Staunton, July 29 – Moscow Mayor Yuri Luzhkov is reviving pre-induction military training in his city’s schools, restoring a Soviet-era practice that the federal powers that be have not yet taken despite the fact that this idea, under discussion for more 15 years, has been given new impetus by the recent reduction in the length of draftee service from two years to one.
In today’s “Argumenty nedeli,” Valery Buldakov describes the courses on “how to throw a wooden grenade, assemble an automatic weapon, and at the same time to love the Motherland and survive in difficult times,” courses that young Muscovites have no experience with but ones that their parents will well remember (www.argumenti.ru/education/n248/70176/).
The Soviet Union used such courses in order to keep the draft cycle as short as possible in order to minimize the economic consequences of military service by young men. The Russian powers that be appear to be making the same calculation with demographic declines among draft-age men being an additional factor in their thinking.
Initially, this training will be provided in 70 lessons within the framework of the existing course on “Foundations of Life Security” in the 10th and 11th grades, supplemented by five days in a camp. But Luzhkov hopes to transform it into an independent course, something that would mean students would spend more time on military instruction, possibly from the 5th grade.
If the Moscow mayor proceeds further and especially if other Russian regions copy his initiative, this will almost certainly require a modification of the Russian education law. Under its provisions, demobilized officers cannot serve as teachers because “they do not have pedagogical educations and experience.”
But the Moscow mayor has proposed a solution to that: he wants to equate military service with “pedagogical” experience, an arrangement that could allow schools to have the military instructors they need but only at the cost of offending an already angry educational establishment.
“However strange it may seem,” the “Argumenty nedeli” journalist says, the Committee of Soldiers Mothers of Russia is not against the idea. Flera Salikhovskaya, the president of that group, said she has told the defense minister that restoring as soon as possible “the former ‘Soviet’ variant” of pre-induction military training would be a good thing.
Andrey Tatarinov, the head of United Russia’s youth movement, also supports Luzhkov’s program. Many young Russians “dream” of taking up guns, he said, recalling that when he was in school, “he very much looked forward to the courses in pre-induction military instruction.” Unfortunately, they were discontinued before he finished school.
But Kirill Goncharov, the leader of the Yabloko youth group said he was “categorically against” forced instruction in military affairs. Volunteer soldiers should be trained in this way, he acknowledged, but other young people have no reason to sacrifice time in other courses to learn such skills.
“If the Administration of the President and the Government of the Russian Federation support this idea,” Buldakov said, the necessary amendments to federal legislation could be introduced quickly. Nikolay Bezborodov, a former Duma deputy, says that the parliament’s defense committee has been working on them “already for 15 years.”