I'l be answering questions for my dad, who was a Soviet Army Sergeant stationed in a Siberian Prison Camp from '71-'73. He was called upon to do recon in Afghanistan due to his ability to speak Farsi, prior to the Soviet invasion in '79. Thanks to a tip from a Captain who was a friend of his, he avoided going to Afghanistan as those who went never returned (this was before the actual Soviet heavy weapon invasion/assault).

He used his negative standing with the Soviet party as reason to approach the US Embassy in Moscow in 1989 and our family was granted asylum as political refugees.

We moved to Los Angeles in 1989 (I was 2 years old).

Ask him Anything.

First Image - He's the second person standing from the right, Second image (apologize for the orientation), he is the person crouching down, in the third image, he is the one standing in the middle

Comments: 2828 • Responses: 77  • Date: 

SunriseThunderboy501 karma

What country do you see now as being the closest to how the USSR used to be?

SovietCaptain846 karma

North Korea

gdjp442 karma


SovietCaptain1235 karma

Only my dog.

HashHound277 karma

I have a couple questions regarding your dog.

  1. If food was so scarce, how were you able to feed him?
  2. Was he a tracking dog or a stray?
  3. What was his name?


SovietCaptain633 karma

We had a stable of dogs that we fed canned food to. The administration looked after the dogs better than the soldiers in most cases.

He was a tracking dog, and was my friend.

His name was Mooktar.

neutralkate437 karma

As someone who is working on a PhD. in post-Stalin USSR and Russia, let me just say that this is fascinating and thank you for your time in doing this! I have two questions:

  1. What is your general opinion of Gorbachev's reforms [Perestroika/Glasnost]? Did it harm or help the country, and if it did help, did it only benefit a section of society?

  2. This is under the assumption that you're not from the Baltic region, but how did you view the Balts? I know a lot of former residents of the USSR who are distrustful of them for a number of reasons, and I was wondering if it was a wide spread thing?


SovietCaptain615 karma

P/G harmed for sure. Imagine your whole life mom and dad tell you we have everything we need. Our bank account, pantry, farm, barn, and closets are full and we are living life how it should be lived. Then imagine mom and dad saying..well, we might need some help. We MIGHT need to let the neighbors, and oh yeah, those "enemies" we were always warning you about come in here and help us, because we really can't do it all on our own.

I was actually sent to the Baltic region when they wanted to throw me into Afghanistan for recon work. I never had any negative opinions on Baltic people, the way I saw it, I couldn't blame anyone for being an asshole because we were all dealing with the one big asshole in Moscow, and that one big asshole was screwing all of us in one way or another.

HarryEllis419 karma

Can he elaborate on the culture shock from the USSR to Los Angeles? Still there? And what did he do for a living since 1989?

SovietCaptain1248 karma

The biggest culture shock was the number of cars and the freeway/highway infrastructure. I couldn't believe my eyes. They used to hold ceremonies and give out medals for building a small bridge, and here is LA, a spider's web of roads and more cars than you can count.

Culture shock is gone now, I'm used to it, I have mastered those same freeways and am now one of those cars.

First Job: Gas station attendant Second Job: Messenger Third Job: Mechanic in a garage owned by a relative Fourth Job: Opened my own mechanics shop Fifth Job: Sold Mechanic shop and became partner in a car wash Sixth Job: Sold partnership stake in car wash, opened pet store Seventh Job: Sold pet store, retired.

Frantic_Child368 karma

  • What was the best thing about Soviet Russia?

  • What was the worst thing about Soviet Russia?

SovietCaptain736 karma

Best thing about Soviet Russia : Access to education and housing for everyone

Worst Thing about Soviet Russia : No freedom, not even of your tongue.

edipeisrex366 karma

How much did he -- or his friends -- know of Islam. From what I've read about the Soviet invasion in the 80s, the Soviets were almost completely ignorant of the religion, which was part of the downfall of the war.

SovietCaptain614 karma

My dad knew of Islam because he spent some of his child hood in Iran (thus the knowing of the Farsi).

