No One to Call (Part I)

Shaved and Ready to Serve (photo: Yelena Fazliullina / Nezavisimaya gazeta)

“We could call-up 11.7% of all young men.  Of them, 60% got out on health grounds.  Therefore, the RF Defense Ministry confronts the fact that there is almost no one to call-up into the RF Armed Forces.”

Army General Nikolay Makarov

So the General Staff Chief declared on November 11, 2011, and he’s been quoted to this effect many times since. 

Just nine months earlier, the Defense Ministry declared professional contract service would be the primary method of manning the Armed Forces.  And a year before that, the Defense Minister and General Staff Chief said the exact opposite:  conscription would be primary and contract service would be curtailed.  

But the impossibility of manning a million-man Russian Army by means of the draft was clearly understood by many observers at that time.

The Defense Ministry recently issued its customary press-release indicating 100-percent fulfillment of the fall draft campaign.  

Only 135,850 young men were conscripted for one year of obligatory military service.  This was about 80,000 fewer than the number inducted during the spring draft (218,720), and less than half the fall 2010 call-up (280,000). 

This fall’s 135,850 twelve-month soldiers are just about the same number of men typically drafted for a two-year service term in the mid-2000s.

Viktor Baranets published his archive of annual conscription numbers back to 1999, which is handy.  He makes the point that, in contrast to today’s 12 percent or less, 20 percent of available men were being drafted as late as the late 1990s.

Let’s suppose if Makarov’s 12 percent go to serve and 60 percent are excused for health reasons, then 28 percent are escaping through deferments (mostly educational) or evasion. 

Makarov’s precise 11.7 percent or 135,850 conscripts would mean his total draft pool was under 1.2 million men.  This seems odd because census numbers say Russia should have at least two million 18- and 19-year-old men right now.  And that’s not even mentioning some 21- or 22-year-olds who get caught in the commissar’s dragnet. 

There might be some math your author can’t fathom, but it could also be that the widely-reported number of 200,000 long-term draft (or draft summons) evaders is actually much, much higher.

Let’s look at a fairly detailed report on conscription in one oblast — Sverdlovsk.  Nakanune.ru reports the oblast’s military commissar sent out 25,000 draft notices to the region’s youth. 

Almost half were unfit for health reasons, leaving, let’s suppose, 13,000 young men to sort through.  But this, of course, means Sverdlovsk’s a lot healthier place than many places.

Of those 13,000, some 6,000 had deferments.  So we’re down to 7,000 candidate-soldiers.  Of them, 4,056 were inducted this fall. 

That’s a deferment rate of 24 percent for all men summoned to the draft board.  And 4,056 is 16 percent of those summoned.  The MVD got 700 men (3 percent), and the Armed Forces presumably got 3,356 (13 percent).

Now unmentioned are the 2,944 not deferred and not drafted.  Who knows how they might be counted.  But they might be guys evading the draft by simply going missing.  For those keeping score, that could be an 11.7 percent evasion rate.  Just as many dudes avoiding service as going to serve this fall.

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One response to “No One to Call (Part I)

  1. “There might be some math your author can’t fathom…”

    On the statistics black hole and the disparity between the percentage and the census numbers, this 2006 paper –
    http://conflictstudies.academia.edu/KeirGiles/Papers/966102/Where_Have_All_the_Soldiers_Gone_Russias_Military_Plans_Versus_Demographic_Reality
    finds an explanation in the fact that the percentage is calculated from those young men who are “na voynskom uchete” rather than from all 17/18-year-olds. Dated, but still explains a lot of the unfathomable maths.

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