DEVOTEE OF JEHOVAH'S WITNESSES IN SURSKOE NOT ABLE TO AVOID ARMY BY ALTERNATIVE SERVICE
by L. Naumova
Ulyanovsk Press, 8 February 2017
The practice of substituting alternative civilian service for army service by conscription is implemented in our province with great difficulty. Not many of those who wish to perform civilian service manage to do so. The conditions prescribed by law for substituting are rather strict and draft boards and courts following them are not prone to make any concessions and exceptions. As a result, young people who are predisposed not to bear arms nor participate in military activities nor obey orders of commanders are forced to go into the army. At best, such conscripts can expect in the army humiliation, persecution, and bullying. At worst they are driven to suicide.
Nineteen-year-old Vladislav Kozhaev lives with his parents and sister in Surskoe district. Since 2004 he has studied successfully in Surskoe schools. He gets the best grades in the natural sciences. In 2013, under the direction of his teacher Vladimir Kochetkov—a famous Ulyanovsk bicyclist and writer—he represented his school in a regional scientific conference of pupils "Start in Science," winning a certificate in the division of "natural geography bearing." He was always polite, humble, quiet, and well-mannered. He never had contacts with any teenage gangs. The Surskoe inspection for juvenile affairs could not say a single bad word about him. In the same 2013, after finishing ninth grade, Vlad left for Saransk where he enrolled in the Polezhaev College of Energy and Electronic Technology. As a student he again received only positive feedback. Kozhaev is now studying in the fourth year and this summer he will graduate. And then—service in the army. The fellow has no problems with his health. But now there arose an insoluble problem of a different kind.
Following his parents, Vladik accepted baptism back in childhood and dedicated himself as a devotee of the church of Jehovah's Witnesses. He is its dedicated member to the present.
Our information: Many Orthodox persons even today are inclined to consider this church to be a sectarian confession. Nevertheless, in Mordovia and Penza provinces it has a lot of followers (in Penza province there are about ten local organizations), and from there they gradually extended their influence into Ulyanovsk province. Including Surskoe district. In October 2014 the Jehovah's Witnesses tried to hold their gathering in a shopping area in Surskoe, but the police intervened because of complaints of citizens. A local police officer, A. Zuikov, officially established the identities of participants in the event and took down their explanations. Nevertheless, the local religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses was already registered in Ulyanovsk in an apartment on Minaev Street.
One of the essential parts of the doctrine of Jehovah's Witnesses is refusal of any form of violence, including performing military service. Maintaining "Christian neutrality," they are fundamentally opposed to learning to fight, wearing uniforms, taking oaths, and obeying the orders of commanders. Therefore, after returning home last summer and registering with the local draft board, Vlad immediately began going to offices to find out what he needed to do for substituting alternative civilian service for army service.
And then a fateful set of coincidences intervened. The time for Kozhaev's conscription was put off until next summer. By law, he was supposed to file an application for alternative service with the draft board no later than 1 October 2016. But the personal case of the conscript took too long to transfer from Saransk to Surskoe and as a result the student was able to submit the application only on 10 October. Besides, of the required documents, he attached to it only a certificate of baptism from the regional administrative center of the religious organization of Jehovah's Witnesses. And the draft board responded to him with a refusal. The Surskoe citizen tried to challenge its decision in court, but there the actions of representatives of the draft board were ruled to be absolutely legal. Now Vlad and his family think with horror about what will happen to him, when he gets into the army. (tr. by PDS, posted 9 February 2016)
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