Russian Army Deserter Found Living in Forest for 10 Years

A soldier in the Russian Army who deserted ten years ago was found in the forests outside of Petropavlovsk, where he had been living in secret.

Petropavlovsk is one of the farthest eastern districts in Russia and sits north of Japan. It’s known for its skiing landscapes but can turn deadly cold in winter months.

The deserter was living in the forest in a home he had built. He did small labor jobs for the local community. However, his life story was kept secret; none of the locals knew where he had come from or his army history. He even kept his whereabouts a secret from his family, who all believed that he was dead.

The ex-Russian soldier is 30 years old, and his name and identity have not been made public. He joined the army in 2003 and had been deployed to the Petropavlovsk area for around a year before he decided to run away and desert the army.

The Russian interior ministry released a statement about the man this week. The deserter had been declared dead by the authorities since not long after he had disappeared his family had identified a dead body that they thought had been him. Ever since, he has been thought of as dead and the identity of the man that had been buried as him remains a mystery.

The Russian Army has said that his desertion must have been caused by problems at home. Those guilty of deserting the Russian Army can be served with a prison sentence of a maximum of seven years. At the time the man joined the army, compulsory military service was two years, but since then it has been decreased to one year.

Valentina Melnikova, the head of Russia’s Committee of Soldiers’ Mothers, said she doubted the soldier would receive prison time for his offence.

“There were lots of deserters in those days in the far east. We’ve had cases when some would hide in a basement for years, but they would go through a psychiatric examination and would be set free,” she said.

Other deserters have taken to hiding in basements and old houses; those who have been caught have been examined and undergone psychiatric tests before being released back to civilian life.

Ian Harvey

Ian Harvey is one of the authors writing for WAR HISTORY ONLINE