Back then, his perception of Islam was what the far-right American perception is today.

He saw it as a brutally backwards and dangerous religion. He says Islam is the reason for the downfall of Iran, its monarchy, its vibrant economy, and the current situation as an enemy to the West.

He does also say that Islams infiltration of Iran was just as much due to American clandestine operations as it was to actual Islamic doctrine taking over their society.

edipeisrex168 karma

That's interesting!

Another question: I was reading in the NYT last year that some Russians believe the 1991 coup wasn't that great after all for the country and democracy -- and Russians in rural settings wouldn't mind returning to a USSR setting. What is the Capt.'s view on this?

Here's the article for reference: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/19/world/europe/19russia.html?pagewanted=all

SovietCaptain387 karma

Lots of people preferred the SSR. In some people's minds, the capitalist was the baptist's version of Satan. They had a good 50 years of indoctrination to work with, with zero access to outside influence, literature, or media.

You can't blame them, they didn't know. If people long for the SSR again, they most likely long for only the good parts. You know, maybe in current Russia they wouldn't mind the oppression of their tongues, as I've been hearing about journalists being killed due to writing against the oligarchy. Maybe that is a norm that they don't mind, and they'd love to go back to the SSR where that oppression came with an apartment and a job.

johnw1988347 karma

Were the people in this prison legitimate criminals (murderers, rapists, etc..) or were they just political prisoners (people who said negative things about the communist party)?

SovietCaptain721 karma

Both. The ones who were political prisoners were treated a little bit better by the guards and other inmates, but nothing to write home about, they still lived in terrible conditions.

Regular folks too, who were there because their local Soviet authority had a grudge.

We did have a LOT of dangerous criminals though. Murderers and gangsters. Those who got it worst were the pedophiles and rapists.

One rapist was so afraid of the general population that he got in a fight to be sent to the "hole", the prison within the prison. Once there, he nailed his own testicles from the skin to the wooden plank, so as not to be put back into the general population.

They put him back anyway, and he was dead within hours. The guards had no power, you have to realize once inside those bars, it's a whole other world

TricycleGods307 karma

What were your meals like? Curious for some reason.

SovietCaptain538 karma

Borsht, which is a stew made of beets and potatoes,

Fish, lots and lots of disgusting rotting fish,

and beef frozen underground with stamps from 1950's and 60's on them.

Their favorite treat was chewing on frozen pork lard.

He says everyone was always hungry, and if you look at the pics, they do look malnourished.

SL61298 karma

Did anyone ever escape the camp? If so, have you heard of them since?

SovietCaptain567 karma

Lots of prisoners escaped, as the security wasn't as intense as you'd imagine. But we caught them easily, we had our dogs, and their tracks were always easy to track in the snow.

Most who escaped were found frozen to death in the woods.

awnomnomnom395 karma

Most who escaped were found frozen to death in the woods.

The lucky ones.

SovietCaptain560 karma

Yes, on that note, lots and lots of prisoner suicides.

ElvisRevenge294 karma

Just wanted to thank you for your honesty. A lot of soldiers from former superpowers have seemed to be scared that there might be some repercussions for talking about their experiences. This is a really interesting AMA.

SovietCaptain567 karma

You're welcome. I have no fear. These stories were all told to the US Embassy in Moscow, which is why my family was granted asylum. I am now a proud US citizen.

behaard291 karma

What was/is your opinion on western europe?

SovietCaptain1240 karma

Be careful of the influx of Islamic radicals infiltrating your societies. The current "politically correct" people will drown me for this, but there is no sense in applying the rules of civil society to those who wish to burn your society to the ground.

I've seen the protests in London, Berlin, Amsterdam. The ideas they hold are dangerous.

thombudsman291 karma

What were the conditions like for the prisoners?

SovietCaptain505 karma

It was extremely dirty and unsanitary, lots of prisoners died due to malnutrition or basic infection that then spread out of control. The prisoners had their own society within the prison, trading in tar heroin and tobacco.

