Military Review

Child Soldiers: Yesterday and Today

Child Soldiers: Yesterday and TodayTens of thousands of young militants take part in armed conflicts.

In 1212, two decades after the Knights of the Crusaders lost Jerusalem, a boy named Stephen appeared in a French village, who called himself the messenger of God and said that everyone who was eager for the Holy Sepulcher was a sinner, and a shrine only children will get, for their faith is pure and they don’t know sin. The message swept through France in an avalanche, and soon the roads were filled with crowds of juvenile "liberators" of the Holy Land.

The children went to the sea, they died from hunger and disease, became victims of the robbers and, probably, everything would have died if the merchant had not caught them, who had sworn that he would send all the minor crusaders to Palestine for the sake of God's reward. Kommersant actually delivered them to Marseille, loaded them into the port on seven ships (two of them would later die on the way), but brought ... to Egypt, straight to the slave market.

In the same year, driven by the same great goal, tens of thousands of little Germans came out of the Lower Rhineland regions of Genoa under the leadership of nine-year-old Nikolai. They reached the coast, but the Genoese drove the children out of the city. Not having calmed down, the children went to Rome to ask the Pope for blessings and help for the fulfillment of the holy vow. Only a few got to the Eternal City, and Pope Innocent III - let us pay tribute to his wisdom - persuaded the children to postpone the fulfillment of the vow to adulthood.

The crusade of the French and German boys was, perhaps, the first in the world stories An example of a military enterprise in which children became soldiers. The situation repeated itself in a little over seven centuries.


In World War II, Hitler’s Germany already four years after it began began to experience an acute shortage of human material in all industries and in the army. The Nazis used a whole range of methods of replacing men called up by the Wehrmacht: the use of prisoners of war, the export of labor from the occupied areas, the forced recruitment of German women and teenagers to work in the workplace.

The autumn of 1943 initiated the campaign for the recruitment of under-age youth for military service. And the year 1944 was declared the “year of the volunteer”. But if at that time boys and girls were going to the Wehrmacht mostly without any hard pressure, then in January 1945, the leadership of the Hitler Youth announced an imperial conscription to the armed forces. Over 70% of 1928 youths of birth should have declared their readiness to join the army. 17-year-old boys and 18-year-old girls were sent to auxiliary units. From September 1944 to January 1945, the Wehrmacht was replenished with about a quarter of a million students yesterday.

Already in the midst of the collapse of the Nazi empire began to take a set of 14 – 16-year “volunteers”. Detachments were formed from them, which were charged with covering up the withdrawal of units of the Wehrmacht, committing sabotage acts in the rear of the forces of the anti-Hitler coalition, mainly Soviet forces. Hastily trained, unstretched, physically weak, without experienced guidance, these child soldiers were doomed to destruction. Despite the attempts of the massive use of parts of the Hitler Youth, they were somehow incapable of somehow reversing the disastrous situation at the front.

This naturally begs the question: did the children in the Red Army fight on a regular basis during the Great Patriotic War? Not. True, it is known that in many divisions there were so-called "sons of the regiments". These were mostly boys picked up by soldiers on the roads of war. Hundreds and even thousands of teenagers joined guerrilla groups, underground organizations.

The Great Soviet Encyclopedia contains such information: military orders and medals in 1941 – 1945 show feats over 35 in thousands of pioneers. And how many of them did not receive any awards? So, though not on a formal basis, not in special children's units, there were quite a few Soviet child soldiers on the Great Patriotic War.


Since then, more than 60 years have passed. However, both the media and international observers have recently increasingly documented the participation of young people under 16 in armed conflicts in many regions of the world. There is quite reliable information provided by the United Nations Children's Fund on the presence of 10 – 12-year-old soldiers in some places, including boys and girls. Over the past decade, 2 million children have died in various hot spots in the world, and 6 million more have been seriously injured or have become disabled. Among those killed and maimed are at least half a million juvenile "warriors." According to the Foundation, they are still involved in combat operations in Colombia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Chechnya ...

