Fear of battle

On March 3, 2022, the Law of Ukraine approved the Decree of the President of Ukraine dated February 24, 2022 No. 65/2022 "On general mobilization", and there is also a ban on men traveling abroad with the exception of several categories (such as single fathers, those parents with three or more children, disabled people, etc).

According to some investigative journalism, many men who want to leave Ukraine are trying to circumvent the ban, for example, to travel through Crimea, become a student at a foreign university, get a job as a volunteer driver or cross the border on foot.

According to the UN, the total number of people who have left Ukraine since February 24 is more than 9 million people, however, it is unknown exactly how many of them are men. At the same time, on March 1, the Ministry of Internal Affairs of Ukraine announced the return to the country of about 80 thousand men of military age, most of them after February 24, "to protect sovereignty and territorial integrity."

Most of the refugees from Ukraine in Europe were accepted by Poland and Germany. According to the statistics of the Polish border service, from February 24 to June 7 this year, 3.645 million citizens of Ukraine entered Poland, of which 432 thousand were men aged 18 to 60 years. From the end of February to June 19, 867,214 Ukrainian refugees were registered in Germany. In March, the German Interior Ministry conducted a survey and received the following data: 48% of those who arrived were women with children, 14% were women who arrived alone, 7% were men with children and 3% were men who arrived alone.

A general mobilization has not been announced in Russia, in addition, the press secretary of the President of the Russian Federation Dmitry Peskov denies the possibility of its announcement. 

Despite this, a large number of Russian citizens are ready to volunteer, and the Ministry of Defense talks about the courage, bravery and valor of our soldiers, such as Private Maxim Rodionov, who performed tasks as part of an assault group to open enemy facilities in enemy-controlled territory.

Moving through the area, he found the BTR-80, as well as a group of enemy infantry. Russian servicemen decided to join the battle, despite the numerical superiority of the enemy.

Rodionov pinned down the actions of the nationalists with aimed fire from small arms. Despite the fact that he was wounded during the battle, the private continued his combat mission. The serviceman personally destroyed five Ukrainian nationalists, and also took one prisoner.

This is just one example of the heroism of our soldiers.

But why is there such a difference in the behavior of military personnel? Why are some people fleeing the country, hiding, while others are resolutely rushing into battle? 

Despite such differences in the behavior of soldiers, they are guided by the same feeling - fear. Both are afraid. Fear is a natural reaction of any person to the military situation.

After the Second World War, West German scientific researchers, when studying the fear of military personnel, managed to find out that it was often the fear of being seen as a coward that forced the fighters to perform brave heroic actions. Thus, exploits were the result of fears. A fighter weary of fear preferred to rush to his death over the prospect of continuing to experience fear.

The results of research by experts in military psychology are statistics, according to which 30% of soldiers feel the greatest fear before the battle, 35% - in combat, 16% - after combat. The rest - before, during, and after combat.

Each person has his own limits of psychological stress, upon reaching which defensive reactions begin to dominate: attempts to hide, disguise themselves, dodge threats, escape, etc. Feeling affective fright, some of the military numb, not having the opportunity and strength to move, and some flee, often towards the source of the threat. In this state, the human psyche is controlled by its unconscious levels.

According to military psychologists, within 99% of the military feel fear in a duel, of which in 20–25% it is associated with nausea and vomiting, in 10–15% with an inability to control the functions of urination and the intestinal tract.

A number of symptoms of the fear of the military during the hostilities were reflected in the literature of writers who wrote the truth about the war, such as, for example, E. Zola, who described the events of the Franco-Prussian War of 1870-1871: “Maurice seized the insane fear. He was drenched in sweat, tormented by nausea, an irresistible need to run as fast as he could out of here and howl. Jean scolded him with harsh words, knowing that sometimes a man is given courage by a good kick. The other soldiers were also shaking. Pasha's eyes were full of tears, he involuntarily groaned softly, cried out like a small child, and could not help it. A misfortune befell Lapul: his stomach cramped so much that he dropped his pants before he could reach the neighboring wattle fence. The comrades laughed at him, began to throw handfuls of earth at him; his nakedness was left to bullets and shells. The same thing happened to many soldiers; they relieved themselves under general laughter, under a hail of jokes that gave everyone courage.

