Russian College Students Give Up School for Military Duty

April 2, 2013
Photo: Mikhail Sokolov / Kommersant

“The military would have to draft 600,000 conscripts annually to have 1 million men in uniform. That is the same number of men who turn 18 each year, and some sources predict the number will fall to as low as 470,000 within the next two years. That means every single 18-year-old male would have to be corralled into the army, including those with physical disabilities and chronic illnesses — and even that wouldn’t be enough to reach the magic one-million mark. The only way around the problem would be to clone healthy 18-year-olds as quickly as possible.”

This Kommersant article discusses the fact that while some students are using their academic sabbatical to perform military service, many more are dodging the draft.

On April 1, Russia launched a draft campaign. The General Staff has noted that college and university students have increasingly often used sabbatical to perform their conscription duty. Yet, according to experts, such students are vastly outnumbered by draft-dodgers.

Russian tertiary school students have been suspending studies to do their military duty. On Monday, the General Staff stated that a new trend had emerged in Russia whereby higher school students go on sabbatical to perform their military duty. Reportedly, in the fall of 2012, over 2,500 students did just that. The General Staff’s information is true, believes Chairman of the Russian Student Union Artem Khromov. According to Khromov, it has to do with an innovative move on the part of the Defense Ministry.

“I am confident that the General Staff has provided absolutely objective information that has to do with the fact that many students go on sabbatical in order to do their Armed Forces service. Many consider it an important patriotic duty, and one they can perform while still at school. To a significant extent it has to do with the fact that the Defense Ministry has decided to introduce ‘by-installment-service”, i.e. voluntary military service for current higher school students. The sad news is that, even based on official data provided by the military agency, last year a quarter million draftees dodged service and 2,500 individuals used sabbatical to perform their military duty. The latter number is vastly overshadowed by the massive number of draftees,” he said.

This is not a widespread phenomenon. In reality, there is only a handful of incidents like this, said Alexander Perenjiev, a member of the Association of Military Political Scientists.

“As someone who teaches at Russia’s Plekhanov Economic University, I, too, have been told by, literally, two individuals that they are ready to do their military service. The most interesting part is that they are willing to join the Armed Forces after they pass their fourth year exams and transition to year five at school. This is less a matter of a patriotic nature than, perhaps, an attempt to deal with personal issues, army service among them. I would not quite start applauding yet. The situation is not all rosy and beautiful, as the General Staff has painted it,” he said.

On April 1st, Russia launched its spring draft whereby 150,000 young men will join the Armed Forces by July 15, the draft’s final date.