However, the worst situation is in the countries of Central and West Africa: every tenth child there is a member of one or another armed group. Today, only in the Democratic Republic of the Congo, more than half of the personnel of all military formations (30 thousand) are minors. Such “fighters” in early August of last year in Monrovia, the capital of Liberia, stormed the city port, occupied by rebels. Earlier in Burundi, a detachment in which there were more than a hundred young soldiers attacked the capital of the country, and almost 50 of them were killed or injured.

In an atmosphere of unrest that has engulfed Uganda, the children of the adult leaders have become central figures in a whirlwind of murder and violence sweeping across the country. weapon. The eighteen-year standoff between the Lord’s Resistance Army and the government forced 1,6 million Ugandans (half of them children) to seek refuge in refugee camps from incessant attacks and killings. Attacks on unprotected civilian objects continue, and they are committed by completely “green” militants who are much younger than their victims.

The most disturbing aspect of the internecine strife in Uganda is the fact that it is a war of children against children: almost 70% of the “Lord’s Resistance Army” thugs are teenagers, some of whom are only eight years old. They are captured during raids on defenseless villages, subjected to savage treatment, and then they are forced to commit atrocities against those abducted as they are, even their own brothers and sisters. Those who try to escape are killed. From the beginning of the rebellion in the 1980s, a similar fate awaited about 30 thousand children. Moreover, this figure is growing rapidly: in the last 18 months alone, 10 thousands of boys and girls were kidnapped: they were then turned into soldiers, porters, or “wives” of the rebels.

The United Nations Children's Fund called on the leadership of the Tigers of Tamil Eelam Liberation - the separatist movement in Sri Lanka - to abandon the practice of recruiting adolescents into military units. However, after the adoption of the cease-fire agreement in 2002, 5400 children joined the ranks of the Tamil militants. And over the past six months, the number of minors admitted to the military units of the Tigers, although it has decreased from 110 to 40 people per month, but the recruitment continues to this day. During the same period, only 90 people were released. Recall that the number of combat units "Tigers", according to some sources, exceeds 10 thousand people. Thus, children under the age of 15 make up almost half of their personnel.

There is not even approximately reliable data on the participation of children in terrorist operations that are being conducted in Iraq, in Israel and in Chechnya. There, after all, the method of attack with the help of Islamic suicide bombers became widespread. And since it is easier to prepare children morally, turning them into religious fanatics, that is, there are quite real fears that this kind of use of children will increase.

The mass participation of children in hostilities became possible as a result of the development and cheapening of light and easy-to-use automatic weapon systems (recalling, for example, the Kalashnikov assault rifle or the M-16 automatic rifle). Due to its availability over the past 10 years, the number of young fighters has increased, and their average age has decreased. In addition to a rifle or machine gun, adolescents often receive nothing more, but after completing a rigorous course of training, they successfully fight on a par with adults. Child soldiers lose the concept of the value of human life and become effective and disciplined performers. At the same time, the use of young militants is economically very profitable. Thus, the International Labor Organization reports that, for example, in Central Africa, 94% of underage "soldiers" do not receive any monetary compensation at all.

There are many public organizations in the world, whose direct task is to put up a fight against this evil - the transformation of children into cannon fodder. It is enough to name the UN Children's Fund, the Coalition for the Prevention of the Use of Child Soldiers, which includes Amnesty International, Human Rights Watch, the Society for Jesus Catholic Order for Refugees, the Quaker United Nations Office and others. The result of their actions was the Optional Protocol to the Convention on the Rights of the Child, prohibiting the use of children in armed groups. But this document is actually just another statement of intent. He is not provided with any instruments of pressure on countries and organizations for which juvenile “warriors” are common nowadays.

“Children continue to be used as infantry, porters, sentinel, and sex slaves,” said Casey Kelso, Coalition Coordinator, recently. He believes that with each new conflict, the problem only becomes more acute. In a statement, the Coalition also noted that from 111 countries that signed the Protocol, only 46 undertook the law to ensure its implementation. It is symbolic that these countries belong to a civilized community, in the armed forces of which there are no children.

The rest of the 65 states belong to the third world, where the presence of juvenile soldiers is the rule, not just blatant facts. Thus, even formally, today, in the twenty-first century, there is no international law punishing those who drive children into warring units. And there they are on the whole dying or turning into cripples - physical and moral.

