Memories of the Soviet militsiya: Vodka-test, recruting, and bonuses

Author : Hennadiy Moskal

Source : 112 Ukraine

Hennadiy Moskal, detective of Soviet police and former People's Deputy of Ukraine, on informal and formal practices in Soviet militia
13:00, 21 February 2018

Excerpts of an interview of an interview with Hennadiy Moskal. Read the full version here (in Ukrainian).

112 Agency

Working for the militsiya used to be something interesting and honorable. Moreover, the opportunities were infinitely different then.

Let us speak about vetting mechanisms of the militsiya. Its vital principle was “vodka does not give you any additional mental skills, vodka does not take away you any additional mental skills, vodka is a good test for your mental skills.”

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I came to the criminal investigation department (in the Chernivtsi region in the late 1970s, - Ed.), and there were 7 experienced employees who have been serving for some 20-25 years. Some of them even served in the anti-gangsters departments. And after some five or six days, they told me they say that they had a tradition, we owe a new guy a dilly bar. “Isn’t it vice versa?” I have asked them. But they replied that they had their own rules. So, they took out a glass, six or seven bottles of vodka, and an apple. And this is the best test of a person's mental state. When a person is drunk, some secret psychological qualities come to the surface. And the more you drink, the more folly comes to your head. I still cannot stand the smell of vodka. I have emptied the glass, and they cut an apple. In a while, I could not remember the amount of vodka inside of me. I just woke up at the district militsiya station on some kind of mat. The head of the criminal investigation said that they were taking me in. I replied that I just did not remember anything.  He said: “You just fell asleep. This is a normal, healthy reaction. You were not able to drink more, so you have just blacked out.” They did not hire those who went crazy, wanted to shoot, detain, check the dens, and fight in the restaurants. In the morning, they were told that militsiya is not for crazy people.

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I cannot say why, for example, I have been working in the criminal investigation for such a long time. The system gave the financial stimuli so that we could avoid corruption and have more desire to work. The man knew that if he detained a robber, he would get 40 rubles as a bonus. The bonus fund was very large then. The police chief had one supremacy, the head of the Criminal Investigation Department had up to two official salaries, the Minister of Internal Affairs of Ukraine had three or four official salaries, and the head of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR had the right to raise the higher ranks for meritorious services.

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The film "The meeting place cannot be changed" is closest to the reality. One of the Weiner brothers worked at the Moscow Institute of World History and wrote the book "The era of mercy." When the film was created, there were very good consultants. I studied at the Academy of the Ministry of Internal Affairs of the USSR and the prototype of Sharapov, Vladimir Arapov, taught us operational and search activities, he was one of the consultants. He says there were consultants for almost every episode. For example, why did Zheglov wear the Order of the Red Banner? This award was so honorable for the militia officer that today it cannot be compared even with the Hero of Ukraine. But such an award was given only for taking of an organized, armed criminal group, which shot, and the militsiya officer was killed or wounded.

We did not have such people in the region. We had one in the academy, he was in Afghanistan, he was firing back, beating off a large group of militants who attacked him; he was wounded and continued fighting. Then he was presented with the award. He was extremely respected. Today, these awards, which were distributed by the Ministry of Internal Affairs, they have value neither in society nor in the police itself.


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And about the bonuses. No one took any money then. It was not even necessary because you could not even buy something for this money. For example, only the employees of the criminal investigation department of the regional administration disclosed the murders. There were three of us, who were appointed as seniors. The professional level of the investigators was much higher, although people had no special education, no technical means, and no transportation. We went by trolley, bus, and hitch-hiking. Also, we flew on the An-2 plane along the region. The chief of the Internal Affairs Directorate could obtain two official salaries for the disclosure of the crime, which caused a great public reaction, and especially for the disclosure of double or triple murder, or if the killer provided armed resistance. Then the official salary was 150 Soviet rubles. All the bonuses had to be shared; 60% of this money you had to drink away in the restaurant together with your colleagues, but that 40 % could take home.

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