He says imagine the worst environment possible for a prison, that was it.

thombudsman236 karma

How were prisoners punished?

SovietCaptain537 karma

Threw them in the hole. Had to sleep on ice cold concrete, wasn't fed normally by the operations people. Spend long enough in the hole, and they'd be dead.

I never had that authority though, I never threw anyone in the hole. That was the realm of my superior officers. I just had to physically take them there, and believe me, I did feel pity.

SirAdrian0000282 karma

What was an average day like on duty?

SovietCaptain553 karma

In the summer: Morning workouts, quick breakfast, then we took out the prisoners for slave labor either cutting timber or building rail infrastructure. At night, after the prisoners were back in their cells, we had communism classes, basically just propaganda indoctrination.

In the winter: Same schedule, except lots of prisoner deaths due to the cold.

manutebowl2273 karma

What does he think of Gorbachev?

SovietCaptain1160 karma

I never liked any politician, because they are all mother fuckers who would sell their souls and their own mothers for their own gain.

redmercuryvendor268 karma

My grandfather was a travelling salesman (of industrial machinery), and would often interact with Soviet companies for export. He has a story about a time a pair of Soviet businessmen (or whatever the functionally equivalent communist term would be) travelled to the UK to see an existing setup. They were staying at a hotel, and at breakfast, were offered a cup of tea. They had supposedly never seen a teabag before, so were bemused as to what to do with it. My grandfather, seeing their plight, poured himself a cup of hot water, placed the teabag in his mouth (with the string hanging out the corner) and sipped. The Soviets did likewise.

My question is: were teabags really unknown in the Soviet Union?

SovietCaptain358 karma

Never saw a tea-bag until I got to the states. We did however love tea, and brewed it in kettles the old fashioned way (in fact he still makes his tea like this, and refuses to drink tea-bag tea.)

Elchidote248 karma

As an Armenian yourself, what's your opinion on the Kardashians?

SovietCaptain1158 karma

They are a shame to our people, and a rotting influence on our young women.

caucker240 karma

Many thanks for doing this, it is very interesting...how did you feel about the situation in Berlin during your time as a soviet soldier?

SovietCaptain528 karma

We knew. They told us about the German's "Struggle", we outwardly supported the bad Berlin, but in our hearts loved when the wall fell.

We couldn't be caught saying that though. Prison time at the least, probably execution because we were soldiers. Imagine a US marine outwardly supporting the Taliban. I mean, sure they might not be executed, but only because it would be exposed.

Back then, nothing was exposed. You'd be dead.

Qkix233 karma

I assume he was a guard at the prison camp?

I'd love to hear what his perception of the United States was at that time, and the cold war in general.

SovietCaptain560 karma

Perceptions on the US: We had no time to become political. All we were worried about was our next meal and a warm place to sleep. When you're in conditions as harsh as that, and life becomes about survival, the patch on your hat means nothing. It was a struggle for life, and, if anything, made everyone realize how stupid and petty the cold war really was.

Morale was terribly low, and nobody gave a shit about anything other than surviving.

Qkix152 karma

Thanks. And this was true for the guards as well?

SovietCaptain345 karma

This was especially true for the guards. The prisoners weren't even aware of the outside world. The guards/soldiers themselves were forced to become survivalists.

Qkix155 karma

That is very harsh. Were the guards sent there as a punishment?

SovietCaptain357 karma

Money. If you had the money to pay your local Soviet authority, they'd send you to somewhere nice and give you a fluff job serving coffee to diplomats and generals.

If you didn't have the money to pay, they'd send you to the assignments at the bottom of the barrel.

n1c0_ds159 karma

Since you are talking about money, how does it work in a communist economy? Where does it come from and what do you buy with it?

