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Soviet Naval Personnel - Discipline

There are several ways in which centralized control of the Soviet Navy was maintained. First, naval officers were selectively drawn from the urban, upper strata of Soviet society. They were carefully selected for their academic qualifications, family backgrounds, and demonstrated psychological stability and political reliability. Second, for most of the history of the U.S.S.R., the Party had a tight grip on the Soviet Navy. It was virtually mandatory for officers to hold membership in the CPSU, and an officer's career advancement depended upon loyal support to the political system. This effectively co-opted the most influential segment of the Navy, both in terms of leadership and operational skills, to the Party.

Third, in order isolated environments, both afloat and ashore, and to exert direct political control, a political a variety of overlapping legal, political and informal officer (Zampolit or "deputy commander for disciplinary systems political affairs") was assigned to all afloat and ashore naval units. His job was to assure that Soviet navymen received a constant flow of ideological indoctrination and supporting propaganda to motivate them to serve state interests unquestioningly and to work harder. This constant political focus provides an element of psychological control.

The KGB undoubtedly still ran a clandestine network of informants, either separate from or embedded in the party organization, to deter deviant political behavior. In consonance with Gorbachev's general policies of perestroika and lessening Party influence, however, the role of the Party and Zampolit was curtailed or modified. Soviet writings suggested that the Chief Political Directorate hadreorganized with functions of the political (State) supervision transferred from party to Ministry of Defense. By 1990, as the hold of the Communist Party over the fabric of Soviet society began to break down, the position and influence of the political officers throughout the Soviet armed forces was considerably diminished. There is no longer a requirement for a political officer to be aboard every ship at sea, and thus the full responsibilities of command are at last devolving on the officer corps of the Soviet Navy.

When compared to other services and the civilian population as a whole, the Soviet Navy appeared to have been particularly successful in its political indoctrination and training proggrams. While much of this success can be attributed to the generally high political reliability of personnel and an intensive political training program, several other factors were also involved. Compared to other services, the Navy, with its isolated environment afloat, had much stricter control of its personnel. Even personnel stationed ashore were isolated and had been assigned to locations well away from their native areas. Northern and Pacific Fleet bases are located in remote and desolate areas. Leave and liberty policies, especially for conscripts, also reinforce the isolated experience of Soviet naval personnel.

Discipline was further maintained through a variety of overlapping legal, political, and informal systems. Legally, for violations of regulations - including AWOL, dereliction of duty, and violations of communications security - local commanders could assign extra duty, deny leave, demote offenders, or sentence them to brigs much the same as the US Navy. For more serious offenses, such as theft of state property and assault, there is a legal entity, the Military Procuracy, which was charged with investigating crimes, charging servicemen, and instituting criminal proceedings. Military cases were heard by a military tribunal whose powers included the ability to sentence offenders to the brig, disciplinary battalions, labor camps, and internal exile.

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Page last modified: 01-02-2017 19:32:59 ZULU