Soviet Union Table of Contents
Under the 1967 Law on Universal Military Service, all male citizens must serve in the armed forces beginning at the age of eighteen. The conscription period for servicemen was two years except for sailors, which was three years. The 1967 law reduced the conscription period from three and four years, respectively, to provide more labor for the economy. A nationwide system of over 4,000 military commissariats (voennye komissariaty-- voenkomat; see Glossary) at the republic, oblast, raion, and city levels was responsible for conscription and veterans affairs. A voenkomat was accountable to the commander of the military district in which it was located. All males had to report to a voenkomat when they turned seventeen. The induction commission of the voenkomat gave potential recruits a physical examination and reviewed their school and DOSAAF training records.
Each year over 2 million eighteen-year-olds have reported to voenkomat induction commissions. They have reported in the spring and the fall depending on whether their birthdays were in the first or second half of the year. Based on quotas assigned by the General Staff's Main Organization and Mobilization Directorate, the voenkomat either assigned recruits to one of the armed services or granted deferments. Assignments were based on the physical attributes, education, skills, and political background of individual conscripts. The services that required technical abilities or high reliability, therefore, received conscripts with the highest qualifications. For example, the Airborne Troops accepted only recruits that had been fully trained in parachute jumping by DOSAAF. By contrast, the Ground Forces and the Rear Services have had to take less qualified inductees. Overall, however, 90 percent of servicemen have had a secondary education.
The voenkomaty granted about one-quarter of eighteenyear -old men deferments from service because of ill health or family hardship. Eighteen-year-olds were also exempted from service if they were enrolled in a higher education institution. They were required, however, to participate in the reserve officer training program of that institution. Those who had participated in such training programs could serve as little as a year of active duty after graduation. In 1982 education exemptions were restricted to those enrolled in a list of universities approved by the Ministry of Defense. Young men not conscripted into the armed forces at eighteen remained liable to induction until age twenty-seven. The number of men deferred and later conscripted was probably small, however. Deferments were reportedly obtained from some induction commissions for a bribe of 1,000 rubles. The practice has been common enough that the Law on Universal Military Service mentions punishment for granting illegal deferments. Soviet law did not provide for a conscientious objector status. In 1987, however, a pacifist group called Trust took advantage of Gorbachev's policy of glasnost' to protest compulsory service in the armed forces.
Data as of May 1989