SovietCaptain299 karma

Came from the government. You got what you were assigned. Loans? Credit? Grants? etc? Everything needed to actually grow an economy? Non-existant.

alxsamsonov227 karma

I am sure this will get buried by the amount of comments but my Grandfather (who I never met) spent about 25 years of his life imprisoned under Soviet Repression. 10 years in a prison and 15 years in a work camp/ gulag all for telling a joke. here are some before and after pictures. he came back a hard man. Here are two pictures, one with his wife (my Grandmother) and one by himself after his return (Grandmother was dead by then). my family emigrated to the U.S. in '92 and I was born in '93. Damn it feels good to be American!


SovietCaptain101 karma

Much respect to your Grandad.

luizluiz209 karma

What was the general thinking of the population of the USSR about the U.S.? What things you knew that were clearly wrong but were taught by the government?

SovietCaptain836 karma

I knew that the US soldier had far superior weapons technology than we did. I knew their weapons and technology was better than ours. I knew that if we did eventually get into a conventional war, we stood no chance.

We had to fake patriotism and moral so as not to be punished. I knew it was all just a play, a movie we were all actors in. You know, that's the worst type of prison to be in, a prison of your heart and mind, where you live your life according to someone else delusion.

The greatest thing to ever happen to me and my family was being granted asylum as a political refugee and being allowed to come to the U.S.

twitter-SireOwl199 karma

How was your first month in america? I'd suppose you started out with nothing... or did the government help you start up your life, and then left you be?

SovietCaptain1016 karma

We were given welfare, which we worked our way out of by 1993. I am grateful for that, and I think a perfect example of how welfare is supposed to work. You should be thankful for welfare, but at the same time do your best to get off it.

the_goat_boy192 karma

What is your opinion regarding the Red Army during the Russian Civil War? How did they win against the Whites?

SovietCaptain491 karma

They were masters of propaganda. They knew how to talk to the hungry. When you're hungry and naked, you'll believe anyone who can make an argument while showing you a scapegoat.

Puff_Daddy189 karma

What are his views on Communism vs. Capitalism?

SovietCaptain770 karma

They both serve fools and sages the same way.

Mr-aNiallator188 karma

What is his view of the situation in Afghanistan now?

SovietCaptain788 karma

Islam will never allow that country to be free. Their version of Islam at least. They're a country of illiterate nomads herders and farmers, living in a human condition that is centuries old. What makes the US think that they even WANT schools and a democracy and modern society? Heck, just like Iran, they had one, and were on their way. What made it all stop? Islam. Backwards, wife killing, child raping, throwing money into a well Islam.

nullcharstring187 karma

In '71-'73 I was in the US Army, stationed in Germany. My job was to keep the Pershing missiles maintained and ready to launch at an invading Red Army. Were you aware of the Pershings and if so, what did you think of them?

SovietCaptain299 karma

We knew. But the reality is we didn't really care much. We were too busy trying to survive, to shoot a stray dog so we could eat. You lose any nationalistic sentiment when your own leaders disregard your most basic human needs.

[deleted]186 karma

I've read a lot of your posts - especially reading the ones about Islam. I'm curious, given how the Soviet Union viewed religion - are you religious now? Has seeing the things you've seen convinced you one way or another?

SovietCaptain843 karma

I am Christian, but only in my own heart. I don't go to church, nor do I preach Christianity to anyone. I allow my children freedom to decide as they wish. I believe in God, I believe in energy and I believe in the sweetness of life, regardless of what I've seen.

My opinions on Islam come from first hand experience. I've witnessed pregnant women stabbed and stoned to death due to a distorted understanding of "honor" and "respect". I feel that any religion that can push a husband or a son to turn on his wife, mother, or daughter in that way, can only be bad for humanity.

RMaximus183 karma

What does he think about the way Obama is leading the country?

SovietCaptain736 karma

Obama is a good man with a very difficult job.

gentimmy173 karma

Did you really address everyone with "Comrade?"

SovietCaptain306 karma

No, we called each other Zemlak, or Davarish, which mean "neighbor" and "friend" respectively.

TheDanishDude167 karma

I am curious, did the population then, and your father/his colleagues etc, have faith in/beleive in the communist ideals? did the people enforcing these ideals beleive in this indoctrination themselves or where they merely doing their jobs out of fear of being subjected to the prison camps themselves?

