Ukraine War Day #457: Social Benefits For SMO Families

Dear Readers:

Today I have this piece, the reporter is Rafael Fakhrutdinov. One of the key responsibilities of any government is to take care of its military veterans and their families. It is part of the core social contract between a people and its government.

Starting this June 1, filials of the Fund called “Defenders of the Fatherland” are set to open in all Russian regions. These funds will provide assistance to Special Military Operation (SMO) participants and their families. In the form of social, legal, psychological, and other types of assistance. Other, already existing, social-service agencies are to work out a close collaboration with the Fund to make sure that the veterans get every service that they are entitled to.

This initiative was declared on May 19 by Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin. [yalensis: Mishustin has a good reputation and a good track record. He was maybe the only person in the world who could have simplified and automated the Russian tax system the way he did.]

Last week a 3-day seminar was conducted in Moscow which brought together the leaders of the regional filials, so that they could work out all the kinks and launch the new system.

Anna Tsivileva

The Chairperson of the Fund is Anna Tsivileva, who told the reporter that all possible forms of assistance will be provided to the SMO veterans: Medical, Social, Psychological Rehab, Palliative Care, healing resorts and spas, long-term leave of absence [from work], pharmacy meds, prosthetics, household adaptations needed [for wheelchairs, for example], retraining and physical rehab, help in finding work, etc.

The key thing is to set up a single point of entry and to avoid bureaucratic red tape. [yalensis: Once again, Mishustin has proven his mettle in this arena, when he simplified and computerized the Russian tax system. The last thing that traumatized veterans need is to be wandering around through a Kafkaesque maze of bureaucracy… You desperately need something. One number: Pick up the phone and call it. Or one website: Just Logon, and bingo, you’re there. That’s how it should be. As simple as ordering a set of dishes from amazon.]

According to Sergei Kirilenko, who works for the Administration of the President, the Fund will be focused on helping veterans return to ordinary life. To this end, a system will be set up almost like a concierge assistance: “Every veteran and every family of a warrior who perished, will be provided with Social Coordinators, who will accompany them personally.”

Since the filials are to start their work on June 1, there is not much time to get everything ready. Kirilenko personally inspected the Kemerovo filial on Tuesday 16 May. “Most of the regions have the buildings in place, and the leaders of the various filials have all been trained in their functions. By the end of the year we will have a cadre of 11,000 Social Coordinators who have passed through the training.” [yalensis: You will see, in the narratives below, that this Social Coordinator training appears to be something like a very accelerated course in social work or case management.]

Anna Tsivileva again, who works out of the Kemerovo filial in the Kuzbass region of the Russian heartland, in Western Siberia. A vast coal-mining region. “The Kuzbass filial won’t just be a place where SMO veterans can receive help and support. For them it will become a second home. A place where they can meet and relax and chat with each other. Such socializing activities will help these Defenders of the Fatherland with their return to normal life.”

The Role Of the Coordinators

Tatiana Isaeva is the Director of a Social Services organization which assists families and children in the city of Polysaevo in the Kemerovo Oblast. This is what she told the reporter: “After the start of the partial mobilization, my husband received a draft notice, although he was never in the military. Working together, our entire family put together a kit for him and accompanied him to the mobilization point. Neither he, nor any of us, had any doubt whether he should participate in the SMO. In the end, however, he failed the physical, and so he came home. But my son is serving in the SMO, in his case as a volunteer. He told me: If everybody runs away and hides, then we will lose our Motherland. These words of my son are what inspired me to go and work as a Social Coordinator for the Fund. My son is defending our Motherland at the front, and we here, in the rear, are helping the defenders and their families.”

A team of Social Workers

Tatiana shares her apprehensions: “Of course, it took me a long time to adjust to the fact that my son took such a decision. But my husband and I, along with our daughter, working together, were able to cope. And just from this, from my own experience, I realized how hard it is for the other mothers, the families of the SMO participants. Some of them are completely unable to cope with what is happening. And this is also one reason why I decided to become a Social Coordinator. I understood that this is my duty. To help other people who are in a similar situation.

“Not long ago we completed a 4-day training course in Novosibirsk. They taught us, for example, how to work with veterans returning from the front, and how to work with their families. In essence, this was an accelerated course in learning all about government agencies, who does what. The main theme of our work is the word operationality [оперативность]. We are supposed to, ideally, know the quickest way to solve a person’s problem.”

