“You’re a teenager with a keen sense of social justice. Try to enter the Institute of Prosecution, after which you will have prospects in the law enforcement service. So, you can try to find your place in life that way,” said my friend. I was 17 years old. At this age in Russia, a teenager already needs to decide which university he or she will enter in and decide which specialization he or she wants to get. My friend was my social studies and law tutor. His wife worked in the prosecutor’s office. From a tutor, he turned into my mentor, one might even say that he was a real guru. He was an outstanding person, educated, intelligent, with an incredible outlook. For me, he became practically a second father. Therefore, I took those words as his last will, which I had to fulfill. After I applied for admission to the university and returned from another city, I learned that my mentor and elder friend had passed away. “God takes the best to a better place,” I was told at his funeral.
He returned home with his mother, whom only he cared for. They forgot to buy cheese at the store. The apartment was on the first floor of the house. His way to the exit was only 4 steps of the staircase. And on one of them he loses consciousness, falls and hits by the temporal lobe of his head the corner of the step. Immediate death. He didn’t suffer.
I went to study where he wished. I had to fulfill his last will. Plus, it was 2012. We had a belief that we live in a developing state, and the government has recently changed. We were still very young, so we still did not understand the true nature of our state. The growth of the well-being of the population was really visible, although our parents who helped us felt that earning money was getting harder and harder every year. But we were blind, we really believed that we were living in a great and comfortable country for life, and everything would be fine. We will be able to realize ourselves and will be able to really serve the interests of society.
In their first year, law students in Russia study many disciplines. Roman law, Logic, History of State and Law, Sociology and many others. But one of the most curious is the Theory of State and Law. A very difficult subject. In fact, while studying it, it is necessary to study how the state should function. And a lot of points of view on this matter. It was very difficult for a freshman. Moreover, this is precisely the beginning of building a life with cognitive dissonance in the head. The fact is that if you are forced to study how a state should be functioning, sooner or later you start comparing how it should be with the way it is. And you are terrified.
Next, cognitive dissonance grows more. The first six months before the first exam session, we were also constantly told about who we are and what we study for, what our future is. We were forced to constantly walk in a formal business style. We were taught discipline and forced to comply with all the norms that can only be found in everyday life. We were told that we must understand that we are the future of the Russian law enforcement system and it will not be easy for us.
But the session came, and we realized that our management itself does not comply with even the most obvious norms, terrible corruption flourished, and there can be no question of equality due to the fact that the management was afraid of the diasporas to the utmost. The fact is that my university was a kind of cradle for future representatives of the law enforcement system of the Caucasian republics. Students from Chechnya, Kabardino-Balkaria, Dagestan, Ingushetia and generally all southern regions guys studied with us. For them, it was very easy to solve questions about truancy, not passing exams and tests and undisciplined, and sometimes inadequate behavior in general. They allowed themselves not to appear for classes, to break discipline during the lecture, and one of these guys even publicly harassed a Russian student in the dining room against her will. Do you think he was expelled? Of course not. They just said that he was wrong and that this should not be done.
But the most important issue is corruption. It didn’t matter who you were, where you were from, what did you do, they just solve any issue – if you pay enough. If you are a child from a poor family, but you entered a university and are ready to study for the good of your country, this does not mean at all that you will be given a place in a student hostel. The rooms there were something of a commodity from the academy side. As a rule, those places that should have been given to the needy were easily purchased for a bribe that had to be given to the deputy rector. It was the same with the exams. You sit and study the material in order to know something, to pass the exams, this is a whole quest! You are nervous about which question you will pull out, you study the whole semester, memorize what you don’t understand in order to be able to pass this selection. But then a guy just appears who hasn’t done anything for the whole semester, he practically wasn’t attending classes at all, he does not know anything, but his exam score will be higher than yours, simply because he paid for it, and you did not.
In my second year, I started to get interested in alternative dispute resolution – mediation, arbitration and negotiations. I have represented Russia at the international level twice, won the Russian championship. Of course, there were expenses of such representation during these competitions. Hotels, tickets, flights etc. These expenses had to be paid by the university budget, and in our case, they existed. On paper. They passed through the hands of the rector, deputy rector, then the head of the department. My teacher tried to get us at least some kind of compensation, but, as a rule, in the end, this compensation was no more than 30% of the money we spent. The rest settled somewhere in the pockets of managers.
In the third year, we had an internship. I passed it in the prosecutor’s office supervising in the field of protecting the rights of minors and children. And then, in my head, cognitive dissonance reached its climax. Everything that I was taught at the university, in practice, was reduced to match the practical activities with the plan. It’s like a sales plan for a commercial company. You are simply told how many delinquencies the department needs to find, and you look for them. Even if there are none of them on the assigned territory, you must come up with them. You take out the act of the prosecutor’s response on something which does not exist. Public organizations, companies and educational institutions are victims of supervision in the field of protecting the rights of minors and children. As a rule, they are simply afraid of problems with law enforcement, as they know about the unfairness of the court in Russia. Therefore, they simply tacitly agree with this. There are those who are trying to resist. But the court in Russia is almost always on the side of the state prosecution. As of 2019, there were 99 convictions for only one court acquittal. That is, if you oppose a public prosecution in court, your chance is only 1% to obtain an acquittal. Strictly speaking, these are statistics on criminal charges. With civil charges, the situation is better, but the approach remains that way. The opinions and accusations of government agencies are much louder for the court than rational arguments. Why? Simply because the overwhelming majority of court employees come from the law enforcement system. They do not go against their former colleagues.
After my third year, I left to serve in the Russian army. Here any healthy man under the age of 28 is obliged to serve in the army. Since I would have to go to serve anyway, I chose to take an academic leave after the third year, because I wanted to go straight to work after the fourth. I wanted to go to work after a year of education, not the army, because I wanted to review the training materials necessary for work in my last year. I wanted to be a good and helpful employee. I will talk about my service in the army later. But this decision made the gap between me and my friends for a year. While I was serving in the army, they had already finished the last course and started working. Many of them were not fit for military service for health reasons or gave bribes not to go there. They told me about the horrors and absurdities of what is happening in Russian law enforcement. How they are obligated to close their eyes if someone takes bribes, how higher-level employees physically close down lower-level employees in their offices from morning till night, so that they cannot leave there and work all the time that they are awake. How do they relate to female workers who are daily subjected to sexual harassment by insolent bosses. Or about how they are forced to work there 7 days a week. They do not do it openly, but they obligate employees to do such a volume of work that cannot be done according to a normal schedule.
My 4th course began with the fact that I was beaten. One inadequate guy in a state of alcoholic intoxication unexpectedly hit me on the head, after which he continued to strike, he had two more guys to support him, I was able to knock him down and block him in the fight, which gave myself a break to run. But I got so many injuries that I had to spend several weeks in the hospital. A police officer came to see me, a criminal case was opened against my offender, but it did not reach the court. The police just said they had lost him. They suddenly lost a suspect. Can’t find him. My friends found his name, his place of work, contact details. But the police officer just told me no, they can’t find him. It immediately became clear to me that the point here was that he simply found someone to pay. I left to study further, already knowing perfectly well that I would never take their side. I will not work for a corrupt police force. I will not practice law in a country where people have no rights. I’m not going to put people behind bars just to get promoted or to fulfill a plan. Then I realized that I had simply spent 4 years of my life to get my higher education for nothing.