monument of Catherine the Great on Nevsky Prospekt at night, and there is a good chance you see some of the guys described in the letter,” Polyakova said.
After the court case that followed, Denis was demobilized from the army but none of the pimps were punished.
Sources: The St Petersburg Times, 13 February 2007, BBC, 13 February 2007