At the end of another long, brutal winter, when the blackened receding snow lays bare everything from rat-gnawed dead bodies to dog shit and six months' worth of Prima butts, life in Russia is at its bleakest. Roads turn to mud, rabid packs of street dogs gain a renewed sense of confidence now that they don't have to devote every ounce of energy to keeping from freezing to death, and even pristine minigarch wives have sludge spattered down their pantyhosed calves, acquired during the brief walk from the curb to Galleria. While spring elsewhere is a sign of rebirth and nature's endurance, in Russia, it means just one thing -- keep a towel and second set of clothes handy at all times.
Yep, April really is the cruelest month. While we can't say for certain whether more Russians whack themselves in April than at any other time in the year, if they do, well, it's pretty clear why. In any event, we do know that Russia's suicide rate is the second highest in the world, clocking in with a silver-medal-winning 37.4 suicides per 100,000 people. Only little Lithuania, the Baltic country that could [kill itself], logged in more.
Russia's rate almost doubles among men aged 15 to 34, with 66 deaths per 100,000. That's a lotta lessa competition for you eXholes out there! No doubt the high male suicide rate is in large part due to dedovshchina. The army's annual suicide rate is a whopping 17.3 per 100,000 soldiers. Pretty impressive given the fact that plenty of military suicides are probably hidden from number crunchers to deflect criticism from the Committee of Soldiers' Mothers! Sasha was found hanging by his belt? Accident, of course!
But times are changing; Russia's demographic slide seems to be on the verge of turning itself around. For the first time since the collapse of the USSR, Russian life expectancy is gaining ground for what looks to be an extended rally. (There was a slight up-tick between 1996 and 1998, 'til the financial crisis nipped it in the bud). Last year, men's life expectancy in Russia rocketed past the psychologically (and physiologically)-important 59 year mark, so that today men actually live longer than they did in 1993!
But we here at the eXile aren't content with those gains. Since we owe our lives to Russia, we want them to live longer, and to stop killing themselves -- after all, each suicided man is a potential dyev daughter never born.
In our new spirit of civic mindedness, a spirit which our Kremlin-appointed "adviser" persuaded us would be wise to adopt, the eXile has compiled a list of 59 reasons -- one for every sweet year men in this great country can expect to enjoy -- why suicide-prone Russians should not take their own lives. The sum of it is this: you have so much to live for! So if you or anyone you know is considering doing something crazy -- such as crossing Tverskaya during rush hour, or writing for a radical English-language newspaper, then just show them this life-affirming list, and watch them drink life's sweet nectar!
1. Professional army by 2008
True, defense minister and presidential contender Sergei Ivanov has backed off of this commitment slightly, saying now that he aims for the army to be 70 percent professional by the end of 2007. Still, this is great news for all you kids out there who can't afford to buy a medical spravka saying you're unfit for service! Once Russia has a professional army, no more conscription. No conscription means no dedovshchina. No dedovshchina means that the chances are significantly reduced that you'll get strapped to a chair, beaten and then left until gangrene sets in, leaving doctors no choice but to castrate you and amputate your legs. And that's one more reason not to kill yourselves!
Aggravating factor: Planned reform to cut conscription to one year means draftees won't be motivated to hang tough in order to become a ded in their second year (see #28)