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Last Updated: Tuesday, 12 October, 2004, 18:09 GMT 19:09 UK
Russian tourists salute army boot camp
Tourists are put through their paces
Russians seeking an unusual two-day break can now go to an army boot camp to be barked at, bullied and subjected to gruelling physical exercises.

A tour operator in the central Russian region of Yaroslavl is arranging the trips for those with 3,000 roubles (about $100) to spare.

Battle-hardened veterans from the ongoing war in Chechnya are among the soldiers who are putting the "48-hour recruits" through their paces.

Bullying is provided on request
Moscow's REN TV

According to a report by Moscow's REN TV, the Chechnya veterans "say they have lots of experience and are happy to share it".

Among those who have signed up for the experience are students, businessmen and managers. The tour operator is convinced that demand will soon outstrip supply.

The TV reporter notes: "Russians are fond of extreme tourism."

Knuckling down

Army life begins as soon as they enter the military camp. An instructor reads the camp rules and the new recruits are given 20 minutes to change into fatigues.

They take a military oath which "sounds like a complete relinquishment of all civil rights", notes the TV correspondent, adding that "bullying is provided on request".

One instructor tells the newcomers: "Violations are punished in an easy and simple way. For any violation of discipline, you will get 50 press-ups on your knuckles."

Boot camp tourist
Lacking home comforts

"So when an order comes to run, everybody copes with it very well," says the correspondent.

Nor are any concessions made for sustenance. Fish and potato soup for the first course, followed by porridge from a military field kitchen.

Among the more interesting experiences on offer over the two days are participation in special reconnaissance missions and familiarisation sessions on armoured personnel carriers and military helicopters.

Chechen war veteran Alexander Dorobikov says part of the course is modelled on the training of the Russian special services.

But for some, even two days in the army is too much, and they talk about going AWOL (absent without leave).

Andrei, a student, says: "Everything is all right while you are filming, but afterwards... People are difficult here."

However, Alexei, a manager who has already served an army stint, is enjoying himself.

"The mess tins are the same, but the spoons and cups are different. Meals are excellent. Just what you need in the army."

Role reversal

The director of the travel company organising the tours, Denis Demin of Armiya Tur (Army Tour) believes they satisfy a number of different needs.

A Russian tourist receives his uniform
Not quite the latest fashion

"Young people who have not served in the army get to receive an impression of it. Businessmen who are in their 30s and 40s and who are used to leading people are interested in having somebody to command them for a change. They are tired of being constantly in charge," he says.

Military instructors are currently developing a longer programme, the TV report concludes.

"Very soon interested parties will be able to pay an extra fee to be bullied and to be forced to follow army orders unquestioningly."

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the Internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

Country profile: Russia
05 Sep 04 |  Country profiles

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