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  1. Trance
    Trance 14 September 2012 09: 16
    My comrade served in Angola when they drank together, told different things, including about children 12–13 years old who were easily controlled with our Kalash, and even today it is like that. It is sad when children and children do not.
  2. JonnyT
    JonnyT 14 September 2012 09: 49
    Children are the flowers of life! What a life such and children! This is wrong, although the whole story of children fought as adults when the question of survival is raised!
  3. Sasha 19871987
    Sasha 19871987 14 September 2012 09: 54
    it’s scary when instead of toys the child has machine guns in their hands and they’re not killing for fun, but in real life ... yes, the terrible 20th century made its own corrections ....
    1. Captain Vrungel
      Captain Vrungel 14 September 2012 12: 48
      Already not the first generation of children of Afghanistan grows up instead of a toy, with a real Kalashnikov assault rifle.
      Childish maximalism, a conviction of his innocence, perseverance, fearlessness, aggressiveness, cruelty are often beyond reasonable.
      Who was behind the river, can give many examples of how the boys "partisans" a little taller than a machine gun.
  4. Skavron
    Skavron 14 September 2012 09: 58
    During WWII, Soviet children stood at their looms. And I do not think that 12 hours at the machine, for a 14-year-old teenager this is easy. They died there too. And from hunger, and from fatigue, and from industrial injuries and from the bombs of German bombers.
  5. JIGIT
    JIGIT 14 September 2012 10: 22
    ... AND AT THE BEGINNING OF THE XXI CENTURY .......................................... ..................................

    According to the Foundation, they are still involved in military operations in Colombia, Sri Lanka, Turkey, Chechnya ...

    They (Chechnya) have long been a model republic in the North Caucasus, they have peace and quiet in the Republic !!! So the author was mistaken for ten years !!!
      ALPETSEM 14 September 2012 15: 51
      And again, writing about Chechnya as a separate state is somehow not comme il faut ...
    2. klew
      klew 17 September 2012 10: 14
      wrong, exactly. The Liberation Tigers of Tamil Eelam have long ceased to fight. We scattered.
  6. The gentleman
    The gentleman 14 September 2012 10: 46
    what to say, it’s unpleasant when the same guys are running around and it’s scary that no one will steal it and turn it incomprehensibly into someone while walking.
  7. scrabler
    scrabler 14 September 2012 10: 54
    The mass participation of children in hostilities became possible as a result of the development and cheapening of light and easy-to-use automatic weapons systems.

    No, not because of this, the weapon is just never to blame for anything, those who give these weapons to children, who wash their heads are to blame. In the end, no matter what the war is, let even really for the liberation of the native land from the invaders, the participation of children in it is unacceptable! Even in adults, men who have already become stronger in their brains, the psyche surrenders, what then to say about children and what will be their future?
    1. Green
      Green 14 September 2012 11: 15
      Quote: scrabler
      Even in adults who have already grown stronger in the brains of men, the psyche gives up what to say about children and what will be their future?

      It may be all just completely wrong. Children's psyche is not as static as in an adult, a mature person. So ... everything can be completely different.
      1. scrabler
        scrabler 14 September 2012 11: 21
        I can not disagree, but when a child learns to kill from childhood and considers it to be the norm, how do you think how often will he use these skills later, in any case, which will bring him out of himself in peacetime, unless of course he lives to him . Childhood should be childhood.
        1. Green
          Green 14 September 2012 11: 29
          Quote: scrabler
          I can not disagree, but when a child learns to kill from childhood and considers it to be the norm, how do you think how often will he use these skills later, in any case, which will bring him out of himself in peacetime, unless of course he lives to him . Childhood should be childhood.

