Military Obligation in the USSR

The following article is from The Great Soviet Encyclopedia (1979). It might be outdated or ideologically biased.

Military Obligation in the USSR


the honorable obligation of Soviet citizens to defend the socialist homeland with weapon in hand and to perform military service in the ranks of the USSR armed forces. Military obligation is legally fixed by the Constitution of the USSR of 1936 (art. 132) and is regulated by the Law of the USSR on Universal Military Obligation of Oct. 12, 1967. In accordance with this law all male citizens of the USSR, regardless of race and national affiliation, religion, education, social and property position, and whether settled or nomadic, are obligated to go through active military service in the ranks of the USSR armed forces.

Before being called up for active military service, young men of draft and predraft age go through basic military training without leaving their work or studies. In the case of young students this training is conducted by regular staff military instructors at general educational schools (beginning from the ninth grade), at secondary specialized educational institutions, and schools of the technical and vocational educational system. Young men who are not studying at day schools go through basic military training at training centers that are established at enterprises, institutions, organizations, and kolkhozes. Along with basic military training, the law also envisions the annual training of specialists for the armed forces from among the young men who have reached 17 years of age. This is done in training organizations of the All-Union Voluntary Society for Assistance to the Army, Air Force, and Navy (DOSAAF) and at educational institutions of the technical and vocational education system. The number of specialists to be trained is determined by the USSR Council of Ministers, and the list of specializations and programs for their training are determined by the USSR Ministry of Defense.

According to the law, male citizens of the USSR who have reached 18 years of age by the day of the call-up are drafted for active military service. The call-up is made twice a year (in May-June and November-December) by order of the USSR minister of defense. The number of citizens subject to the draft is set by the Council of Ministers of the USSR. The times for citizens to appear at the draft centers are determined by orders of raion (or city) military commissars. The call-up is preceded by compulsory registration with the draft centers in the place of residence of the citizens who reach 17 years of age in the registration year. Evasion of the regular call-up for active military service and also of a mobilization call-up is recognized as an encroachment on the interests of the defense of the USSR and leads to criminal liability.

Draft commissions, which include the representatives of Soviet, Party, and Komsomol bodies and physicians, are created to conduct the call-up of citizens for active military service in the raions (or cities). These commissions are under the chairmanship of the respective military commissar. The commissions are assigned to organize medical examination of draftees; to make decisions regarding the calling up of draftees for active military service and their distribution among the branches of the USSR armed forces and combat arms; to grant deferments from the draft; and to release draftees from their military obligation in connection with disease and other factors.

According to the law of Oct. 12, 1967, deferments from the draft are granted on the basis of family situation, for the continuation of education, and for reasons of health. Draftees are given deferments on the basis of their family situation when they’ have as their dependent a father who is more than 60 years old and unable to work or an invalid of the first or second category or a mother who is more than 55 years old and unable to work or an invalid of the first or second cate-gory; two or more children or a wife who is an invalid of the first or second category; an able-bodied single mother who has two or more children under eight years of age (where there are no other able-bodied children who are obligated to support her); or brothers or sisters under 16 years of age or who are invalids of the first or second category when there are no other persons who can support them and there is no possibility of assigning the brothers or sisters to children’s homes, boarding schools, or special medical institutions (art. 34). Deferments are granted for the continuation of education to students at day (regular) institutions of higher education, secondary general educational schools, and secondary specialized educational institutions (including evening and extension schools) until they graduate, but not beyond the age of 20 and if before entering the secondary specialized school the students did not have secondary education; and students at secondary specialized schools who are studying in the reserve officer training program. Deferments based on state of health are granted to draftees who are acknowledged to be temporarily unfit for military service. Persons who receive deferments from the draft to continue their education and those who are not drafted at the set time for various reasons are subject to call-up for active duty until they reach 27 years of age.

The law establishes the following periods of active military service: (1) two years for soldiers and sergeants of the Soviet Army, naval coastal units and aviation, and border and internal troops; (2) three years for seamen and petty officers of ships, boats, and coastal combat support units of the Soviet Navy and naval units of the border forces; and (3) one year for soldiers, seamen, sergeants, and petty officers of the Soviet army, navy, and border and internal troops who have higher education.

The term of active military service is counted from July 1 of the call-up year for those drafted in the first half of the year and from January 1 of the year following the call-up year for those drafted in the second half of the year.

Women between the ages of 19 and 40 who have medical or other special training can be taken on the military rolls, involved in refresher training periods, and also accepted for active military service on a voluntary basis. During wartime by decision of the USSR Council of Ministers women can be drafted into the USSR armed forces to perform auxiliary and specialized service.

Soldiers, seamen, sergeants, and petty officers who have served the term of active military service established by law are discharged into the armed forces reserve, where they remain until an age determined by law (up to 50 years of age for men, 40 for women taken onto the military rolls, 50-65 years of age for male officers, and up to 50 years of age for woman officers). The armed forces reserve is divided on the basis of age into three classes; in addition, the reserve of soldiers, seamen, sergeants, and petty officers is divided into two categories. Service in the reserve involves going through short-term training and inspections, the length and frequency of which are controlled by law. The place of work holds open the positions (jobs) of manual and office workers and kolkhozniki who are called up for training periods and gives them wages amounting to 75 percent of the average wages.

Servicemen and reservists called up for training enjoy all the rights and bear all the obligations of citizens of the USSR. The rights and obligations of servicemen and reservists called up for meetings, which follow from the conditions of military service, are determined by the law on military obligation and by military regulations. Each serviceman and reservist is given an appropriate military rank in the established manner. Servicemen and reservists take the military oath of loyalty to their people, to the Soviet homeland, and to the Soviet government.


Zakon SSSR o vseobshchei voinskoi obiazannosti: Priniat tret’ei sessiei Verkhovnogo Soveta SSSR sed’mogo sozyva 12 oktiabria 1967. Moscow, 1967.
Grechko, A. A. O proekte Zakona “O vseobshchei voinskoi obiazannosti”: Doklad na sessii Verkovnogo Soveta SSSR sed’mogo sozyva 12 oktiabria 1967 g. Moscow, 1967. Pages 31-48.


The Great Soviet Encyclopedia, 3rd Edition (1970-1979). © 2010 The Gale Group, Inc. All rights reserved.
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