SovietCaptain408 karma

No real or serious belief in Communism. "It was all just on paper". I understood what they were doing was wrong. The way they were treating me was wrong, the way they treated anyone with a real opinion was wrong. We did what we did because we had no other choice.

Communism was for worker bees. Blind and ignorant that their honey was being sold (weird statements that loses a lot in translation).

He laughs at the last part of the question, says "What makes you think I wasn't subjected to the prison camp myself? I was just lucky enough to get the better end of the deal, but my time there was nothing short of torture."

TheDanishDude121 karma

Thank you for the answer, I can understand from the other replies how conditions where equally bad for the guards as well, how does he view the current state of Russia now? does he consider it better or worse (equal?)

SovietCaptain318 karma

I never saw Russia after communism. I'm sure they're oligarchy is doing just fine. Much like the Oligarchy here in the US. We are ok, but it can be better.

TheDanishDude143 karma

Did they smuggle in items from western european countries or the US? where there things that where in high demand that they couldnt receive in the USSR?

SovietCaptain409 karma

Jeans. Lots and lots of Jeans. We wanted and longed for Jeans.

Nukumai159 karma

There were, of course, many notable people who spent time in the camps, some of whom wrote about it (Solschenizyn, Dolgun etc). Were there any prisoners in your camp(s) who were famous or who became famous after their release?

Also, of the many books that were written about life in the gulag, which are the ones that you feel are most realistic (assuming you have read some of these)?

Also, thanks for the AMA.

SovietCaptain483 karma

Nobody famous in our camps, and I've never read any books about the gulag or Siberia. I hate the site of snow, I never want to spend any brain power learning more about that hell.

I'd much rather read Ernest Hemingway and Jack London

SovietCaptain186 karma

The gulags were before my time, and as far as I know gulags were mostly for the political prisoners who had one more cow than they should have, and were deemed capitalist sympathizers or anti-communist.

The men in my prison were mostly violent criminals. Murderers, thieves, and rapists who were basically sent to Siberia with indefinite sentences, to work until death.

None of the prisoners on my guard were famous, or became famous that I know of.

Regarding reading about life in the gulag, he says he never ever longed to know anything about that life again.

In fact, I can attest to this as well, he can't even stand the sight of snow. We went on a family trip up to Big Bear a few years ago and waking up to a snow covered landscape put him in a foul mood, almost a fit of rage.

KingByDesign155 karma


SovietCaptain386 karma

His training was intense, but he had no reference back then to say if it was more intense or less intense compared to those who came before him, and he now has no idea how Russian armed forces are trained.

He does say this though, that watching TV here and seeing the might of the US military, and how their soldiers are treated, he says that without a doubt, the US soldier is the better warrior. The simple fact that they are provided 3 square meals a day based on nutritional research is enough for him to make that assumption.

The current Russian military, no idea, no comment.

Back then, it didn't matter, they knew what nuclear war meant, and your training wouldn't matter.

Frajer143 karma

When the USSR fell apart did anyone predict it or was it a total shock?

SovietCaptain302 karma

My father expected it , as he saw how weak the armed forces were in terms of comparing himself to his American counter-part through smuggled media.

When it happened, it was a celebration at a societal level. People were ecstatic about the collapse, not knowing the hard times to come with post-Soviet economic and societal reorganization.

[deleted]137 karma

Do you speak Russian still at home or English (primarily)?

Was there a final, "last straw" event that prompted you to go to the US Embassy and seek asylum or did you just decide to because you saw the opportunity?

On top of that, how worried were you that they weren't going to grant you asylum?

Thanks for answering!

SovietCaptain266 karma

I'm ethnically Armenian, so the primary language in our home right now is Armenian and English. My wife and I speak four languages, Armenian, Russian, Farsi, and English, and my sons are bi-lingual in English and Armenian.

There never was a last straw, it was always the goal to come to the U.S. When I realized that my story and past were enough to get my family a ticket to the U.S., I didn't hesitate.

