Conscription in Russia
|This article may be expanded with text translated from the corresponding article in the Russian Wikipedia. (September 2013)|
Conscription in Russia is a 12 month draft, mandatory for all male citizens age 18-27, with a number of exceptions. The mandatory term of service was reduced from 18 months at the beginning of 2008.
Russian Empire and earlier times
Prior to Peter I, the bulk of the military was formed from the nobility and people who owned land on condition of service. During wars additional recruiting of volunteers and ordinary citizens was common. Peter I introduced a regular army consisting of the nobility and recruits, including conscripts. The conscripts to the Imperial Russian Army were called "recruits" in Russia (not to be confused with voluntary recruitment, which did not appear until the early 20th century). The system was called "recruit obligation" (Russian: рекрутская повинность).
Russian tsars before Peter maintained professional hereditary musketeer corps (streltsy in Russian) that were highly unreliable and undisciplined. In times of war the armed forces were augmented by peasants. Peter I formed the Imperial Russian Army built on the German model, but with a new aspect: officers not necessarily from nobility, as talented commoners were given promotions that eventually included a noble title at the attainment of an officer's rank. Conscription of peasants and townspeople was based on quota system, per settlement. Initially it was based on the number of households, later it was based on the population numbers.
The term of service in 18th century was for life. In 1793 it was reduced to 25 years. In 1834 it was reduced to 20 years plus 5 years in reserve and in 1855 to 12 years plus 3 years of reserve.[chronology citation needed]
After the Russian defeat in the Crimean War during the reign of Alexander II, the Minister of War Dmitry Milyutin introduced a military reform, with its draft presented in 1862. As part of the reform, on January 1, 1874 , the statute about conscription was approved by tsar by which the military service was made compulsory to all males of age 20 and the term was reduced for land army to 6 years plus 9 years in reserve. This conscription created a large pool of military reserve ready to be mobilized in the case of war, while permitting a smaller active army during the peace time.
Only sons were not regularly conscripted to the army.
|This section requires expansion. (June 2008)|
Early Soviet Russia and Soviet Union
The first all-union conscription law of 1925 was tailored for the mixed cadre-militia structure of the peacetime Red Army after the Civil War. Draft-age was 21 years. Terms of service varied between one year in territorial formations and 2 to 4 years in the cadre army. Only "workers and peasants" were seen worthy to serve in combat units. Men of other social background were restricted to rear or labor services or had to pay a military tax.
The 1936 Soviet Constitution declared the military service "holy duty" of all male soviet citizens. Any reservations regarding social or national background were dropped. 1939 service law was promulgated with a lowered call-up age of 19 years. The Red army had adopted a full-cadre structure in the course of the 1930s.
During the Great Patriotic War (WW2) all able-bodied men of ages 18-51 were subject to draft with the exception of specialists declared vitally necessary in industry, which was revamped for military/defense production.
Post war demobilisation of the Soviet Armed Forces was completed in 1948. According to the 1949 service law, service terms were 3 years in ground forces and 4 years in the navy.
Late Soviet Union
The late Soviet Armed Forces were manned by mandatory draft (with some exceptions) for all able-bodied males for 2 years (3 years in the Navy), based on a 1967 law. A bi-annual call-up in spring and fall was introduced then, replacing the annual draft in fall. The conscripts were normally sent to serve far away from their place of residence.
Men were subject to draft at the age of 18. The draft could be postponed due to continued education.
Most universities had an obligatory Military Chair which were in charge of military training of all able-bodied male students to become reserve officers of a particular military specialty depending on the university.
The two-year conscription term in force since 1967 continued unchanged after the Soviet Union dissolved until the mid-2000s. In 2006, the Russian government and Duma gradually reduced the term of service to 18 months for those who will be conscripted in 2007 and to one year from 2008 and to drop some legal excuses for non-conscription from the law (such as non-conscription of rural doctors and teachers, of men who have a child younger than 3 years, etc.) from 1 January 2008. Also full-time students graduated from civil university and have military education will be free from conscription from 1 January 2008.
A significant portion of Russians of conscript age try to avoid conscription, mostly because of specific code of violence which has developed in the army since 1967 called Dedovshchina and also poor conditions in Russian Army, which makes large number of conscript-age Russian youth worry about their health or even lives while in the army. The most widely used ways to avoid the military service are:
- Studying in a university or similar place. All full-time students are free from conscription, but they can be drafted after they graduate (or if they drop out). Graduated students serve one year as privates, but if they have a military education, they have the option to serve two years as officers. Persons who continue full-time postgraduate education, or have an academic degree (Candidate of Science, PhD, Doctor of Science) are not drafted.
- Getting a medical certificate that shows that a person is unfit for service. Quite often such certificates are false and can be made for a bribe.
- Just not going to a draft station – draft-dodging. This is a criminal offence, punishable by up to two years in prison, depending on the time spent dodging. Russian police and military draft boards often perform conscription through detention . Quite often the would-be recruit would avoid signing the papers that require to pass the board instead. Without that, the "invitation" is considered undelivered, and not showing up is not illegal. In practice, that means living a decade off the grid. This is countered by knocking the doors at 5 AM and having the recruit sign before he would become fully conscious.
- A rarely used way is having more than two children, or one child younger than three years. The latter was dropped from the law in 2008.
- There are other legal (described in the law) and illegal ways (sometimes pretty direct, such as bribing the military authorities to receive documents that confirm a served-out term) to evade the draft.
The Russian voencoms respond by using increasingly illegal means, referring to non-existent laws and acts, "losing" documents that jeopardize the chance of a conscript being deemed fit for duty, and continuous psychological pressure, with 2011 probably being the apex due to a low birthrate in 1993. Those that attempted a medical discharge and failed are often punished for their resistance by assigning them to the worst units and jobs possible, e.g. a conscript with a heart defect was forced to volunteer for contract frontline service because he almost died hulking around 50-kilo cauldrons several times every day, since his defect was 3 mm rather than 5. Voencoms are rumored (no other source is simply possible) to have established an unofficial bonus system for every conscript, especially if he was unfit for duty and yet conscripted.
In Russia, a person can be conscripted at the age 18 – 27, i.e. a man can't be drafted after he turns twenty-seven.
- "Russian Military Complains About 'Low Quality' of Recruits as Spring Draft Begins." Associated Press. April 1, 2005. (Via Levis-Nexis).
- Conscription through detention in Russia's armed forces
- Only eleven percent of Russian men enter mandatory military service.