Every Soviet male citizen was obliged to serve two years in the army, or three in the navy. But his combat training started long before he was conscripted.
Basic military training in Soviet schools was introduced in 1968. In earlier years children were taught how to react in case of gas or nuclear attack, but now they got an opportunity to hold a gun in their hands.
Although Soviet women weren’t obliged to join the Armed Forces, they also had to go through a basic military training course. And no excuses were made for them because of gender.
Under stringent control pupils were given AK-47 assault rifles to be taught how to field strip and assemble them as fast as possible.
Of course, nobody would allow pupils to fire such a powerful weapon. At special shooting ranges at schools, pupils were given small calibre rifles, such as the TOZ-8.
Like boys, girls used to assemble and fire the weapons. Besides, they were also taught how to provide first aid and bandage wounds on a battlefield.
Soviet pupils knew how to march in lockstep, to take guard duty, learned basic principles of anti-tank warfare, reconnaissance missions, radio-electronic warfare, chemical protection, studied strategy and tactics and even military history.
Basic military training at schools was mainly taught by reserve officers. Sometimes active service sergeants were called to give lectures for children.
Another part of basic military training was participation in a popular sport and military game known as Zarnitsa (“heath lightning”), which simulated genuine military drills.
Held somewhere in the country, far from big cities, Zarnitsa included official ceremonies, parades, marches, different training activities and competitions, but the children’s favorite part was its “combat” phase. “Armies” fought for the other side's flag, and at the same time tried to protect their own. When it came to hand-to-hand combat, the aim was to tear off your opponents’ epaulettes. Real fighting, however, was strictly forbidden.
After the collapse of the Soviet Union, basic military training wasn’t completely abandoned in Russia. Significantly reduced and limited, it became known as the Basis of Life Safety and today is only vaguely reminiscent of the Soviet approach.
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