UserMaatRe99 karma


What would have happened had the US not accepted your plea for asylum? I suppose they suspected you might be a spy. Was there heavy screening involved?

SovietCaptain255 karma

If the US didn't give me asylum, I was afraid of imprisonment or worse, but I had to take the risk. The screening was very heavy, as they were doubtful at first, but when I started speaking names, positions, ranks, and even ID #'s from memory, and recalling the stories , the environment, and the information I knew, they fast tracked my asylum and my family and I flew from Moscow to New York and finally to Los Angles.

Linkiola129 karma

You mentioned you're dad are Armenian, what does he and you for that matter think about the Armenian genocide and the fact that Turkey still denies it?

SovietCaptain284 karma

We obviously have very strong dispositions and opinions regarding the genocide. Turkey's denial of it is just salt on the wound, and we do our best using the political and intellectual advantages we have in the US to push for recognition, both domestically and internationally.

We march every year, and we support the organizations that champion our cause.

lala989128 karma

I'd like your dad to know that even though most youth in America cannot relate to his experiences there are many who have great respect and empathy for people from another culture. For me having people like your family here is what America is all about and I'm proud of that sentiment.

SovietCaptain133 karma

Thank you, my sons are your friends.

palamala124 karma


SovietCaptain367 karma

His tastes have evolved to say the least. He is a sushi fiend and watches the food network almost every day.

DawnChorus9121 karma


SovietCaptain631 karma

I feel Romney is an imbecile who thinks his time playing financial games will translate to dealing with other countries. He only said that because of Russia's position in the oil infrastructure and the power they yield.

A real President that REALLY wanted the best for the US would triple investment into alternative energy R&D, and make the US the leaders of the world in a new category. Turn oil into salt.

gdjp120 karma


SovietCaptain386 karma

Corruption? Of course. Corruption was how that entire empire ran.

netgear99119 karma

What made him decide to join the Army or was he conscripted?

SovietCaptain248 karma

He was forced/conscripted/drafted, whatever it's called. He had to go. He turned 18 and they came calling.

Chamilionaire105 karma

If he was going to/was enrolling in college did it make a difference?

SovietCaptain230 karma

If enrolled he would have been allowed to stay in school, but upon graduation would still be drafted, only with a slightly higher rank.

TimeZarg115 karma

Do you drink vodka? If so, what would you say is the best kind of vodka?

Do you listen to any Russian music still, or any classical music/opera that was written by Russians (Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky, etc)?

Do you have any contact with other soldiers you served with, or have you severed all ties?

Lastly, what's the best way to make borscht? :)

SovietCaptain348 karma

No, I drink Cognac.

I listen to American Jazz and Armenian folk music. I am not an ethnic Russian, I am ethnically Armenian. I do enjoy Tchaikovsky though.

All ties severed, I did see one that I served with in 1995 in North Hollywood. He had married a Mexican woman and had children, seemed very happy. I was happy that had found happiness.

You need to ask my wife about that, I just do the eating.

Doodlingshitonreddit104 karma

What was it like, applying for asylum? How long did it take?

SovietCaptain272 karma

It was actually very smooth process. Once they knew who I was and I gave them my documents and testimony, it is almost as if they were the ones more concerned with getting me out of there than I was.

I'm forever thankful to them.

manutebowl2104 karma

When did he first see signs of the Soviet Union crumbling? Was it more obvious from the inside?

SovietCaptain194 karma

In Moscow, there was a popular blvd called Arbat, similar to the chez elise in France, there was a group called "The New Russians", who were preaching the dangers of the green Islamic flag on the Kremlin, and the importance of being ready to create a "New Russia". Seeing that type of message be allowed that type of attention on that big a stage at the time...I knew the power vacuum had ended, and that it would soon be a free for all.

saltandvinegar1101 karma

How did he feel about his service? For example, did he feel it patriotic or appreciative or did he disapprove of his time in the soviet forces?

