THE 201 ST MECHANIZED INFANTRY DIVISION IS THE OUTPOST OF RUSSIA IN THE CENTRAL ASIA

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This division is recognized as the best in the Ground Forces, but it is evidently too early to consider it the prototype of the division of the XXI st century The observer of WPS agency/

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the 201 st Gatchinskaya division, which was decorated by the Red Banner twice, was formed in 1943. After the end of the World War II the division was re-deployed to Dushanbe (Stalinabad). In 1980-1989 the 201 st division was a part of the limited contingent of the Soviet forces in Afghanistan. Since 1989 until the present time the units and formations of the division are deployed in Dushanbe, Kulyab and Kurgan-Tube (Tajikistan).

After the well-known events of the August of 1991 the situation occurred in Tajikistan, which allowed some clan groups (in Kurgan-Tube and Badakhshan), who have practically never been included into the top ranking power bodies, start active struggle for power under the democratic slogans. The conflict of different political forces in the country resulted in the bloody civil war in the country, during which dozens of thousands of people were killed, more than 100,000 people had to fled from the country, and the massive outflow of the Russian-speaking population from Tajikistan was started.

After breakup of the Soviet Union President Yeltsin issued the decree “On transition of the military units, deployed in Tajikistan, under jurisdiction of the Russian Federation” on September 9 of 1992, according to which the 201 st mechanized infantry division was included into the Russian Ground Forces. Since December of 1997 the division was included into Privolzhsky military district.

Among 10 military formations, which are manned according to the authorized strength of the war time, the 201 st division was recognized as the best, according to results of the last training year. Besides the intensive combat training, the units of the division, which are completely manned by the contract servicemen, daily perform the combat missions within the framework of the CIS Collective Peacekeeping Forces, deployed in Tajikistan. Major general Valentin Orlov, commander of the 201 st mechanized infantry division, reported that his division covers 11 directions of the Tajik-Afghani border, guards the important economic objects of the republic (airdromes, engineering communications and so on) and provides for security of the Russian institutions and infrastructure, located in the republic (embassy, schools, garrisons and so on).More than 1,000 servicemen are used daily in these missions, as well as several dozens of armored vehicles, artillery and aviation. In addition, the peacekeepers participate in delivery, guarding and distribution of the humanitarian aid among the republican population.

The 201 st division is probably the only military unit of the Russian Armed Forces, which, despite the difficult situation in Tajikistan, and distraction of the personnel for the peacekeeping tasks fulfillment, completely observed the combat training plan in 1998. More than 150 tank firing exercises were organized. More than 50% of them received good and excellent marks. More than 2000 exercises for driving of combat vehicles were conducted, as well as several dozens of marches.

Tactical exercises, fulfillment of the peacekeeping and combat tasks demonstrated that all units of the division are trained to fire, march both in the day time and in the night, and operate in the mountain and desert terrain. The units of the division received the general good mark.

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Fulfilling the daily peacekeeping forces since October of 1993 until December of 1998 more than 20,000 refugees and some 20,000 tons of humanitarian cargoes were delivered to the remote districts of Tajikistan by the automotive vehicles and aviation.

The units of the 201 st division permanently guard such important objects like the Russian embassy, airports of Dushanbe, Gissar, and some other military objects.

Units of the 201 st division fulfill the obligations of Russia, which are conditioned by the resolution of the CIS leaders of January 22 of 1993 “On measures for stabilization of the situation on the Tajik-Afghani border”.

In the interests of support of the Russian border guards group, deployed in Tajikistan, the 201 st division assigns some 1,000 servicemen, including 120 officers, 7 tanks, 9 combat infantry vehicles, 15 armored personnel carriers and 8 trucks.

The artillery of the 201 st division provides the fire support of the border guards during liquidation of trespassing of the Tajik-Afghani border.

Command of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces organized the special combat training for training of cooperation with the border guards. Readiness of the Collective Peacekeeping Forces to fulfillment of their tasks was checked during the complex military exercises with the firing practice and staff command exercises.

Taking into account that the 201 st division consist completely of professionals, some military leaders hurried to dub it the “division of the future”. I prefer to consider it a division from the “good past”, says lieutenant-colonel Alexander Rubtsov, deputy commander for the ideology. Like during the Soviet times we are occupied with intensive military labor. However, despite all positive aspects, we have many social, economic, personnel and other problems, which does not allow talking about our division like about the division of the XXI st century.

It is easy to understand the officer. Unfortunately, success of the division is achieved on account of bog expenditures and serious efforts. One day of service in the 201 st division is counted like three days. The servicemen receive additional payment for the difficulty of fulfilled tasks, and their money allowances are 50% higher in comparison to those of their colleagues, which serve in Russia. The money allowances are paid here more regularly. Anyway, this is not enough, and, as a rule, representatives of not very favorable strata of the society are enlisted in the division. Hence there is a big “rotation of the personnel”. For example, the average duration of service of a contract serviceman, which arrives from Russia to Tajikistan, until recently was less than a year. For example, only since August of 1997 until February of 1998 more than 600 servicemen were discharged from the 201 st division ahead of schedule because of the alcohol misuse and non-observance of the contract conditions. After tightening of selection of the candidates and personal visits of officers to the regions for the choice of the candidates, allowed reduction of the “personnel rotation” to 25-30 cases a month.

The crisis of August 17 generated a new problem. Since the exchange rate of the ruble to Tajik currency sharply fell, as well as the living standards of the servicemen, the number of servicemen, who wished to retire, grew. In Kulyab regiment alone more than 350 reports were sent with the request about retirement from the Armed Forces ahead of schedule. Only due to the individual work it was possible to improve the situation. Anyway, the problems remained. If we do not solve them, it will be too early to talk about the positive aspects. There are still financial debts of the state to the personnel in the 201 st division. 40% of the contract servicemen are married, but the compensations for the rent of housing are paid with a delay, as well as the compensations for the food ration, resort treatment, annual bonus and so on.

There were cases of the electricity and communication cutting off the military units. The local authorities refused to unload the materiel, delivered to the 201 st division. The officers and warrant officers are still concerned about the housing problem. 365 servicemen are standing in line for receiving of apartments, 55 apartments were built for the division under the contract with Promstroibank, but the contract was not repaid. This also increases the tension in the troops.

Servicemen of the division see a simple way out: to pay money allowances to the servicemen in hard currency, to finance the peacekeeping activity by a separate line in the budget, as well as the purchase of housing for the servicemen. This is the only way to solve the social problems of the division and make it a real prototype of the “division of the future”.

Meanwhile, the 201 st division, being one of the main levers of the military-political influence of Russia on the process of stabilization of the situation in the Central Asia, fulfills the tasks, which result from the strategic course of the Russian Federation on cooperation with the CIS countries. The peacekeeping activity of the division is the effective factor, which contributes to achievement of peace and national reconciliation. It is highly appreciated not only by the UN, government and people of Tajikistan, by the Central Asian countries of the CIS, but also by the leaders of the irreconcilable Tajik opposition, who confirmed the role of the 201 st division as the main stabilizing force in the Central Asia.

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