All the promises we make – activists suggest changes to military oaths

Ceremony of taking the oath (RIA Novosti / Valery Titievsky)
Russia’s Public Chamber – a board of human rights activists and advisers that works closely with the authorities – has suggested changing the military oath of enlistment, replacing the word ‘swear’ with the word ‘promise’.

The proposal was made so that the ritual does not contradict the religious views and ethnic particularities of a significant number of military servicemen, reports the Izvestia daily quoting the Public Chamber’s official recommendations to the Parliament, Presidential Administration and the Defense Ministry.

The recommendations apparently refer to the Gospel which forbids Christians to both break their oaths and to swear by anything.

The authors of the proposal claim that something similar existed in Tsarist Russia where Russian Orthodox Christians could use the phrases “I promise” or “I swear by God” in the official oaths if they wanted to.

The Defense Ministry said it is ready to change the regulations if Parliament passes the corresponding amendments to the Law on Military Service.

The current Russian oath of enlistment was adopted in 1998 as part of the Federal Law on Military Service. Its text is universal for all citizens.

Russian military bosses are currently attempting to re-introduce the institute of military priests or chaplains in the Forces. The initiative was first supported by then-President Dmitry Medvedev in July 2009 at a meeting with the leaders of Russia’s main religions. In August 2010 a special department for work with the religions was set up in the Defense Ministry and its newly appointed head estimated the share of religious servicemen in the military forces as about 63 percent, most of them Christians.

The department’s work resulted in the forces got the first military priests, appointed personally by the Defense Minister and the Patriarch of the Russian Orthodox Church in 2011.