ABOUT THE WISH OF THE YOUTH TO SERVE IN THE RUSSIAN ARMED FORCES

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The problem of preparing young people for military service remains one of the most difficult in Russian society. The amorphous character of the state ideology, the excessive wish to make the Armed Forces professional, an absence of required funding, as well as the activities of various human rights organizations and many other circumstances, form a negative attitude towards the military service in many strata of the society. Meanwhile, the necessity to provide for the defense capability and security of the country demand that young met comply with their Constitutional duties for defending their Motherland.

What is the attitude of those who are drafted into the Armed Forces? What do they and their relatives think about the Armed Forces and to what extent do they trust them? What values do they have? These and some other questions, connected with the motives of the military service are permanently in the focus of the attention of the military specialists who are studying the Armed Forces social problems. Here are some unclassified data of the research they’ve recently conducted.

1. According to the sociologists, the trend of the lower-quality characteristics of the draftees continues to grow as compared to the previous drafts. The situation is getting worse, across the board, in all of the main parameters: health condition, education level and behavior. The problems, connected with forming the moral-psychological readiness of the draftees for military service, are also aggravating.

Thus, 50% of the young soldiers pointed out that before the draft they did not participate in any kind of sports and did not study a military profession. In 1996, there were 199,900 specialists trained in ROSTO educational organizations for the power ministries, and in 1997 – only 106,400. The number of people trained in the most deficient professions (naval and communication ones) fell by more than 60%.

The situation was aggravated after the system of obligatory initial military education was done away with in high schools and professional and technical schools in 1991. Before, there were 4 million young men trained in these institutions annually. The organization of military-sport camps for young people was stopped. For several years military-sport games have not been conducted (in the past they were called Orlenok and Zarnitsa).

Another problem is the growth of difficulties in provisioning the due organization of medical services during draft campaigns. This is primarily connected with the low quality of medical work. In some healthcare institutions, conscripts are not examined because they do not have any insurance and payment is taken for medical services. This is a violation of current legislation.

2. Meanwhile, the draft system, according to most of the population, continues to perform a positive public function at the “school for youth.” Thus, 47% of the parents of the servicemen spoke about the positive influence of the military service in developing the personal qualities of their sons. This demonstrates that a large reserve of the population’s trust in the Armed Forces has been preserved.

However, according to the information of the Nationwide Public Opinion Research Center (VTSIOM) the level of trust of the Russian society in the Armed Forces is falling: in 1993, 39% of all respondents expressed complete trust in the Armed Forces, and in 1997- only 27%.

The military sociologists explain this circumstance by the negative phenomenon taking place in the military units (hazing, scarce food, insufficient material and social provisions and so on). The sometimes prejudiced coverage of the Armed Forces problems in the media also plays a negative role. Thus, within the last seven years not a single movie was produced which showed the Armed Forces in a positive light. All of this contributes to the formation of an unattractive image of the Armed Forces in the public conscience and the generation of the wrong notions about the military service among the people. It is not accidental that now 25% of the parents believe that the military service negatively influenced their sons from the moral point of view (in 1993, when the “anti-military campaign” was in full swing, this percentage was a little higher – 31%). However this situation is not always taken into account during work with the draftees, and the views of the young people on the military service depend very much on the opinion of their parents.

Today 56% of the servicemen’s parents have a positive attitude to the service of their sons in the Armed Forces. Along with this, their children demonstrate such an attitude.

3. The military sociologists also point out that the degree of the Armed Forces attraction for the draftees was not significantly changed. As it was a year ago, only 20% of the draftees considered the military service as their personal duty to the Motherland.

Now a larger number of young people think that the Armed Forces represent good conditions for their maturing, as well as for receiving the necessary life experience and the realization of their educational needs. It is interesting that almost 66% of the draftees pointed out that they enlisted into the Armed Forces voluntarily (a majority of them are young men from the country – 75%).

