Conscription in Russia (Russian: всеобщая воинская обязанность, romanized: vseobshchaya voinskaya obyazannost, translated as "universal military obligation" or "liability for military service") is a 12-month draft, which is mandatory for all male citizens age 18–27, with a number of exceptions. The mandatory term of service was reduced from two years to one year in 2007 and 2008. Avoiding the draft is a felony under Russian criminal code and is punishable by up to 2 years of imprisonment.
Prior to Peter I, the bulk of the military was formed from the nobility and people who owned land on condition of service. During wars additional recruiting of volunteers and ordinary citizens was common. Peter I introduced a regular army consisting of the nobility and recruits, including conscripts. The conscripts to the Imperial Russian Army were called "recruits" in Russia (not to be confused with voluntary recruitment, which did not appear until the early 20th century). The system was called "recruit obligation" (Russian: рекрутская повинность).
Russian tsars before Peter maintained professional hereditary musketeer corps (streltsy in Russian) that were highly unreliable and undisciplined. In times of war the armed forces were augmented by peasant levies. Peter I formed the Imperial Russian Army built on the German model, but with a new aspect: officers were not necessarily drawn from the nobility, as talented commoners were given promotions that eventually included a noble title at the attainment of an officer's rank. The conscription of peasants and townspeople was organised on a quota system per settlement. Initially it was based on the number of households in a given area. Later it was calculted on population numbers.
The term of service in the 18th century was effectively for life, so long as an individual remained physically capable of service. In 1793 it was reduced to 25 years. In 1834 it was reduced to 20 years plus 5 years in the reserve and in 1855 to 12 years plus 3 years of reserve liability.[chronology citation needed]
After the Russian defeat in the Crimean War during the reign of Alexander II, the Minister of War Dmitry Milyutin introduced military reforms, with an initial draft presented in 1862. On January 1, 1874 , a statute concerning conscription was approved by the Tsar by which military service was made compulsory for all males at the age of 21. The term of actual service was reduced for the land army to 6 years followed by 9 years in the reserve. This measure created a large pool of military reservists ready to be mobilized in the event of war, while permitting the maintenance of a smaller active army during peacetime. Most naval conscripts had an obligation for 7 years service, reflecting the more extended period required for technical training.
Immediately prior to the outbreak of World War I, the Imperial Government imposed compulsory service of three years for entrants to infantry and artillery regiments and four years for cavalry and engineers. After completing this initial period of full-time service, conscripts passed into the first class reserves for seven years. Final obligation for compulsory service ended at age 43, after eight years in the second reserves.
The large population numbers available in Russia permitted military service exemptions on a larger scale than in other European armies of the period. Muslims, Finns and members of other racial or religious minorities were generally exempted from conscription, as was about half of the main Russian Orthodox population. An only son was not normally required to serve.
The first all-union conscription law of 1925 was tailored for the mixed cadre-militia structure of the peacetime Red Army after the Civil War. Draft-age was 21 years. Terms of service varied between one year in territorial formations and 2 to 4 years in the cadre army. Only "workers and peasants" were seen worthy to serve in combat units. Men of other social background were restricted to rear or labor services or had to pay a military tax.
The 1936 Soviet Constitution declared the military service "sacred duty" of all Soviet citizens. Any reservations regarding social or national background were dropped. 1939 service law was promulgated with a lowered call-up age of 19 years. The Red army had adopted a full-cadre structure in the course of the 1930s.
During the Great Patriotic War (World War II) all able-bodied men of ages 18–51 were subject to draft with the exception of specialists declared vitally necessary in industry, which was revamped for military/defense production.
Post-World War II demobilisation of the Soviet Armed Forces was completed in 1948. According to the 1949 service law, service terms were 3 years in ground forces and 4 years in the navy.
The late Soviet Armed Forces were manned by mandatory draft (with some exceptions) for all able-bodied males for 2 years (3 years for seagoing parts of the Navy and Border troops), based on the 1967 Law on Universal Military Service. A bi-annual call-up in spring and autumn was introduced then, replacing the annual draft in fall. The conscripts were normally sent to serve far away from their place of residence.
Men were subject to draft at the age of 18. The draft could be postponed due to continued education. However since the early 1980s Soviet Union had the mandatory draft for students of the most of colleges/universities — the first mass student recruitment was in spring 1983, the maximum conscription fraction in 1987 — until it was abolished in the spring of 1989. Students were drafted for two or, if for the navy, three years of military service typically after termination (more seldom in the middle) of the first or second year of college.
Most universities had an obligatory Military Chair which were in charge of military training of all able-bodied male students to become reserve officers of a particular military specialty depending on the university.
The two-year conscription term in force in the USSR after 1967 continued in Russia following the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union until 2006, when the Russian government and Duma gradually reduced the term of service to 18 months for those conscripted in 2007 and to one year from 2008, and dropped some legal excuses for non-conscription from the law (such as non-conscription of rural doctors and teachers, of men who have a child younger than 3 years, etc.) from 1 January 2008. Also full-time students who graduated from civil university and had military education were free from conscription from 1 January 2008.