Conscription in Russia
Conscription in Russia is presently 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
Imperial Russian Army
The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of around 938,731 regular soldiers and 245,850 irregulars . Until the time of military reform of Dmitry Milyutin in...

 were called "recruit
Army recruit
Recruit or army recruit is a term often colloquially used to refer to the lowest military rank in various armed services. It usually implies that the soldier so labeled has not yet completed basic training....

s" in Russia (not to be confused with voluntary recruitment
Recruitment refers to the process of attracting, screening, and selecting qualified people for a job. For some components of the recruitment process, mid- and large-size organizations often retain professional recruiters or outsource some of the process to recruitment agencies.The recruitment...

, which did not appear until the early 20th century). The system was called "recruit obligation" .

Russian tsars before Peter maintained professional hereditary musketeer corps (streltsy
Streltsy were the units of Russian guardsmen in the 16th - early 18th centuries, armed with firearms. They are also collectively known as Marksman Troops .- Origins and organization :...

 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
Imperial Russian Army
The Imperial Russian Army was the land armed force of the Russian Empire, active from around 1721 to the Russian Revolution of 1917. In the early 1850s, the Russian army consisted of around 938,731 regular soldiers and 245,850 irregulars . Until the time of military reform of Dmitry Milyutin in...

 built on the German model, but with a new aspect: officers not necessarily from nobility
Nobility is a social class which possesses more acknowledged privileges or eminence than members of most other classes in a society, membership therein typically being hereditary. The privileges associated with nobility may constitute substantial advantages over or relative to non-nobles, or may be...

, 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.

After the Russian defeat in the Crimean War
Crimean War
The Crimean War was a conflict fought between the Russian Empire and an alliance of the French Empire, the British Empire, the Ottoman Empire, and the Kingdom of Sardinia. The war was part of a long-running contest between the major European powers for influence over territories of the declining...

 during the reign of Alexander II
Alexander II of Russia
Alexander II , also known as Alexander the Liberator was the Emperor of the Russian Empire from 3 March 1855 until his assassination in 1881...

, the Minister of War Dmitry Milyutin
Dmitry Milyutin
Count Dmitry Alekseyevich Milyutin was Minister of War and the last Field Marshal of Imperial Russia...

 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.

Early decades

The first all-union conscription law of 1925 was tailored for the mixed cadre-militia structure of the peacetime Red Army
Red Army
The Workers' and Peasants' Red Army started out as the Soviet Union's revolutionary communist combat groups during the Russian Civil War of 1918-1922. It grew into the national army of the Soviet Union. By the 1930s the Red Army was among the largest armies in history.The "Red Army" name refers to...

 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
1936 Soviet Constitution
The 1936 Soviet constitution, adopted on December 5, 1936, and also known as the "Stalin" constitution, redesigned the government of the Soviet Union.- Basic provisions :...

 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 1930-s.

During the Great Patriotic War (WW2) all able-bodied men of ages 18-? 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
Soviet Armed Forces
The Soviet Armed Forces, also called the Armed Forces of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics and Armed Forces of the Soviet Union refers to the armed forces of the Russian SFSR , and Soviet Union from their beginnings in the...

 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
Military education in the Soviet Union
There existed an evolved system of military education in the Soviet Union that covered a wide range of ages.-Late Soviet Union:All able-bodied males obtained basic and specialized military training during obligatory 2-3 year male draft....

 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.

Russian Federation

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
The Russian people are an East Slavic ethnic group native to Russia, speaking the Russian language and primarily living in Russia and neighboring countries....

 of conscript age tries to avoid conscription, mostly because of specific code of violence which has developed in the army since 1967 called Dedovshchina
Dedovshchina is the name given to the informal system of subjection of new junior conscripts, formerly to the Soviet Armed Forces and today to the Russian armed forces, Interior Ministry, and FSB border guards, as well as the military forces of certain former Soviet Republics, to brutalization...

 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
    Academic degree
    An academic degree is a position and title within a college or university that is usually awarded in recognition of the recipient having either satisfactorily completed a prescribed course of study or having conducted a scholarly endeavour deemed worthy of his or her admission to the 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
    Off the grid
    Off the grid may refer to:*Off-the-grid, housing not connected to public utilities*Off the Grid , the first single from the Beastie Boys album The Mix-Up...

    . 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 continous 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.

Further reading

  • "Russian Military Complains About 'Low Quality' of Recruits as Spring Draft Begins." Associated Press
    Associated Press
    The Associated Press is an American news agency. The AP is a cooperative owned by its contributing newspapers, radio and television stations in the United States, which both contribute stories to the AP and use material written by its staff journalists...

    . April 1, 2005. (Via Levis-Nexis).

External links

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