Behind the Kremlin Regiment

The Kremlin Regiment is the original 'visiting card' of Russia. Source: Культура.рф

The Kremlin Regiment is the original 'visiting card' of Russia. Source: Культура.рф

To join the elite military unit that protects government officials and subjects of the Kremlin, young soldiers need to meet stringent entry requirements.

The Kremlin Regiment is a military unit, which is unique and elite in every respect. The regiment is responsible for the protection of government officials and subjects of the Kremlin. In addition, it is the original ‘visiting card’ of Russia: every day, hundreds of Russians and foreigners visit the Eternal Flame and the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the Kremlin’s soldiers carry out their duty. The regiment also allocates the guard of honour for meetings with foreign delegations. Naturally, not just anyone can be part of this regiment; the selection process stretches out over several months. The list of successful new recruits to the Kremlin Regiment is usually ready twice a year, by April 1 and October 1.

185 men from the Volga region, the Urals and western Siberia are due to join the Presidential Regiment this coming spring and summer. In theory, the path to Red Square isn’t closed to conscripts from other regions in Russia. However, as it happens, the living quarters in the old building of the Arsenal is traditionally home to men from the Russian provinces.

Recruits from Moscow into the regiment are fairly rare, it seems, on the grounds that service close to home may be more of a hindrance than help for a soldier trying to perform his duty. Equally, the recruits from Tatarstan, the Altai and Krasnoyarsk regions, Novosibirsk, Chelyabinsk, Kemerovo, Omsk and Tomsk, who will soon be trying on their shoulder marks with the letters ‘PP’ (the letters stand for Presidensky Polk, which is the Russian for Kremlin Regiment), won’t be tempted to run back to their hometown, as it’s simply too far.

Nevertheless, the geographical aspect is far from the main criteria in the selection process for soldiers of the Kremlin. The Presidential Regiment belongs to the Federal Protective Service, and the requirements, even for privates at entry level, are extremely tough. It’s actually much easier to get into the army’s Special Force Unit, than into the ‘Special Forces’ of the Kremlin. For example, there are no recruits from single-parent or disadvantaged families.

Amongst other ‘taboos’ are outstanding or withdrawn criminal charges, or any problems with the police. If before entering the army the individual is under investigation, or has been registered at any mental institution or drug rehabilitation clinic, then service in the elite section is out of the question. When the regiment officers examine the personal details of a conscript, they also pay close attention to any relatives who live abroad or who have criminal convictions. There’s really nothing you can do about it: the specifics of the Presidential Regiment require such attention to detail.

There are even special requirements regarding the health and appearance of the elite soldier. On the military unit’s website it states that the applicant must measure between 175cm and 190cm, with a visual acuity of no more than 0.7 dioptres in both eyes and normal colour-sensitivity. The soldier’s BMI (i.e. ratio of height to body mass) is equally important; meaning that if he measures180cm from head to foot, for instance, then he must weigh no more than 70kg.

Kremlin hopefuls must also take a hearing test. If you can make out a whisper from 6 metres away then you are fit for service in the Presidential Regiment. If you miss any words, you’ll find yourself in a different military unit. There is no place in the Kremlin’s line for those who enjoy alcohol or have tattoos that are currently fashionable among young people.

As for the stories suggesting that the Presidential Regiment only takes men with a Slavic appearance, upon inspection these seem to be untrue. Certain subdivisions do take into account the soldier's physical features, but on the whole, appearance is not of great importance.

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