Created: 11/15/1963

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This article is cased largely on Information received from oneoviet citizen of Ukrainian origin who deserted his unit in the Soviet Border Troops last year. Nikolay, as we shall call bin, had aervod two years of his compulsory three-year tern. rlng that tine he rose to senior sergeant and was decorated with tbe "Distinguished State Border Security Medal." Although Soviet Border Troops are actually part ot the Committee of State Security (KGB) and not of the regular army, much of Nikolay's story would apply to other components of tho arned forces. They present an excellent picture of the impressions of one man who, even though rewarded by the USSR for his abilities, elected to "vote with his feet" and deserted both his military unit and his homeland.


The usuul Sovlotpractice In to enp all pbysically fit males, except tiiose given dof ormcntFt, in the late suwmer or early fall ofh year. According to ibis procedure, Nikolay, bornhould have been drafted Instead, he0 because be was obligated to workon-bine factory for one yearbis graduation fruaschool.

Nikolay was first summoned in January7 and ordered to appear at the Military coonis-sariat of tho city in which he livedomplete physical examination. He returnedtimos to bring- bisforms up to date before .'lis final physical inhen lie was advised by the examining officer to go home and enjoy his lastays as

a civilian. He was also told that he would be assigned to an antiaircraft rocketunit. Two days before he was to report, Nikolay was told that his orders had been changed because the antiaircraft unit was filled and bis induction would bo delayed forays. No mention was made of his now assignment.

One morning in mid-October, he reported at tho city stadiun, woereeople had eoae down to see theonscripts off. Inductionoung aan into the nllttary service Isajor event in the Soviet Union and relatives of all the conscripts, who had been drinking with them all night, came downoisy farewell. Meanwhile, the bus driver, as the representative of authority, struggled to separata relatives from conscripts, collectcertificates, and get tbe conscripts into the bus.

Finally he succeeded and they were off to the oblast forming point, whore otheroined them untilonscripts were assembled. At this stage, three KGB Border Troop officers and six noncommissioned (NCVJs) took over thegroup and marched them to the local railroad station. The appearance of the Border Troup officers was Nikolay's first clue as to what his as-slffiuient would be.

The group joined others headed for other armed forces units at the railroad station,roop train composed of freight care with sleeping tiers added, and started offix-day train trip. During the trip thO conucrlbecause of their status between civilian and militarynot closoly supervised by either their military escorts or the civil authorities* at the various stations. The conscripts took full advantago of this situation to have one last fling beforo arriving at their basic training sites. To get vodka, they traded the rations thoy were Issued and finally the clothes off their backs along the way until, at last, the train was not allowed to stop at any of the usualin towns but only in the open countryside.

During tho trip, Hikolay learned thathird of the group were, like him,of older draft classes who had lieou deferred. Thereoven one conscript who had been born The most

common draft class among those who had been deferredS. Nikolay believed that many of the deferred men were being called up then in order tofor the smaller draft classes of the lato World War II years. aterdiscussion, he was told that the draft class3 would be aboutpercent short of the armed forces' needs.

Basic Training

Upon arrival at the Border Troop headquarters to which they were assigned, the conscripts ate and bathed and were Issued uniforms. Later, all of them were trucked to the detachment's recruit training slto. Thereonscripts were issued field equipment and organizedrovisionaladre of aboutfficers andCOs drawn from the line units of the detachment, llie basic training period Lasted one month and covered briefly all of the traditional basic training subjects of any armytraining, close-order drill, individual weaponsand basic infantrywell as that Soviet specialty, political training. The recruits wero alsoto chemical warfare in basic training. Elementary chemical warfareas simple decontarainati onand practice innormal functions while maskedintegrated with otherthroughout the Sovietservice.

After basic training was completed, some recruits wore sent directly to tlie operational outposts of the detachment, while others wore selected for NCO or specialist training--such as dog -handling, driver, or signal training. Nikolay was chosenine-month course at theSergeants' School for DogInstructors. "

NCO Training

Nikolay's schoolombination NCO and dog handlers' academy. Graduates were made junior serfieants and assigned to outposts where they would be in charge of handlers whose

experience had been picked up on the Job.

Eligible for attendance at the school were men whoear with Border Troops and had been recommended by their units, junior NCOs who wanted the additiona* training, and some conscripts such as Nikolay, who were selected during basic training. inimumeventh-grade education was required, but3 the minimum educational level for this school wasto ten years.