[yalensis: I like this approach. A compassionate heart is a good thing, but efficiency and results are even better!]

Russian Prime Minister Mikhail Mishustin: A technocratic hero of our time.

Tatiana continues: “We also had to undergo psychological training. Everything is important down to the last detail, such as the physical distance maintained between oneself and the client. We were told that it is not appropriate to just break down and cry with the person. We must make them understand that we are there to solve their problem. The SMO participants and their families need to know that they can count on us. Starting in June, the categories of people that we will be working with, are those warriors who are returning into the reserve; and the families of those who perished on the battlefield. Later the list of categories will expand, no doubt.

“We also had some paralegal training. We were taught about the roots and pre-history of this conflict. You know that, up until February of last year, the majority of the Russian people simply lived their own lives, with their own problems, only vaguely understanding what was going on in the world, beyond the borders of our own country. History is cyclical, and our country has never been left in peace, neither in this century, nor 3 centuries ago. This is why the current participants in the SMO are busy forging a new history of Russia.”

A Cossack’s Story

Next the reporter interviewed a man named Mikhail Myalitsin, who served in the SMO between November 2022 and April 2023: “My relatives and fellow townspeople went off to serve in the SMO of their own volition. Among them were some who had never held a weapon. Such a man needed a more experienced mentor. And I had served for 10 years as a communications specialist in a Strategic Rocket Forces Division, and then for 10 years in the Ministry of Internal Affairs [i.e., as a policeman]. How was I supposed to stand off to the side? This military specialty suited me very well.”

Myalitsin currently works as one of the Social Coordinators of the Fund, and lives in the town of Zvezdny, in the Perm region. “After I returned from the front, they approached me and asked me to become a Social Coordinator. One of the criterions for selection is the public persona of a given individual, his reputation and authority within his own town or city.

Cossack Mikhail Myalitsin

“For many years I had my courage tested, as I participated in administrative affairs, collected and transported humanitarian goods to the people in the Donbass. Coming from a line of Cossacks, we held many family gatherings out in the field, in which we tested our skills and manhood. We would play war games that were as close as possible to real conditions, we learned to shoot, we trained in tactics, mountain climbing, knife fights, saber fights, and so on. Some people learned survival tactics like spear-fishing, you never know what skills you are going to need in the SMO.

“In the end I agreed to work with the Fund. I successfully passed the test, after returning from a 4-day intensive training class in Kazan. We learned how to help SMO participants when they have questions about prostheses, and how to get the medications they need. But the biggest need, as I see it, will be applying for government entitlements. You know that people are unfamiliar with all the bureaucratic red tape. And some of them are in a depressive state where they simply cannot deal with practical issues like putting together their documents.

“When it comes to the desire to help people — there are no questions whatsoever. Even our babushkas, our industrious workers of the rear, are knitting stockings for the soldiers. But it is not so easy to satisfy all the technical needs of the SMO soldiers. Drones, collimator sights, heat sensors, light-weight armored jackets with kevlar plates — those things are not so easy to purchase. And not all of this equipment is even necessarily produced in Russia. Which creates additional complications: How do we order this equipment, how do we bring it in. But I am certain that we will resolve these issues.”

This entry was posted in Economics, Human Dignity, Military and War and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

25 Responses to Ukraine War Day #457: Social Benefits For SMO Families

  1. mato48 says:

    This is an informative and important blog post.

    Wars and violence of any kind have a grave, even destructive impact on societies. The USA is a prime example for this, with a society shaped by the genocide of native Americans, by slavery, and by a history of constant aggressions and wars.

    Perpetrators and victims, victors and defeated alike pay a heavy price, as their societies become callous, inhumane, and unforgiving, as compassion and respect are replaced by brutal competition, as honesty and trust are replaced by deception and cheating.

    Any wise leader will try to avoid war. Maybe Putin had indeed no choice, after his hopes to negotiate a new European security framework in good faith were dashed. He failed to see the viciousness and villainy of Russias western opponents.

    The guns have not fallen silent yet, but it’s nonetheless high time to let the healing begin. The social services described in this blog post are the best chance to avoid social turmoil, to avoid the next war, to avoid nuclear armageddon.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, mato!


    • You say-
      “The USA is a prime example for this, with a society shaped by the genocide of native Americans, by slavery, and by a history of constant aggressions and wars.”

