Morale: Russian Rap Has Ruinous Results

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October 2,2008:  Despite over a decade of promises, most of Russians million military personnel, especially the unmarried ones who live on bases, have found their housing falling apart. When a Russian army lieutenant recently posted a video on the subject (on the Russian version of YouTube), he was promptly transferred from his squalid quarters in St Petersburg, to a military school in Ussuriysk (a river town a hundred kilometers from the Pacific ocean.) The lieutenants video featured him singing a rap (about bad living conditions) over a video showing the moldy and decrepit junior officers quarters.

All this comes at the same time that the brass are finally coming to grips with the fact that they will never return to the glory days of the Soviet Union (which dissolved in 1991). Back during the Cold War, the armed forces had five times as many troops (over five million) and dibs on over ten percent of the national GNP (no one is sure of the exact amount, as the communists were not big fans of accountants and accurate financial reporting.) Currently, Russia is playing by West European rules when it comes to military spending, meaning no more than three percent of GDP is going to the military. With a $1.7 trillion dollar economy, growing at 7 percent a year, the generals can expect a lot more cash to work with. But most of this money is going to replace Cold War era weapons, which are now considered out-of-date. Until recently, not much thought was given to what state troops housing was in.

But the housing problem has now been recognized (before the exiled lieutenants rap video). For example, the military is auctioning off some very valuable property that it no longer needs. The armed forces had acquired, during the Cold War, some 135,000 square kilometers of land (including 7,640 bases and 175,000 buildings). A lot of it is now prime real estate, much in demand in a booming economy. It's estimated that all this real estate is worth at least $12 billion. So much of it is being sold off to raise money for construction of housing for the million military personnel still in service. But that will take years to build new housing, and in the meantime the troops will complain, and have plenty to complain about.

Fortunately, one major change since the demise of the Soviet Union, has been the creation of a Russian construction industry that can build decent, even luxurious, housing. Attractive apartment buildings and tract housing is going up all over the place. Some modern troop housing has already been built, but most military personnel are still sitting in leaky, poorly maintained Soviet era barracks.

 


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