SovietCaptain235 karma

No pride or patriotism. Just a survivalist mentality.

sargonzal87 karma

Do you have any pictures from the camp? How many camps have you been a guard at? I've been searching the internet for information about the camps in English but it's like it never happened. Very little information. Can you guess as to why? Have you ever come across WWII prisoners in the camps you've guarded? Were any prisoners shot for "fun"? by sicko guards?

SovietCaptain217 karma

No pictures from the camp. Served in 5 different camps, all in Siberia, each one maybe a one or two day car ride apart. There's little information because the Soviet union destroyed any evidence of these camps. They made us take oaths of silence upon our return not to speak of our experience.

Lots of WWII prisoners, old men, just waiting to die. It was weird, as harsh as the prisons were, once they hit a certain age, they were left alone, as if the rest of the population was rewarding them for being able to get old in that place.

We never shot our prisoners, we treated them with respect due to pity. They were damned souls and we really did feel bad, except for the rapists. For some reason they got zero leeway from other prisoners and guards.

Theappunderground116 karma

Lots of wwii prisoners?! christ!

Did the soviet union just lock them and throw the key away? Why were they still there?

SovietCaptain192 karma

Pretty much. They were still there because they hadn't died yet. People have a hard time understanding that prison and justice aren't like today, with lawyers and judges and documents and sentences. They just threw them in there and worked them to death.

ardtanker31281 karma

You were probably too late to be a part of this, but my neighbor was a conscripted German infantryman who was captured on the Eastern Front. He was also in a Siberian Prison Camp. My two questions are did you ever encounter POW's, and how was the attitude towards them/other Germans in the USSR?

SovietCaptain144 karma

No POW's, our camp was not political. Just murderers, rapists, and other bad criminals.

ardtanker31277 karma

Wow. Thank you. Did the Soviet People still hold a grudge against Germans in general?

SovietCaptain191 karma

Not in general. Our grudge was mostly towards the Soviet leadership. It's a common misconception that the majority of the Soviet world hated the west and loved the leadership. It is like the American expression "between a rock and a hard place."

criticalfactories77 karma

How much choice did you have in your selection of service and branch? A friend of mine who was in the Soviet Army picked his because his friendly older neighbour had a cool uniform. He wanted those shiny boots.

The picture of the guys from his high school class 1-year-later is awesome. It was a lineup of different uniforms.

SovietCaptain144 karma

No choice. None at all. He was simply assigned.

Edit: You either needed to know someone, or have the money to pay off the local authority to give you an easy assignment. As he had neither, he was sent to Siberia.

soggit77 karma

What was your impression of the USA during the cold war?

Were you under the impression that the US really was evil in some way? Or just different? or that the people were friendly but the govts disagreed?

SovietCaptain234 karma

We knew it was just political bullshit. As soldiers, we were actually afraid of the US. We knew they had better equipment, better morale, better trained soldiers. We knew they had FOOD! Hot water! And, they were fighting for freedom and family.

We would only be fighting to avoid death at the hands of our own "leaders".

jake_n_bake69 karma

-How were the prisoners treated? -How was morale? -Was there anything to do in your spare time, if you had any?

SovietCaptain141 karma

We treated them with respect, but the environment was a son of a bitch to them, and their biggest enemy. Moral was terribly low. We were hungry, had just the basic necessities to survive, and were treated just one level higher than the prisoners.

Edit: Spare time, in the summer we went foraging for mushrooms and berries in the woods. The search for food was the biggest motivator.

demiurge9468 karma

I know this might not be answered, but what does he think about Rocky IV?

SovietCaptain182 karma

It is the best one.

Reed_Solomon63 karma

How did you unwind? Did guards ever play Ice Hockey or other winter sports? Perhaps games of Chess? Was there a local population or city nearby?

SovietCaptain281 karma

We went skiing, played football (soccer) during the summer, and built giant fire tires so we could defecate without our feces freezing up in our anus.

mikkeii62 karma

Out of all the questions you've answered so far. I just want to know (Yes/No) Are there any experiences that you will never share because they were just simply too horrible & indescribable.

