Armed forces are simply paid murderers

Between drill and violence Everyday life of the Soviet soldiers in the GDR

The "rule of grandfathers"

But the poor supply was only one of the burdens the soldiers had to bear. Especially under the harassment of the higher echelons, many young men suffered noticeably, not a few broke or risked dangerous attempts to escape. The "Dedowschtschina", the "rule of the grandfathers", stood for a systematic suppression of the recruits by the senior ranks. It was characterized by brutality and coercion through to rape and murder. According to estimates by the parliamentary group Die Grünen / Alternative Liste from 1990, up to 4,000 Soviet soldiers per year died in the GDR - from accidents, excesses of violence and suicides.

Criminal attacks by the soldiers

But criminal attacks by soldiers of the Soviet Army outside the barracks were also part of the agenda. For the years 1976 to 1989 alone, the Stasi files reveal around 27,500 offenses committed by Soviet military members on GDR territory, including many traffic offenses and thefts, but also murder, assault, robbery and rape. A Soviet soldier who had committed a criminal offense could not, however, be prosecuted by the GDR judiciary. The Thuringian criminal police officer Klaus Dalski confirms: "Our investigations stopped at the barracks gate." Instead, crimes committed by their own men were often punished by the commanders-in-chief with draconian measures - including the death penalty.

Pioneer afternoons at the samovar

One of the few pleasant changes in the life of a soldier was the "prescribed" contacts with the GDR citizens. Initiative was forbidden, but small delegations of the most exemplary soldiers were regularly sent to German neighbors' public holidays and political events: to pioneer afternoons at the samovar, small concerts in cultural centers, slide lectures about the Soviet Union and matryoshka painting lessons with the little ones - the "society" for German-Soviet Friendship "(DSF) made it possible. But apart from these prescribed dates, the soldiers remained largely isolated.

Grenades and ammunition on wild garbage dumps

Further "contacts" to the GDR citizens were more likely through negative events: Towns near military training areas and shooting ranges were constantly exposed to the danger of ricochets and misdirected grenades. In Gossel, Thuringia, the top of the church tower was shot away, in Schwerin there was even an "several hours explosion of an ammunition depot" in the mid-1980s, as stated at the time in a letter from the Schwerin district administration to the Ministry for State Security. In March 1989, two children died when a cartridge exploded in a wild garbage dump, and two more children died two months later after they found uncleaned ammunition at a military training area and it exploded.

Return to the unknown

The year 1989 presented the GSSD with a surprising situation. Suddenly the opening of the wall threatened to literally break the ground from under her feet. With the two-plus-four treaty, the withdrawal of Soviet troops was set by December 31, 1994, later brought forward to August 31, 1994. The undertaking turned out to be a major logistical task that took a total of three years and eleven months. 546,200 soldiers and officers as well as their relatives had to be returned to Russia. In addition, there were more than 120,000 heavy weapons and other military equipment - a total of 2.7 million tons.

It was difficult for the soldiers to return home - they went to a crumbling empire that suffered from great economic difficulties after the failure of socialism. So what could be more obvious than taking everything with you when you leave the barracks that wasn't nailed down? Colonel-General Matvej Burlakov later wrote in his notes about the withdrawal: "I asked the commanders to be careful with material assets and, if possible, to take everything with them, because practically everything could be used at the new station in Russia." What the western group of the Soviet Army left behind was a burden that reunified Germany still has to bear today: dilapidated barracks, contaminated land, piles of rubbish and ammunition left behind.

The last tank that left the GDR in 1994 read "Farewell Germany - forever!" - based on the "Farewell Song of the Russian Soldiers", which Colonel Gennadi Luschetzki wrote at the time: "Germany, we shake hands with you - and return to the fatherland. The homeland is ready to receive. We remain friends - always! To peace, friendship and trust we should build our future. Duty fulfilled! Farewell, Berlin! Draw our hearts homeward. "

(Quotes from: Ilko-Sascha Kowalczuk, Stefan Wolle, Red Star over Germany. Ch. Links Verlag, Berlin 2010.)

Soviet Army secret | August 02, 2020 | 10:45 p.m.