Soviet Navy - Conscription and Training
Military service in the Soviet Union was mandatory for all males reaching the age of 18, unless a medical discharge or educational deferment was granted. Under the 1967 Universal Military Service law, which reduced the length of required service by one year, young men entering the Navy had to serve two years in shore commands or three years aboard ship. The longer length of service for those at sea reflected the more specialized training required for ship-board personnel. In 1991, the seagoing conscription period was reduced to two years, which will adversely affect readiness and training on Soviet Navy ships.
Although Soviet law allowed women to be drafted in peacetime if they have medical or special training, and in wartime if they are needed to perform auxiliary or special duty, few women served in the military. Physically qualified women above age 18 may volunteer for the enlisted ranks, provided they have a minimum of eight years of education, single, and have no children. Similarly, women with advanced degrees or backgrounds in military-related civilian specialties may apply to become officers or warrant officers. But as career opportunities for wemen in the military are sharply restricted to select non-combat primarily medical, legal, administrative, and communications positions. Female officers, for example, are not allowed to attend higher naval schools, a virtual prerequisite for promotion into the senior ranks, and none serve in seagoing billets.
Preparation for military service in the USSR began long before youth are conscripted out of high school. In fact, the fundamental philosophical principles of the military were inculcated into a child from the time he began pre-school. In response to education reforms passed in 1984, Soviet children began their formal schooling at age 6 instead of 7 and embarked upon an 11- rather than 10-year program of state education. Moreover. Soviet children aged 6 through 14 were pressured to participate in extracurricular organizations (the Little Octobrists and Young Pioneers) which, while superperficially similar to the Cub Scouts or Boy Scouts. focus on political indoctrination and paramilitary training.
A more deliberate and undiluted program of pre-induction military training commenced at the end of nine years of schooling (normally at age 15). Coincident with a child's high school or vocational education, a Soviet youth at that time undertook 140 hours of basic military and weapons instruction, spread out over two years.
High school-aged children and young men and women aspiring to success in Soviet society join the Komsomol, or Young Commnist League, which further directs a youth's political and civic sensibilities. Finally, youth may take advantage of one the many clubs run by DOSAAF, the Voluntary Society of Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and the Fleet. DOSAAF is a defense-patriotic organization offering training in paramilitary activities such radio operating, diving, mechanics, and parachuting: its popularity is derived in part from its predominant control over state recrearational and athletic facilities. While this system of preparing youth for military service had worked well in the past, it had been affected by the myriad of changes ongoing in the Soviet Union, and its effectiveness has been greatly impaired.
Despite the colossal, centralized effort aimed at preparing Soviet youth for military service, suffers from serious deficiencies, as even the Soviet press indicates. Perhaps it is not surprising that a country encompassing about 60 nationalities and speaking some 100 official languages is beset by widespread illiteracy in the Russian language, racial discrimination, anti-semitism, xenophobia, and technical backwardness. Soviet military officials compensate for these shortfalls by several methods including: (1) preserving a Slavic officer corps: (2) in general relegating non-Slavic, poor Russian-speaking personnel groups to non-combat unessential positions: and (3) emphasizing strict, repetitive training in basic skills. For all the problems incurred by the state apparatus for pre-induction training, there is little doubt that its universal indoctrination acts as a cohesive force in the USSR and prepares So\iet youth for mandatory military service.
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