Military medicine singled out fear as the main symptom of a mental disorder during the war.

Of the clinical symptoms, the most common are palpitations, cold sweats, dry mouth, trembling in the limbs, throughout the body, urinary and fecal incontinence.

Fear interferes with productive personal and collective activity, has a number of negative consequences: the result of fear can be mass panic, flying army, in some cases - depression, loss of ability to reasonably and critically perceive reality, lack of initiative and passivity.

Specialists in military psychology of the United States conducted a study during which it was revealed that during the Second World War, only 25% of the fighters who fought in Western Europe in 1942-1945 were participants in active hostilities, and 75% avoided active participation. At the same time, only 15% of all those who were obliged to use weapons, based on the situation, used it, and only 10% showed at least some initiative.

A similar conclusion was reached by General J. Marshall, who at the end of World War II conducted a survey among servicemen who returned from the front. They found that only 30% of respondents actually used weapons against enemy soldiers.

American scientists explain such passivity by psychological factors, various forms and degrees of anxiety and fear.

Similar data were obtained in the course of later studies in the United States: during the Vietnam War, 80-90% of the participants in the battle experienced pronounced fear, only a quarter of the soldiers opened fire in battle out of fear. For the most part, fear is caused not only by the prospect of being killed – killing a person also causes fear in soldiers.

During the Great French Revolution, the military, whose duties included carrying out mass executions, could not overcome nervous tension and resisted, not wanting to shoot. For example, near Nantes, unable to restrain themselves, they tried to prevent the execution of their own commanders, despite the fact that their actions could be regarded as counter-revolutionary.

In the diary of Ulrich von Hassel, who participated at the beginning of the war on the Eastern Front, there is an entry dated August 18, 1941, about an officer who received an order to shoot 350 people. "At first [he] refused to do it, but he was told that it was a failure to comply with an order, after which he asked for ten minutes to think and finally did it." However, "he was so shocked by this that, having received a slight wound later, he firmly decided not to return to the front."

The fear of murder is equivalent to the fear of being sentenced to death. Military prosecutors went through such fear when they sentenced to death fighters who could not cope with their fear – it's scary to kill a person for being afraid of death.

It can be scary to watch others get killed. Nazi executioner Heinrich Himmler, during a visit to Minsk on August 31, 1942, ordered the execution of 100 prisoners of the local prison in his presence. When Himmler saw the result of the first shots, he almost fainted. When it turned out that two women were alive and needed to be killed, he had a nervous attack. Perceiving the manifestation of fear as weakness and vice, after this incident, he fought with particular ruthlessness with fear in himself and his subordinates.

During combat, one fear often gives way to another fear. So, the fear of dying is replaced by fear for the lives of fellow soldiers, the fear of death – the fear of appearing a coward, not following the orders of the commander-in-chief, etc. The actions and behavior of a soldier largely depends on which of the fears will eventually prevail.

Serviceman P.N. Krasnov wrote: "The main feeling that reigns over all thoughts in war, in anticipation of battle and in battle, is a feeling of fear, In war, under the influence of danger and fear, reason and will refuse to act." Because of this, military personnel can be encouraged to great deeds, as well as pushed to a stampede

In all military personnel, fear manifests itself in different ways. With a rigid form of fear, the face turns gray, the look goes out, they are in a daze and do not want to return to the situation that caused this condition in them.

L.N.Tolstoy described the so–called feverish passivity - a hidden form of fear characterized by senseless activity, with the help of which military personnel try to distance themselves from fear. The manifestation of this form of fear can lead to the disruption of the operation, since the commission of useless actions slows down the overall activity. This form of fear can manifest itself as the formation of working groups that make numerous phone calls and radiograms.

Among the types of fear, panic can also be distinguished. Panic, according to the definition of P.I. Izmestyev, is a collective fear in the highest form of horror, sometimes inexplicable, which engulfs the troops.

