Ditching imperious ambitions to dodge military conscription – a message from the masses

By David E. Kaplan

It’s a war about nothing,” said the Russian father supporting his young son on his shoulders to CNN on the Georgian side of the border with Russia.  He was one among the throng of refugees escaping their “Mother Russia” to avoid conscription. As one gleans in interviews with one fleeing eligible Russian soldier after another, they “hate” this war but feel powerless to stop it.

Protests against President Vladimir Putin’s partial mobilization order are spreading across Russia, including to the far east, as many young men are fleeing the country. CNN correspondent Nick Robertson reports. #CNN #News

Evgeny, a 28-year-old photographer from Moscow, who walked the last 20 kilometres to the Georgia-Russia border crossing at Verkhny Lars to avoid the huge traffic jam of vehicles trying to cross, told CBC News that:

 “People are fleeing under very dire circumstances; many are saving their lives. They do not want to fight in this imperialistic, pointless war.”

Russians on the Run. People walk next to their cars queuing to cross the border into Kazakhstan at the Mariinsky border crossing, about 400 kilometers (250 miles) south of Chelyabinsk, Russia, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2022. Officials say about 98,000 Russians crossed into Kazakhstan in the week since President Vladimir Putin announced a partial mobilization of reservists to fight in Ukraine. (AP Photo)

For George Vatsadze, who crossed with his brother and his dog carrying only a bag with a few clothes, it was personal. It does not get more personal than family. With a Ukrainian grandmother and cousins living in Ukraine, this marketing professional had “no choice,” he said. “I can’t go there to fight.” 

Aware he was placing himself at risk by speaking to CNN, he nevertheless continued:

I think maybe about half of our population think the war is wrong, but they can’t stand up against it because it’s dangerous.”

As the CNN camara left George crossing into Georgia focusing on his disappearing back  – the ever-diminishing image left the viewer of a man leaving his home for good – never to return!

Putin causes Panic. Cars, walkers and cyclists at a border crossing between Russia’s North Ossetia region and Georgia after Moscow announced a partial military mobilization. (AP Photo)

These tragic unfolding human dramas playing out at Russia’s border crossings with Georgia, Finland and other areas, bear testimony to the hundreds of thousands of men  desperately trying to bolt before being dragged into fighting Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine.

This reminded me of the story of my grandfather Menachem Mendel Kaplan from Shadova (Šeduva ) in Lithuania then part of Tzarist Russia who was conscripted into the Russian army in 1904 and sent off on a troop train across Siberia to Vladivostok to fight in the Russo-Japanese War (1904-1905). As a Jew from a small shtetl, Menachem Mendel – later to be known as Max – was hardly interested in risking his life to further Russia’s rival ambitions with the Empire of Japan over Manchuria. So, before the train stopped at Vladivostok, he waited for it to slow, jumped off, ditched his rifle and uniform, walked to the port of Vladivostok and stowed away on an English steamer bound for Southampton. Had he been caught he would have been shot for desertion. For freedom, he was prepared to take the risk. He never reached England. Disembarking instead in Cape Town where he knew he had family, with his first steps in a land foreign in culture and language, began half the story of my family’s journey in South Africa and later in Israel.

Off the Beaten Track. A Trans-Siberian Railway train delivering supplies to Russian troops during the Russo-Japanese war. It would have been such a train that Menachem Mendel (Max) Kaplan jumped from when he deserted the Russian Imperial Army in 1904. (Ullstein Bild/Getty Images)

The Barb was right about ‘Much Ado About Nothing’. If ‘something’ is not done to stop Putin’s war of “nothing”, how many more men will ditch imperious ambitions to dodge conscription?


For the young father with the child on his shoulder, his thinking – not unlike my grandfather 120 years earlier “This is not my war”. It was Putin’s “pointless war”. With a total area of 17,098,242 Km² (6,601,665 mi²) and a land mass of 16,376,870 Km² (6,323,142 mi²), equivalent to 11% of the total world’s landmass of 148,940,000 Km² (57,510,000 square miles), Russia is the largest country in the world. It does not need Ukraine; rather Putin wants Ukraine, and is prepared that people die en mass in pursuit  of his imperial obsession.

Interestingly, one of Russia’s closest friends today is Iran as evidenced by Vladimir Putin’s recent visit to Tehran. It was the Russian leader’s first trip outside the former area of the former Soviet Union since his military invaded Ukraine. The Russian president’s first-choice visit reflects the importance he places on improving ties with the Islamic Republic, that itself today is facing civil unrest.

Irate Iranians. Despite Iran’s leadership curbing the internet, protests over the death of Mahsa Amini continued for a fifth day on Wednesday, including in the capital, Tehran.

As Russians protest and flee so too, are there protests taking place across Iran that while triggered by a young woman’s death in custody amid anger over religious rules, reflects as much a rejection of a state’s fossilized leadership that is dragging the country down.

No light at the end of the Tunnel. South Africans protest in November 2017 Eskom’s decision to cut electricity during the day by blocking the N6 highway between Aliwal North and Jamestown, Eastern Cape. 2022 the situation is WORSE!

It is little wonder that my former country South Africa supports Iran unequivocally as well as Putin’s aggression against Ukraine. South Africa too is going through its “Dark Ages”– quite literally as it even struggles  to provide daily electricity to its people.

Battling with the Basics. South Africa’s ANC government is unable to provide its citizens basic services.

What Russia, Iran and South Africa now overwhelmingly share in common is the increasing dissatisfaction of its people. Their leaderships are foremost a menace to their own people.

It’s time for regime change in all three failing states.

While the mission of Lay of the Land (LotL) is to provide a wide and diverse perspective of affairs in Israel, the Middle East and the Jewish world, the opinions, beliefs and viewpoints expressed by its various writers are not necessarily ones of the owners and management of LOTL but of the writers themselves.  LotL endeavours to the best of its ability to credit the use of all known photographs to the photographer and/or owner of such photographs (0&EO).