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Soviet Union Table of Contents

Soviet Union

Premilitary Training

Military and physical fitness training began at the age of ten in the Pioneers. Their activities emphasized military-patriotic indoctrination, marching, and discipline. The Pioneers also guarded Soviet war monuments and participated in military sports games held every summer since 1967. In the games, children were divided into commanders, staff, and troops for maneuvers that simulated partisan warfare behind enemy lines. Teenagers, age fourteen and older, participated in more sophisticated military games.

When the terms of service for soldiers and sailors were reduced by one year in 1967, the government introduced general preconscription military training. The institution of preconscription training was designed to compensate for the reduced length of military service by providing basic military training prior to induction.

DOSAAF organized and conducted premilitary training for young men and women between the ages of sixteen and eighteen. In principle, every secondary or vocational-technical school, factory, and collective farm (see Glossary) in the Soviet Union had a DOSAAF organization. Millions of Soviet teenagers received 140 hours of instruction in military regulations, small arms, grenade throwing, vehicle operation and maintenance, first aid, civil defense, and chemical defense. This training enabled them to learn advanced military skills more quickly after conscription. The Soviet press has claimed that each year 75 million people are involved in over 300,000 DOSAAF programs nationwide. DOSAAF also had its own publishing house and monthly journal.

Each union republic had a DOSAAF organization headed by a chairman and a central committee. DOSAAF worked closely with the ministries of education and the state committees for physical culture and sports in the union republics; it also maintained close relations with the deputy commanders for premilitary training in the military districts. The Premilitary Training Directorate within the Ministry of Defense supervised DOSAAF, yet the DOSAAF budget was separate from that of the Ministry of Defense.

The best DOSAAF clubs were found in the Russian Republic, which includes 51 percent of the people and 75 percent of the territory. The clubs offered specialist training, such as skiing, parachute jumping, scuba diving, motorcycle driving, seamanship, flying, and radio and electronics maintenance, which were not available in other republics. Yet many DOSAAF organizations throughout the country lacked qualified or full-time military instructors. Providing time and facilities for DOSAAF training was an added burden on schools and factories. In 1989 the southern Soviet republics were often criticized in the military press for having poor premilitary training programs and sending unprepared recruits to the armed forces. One Western observer estimated that only half of Soviet troops actually received prescribed DOSAAF instruction prior to induction. Approximately one-third of all inductees, however, possessed a technical military specialty that they had learned in a DOSAAF club.

Data as of May 1989