New System for Citizens’ Preparation for Military Service

Problems of pre-conscription training of the youth that are a matter of concern of conscripts-to-be and their parents have always been widely discussed in mass media, but lately the debates on the issues mentioned have made a new turn1.

According to the Decree of the Government of the Russian Federation from February 3, 2010 No 134-r “Concept for the federal system of citizens’ preparation for military service in the period of up to 2020” has been approved. As it is stated in the document, one of the reasons of the concept adoption is “a considerable increase in the requirements to the quality of citizens preparation for the military service”, caused by transfer from two-year service to one-year. The “creation of conditions for the guaranteed recruitment of the RF Armed Forces, other kinds of army, military units and bodies by citizens prepared for this both physically and morally, motivated to carry out military service” is claimed to be one of the goals.

According to the Concept, the basic factor defining the ability of a citizen to do a military service is the “condition of his physical development and health”, moreover the “low indices of citizens’ health” have a negative impact on the level of combat readiness and strength of the military units. That is why in the period of up to 2020 it is suggested to intensify the work on involving the youth into sport, physical education, and improvement of health care of the citizens. Military and patriotic education is recognized as an important factor in recruiting to the Russian army.

The Concept suggests modernizing the whole system of preparation of the citizens to the military service. For instance, the system of the pre-conscription training of the citizens is supposed to start in schools, and physical development and patriotic and military education – in pre-school age. Besides, an identification card will be made to every citizen that is to be conscripted – an e-passport, in which “main parameters defining his real preparedness for military service are reflected”. Starting from 10 years and annually the monitoring of citizen’s health, physical and psychological development will be carried out. The state bank of the citizens to be conscripted will be formed.

One can only hail the fact that the RF Government has drawn attention to bad health of citizens and is taking measures to improve it. Introduction of e-passport can also be regarded positively. According to the chairwoman of the Union of soldiers’ mothers committees such a passport will allow a quick check of the conscript’s health and his readiness for military service. Intensification of patriotic and military work will also be beneficial for motivating young people to serve in the army. However, in our opinion there is one more factor influencing the decision to serve in the army.

The Concept mentions “low level of moral and psychological conditions of the majority of citizens connected with the lack of conscious motivation to do military service”. It is the social surveys that can give an answer to the question on the “lack of conscious motivation”.

According to the data of Levada-centre2, over the last ten years the proportion of people that want their sons, brothers or other close relatives to serve in the army went up from 13% to 34%. At the same time, starting with 2006 it is the violence against younger conscripts in the army, acts of harassment among servicemen, violence in the army that head the list of reasons why the military service is undesirable. One can hardly blame young people for the desire to avoid аn inadequate and uncontrolled thug for whom there is no justice. Besides, future conscripts are not only scared of a possibility to perish or get injured in a military conflict which is only natural but also the deprivation of rights and humiliation from outrank servicemen. This, together with scanty monetary allowance of a conscript, difficult living conditions (which are quite unnecessary for а combat training there being no war), makes clear that such a service cannot suit even a healthy young man.

The conviction that “years spent in the army are lost” is characteristic for no more than 10% of the surveyed and takes only the 7th place among the reason of why the service is not desirable. 

Thus, it is obvious that the problem of army recruitment concerns not only the health improvement and sport training of conscripts-to-be, but also in the improvement of conditions of their service and, what is the most important in our opinion, the respect to the conscripts’ human dignity. The military service is aimed at improving the defense of the country not at the humiliation of the youth. And it is this very apprehension that instead of doing combat training they will be a toy for an old-timer or lose a year building country-houses for generals for free   that p[lay the most important role in forming of reluctance of the young people to do a military service and not the difficulties combined with it. Is not it better than to try to reinforce some order in these issues and make the service more attractive for conscripts as well and not to introduce a choke hold for the growing male population of the country? This would be a guarantee for recruitment of the army.

Trofimova E.V. - Senior Research Fellow, Department for Military Economics,

1 Kukolevsky A. Soldiers will be sought in maternity hospitals // Kommersant-Vlast (in Russian), March 1, 2010