What motivates Russian soldiers?

Paul Fiolkowski
5 min readNov 19, 2023

In a Siberian village, 48-year-old Alexei Derevtsov, who was killed in the war in Ukraine, had been buried. He left a wife and 5 young kids. He signed a contract to go to the Ukraine war on April 24 and died on October 11 in Donetsk region. Probably, was killed in a “meat attack” in Avdiivka.

His example demonstrates what motivates Russians who travel thousands of kilometers to kill Ukrainians.

Alexey Derevtsov lived in a semi-abandoned village of Kopun, Shelopuginsky district.

He earned at his job in the village 20,000 rubles a month (USD $200).

He was drinking heavily.

His wife gave birth regularly and she is saying they didn’t even think about contraception or birth control.

There is practically no work in the village.

There are no prospects at all.

You can move to a town, but the nearest towns are just as abandoned and destitute.

Residents use wood for heating. Winters here are cold.

Kopun is lucky. It has the internet and mobile phone tower.

6 years ago, with a big bang, a new clubhouse was open in the village.

And a brand new outhouse for the club.

The villagers dressed up for the occasion.

The Russian flags were fluttering.

The district chief arrived to make a speech. TV cameras rolling. A big project completed! Once a decade event.

The village of Kopun is not far from the Russian border with China and Mongolia.

In the cities that have a better quality of life, the Derevtsovs couldn’t afford to buy or rent a home. Derevtsov had another 15–25 years ahead of him of exactly the same impoverished, hopeless life. There are tens of millions of people like Derevtsov and his family in Russia.

It is these people, and not the regulars of cafes in the center of Moscow, that are representative of the real Russia.

This is what you need to understand: the Russians who sign up to kill Ukrainians because of the stupendous wage of USD 2,000 per month (with the prospect of getting USD 30,000 if you get wounded), aren’t from the same state as the arrogant, cashed up Russians that you might meet somewhere at a seaside resort or educated, professional Russian expats who escaped the Putinland.

Like in the Hunger Games, residents of the Capitol live in the same country, but they are from different social states to those who fight in the Games.

  • Moscow isn’t real Russia.
  • St. Petersburg isn’t real Russia.
  • Moscow and St. Petersburg are Capitols.

The men from the Real Russia barely traveled 100 km from their wilderness in all their lives. The Derevtsovs are poor, uneducated, powerless, living for centuries without any prospects, having no convictions and not thinking about anything. Or rather, they have 1 thought: how to survive on the meager pennies they are given by the state.

This thought has been hammering at their brains every day for years. And they know that it will be like this for the rest of their lives.

For 200,000 rubles a month (USD 2,000), it’s not like they’d go kill Ukrainians — they’d sell their mothers to a zoo.

  • Russians are signing up to kill Ukrainians, to get a chance to get out of poverty.
  • They keep fighting on the battlefield because there are Kadyrov’s barrier troops behind them, who will shoot if they try to surrender or retreat. There is no escape.

The Derevtsovs have no idea what is really happening in the country, much less in the world. And they don’t even try to understand it.

The Derevtsovs simply have not yet evolved to such things as beliefs, principles, morality, and humanity.

People like Derevtsov have no value system.

That’s what makes them easy to use and abuse.

  • If a person does not know how to think, he will not question the great-power propaganda.
  • If a person has no values, he will not refuse to betray these values for money.

Millions of these village-dwellers are ready to do absolutely anything for the sake of $2,000 monthly wage, without hesitation. They are those “unique weapons” that Putin brags about.

And that sums up WHY Russians sign up to murder Ukrainians and to die in Ukraine.

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Paul Fiolkowski

I am just another American expat, who found that yes indeed, the grass can be greener elsewhere.