An advice centre in the Kazan area called “For Our Sons” provides legal and other advice on alternative service for conscientious objectors. The centre also helps in cases where there is an illegal attempt to conscript people who are exempt from military service, and increasingly it provides advice to serving soldiers and their relatives.
For some years Friends House Moscow has funded the rent for a small office to give a base for the work. Now our friends Gyerman and Nina, who run the service, have moved out of the city of Kazan into a village in Tatarstan (the Russian region of which Kazan is the capital).
They are continuing to run the advice service from their new home. Because of this move the office in the city is no longer needed, but FHM continues to support their work with help for technology to make the service run smoothly and efficiently. The internet is increasingly important. Enquiries don’t come by telephone so often as the younger generation prefer to make contact online, mainly via the Russian social network Vkontakte. Meanwhile the older generation, such as conscripts’ parents, still use the telephone.
Every month the centre holds about 40 individual consultations. It has helped with a variety of problems including difficulties applying for alternative service, and advice for conscripts about illegal conscription, bullying, money extortion or health issues.
Gyerman gives two or three consultations daily. Nina also works with individual applicants, helping them in difficult cases. For example, a recent case concerned a young man who joined the army and was on the way to his first assignment in Siberia, when he was thrown off the train by his fellow soldiers and seriously injured. The service secured a referral to a rehabilitation center in Moscow and helped him to get demobilized. On his behalf, they pursued claims for insurance compensation and a disability allowance. You can read more about this case in our Winter 2018 newsletter.
Photo: information display outside a conscription office in Kazan