The article analyzes violent practices – dedovshchina – among the recruits of the Soviet Armed Forces, which became commonplace during the late socialist period, but were not publicly discussed until the advent of glasnost’. By focusing on individual men’s testimonies, it intends to capture male experiences and interpretations of this phenomenon as well as the significance and value they attached to it in the context of their individual life scripts. The study is based on 20 theme-oriented interviews with young, recently demobilized men conducted in the framework of a sociological project in 1988/1989. They are interpreted with the help of a narrative analysis. Having experienced various forms of violence as army soldiers, the young men’s narratives embraced dedovshchina as a functional tool of self-organization within the otherwise dysfunctional military institution and stressed the values of endurance and maturation central to male identity. Considering the unprecedented concurrent discussion of dedovshchina in the Soviet media, which scandalized the phenomenon and raised moral and political questions concerning the state’s failure to secure the physical wellbeing of its soldiers, these testimonies attain additional significance. They demonstrate attempts to contest the stories and interpretation generated by the media and to reassert individual morality in the face of personal involvement in practices now condemned as wrong.