      How very true. From its very beginning the European colonists to the “new world” (as if it was vacant and awaiting colonization by Europeans–despite the fact millions of Native Americans had been living there for thousands of years) who founded the USA did so through extreme violence. They had to kill off the Native Americans and steal all of their land to create their country.

      But a karmic blowback has been happening for the past 50 or so years, with increasing frequency: mass shootings are now happening on a weekly basis in USA, and have become so commonplace that they are sometimes not even reported in the news. A country founded through gun violence, which has fought wars nonstop from its beginnings right up to now, now has its citizenry committing mass shootings of its own countrymen. Especially popular locations for mass shootings are schools and universities, as well as shopping malls.

      Aside from glib utterances of hackneyed cliches such as “thoughts and prayers” from asshole politicians, absolutely nothing is being done to address this increasingly frequent epidemic of mass shootings. To the contrary, fascist republicans such as Florida’s governor Ron DeSantis offer as a solution having all public school teachers and administrative staff armed with a handgun!

      Liked by 1 person

      • yalensis says:

        It’s even worse than that. Some politicians are suggesting that the schoolchildren themselves be armed!
        Mind you, I don’t have any objection to children at a certain age being trained in gun safety and the use of firearms. But the idea of children “carrying” to school, well obviously that is a recipe for disaster.

        Liked by 2 people

  2. Beluga says:

    Organized, unlike the general shambles in the West. And I like the interchangeable use of fatherland and motherland the people use to describe Russia, their home. I’ve noticed that before in your translations, but here seems the appropriate time to give the practice an approving nod.

    About a dozen years ago, I met socially an army captain who had served in Afghanistan. He was on constant edge with what I guessed was incipient PTSD, which only iron force of character held in abeyance. Only a slightly wobbly voice and a far off look now and then that most people don’t exhibit hinted at the stress within. He forced himself to stand straight and true. Helped him to get into my hobby as a way to stave off the thoughts when he showed interest. Loved it when he disagreed and we could get into a lively discussion that lasted a good long while. A thoughtful and intelligent man, and with a wife and kids to support, he needed something other than the military life he still was empoyed at. A couple of years later, before they reloed him, he told me a bit about military “medicine” and the still askance view prevalent against mental distress carried by his peers, 90% of whom had never been on actual combat duty. Caught between a rock and a hard place, he prevailed. Many thus afflicted have not. Did society at large help? No. No organization like the ones described here being formed in Russia exist to my knowledge. My father had been a psychiatrist, and my mother suffered debilitating recurring depressions after a colon cancer operation when she was just fifty (made it to 93!), so let’s say I had some, albeit minor, clue what was happening.

    I do hope these specially trained volunteers in Russia don’t have to use their skills to any great extent. But what a great idea setting up a community social system before instead of after there’s a great need, when typically in the West grudging funds are reluctantly dispensed and a not very good system provided by the very government who asked people to fight for their country in the first place. Like it was all a bit too much bother.

    Nice topic, yalensis. Apropos.

    Liked by 2 people

    • yalensis says:

      Thanks, Beluga! Just FYI, when I am translating, my usual practice is to translate the Russian word “Otechestvo” as “Fatherland” (from the Russian word “otets” – “father”) and “Rodina” as “Motherland” (from the root “rod-” – to give birth, and often coupled in Russian with the word “Mat'” – “mother”).

      As you note, these terms are often used interchangeably and are synonyms. There is a slight semantic coloration: “Fatherland” sounds more stern and “Motherland” sounds more emotional, in Russian.

      Both words sound silly in English, especially American English. I don’t think you would often hear an American say, “I will fight for the Fatherland!” Although people did start to use the term “Homeland” after 9/11, which has some of the semantic flavor of “Motherland”.


      • JMF says:

        Unfortunately — or perhaps entirely appropriately — the initial coining of that “Homeland” attribution in the US directly mirrored the German “Heimat”. I remember how many people were agape at the apparent recycling of a term previously used by the Nazis.

        Regarding the SMO, the level of group patriotism and cooperation on the homefront is impresive in the extreme — a clear indication of a country doing right things for right reasons.


  3. countrumford says:

    It is good to see this level of societal concern. I lost friends to the Vietnam war. We venerate veterans but don’t take any pride in caring for them which is distressing.

    Liked by 1 person

    • yalensis says:

      That’s true. Americans are trained like parrots to say, “Thank you for your service.” But they don’t really mean it, and they don’t care if somebody is not getting the treatment they are entitled to.