          I absolutely agree that childhood should be childhood. I don’t argue with that. I'm talking about something else.
          The fact that the child's psyche and the psyche of an adult are different. And what can "rip off the coils" of an adult is not at all the fact that it will rip off a child.
          1. scrabler
            scrabler 14 September 2012 11: 51
            As I wrote above, I agree. Since we have already touched on this topic, then one moment is missed in the article. Children with weapons are also a strong demoralizing factor for the enemy, because not every adult will be able to shoot a child, even if he understands "either you or you." And even the one who fires it is still unknown how he will perceive what he did. The only question is the price of such "superiority", because in fact it makes the whole generation not the most healthy psyche. After all, no one will argue with the fact that only a few surviving children, despite a more flexible psyche, will be able to adapt to a peaceful life. So even if you look not from the standpoint of morality (I wrote about my attitude to all this above, but now they will cast aside minuses), but from a purely practical point of view, it is still in no way justified.
  8. itr
    itr 14 September 2012 10: 55
    About Kampuchea in the article missed
    This year in Cambodia there was that passion on telling
  9. Footmansur86
    Footmansur86 14 September 2012 10: 59
    The worst thing is that the children, due to incompletely formed values ​​and psyche, are insanely aggressive and ruthless, and a large proportion of the killing of civilians in the same Africa lies on their shoulders, for them it is a fun game, like for example we hunted with slingshots birds, while not particularly experiencing pity for them, just like they prey on people, and treating this as entertainment.
    1. scrabler
      scrabler 14 September 2012 11: 17
      Do not believe it, never shot birds at toads and did not inflate frogs, although there were also slingshots and bows and pneumatics. My father once explained that they were also hurt, that maybe somewhere they have chicks who will be doomed to death by starvation, showed how to shoot at the targets with compasses drawn (there was no printer in each apartment then) and this wasn’t more interesting for me, Yes, and now remains a favorite entertainment, because there is a result that is constantly growing. First, in a straight line, and then I learned to make some corrections from the same MP-512. smile He even tried his bullets to do what finally killed the already not the newest rifle)))
      To instill a culture of handling weapons to children is not only possible, but necessary, even with primitive pneumatics. But not only in the key shot-hit, but also to explain that these skills are needed only in the most extreme case, that aiming at even a joke, and even less shooting at a living creature just for fun is not good.
    2. Novosibirsky
      Novosibirsky 14 September 2012 21: 13
      Quote: Footmansur86
      The worst thing is that children, because of not fully formed values ​​and psyche, are insanely aggressive and ruthless,

      As far as I remember the subject, it is called "fragmentary cruelty". And the most amazing thing is that it's absolutely normal ... This kind of cruelty is situational, suddenly appearing and passing. Thus, the child learns the world. At the same time, the child does not experience any emotions at all. No joy, no compassion. The latter, less often the first, may come later, after the deed.
  10. Shooter308ful
    Shooter308ful 14 September 2012 12: 27
    The quote from the article "Hitlerite Germany, four years after it began, began to experience an acute shortage of human material" - directly the words of Satan.
    This is shown a piece from the mosaic so that people forget their human continuation of a kind through their children. Aggression was cultivated, and not love for one's neighbor, for one's family (not for homosexuals and leisbians), for one’s nation, for one’s big and small motherland, for the nations of the world.
    And this diabolical mosaic is put together around the world by those who rule the United States (not the peoples of America, but those who really rule). Those who really rule the United States and are a hotbed of all kinds of conditions for the scum to flourish, which is aimed at the extermination of the Human race: from the family - the propaganda of the fagot-Leysbian way of the family, not creating, but the consumption way of life of everyone, before the decomposition, and after the destruction of entire nations , through all kinds of abolition of statehood in them and the creation of a poorly managed, fed human herd, here's a fresh example for you in Libya, so to speak.
    The current real rulers of the United States really need such a world, such a world order on our Earth. Question: Do the peoples of the Earth need such peace so that children become killers and cripples and other human dirty tricks with all the ensuing consequences?
    I’ll answer, of course, no one from the people needs it.
    How to deal with this evil of the world?
    To look at what is being done from the perspective of continuing the Human race to everyone and not to succumb at times to very sweet sentences.
    Here is one example cited above: can a pair of homosexuals continue their clan. The answer, maybe if you seduce one of the still healthy children.
    Or is phosphoric acid very useful, even in small quantities, for the child’s body and just for an adult, so widely advertised and having almost step-by-step availability in drinks: Coca-Cola and other delicious Poisons.
    Or if we come to public relations: how to evaluate the actions of prostitutes from a gathering called with translation into Russian "Rebellious vaginas, or rather pussies" And we are very actively through the media, our and especially Western impose their positive way of action and, as a result, life ...
    People!!! Look at things as I said above and you will have no doubt what is right and what is not for each person as a whole, and society and our State in particular.
  11. Andrei
    Andrei 14 September 2012 14: 10
    Again, at the expense of the psyche of children, the instinct of self-preservation is almost no fear, but the child still does not understand what death is. A blood, a killed friend or enemy, so in some cases it’s even easier than for adult men .... I recently watched a program like that airsoft game between the children’s team from 13 to 17 years old and the Special Forces of VV ... guess who won ?? children! VVshniki themselves said that for children this is a game and they don’t understand that they could die if they went to war ... as well as during hostilities ... but about the people who profess Islam, they also marry girls at age 13 and it’s in the order of things ... and it is believed that every man is a warrior ... if you are not a warrior then you are not a man ... maybe not everywhere but for many ... + children repeat everything they see that father or older brother with weapons ... and they also want to be the same, although subconsciously they don’t understand what they are doing ... so those who purposefully arm children act in practice (no matter how wild it sounds) if they were also trained normally they would be perfect soldiers at all - at this age everyone thinks that death is something unrealistic and this will not happen to them ... these are many knowledgeable people confirm .... another thing is what will happen to their psyche ... sorry for children deprived of childhood .....
    1. biglow
      biglow 14 September 2012 20: 11
      this phenomenon has another side, like many in our world. It is difficult to feed children in large families, and this is one of the solutions to this problem. There are no strong ones who survive. Nature always finds ways to control the number of populations and their survival under different conditions
      1. Karlsonn
        Karlsonn 15 September 2012 01: 23
        I do not agree.
        Here is a matter of chance, I will give examples from extremes:
        - the child is an orphan, grew up with an alcoholic grandmother, like me from 76, now a successful banker who plays football on Saturdays with his childhood friends;
        - a child from a major Soviet family, the house is a full bowl, the attitude of parents is exemplary, - 12 years of strict regime, he will notice from strong people;
        - not long ago I learned that a nerd from my class is a successful officer in Israel - I still can’t believe it belay .
        concept -
        Quote: biglow
        The strong survive the weak no.

