September 1 is a kind of milestone and meaningful date for the process the Russian Armed Forces started in 2001. On this day the Defense Minister will issue an order and will officially change the military administrative division of the country. The Defense Minister will unite the Urals and Volga military districts into the united Volga-Urals Military District. It is already known that former commander of the Urals Military District Colonel general Alexander Baranov will command the new district. Baranov says that orders have actually been issued to all units of the district from Yekaterinburg since August 15. However, September 1 will be the official starting point. After the merger of the districts Baranov has more work. Units of the newly established military district are located in 20 regions with populations over 41 million people. Ground and maritime borders of the district total about 20,000 kilometers, and its overall area is more than 2.5 million square kilometers. According to the importance and possible threats to the country’s security, the Volga-Urals Military District and the North Caucasus Military District have one of the most important places in the military administrative division of Russia.
According to Colonel general Vladislav Putilin, Deputy Chief of the General Staff, the main purpose of the districts’ merger is the strengthening of troops in the Central Asian strategic direction. This buildup is mainly associated with the growth of tension in the region caused by combat operations in Afghanistan, and activities of radical Islamic groups in Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan. The new district will stake on organization of mobile rapid response brigades. Already about a half of the district’s units are working in the mode of increased combat readiness. The new military administrative constituency received command over the 201st mechanized infantry division in Tajikistan.
According to Putilin, despite this, the number of senior officers in the district will be reduced. The strength of troops and their combat readiness will grow. Putilin adds that the merger of the districts will improve the mechanisms of troops command and will save millions of rubles. As a result of the merger of the Urals and Volga military districts about 650 officers in both military administrative constituencies will be reduced, 150 of them in the headquarters of the Urals Military District.
Meanwhile, drawbacks of the merger are already obvious. On August 22 an emergency occurred in Samara, where the headquarters of the liquidated Volga Military District had been located. Personnel of a mechanized infantry company of the 589th regiment left the barracks because of the intolerable situation caused by hazing and went to the former headquarters of the district to seek justice. All soldiers were Slavic. They left the barracks without weapons because of the clashes between them and the conscripts drafted in Dagestan.
It is remarkable that the 589th regiment is a unit of increased combat readiness. This means that it is fully manned according to wartime authority strength and should be able to fulfill any task in a few hours. According to officers who took part in analysis of the emergency situation this unit is currently being formed. Command of the new military district will rely on such units when it solves the problems of troops combat readiness improvement. Results of analysis of the emergency situation in the 589th regiment showed that striving to establish or reform something military leadership forgot makes it is necessary to reform not only the military but also humanitarian component of the Armed Forces.
Meanwhile, observers emphasize that for almost ten years the human factor system in the troop has not been reformed. After prohibition of the Soviet Communist Party activities in the Armed Forces in August 1991, all ideological educational institutions were disbanded and a kind of vacuum appeared for a while.
The system of military higher educational institutions to train officers for ideology is only being established. Meanwhile underestimation of heir role is evident. At present officers of technical and command professions are usually appointed on posts of officers for ideology. They do not have enough pedagogical and psychological knowledge. Graduates of pedagogical higher educational institutions originating from the countryside are entitled to a delay in drafting. The Education Ministry wants to apply this principle to all graduates of all pedagogical educational institutions. In other words, in many units there are no real officers who can substitute a father and mother for the soldiers, so to speak, like it was in the Soviet times. Hence emergency situations became more frequent in the Armed Forces, and the relevant statistics have been classified for the last three years. However, this secrecy does not help soldiers to live better in the barracks.
It is possible to criticize the Main Ideological Department (MID) of the Armed Forces, which has to organize morale and psychological support for personnel. This critique is evidently correct. However, here is what Colonel General Vitaly Azarov, Director of the MID, answered to the question of the author of the present article about how typical are the facts associated with hazing which occurred in the 589th regiment for all Armed Forces.
-Of course, the situation caused by voluntary escape of soldiers of the regiment in Samara from the barracks is an emergency for us. Fortunately, it is not typical for the Russian Armed Forces. However I will not be honest if I say that this was a mere accident. Just look. The regiment was composed of soldiers drafted from Dagestan by one-fourth. Being united by national interests and common origin they sometimes took the need to observe discipline and order in their own different way. Anyway, this is not all there is to it. Unfortunately, there were many preconditions for hazing. Many soldiers of the regiment had been brought up in incomplete families, some soldiers had been detained by police prior to drafting, and there were even soldiers with previous convictions. Almost one half of soldiers had not studied or worked anywhere. These people have a weak motivation for industrial fulfillment of service duties. It is necessary not to educate them, but to re-educate.
The regiment had only one half of the required number of commanders of companies, and only one-third of the required number of officers for ideology. Almost all officers for ideology were drafted by military registration and enlistment offices from the ranks of graduates of civil higher educational institutions (Translator’s note- graduates of civil higher educational institutions which have military faculties, who have passed a course of military training and became officers of the reserve, are obliged to serve in the Armed Forces for two years).
We see such figures everywhere in the troops! According to our information, almost 8% of soldiers systematically drank alcohol beverages, 5.4% had experience of drug and other toxic substances use, almost 12% were detained by police for public order offense, 8% had previous convictions, and 25% did not work or study anywhere. Now almost 80% of officers for ideology on junior officers’ posts are not professional military but graduates of civil educational institutions. According to the law, they are obliged to serve for two years. Many of them have very vague notions about pedagogic ideology, psychology, and forms and methods of ideological work.
-We have so many higher educational institutions, and you talk about the shortage of personnel. Why?
-Because junior officers flee from the Armed Forces. At present one-fourth of graduates of military higher educational institutions receive diplomas and retire. In other words, we train personnel not for us but for other state institutions and for business. At this point we are almost impotent. According to the Constitution and other laws, every officer has the right to choose. We cannot make him serve in the Armed Forces. Low wages, about 1,500 rubles per month, and military labor intensity create almost 0% motivation for junior officers. Thus the state has to fill the vacuum with semi-trained graduates of civil educational institutions.
Thus, so far the military reforms proper in the Armed Forces are outrunning the events leading to the strengthening of the role of ideological institutions in the troops. This lagging behind will be also noticeable in the future, because so far there are no clear guidelines and plans for the strengthening of the role of morale and psychological support of the troops, and professional graduates of military higher educational institutions will arrive in the troops at least in four to five years.