  4. The Thick Red Duke says:

    A single phone number sounds great until the automated voice says: “press 1 for taxes, press 2 for social security, …, …, …, press 53 for children’s issues, …”

    When it comes to public administration I think there’s an analogue of the Peter principle: The complexity of a public bureaucracy rises until the majority of its clients give up.


    • yalensis says:

      Hopefully coupled with the website! Where people can set up an account and log on, I haven’t seen it myself, but I have read that computer-savvy Russians are rather pleased with the ease-of-use of the tax website.

      But I get what you’re saying. My pet peeve is “voice recognition” which I loathe with every fiber of my being. I don’t mind “pressing 1” on the keypad, but the stupid voice says, “Say the word yes or no”. So I say “yes or no” and the stupid robot says, “I’m sorry, I didn’t get that…” And I get stuck in any endless loop until I force the robot to give up and patch me through to a human.

      These robots NEVER understand my voice, even though I speak without any discernible accent. Grrr!


      • The Thick Red Duke says:

        Don’t worry, your voice will soon be recognized and mapped to your identity. And the bonus is that the AI operator will know exactly what you want (regardless of whether you want it or not).

        Anyway, Mishustin is sometimes named as a possible future president candidate. His record seems pretty good. Even media like Wikipedia and Moscow Times have good things to say about him. That’s suspicious.


        • yalensis says:

          Hm… I agree that is suspicious, if Moscow Times likes him, then he must be a traitor. Anyhow, I don’t know if he is good presidential material. Mishustin is a top-notch technocrat and bureaucrat, I think he is perfect to run the administration of the government. (provided he isn’t a traitor…)


  5. “Working together, our entire family put together a kit for him…”

    Since he was a mobilnik, not a member of a volunteer group, shouldn’t this have been the military’s responsibility? Are they making mobilised soldiers provide their own kit?


    • yalensis says:

      Not really. Well, sort of. Early days, the Russian army was disorganized. (Like they always are, at the beginning of a war.) They only provided basic (and the cheapest, substandard) kit. Those in the know, and who had some money, knew to flood the Army stores and buy their own kit. Jackets, backpacks, flasks, boots (especially), everything they needed. Because whatever the army provided, was only second-rate. Soldiers even had to buy their own drones and night-vision goggles, can you believe that?

      Well, thankfully, since then, the Russian army have got their act together much better, so things improved along those lines as well. Now the supply situation is much better, and Russian industry is churning out the necessary kits.

      To me, I was more astonished that Tatiana really dropped the lead about her son serving in the SMO. She starts out, like, “We thought my husband would have to serve…” and this is the big family drama. And then casually, like, “My son is serving too.” To me, this seems like THAT would be the big family drama. Maybe it’s such a terrifying thing to her that she had to just, sort of, slip it in casually; or maybe just repress the thought.

      Liked by 1 person

  6. JMF says:

    Only vaguely related, but some damn fine human interest. The guy reminds me very much of Russell Bentley:

    ‘My Country Does Terrible Things’: MMA Fighter Jeff Monson On Why He Renounced US Citizenship

    Jeff Monson: US Elite Mutes Russian Media to Keep Ukraine Conflict Raging On


    • yalensis says:

      Good article, thanks for posting. In that photo, doesn’t Biden look exactly like the Baddie in The Matrix?


    • Australian lady says:

      I’ve never heard of this guy Jeff Monson but I enjoyed reading about him and find his commitment to his principles very admirable and edifying. Quite a story.
      Thanks JMF.


  7. Sacha says:

    There is something not really addressed which is the fate of former civil servants of the administration units especially in small towns in former dpr and lpr. They were almost all fired with no compensation at the end of 2022 as 4hey were required to align with russian qualifications and new staff planning. Some kept their jobs due to nepotism with local managers who managed (how?) to remain. These former civil servants were neither helped to transition to other jobs nor received financial compensation. Some took new jobs in different fields like child care. I address this because mobilized men also faced loss of jobs. The onky ones I know who retained their positions are high school teachers. The big issue remains bureaucracy and I hope the efforts will reach people in donbass as well very soon


    • yalensis says:

      That is a very important issue, Sacha. So many families depend on the civil service system in these areas, and the government salary and benefits, etc. When towns switch between one occupying force and another, what happens to these people, and their jobs?
      Not even to mention the much larger question of all the people who had to evacuate and flee from these areas. Thousands and thousands of people, who use to earn a gainful living, now just scattered into the world like wandering gypsies without a home base!


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