Last year, some evolution of the military service values took place (see table 1):

Table 1

Rating of the military service values among the draftees (1996, 1997), percentage of the respondents:

1997:

13%- participation in defending the Motherland;

19%- military honor and dignity:

30%- good friends;

44%- possibility to see the world;

46%- testing oneself in difficult conditions;

49%- physical perfection.

1996:

10%- participation in defending the Motherland;

8%- military honor and dignity:

25%- good friends;

18%- possibility to see the world;

40%- testing oneself in difficult conditions;

23%- physical perfection.

The sociologists also point out as a positive tendency the fact that, according to the polls, the number of those for whom the military service does not have any value, fell from 11% to 5%. Meanwhile, 33% of the servicemen point out that they joined the Armed Forces without any, seeing the military service as an ungrateful obligation, which has to be fulfilled only because of the legal prosecution for evasion.

The sociologists name the following reasons which create a negative attitude toward military service:

– reduction of the Armed Forces role in the country;

– hazing;

– absence of normal combat training;

– insufficient material-technical provisions for personnel;

– limited conditions for personal development;

– low attractiveness of benefits for the youth.

4. Military sociologists also point out the lower education level of the draftees, including political. It is possible that due to this, an absolute majority of the draftees do not have any clear notion about who the possible enemy is.

Now the following countries represent an “enemy” in their opinion:

Chechnya- 14%;

NATO- 14%;

USA- 11%;

China- 7%;

Baltic States- 7%;

Moslem countries- 6%.

Some 33% of the respondents could not name any potential military opponent of Russia.

The notions about potential military allies are formed in the same way. To them are attributed:

CIS countries- 24%;

USA- 7%;

NATO- 4%.

Thus, the experience of the ideological work in the troops demonstrates that since the first days of their military service the influence on the draftees should include the elements of general educational preparation and world-outlook aspects.

The data of the polls demonstrate that different groups of servicemen have different motives, which make them fulfill their military duties. Respondents were given the chance to estimate the possibility that they would participate in combat operations for parrying of a foreign aggression. Along with this almost 60% of the servicemen with incomplete higher and secondary education have a positive attitude towards this, and only 45% of the servicemen with incomplete secondary education.

5. The data of the polls demonstrate that, as a rule, the draftees are satisfied with the conditions in the troops, which speaks about the effectiveness of the work of commanders and the ideology officers in the military units. Thus, 66% of the respondents were content with the first months of their military service, and only 16% were discontent. Overall, a majority of the draftees (up to 62%) are satisfied with the beginning of their military service. More than 50% of the respondents are content with their military profession, and 75% – with the climatic conditions of their location.

Along with this, the command of the units pays little attention to the draftees indoctrination with the right values of the military service.

Only 15% of the draftees pointed out that they are well acquainted with the history and combat traditions of their units, more than 50% are partially acquainted with them, and 25% – are not acquainted with them at all.

As it was in the past, the Navy and Airborne Forces are still the most popular Armed Forces branches among the youth. This can be attributed to the stereotypical notions of the population about the prestige of serving there. Border guards and Interior Forces are more popular with the young people. This is most likely explained by the growing advertisement in the media and the improved benefit system for the servicemen of these branches.

As a rule the draftees are discontent with the lack of time of rest, difficulties connected with acclimatizing under the conditions of a strict work schedule, lack of conditions for cultural development, unjustified demands by sergeants and big overloads connected with the military service.

Almost 60% of the respondents think that commanders discipline them in accordance with the regulations. More than 66% pointed out that their relations with their commanders are characterized by the care and attention on the part of the officers.

Overall, the expressed care and benevolence regarding the draftees influenced the degree of their content with their presence in their initial military units. An absolute majority of the draftees (up to 80%) are content with their relations with their fellow-soldiers, but 50% are still afraid of the senior servicemen due to the possibility of hazing.

These are the main data, defining the attitude of the draftees.

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