Panic can turn an army of the most disciplined soldiers into flight. P. N. Krasnov wrote that panic can occur either at the beginning of hostilities, since soldiers are in fear of the unknown, not having sufficiently understood the new situation, during which danger can be seen at every step, or at the end, after witnessing a brutal bloody battle.

The panic at the beginning of the Great Patriotic War was the result of a massive psychological shock experienced by soldiers when confronted with a powerful enemy force, and as a result, entailed a massive retreat of Soviet troops. Their actions were in contrast to the pre-war propaganda, slogans and stereotypes that were instilled in them before the battle.

Panic can be caused by something incomprehensible, such as, for example, the use of enemy troops of a new unknown type of weapon. For example, in the First World War, panic was caused by the use of tanks, submarines, etc., in the Second World War – sirens on bombers, radio detonators, etc. Zhukov used this observation in military operations – at the beginning of the Berlin operation, during a night attack by tanks and infantry, he used the light of a hundred searchlights, which not only blinded and disoriented the enemy, but also caused panic, because enemy soldiers decided that this was a new type of weapon unknown to them.

In most cases, panic is caused by:

1) Night military operations (fear increases due to darkness)

2) Defeat or heavy losses during the fighting, after which the morale of the soldiers is broken

3) At the beginning of hostilities, when imagination multiplies the really existing danger

4) Spontaneous actions of the enemy side contribute to panic,

5) Spreading rumors

6) Fatigue of fighters

Russian soldiers committed suicide in the middle of the Crimean War, 30  soldiers committed suicide from among the victors during the Franco-Prussian War, 186 cases of suicide among Russian soldiers and officers were counted in the Russo-Japanese War of 1904-1905, during the First World War - 5,000 soldiers committed suicide only from among the German troops.

There were cases of self-mutilation of soldiers who mutilated themselves in an attempt to stop feeling fear. The report of a military doctor dated August 15, 1942 describes the most common attempts to harm yourself –

1) sprains, bone fractures, which were achieved by passing a limb through the wheels of a car.

2) Pulling of the popliteal folds with a belt, as a result of which there was a blockage of veins, swelling of the legs.

3) shooting themself.

Some of them harmed themselves so that it would not be possible to call them to the front.

So, from Yaroslav Hashek's description of the conversations of patients in the hospital, potential soldiers used poison in order to spoil their health, turned to midwives to dislocate their leg. There were cases even when people injected kerosene under the skin on their own, which caused limbs had to amputate. Some poisoned themselves for a long time with tobacco smoke and water infused with tobacco. There were also attempts to get infected with venereal diseases, such as syphilis, which at that time was incurable. People preferred to rot alive than go to the front. There have been many deaths as a result of attempts to avoid the horrors of war.

After a while, the military adapt to fear due to severe moral fatigue, the soldiers become indifferent to the potential threat. This condition causes prolonged engagement in combat, when there is no opportunity for rest, vacation.

So, the feeling of a potential threat can no longer cause fear, but the excitement of the fight, curiosity. War and the sense of fear that military personnel experience in combat can change a person's character, turning a timid boy into a fearless warrior. At the same time, "fearless" does not mean that a warrior does not feel fear – it mean  is the strong-willed trait that helps overcome the feeling of fear.

Fear is blunted as the military are too busy performing their duties, they have no time to think about a potential threat. Fear escalates in battle and does not disappear in the intervals between battles, however, in an attempt to stop feeling fear, to stop thinking about death every minute, soldiers try to occupy themselves with daily army work.

Konstantin Simonov wrote about it this way: "If a person could have been killed yesterday, and if he miraculously escapes from death tomorrow, it doesn’t mean he won’t think about washing his underwear today; he will certainly think about it. More than that - He will swear if the laundry failed, completely forgetting at this moment that tomorrow he could be killed, no matter whether he wears his underwear clean or dirty. These everyday circumstances take away a person's time and moral strength. And this is not only not bad, but, on the contrary, wonderful, because without it a person would be completely occupied with thoughts of danger."

In ancient times, when showing fear and cowardice, "decimation" was applied to soldiers - the execution of every tenth. Later, soldiers who showed fear and cowardice could be quartered, put in stocks, cut off their ears or hands, and flogged. The officers risked being exiled in case of cowardice.

