Translation by Tatzhit Mihailovich
Source for pics:
The blogger molonlabe is some sort of a counter-terrorist operator in Russian Caucasus (Ingushetia region, most likely). Below, he talks about what life as an insurgent is like.
I thought this may be interesting to translate – not just to share his stories, but mostly to show the hell that insurgent’s/partisans life is in general. I would assume it stayed pretty similar in every place and age – from King Alfred of Wessex hiding from Saxons in a swamp, to American colonists and Viet Cong; details may change, but it’s always highly unappealing.
One thing you need to understand about the war in Caucasus is that:
1. On one hand, the Chechens and other islamists have been largely defeated, and the locals already got to see what their Caliphate looks like – they want none of it (Chechnya under Islamist rule was ISIS-lite, slave markets and all, but with even more lawlessness).
2. On the other hand, there are always a few idiots that are slow on the uptake, or have freshly arrived from a Hajj to Mecca, where they were “re-educated” by Saudis.
So there are no longer large, well-organized gangs, but low-intensity anti-terrorist campaign is endemic to the region. Maybe it can be compared to the IRA in some ways.
PART 1: “STRAGGLERS”
Being an insurgent has its negative sides. One of them is that you can not count on your buddies not abandoning you in battle. This is not because the bandits are all vile and immoral (although that, too). It’s simply because the firefights are usually sudden, and trying to save a buddy in trouble is usually impossible. The choice is simple – to run, or die along with him. We have no such choice – the option to leave our own in battle is not considered even in theory. But the bandits have a different mentality and different priorities. Their talk about “dreaming of martyrdom” is mostly propaganda. The bandits will never stand and fight, if they have the option of running away. But oftentimes this salvation is actually a protracted death. Say, the whole gang destroyed, and one escaped. Or he went to get food, came back and the base was already destroyed by evil infidels. Or you were abandoned in battle, but managed to get away. The gang immediately faded into the woods, and you are left alone. So, what is next?
Bandits are put in conditions where they have to withhold vital information even from each other: who is the accomplice providing the gang with food, where are the caches, spare shelters, how to communicate with other gangs and so on. And the survivors, stuck by themselves, are left with nothing. If one is very lucky and knows where is a cache with food – he survives for some time. But it still is constant living on the brink. Sprained your foot? You will die. Caught a bad cold? You will die. Come out of the the woods? You will be shot. In a firefight, such stragglers put up little resistance. Trying to run away also ends in failure – they are too weakened. They are often found with body sores and boils. In practice, they resemble armed hobos.
Here are the contents of a backpack of one such straggler. Toothpaste is there, but the lid is stuck – has not been opened in a while. Just two pills of Nurofen…
The machinegun has not been cleaned in God knows how long …
His kitchen. He would stir a spoonful of flour with a little water, and bake it over a small fire into a tiny piece of bread, which he would eat with ketchup:
Empty mags, and one full one…
Some loose ammo in the backpack…
The battery in the phone was dead. Very little food. The bandit was haggard and emaciated. He just tried to hide in the bushes, hoping we won’t find him. No such luck.
Scouts sometimes find those who died by themselves. Just sat down, leaned against a tree and died. Obviously, that’s an unpleasant sight, because the remains are usually found some time later, and in summer the bodies decompose rapidly.
One straggler was found by the locals in their basement – he had a fever and began to rave, and this gave himself out. He did not make it.
What’s the point of running from a fight and condemning yourself to a lonely and hungry wandering through the woods? Well, everyone is the maker of their own little hell.
Story 2: A TERRORIST’S LIFE
Molonlabe: As promised, I’ll tell you about how terrorists live in the wild.
If you have been on a serious hike, you know that staying clean the whole time is a problem. Sooner or later, habits recede, and you are eating food with unwashed hands, tolerate grimy dishes, and in general, are not a picture of cleanliness. For those that have to permanently live in the forest, far from civilization, especially since they need to constantly hide and sneak, hygiene inevitably takes third place to the needs of constant struggle against hunger and cold. There are limits, of course. Those who go too far in their disgusting habits, are forcibly brought back up to minimum standards by other bandits. Because, although it is possible to tolerate the stench – lice, bedbugs and decaying body parts can be a hazard to others, physically and morally. There were even cases of executions of far-gone militants. Because they can’t let those go in peace, and can not bring them back to human form. Nothing else to do.