SovietCaptain103 karma


TheRedMambo62 karma

Who was his most memorable prisoner? What were they like?

SovietCaptain153 karma

Sichinava - He was a real man, he would care after the guards, bringing hot tea to the guards on duty, and a man with a kind heart.

He was involved in the many aspects of organized crime, and was in the camp for those reasons. But he respected reason, and stood up for noble principles.

j00jy57 karma

How were you treated by everyday Americans when you arrived here?

SovietCaptain228 karma

Lots of jerks, lots of lovely people, just like anywhere else on earth.

manutebowl255 karma

Was it a punishment for him to be stationed in Siberia?

SovietCaptain104 karma

No, just the result of not having money for bribes or friends in high places.

Papa_marmaduke54 karma

Did your father witness or hear about any stories from the camps (about prisoners/guards) that exemplified human compassion? For example prisoners giving up rations to others that were ill or recently bereaved OR guards sneaking food to prisoners? Or was it purely survival, where every man looked out only for themselves?

SovietCaptain95 karma

Yes, compassion could be found everywhere, every day. There was even compassion from the prisoners for the guards, as a few would bring out hot tea to the guards on duty outside.

49731m48 karma

Was there a social hierarchy between the Russians, Armenians, Yugoslavs, etc?

SovietCaptain70 karma

Yes, ethnic Russians held the highest rank.

DrDiamondJK46 karma

Thanks for doing this AMA!

You mentioned earlier that you speak primarily English and Armenian in your home. Having lived in the US for 23 years, do you still think in Armenian or do you think in English?

SovietCaptain68 karma

Both, but when my thoughts are extremely passionate or heavy, Armenian is the language.

slumdogkillionaire38 karma

What genre of music do you like to listen to? Would you ever return to the Russian Federation? Thoughts about Putin? Favorite vodka brand?

SovietCaptain102 karma

My favorite music is Jazz. Never ever will I return to Russia, under any circumstance. I am an American. I give no thought to Putin, I don't drink vodka, I prefer Cognac.

NeonDiscoWalrus29 karma

You mention chewing on frozen pork lard as a treat for the guards, what things/activities did you and the other guards do to "unwind" or have fun?

SovietCaptain67 karma

In the summer we played football (soccer), and during the winter we did a lot of skiing. We also traded with the locals, and made large tire fires that we used as outhouses because of the warmth.

Gank_Spank_Sploog26 karma

What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in your life? You talk of being a survivalist mode most your life. How does that make you view people who complain about the most simple thing?

SovietCaptain102 karma

My greatest achievement is the family that I have raised. People who complain about the simple things...I know it's frustrating as someone who has gone through hard times, but those preoccupied by simple things don't really have a frame of reference.

Even the most comfortable and well off human will find something to complain about. Look at your young, beautiful, millionaire actors and entertainers. They have the world by the testicles, yet they abuse their bodies and spirits.

laikasghost24 karma

Did he carry anything other than a Kalashnikov? Like a side arm or knife? How did he like them? And did they ever have to be used in close quarters?

SovietCaptain47 karma

Makarov pistol and a machete. Also had a knife made by one of the prisoners.

[deleted]24 karma

A very interesting AMA thank you. Sergeant, I am honored to have the chance to ask you a question. My father was in the US Military in the 1960's and spoke of the respect we had for your prowless as soldiers. How did the Soviet military feel about the United States military?

SovietCaptain107 karma

We respected them, sometimes even looked to learn from them, most times longed to have leadership as they did. Soldiers are never really enemies. Very few times in human history can two soldiers really justify their hate for one another if they dismiss the opinions of their political leaders who sit comfortably in their palaces and send their countrymen to die.

Just think of the Germans and the Brits ceasing fire, climbing out of their trenches on Christmas, and playing a game of soccer. That event should show the world exactly what being a soldier means.

lienskas21 karma

have you seen the movie "The Way Back" ?


SovietCaptain28 karma

No, I'll rent it for him.