Compulsory Military Service in Russia

Like many countries in the world, Russia has compulsory military service for males of 18 to 27 years of age. The required length of service was 2 years, but by the time I turned 18 it was reduced to 18 months, and eventually down to 1 year in (I believe) 2008.

Russia has the second biggest army in the world with 1.5 million personnel (behind China, and just ahead of the United States). And yet, only about 10% of eligible males report for duty. Everyone else uses any legal and illegal means to dodge the draft. There are two reasons for this:

First, the conditions in the Army are reportedly horrible (bullying, torture, rape, malnutrition, etc). Five to ten thousand conscripts die every year due to suicide, medical negligence, avoidable diseases, etc.

Second, there is no overwhelming national pride in Russia associated with this compulsory military service. I think in order for it to work, people need to believe that you are giving something to your country for the benefit of your fellow citizens.

Here’s a quick video discussion the draft dodgers:

When people argue against mandatory military or civil service, they do well by bringing up Russia as an example of a system where it has more negative than positive effects.

I have no experience with compulsory service, so I feel unjustified in defending the idea, but I do believe from my conversation with friends that served in the military that it does have potential positive effects when managed well. Here is an example of a good argument for it to be implemented in the United States.

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