        very relative, what does it mean to be a strong person? - moral-volitional qualities? I personally saw and more than once how very mediocre personalities in everyday life showed almost feats under extreme circumstances, and people who demonstrate firmness on an ongoing basis, well there training-competitions-fights in extreme situations turned into hysterical mess; everything is very ambiguous wink .
    2. Karlsonn
      Karlsonn 15 September 2012 01: 03
      Sorry for the intrusion, -
      Quote: Andrew
      .... recently watched the program so there they had an airsoft game between the children’s team from 13 to 17 years old and the Special Forces of VV ... guess who won ?? children! VVshniki themselves said that for children this is a game and they do not understand that they could die if they got to the war ...
      - the soldiers lost because they acted like soldiers, the strike is not much different, very close, but different, even though airsoft was born to train the military, it still has its own characteristics, I’m not talking from the flashlight, there is a fighter in your team who fought in real life does not mean his successful actions in the game.
      I completely agree with the conclusions, I judge from my personal experience (I saw what I did) that children show the most terrible cruelty, any settings are easily overcome, there are no criteria, there are no criteria, in general those who give children arms should be against the wall without trial am

      Quote: scrabler
      Don’t believe it, I’ve never shot birds and frogs toad

      You are lucky, for the most part people have something to remember and what is ashamed of, street fights, slingshots, knives and the black nineties did not diversify children's leisure, amid the disappearance of pioneering, children's sports and the general decline in the country ... sad
      1. scrabler
        scrabler 15 September 2012 12: 46
        Well, I would not say that I grew up under a glass cap, too, everything happened, and there is something to be ashamed of, so everyone probably just instilled a love for animals
  12. cobra66
    cobra66 14 September 2012 15: 48
    In many "banana", unfortunately, this is the only way to make money
    1. Karlsonn
      Karlsonn 15 September 2012 01: 13
      Quote: Kobra66

      In many "banana

      one of the many reasons for avoiding social networks is for me not wanting to find out about those whom I knew and who are no longer from the sports movement, in my generation crime took too many, 20 years ago we essentially also had a banana war republics - miles sorry for my French - the radish time of accumulation of primary capital.
      Well, now they take their alcohol and drugs ...
      And about child cruelty - one YouTube can show a lot.