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Hangover Treatments

- April 11, 2008

I blogged Jason Lyall’s paper on the “political consequences of artillery shelling”:http://www.princeton.edu/~jlyall/Artillery.pdf back when I was doing my political science papers weblog. But I never said anything about his intriguing partial justification for thinking that Russian artillery shelling might be natural quasi-experiment:

At Khankala, Russia’s main base in Chechnya, the remaining shelling (29%) was due to soldier inebriation. Russia’s military forces in Chechnya are notorious for indiscipline, with drunk (or high) soldiers often participating in combat operations. Khankala itself is distinguished by its possession of Chechnya’s worst traffic safety record due to soldiers driving their armored vehicles while inebriated (e.g., “Bronirovannye ubiitsy,” Chechenskoe Obshchestvo, 22 February 2006).

We can deduce that Khankala’s artillery fire is due to random indiscipline in part because of legal prosecution of drunk soldiers under Chapter 33, Section 349 (Part 1) of the Russian Criminal Code (“Violation of the Rules for Handling Arms and Hazardous Materials”). This chapter punishes soldiers for “weapons abuse followed by infliction of grave bodily harm.” Though enforcement is weak, we have recorded prosecutions of soldiers for the “mistaken” discharge of artillery while inebriated (e.g., “Six Civilians Die,” Reliefweb.org, 17 July 2000; “Chechen prosecutor’s office opens criminal case,” RFE/RL, 16 August 2002; “Aiming Error May Cost Officer,” ITAR-TASS Weekly, 11 November 2005). Soldiers have even shelled themselves accidentally (“Zdes’ zhivut liudi,” Memorial, July 2000).

We also have eyewitness testimony from both Russian officers and residents of the shelled villages. As Aslan, a company commander, put it, soldiers “get drunk as pigs, lob out a few shells, claim combat pay and get drunk again” (Time, 24 October 2000). One village leader noted after a strike that “I’m sure there was no necessity in this shelling. As a rule, they fire every time they get drunk” (“Settlement was shelled,” Memorial, November 2005). Villagers often petition Russian authorities to cease fire, citing drunkenness as the motive behind the wanton violence (e.g., “Otkrytoe Pis’mo,” Groznenskii Rabochii, 19 July 2001).