In 1987, United Nations Commission on Human Rights approved the Resolution on Conscientious objection to military service based on “thought, conscience and religion”. In Russia, the right to have an alternative civil service was guaranteed for the first time by the 1993 Constitution.
According to the law, the right to object to the military service is not limited to the believers. Other citizens may declare that their personal convictions (pacifist, philosophical, moral, ethical, political) are incompatible with military service. Those serving the alternative service work as librarians, hospital attendants, archivists, circus and theatre workers etc. Sounds great – the peaceful labour is wonderful. However, there is one problem: once you come to the enlistment office, you have to prove that your convictions are indeed what you say. It is up to the draft board to decide what do you really believe…
Four stories of young men’s encounters with army recruitment commissions. Ardent pacifist Roman is sent through a series of humiliating court trials. Losha and Viktor endure long and condescending deliberations that undermine their personalities. Finally, LGBT movement veteran, Johnny is bluntly rebuked and handcuffed. All are put to test by a bureaucratic machine that doesn’t sympathize with those who dispute the purposiveness of military service.
The coscript enters a room packed with officials. The officials have to listen to his convictions that go in conflict with the idea of military service. It’s for the officials to decide whether the conscript leaves the room as a soldier or as a civilian. A sneak peak into what it really means to stand up for one’s beliefs in a re-militarized society that punishes conscientious objection under criminal law. We are observing the process of decision making, the conscript and the officials, the time passing by and all the details that make life what it is.
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