Living autonomously is hard. Bandits try to create some kind of minimum living conditions, but those hiding like rats will inevitably have a rat’s life. Well, no one said being a terrorist would be easy – from the very beginning, newcomers are warned about the hardships and privations of “jihad”. However, in practice it turns out to be much worse than described. Sooner or later, “warriors of God” cease to view life as something valuable – because the value of living such a lifestyle is, objectively, near zero. Yes, no one wants to die, and survival instinct still works. I personally haven’t seen cases where a “Mujahid rushed a crowd of enemies, sowing panic among them his courage”, as their propagandists like to say. As a rule, the main goal of the bandits in a firefight is to run away from it as quickly as possible. And, unlike [us], abandoning their own in battle is not considered reprehensible among them.
Insurgents only live in dugouts and bunkers during the winter. Other seasons, it is impossible to stay in them, because you need to burn a fire the whole time, to ward off dampness. If this isn’t done, a wet dugout will drive them to the grave faster than the “evil infidels.” Very rarely do they manage to build a comfortable dugout. I only saw a couple of holes where you could walk straight, and which have been more or less insulated for staying warm in winter. Here is one, for example:
Usually, dugout is only big enough to move on all fours. Nothing fancy – staying alive is already great. The stench in these holes is unbearable, and soaks into everything. Nothing to be done – nowhere to shower in winter…
In the summer, bandits live in tents or just sleep under the open sky. This is due to the fact that the bases have to be saved for the winter. Loss of a base, which was built at such an expense, is a real tragedy for them. Especially in winter, when building even a temporary hut is very difficult. Cry, terrorists – “evil infidels and apostates” found and burned your “home sweet home”:
How do you live now? Where to go? What to do? All the food and loot is gone!
In short, losing a base is a real reason to be sad…
Therefore, the bases are necessarily left empty in the spring, summer and autumn, and insurgents wander through the mountains, stopping at random places for the night. Sometimes it looks relatively civilized – camped similar to tourists:
But mostly – like dogs. Falling on rugs and sleeping:
Here, a question of building campfires comes up. Yes, they need to hide and so on. But how much food can one make on a burner, for example? And how long can you exist on dry bread and cookies? So they to take risks and start campfires.
Sometimes they even make an improvised oven. Bake bread (no shops in the forest). Pants are dried above it, so that the heat is not wasted.
A fire is needed not only to dry off and get warm, but also to prepare any kind of hot soup:
But sometimes there is nothing cook, at all. Say, the accomplice who brought them food gets arrested – that’s it, facing starvation. They have to go back to hunter-gatherer mode – berries, mushrooms, fishing and hunting. This guy caught fish for soup:
And if they managed to shoot a deer, or steal a lamb – then it is a holiday. The remaining meat needs to be cured, or it’ll rot.
One time, they got hit by an attack helo when drying meat. We did not know, and when we arrived, found on the branches plastered with pieces of raw meat. At first we thought those were the bandits after direct hit. Barf …
By the way, about hygiene again – that’s how they cook their meals:
The bottle isn’t that big a deal – look at the sides of a cooking pot:
And see the “clean” hands of the cooks?
But at least those guys will have hot soup. Most will have to eat their food on the run, whatever they got:
Actually, this lifestyle is what prevents many potential militants from going into the forest. Those that leave are usually already involved, and flee to the country when they realize they’re about to get nabbed. At this point, their choices are limited – prison, or a dugout.
The dudes understand all these problems. Once, they even decided to shoot a “commercial” of how they feast. Like, “we want for nothing, and live like kings”. Alas, the idea has ended in failure.After a few days, both the camera operators and the actors saw the end of their worthless existence. Oh well, at least they didn’t die starving.