As mentioned above, panic can disorganize the most disciplined army. Therefore, panicked soldiers were shot. Moreover, the rest of the soldiers were ordered to shoot the alarmists in the back when the latter tried to escape from the battlefield. "If you're scared of an enemy bullet, you'll get your own!" 

As a warning of public panic, the commanders-in-chief (for example, General Grippenberg during the Russian-Japanese War) conducted explanatory conversations with soldiers so that they would not succumb to general excitement, in case someone, for example, suddenly screamed "enemy" or "Japanese" in dreams at night (this is enough to cause panic among colleagues sleeping nearby).

However, most often the military used harsh measures, guided by the principle "A soldier should be afraid of his superiors more than the enemy." So, there were cases of the surrender of a large number of soldiers during the First World War (not even during long sittings in the trenches, but a couple of months after the start of the war in July 1914), commanders ordered those who voluntarily surrendered to be brought to trial after the war and to shoot them as "vile cowards", "low parasites", "godless traitors", "unworthy of our brothers", "shameful sons of Russia", who have reached the betrayal of their own homeland. Attention was also focused on the fact that those who surrendered to the enemy would be reported at their place of residence so that relatives would know about the shameful act and benefits would not be issued.

One of the examples of the fight against panic during the Great Patriotic War are the orders of the Headquarters of the Supreme Command of the Red Army No. 270 of August 16, 1941 and the People's Commissar of Defense I.V. Stalin No. 227 of July 28, 1942, which is known as "Not a step back" , an order was used as pressure, according to which the families of soldiers those who violate the oath will be arrested.

On September 28, 1941, G. Zhukov issued a cipher message in which it was reported "To explain to all personnel that all the families of those who surrendered to the enemy will be shot and on their return from captivity they will also all be shot." 

The chief of Staff of the EDB, Field Marshal V. Keitel, signed an order dated February 5, 1945: "relatives for those Wehrmacht servicemen who, having been captured, commit high treason and for this, according to imperial laws, should be sentenced to death, are responsible for their property, freedom or life."

On the one hand, it would be more productive to try to treat them instead of using harsh repressive methods, like shooting, but during the war this is not possible – time and human resources are limited, because they tried to "cure" fear with fear.

Currently, various chemical stimulants (such as alcohol, narcotic substances), as well as psychological methods are used as ways to reduce the level of nervous tension in wartime, for example, as well as psychological methods – addressing commanders to their subordinates, conducting prayers, conversations with clergy. In addition,  motivational sounds are used – drum roll, bagpipes, bugle sound, etc. Slogans, inspiring shouts during the fighting ("hurrah", "banzai", etc.). Such methods are productive, due to the fact that they strengthen the general mood of a group of people, strengthen the morale of the entire army, soldiers feel themselves in a single attacking mass and fear recedes into the background.

To increase the combat capability and combat readiness of soldiers, it is necessary first of all to teach them to distinguish between real and fictional danger, to learn to soberly assess the situation and predict the results of a potential threat, and, accordingly, to choose actions that will be aimed at implementing common tasks. It is worth considering that training and combat operations, during which there is a real threat of death, are not the same thing, which is why it will not be possible to completely get rid of fear as a result of training.

At the moment when the army begins to panic, in order to stop it, the beginning of hostilities can serve as reserve formations in full view of those who were subjected to panic. Also, as one of the methods of suppressing fear is the demonstration of the battle banner in front of the panicked soldiers. However, with the help of this method, a positive result can be achieved in cases where soldiers have maintained a level of cohesion and have some combat experience.

In order to combat fear and panic, the national anthem, marches known in military march, songs that can affect the national psychological feelings of soldiers are often broadcast, loudspeaker devices are used.

To combat panic, it is also recommended to hand over letters, magazines, newspapers for reading, to read to groups of people heard letters from civilians about atrocities committed by soldiers of the enemy side, to organize hot meals and a healthy five-hour sleep, to conduct motivational conversations, giving examples of endurance, courage and courage.

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