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Hungary Table of Contents


Conscript Programs

Call-up consisted of three steps: obligatory premilitary training from January 1 of the year in which the future draftee turned seventeen; military registration at the District Military Replacement Center, where the registree received a medical examination and, if disabilities were found, was obliged to correct those disabilities capable of correction and continue premilitary training; and recruitment, at which time questions of medical fitness and service branch and unit assignment were resolved. Recruits underwent basic training for four weeks, then took the oath of allegiance. This process was followed by six months of specialized training for whatever task the recruits were to perform. They were then assigned to units. During all this time, the recruits also underwent ideological training.

Through political indoctrination, the military aimed at inculcating soldiers with a Marxist-Leninist worldview that would enable them to accept party positions and the way these positions related to internal and external events. Soldiers were taught the need for discipline, self-sacrifice, and loyalty to party, country, and the socialist alliance (including the Soviet Union) and were inculcated with a consciousness of their own invincibility. In fact, the HPA required that only 10 percent of a conscript's training time during the first phase of basic training be devoted to strictly political topics, while 70 percent was spent on military subjects. These relative proportions demonstrated that the HPA leadership viewed political indoctrination as secondary to teaching basic soldiering to recruits and persuading the brighter among them to seek a professional military career. Those who showed both desire and ability were given twenty-eight hours of free time each week to prepare to enter university. The HPA also awarded scholarships to some recruits to attend university full time during their service time, plus another twenty-four days of additional annual leave and considerably increased pay and benefits.

The combat training for recruits resembled that of other Warsaw Pact countries. Soldiers were taught proficiency with weapons, weapon systems, battlefield tactics, endurance, and stress prevention. Tactical exercises and maneuvers were often undertaken with Soviet forces in the country. Battle areas in such exercises could be twenty-six to thirty-two kilometers deep, and nuclear strikes were simulated. Soldiers sometimes were electronically monitored for stress.

Housing provided to conscripts was of poor quality. In December 1988, Minister of Defense Ferenc Karpati admitted that 10 percent of the barracks were not fit for habitation because they did not have regular hot water service. In general, most barracks were sixty to eighty years old and badly needed new wiring and plumbing.

Material deprivation aside, most conscripts considered their military training inadequate. As well as spending time in political indoctrination courses, conscripts were obliged to perform a great deal of work in the labor-starved economy (see Labor Force , ch. 3). For example, in 1987 soldiers worked 32,000 man-days in agriculture. Many conscripts, even those assigned to border guard duty, regarded military service as a waste of time.

Data as of September 1989