About half of the schooL work was devoted to specialist

training in dog handling. This included classroom work in the theory of dog handling and veterinary care as well as practical work in the feeding, care, and training of service dogs. Many of the students, Including Nikolay, were assigned dogs which they trainedart of the course. Thewas to teach the dog to detect andcent three hours old, to maintain fulldespite the firing of weapons, to attack any person who threatens, runs, or moves when under arrest, and to capture fleeing suspecta. Dogs were also trained to accept food only from their handlers and to respond to oral commands and signals.

The students receivedtraining with light infantry weapons. They fired the assault rifle In theSoviet Army coursepecial Border Troop night firing course. Other weapons training includedwith the light machine gun, submachine gun, tho machine pistol, and hand grenades.

Another major subject at the school was border training. This included familiarization with border laws, zones, and personal documents. Inof course, there were tbe usual close-order drill, training, infantry squad tactics, and protection against chemical attack.

Two examinations wereid-term exam by a


board of officers,inal oxatuelegation from the State Examining Board in Moscow, headedull colonel. Tbe exams consisted of both oral and practical work phases and were considered very difficult by the students. help was given to students falling below minimum standards until the mid-term exam, which served to cut the class to the size of the annual quota for the area. Immediately aftor the mid-term exam, the students who failed were sent to field units. Those who passed wont to border outposts forays of on-the-job training under the supervision of experienced NCOs before going into the second half of the course.

ATter the finalpromotions and awards were madearade before the students left to rejoin their detachments. In Nlkolay's


f thestudentsbegan tho course completed It successfully. Uponof this training, Nikolay was promoted to junior sergeant and assignedorder Troop outpost on the Soviet-Turkish border along the Aran River.

Border Strip

Each Border Troop outpost is responsibletrip of the border from two to six miles io length. In depth, theis responsible for both the border strip and the border zone.

Border Zone

The border zone is much deepor than the strip and Its boundaries coincide with those of some other administrative area, usually the rayon. In the zone the border troops do not have the complete control that they have in the strip although they have certainduties, such aHIhe documentation of Residents of the zone are not restricted much more than any other Soviet citizen.

strip of "forbidden land" which parallels the Soviet international border varies in depth from several hundred meters to several kilometers, depending largely upon the terrain. It la plainly marked by such means aa barbed wire, plowed strips, or warning signs. Within the strip, there are fences equipped with electric warning device* and otherplaced by the border troops.

In tho border strip, the border guards have complete authority and civilians may enter the area only with special pensission granted by the local Office of the Committee of State Security and Approved by the local border troop commander. Although there are no residences or aorral commercial activities within the strip, localare soaetlmrs granted special permission to enter the area briefly to harvest hay or cut timber.


All inhabitants overarry conventional passports which are stamped with code numbers authorizing residence and in the zone. Other Soviet citizens who have business in the border zone or who have relatives there can travel under the "simplified regulations" which, generally speaking, Little more documentationetterovernment organization or business within the zoneonventional Soviet passport.

The Outpost

A typical border outpostfficers andnlistedalthough this variesfrom outpost to outpost. As ofhe average outpost In Nikolay'a area was short one officer and two to four men. Weapons at theinclude four light machine for each squad--and one heavy machine gun. Sikolay's outpost also had one old radio of an unknown type which was used to communicate between the outpost and the parent detachment during alerts. He heard that "wulkie-talkio" type radios were to be issued some time3 for patrol-to-outpost communications. During his service, however, from patrols van limited to flare pistols and portable telephones which were carried by patrols between outletsal various points along the border strip.

Although the Soviet Union has motorized most forward Line units of the regular army, Border Troops still depend largely upon horse and wagon for transport in rugged border areas. Of tbeutposts, in Nii.o'ay's area, only sevenruck assigned. Each outpost had about six horses which were used both for riding and for hauling suppLies.

Soviet border troops aro better fed than the regular army. In addition, tho rations are genorally supplemented by the off-duty activities of the Den, such as gathering fruits and vegetables, fishing, and hunting. firstwho is responsible for thesupply, mess, andexpected to be an entrepreneur of the first order. He may barter the issued rations on the local free draws cash in lieu of authorized rations not required by the outpost, and manages the funds earnyd by tho outpost's agricultural olforts. The

considerable latitude he enjoys in these roles puts the typical first sergeantosition to profit personally from the mess management. So long as everyone is well fed, no one appears to complain about pottyby tbe first sorgoant.

Troops at the outpost average eight hours of guard dutyhour period, usually divided into two or three tours. The majority of the walking patrols are conducted at night. During the daylight hours, the sector is covered byposts, supplemented by occasional patrols.

In addition to theirguard tours, theenerve in case of an alarm. The usual source of an alar*ildost domesticated animal which wandersignal fence in the border strip. Innumerable alerts used to occur duringweather when earlier nodeIn of the signal devices were set off by heavy winds.

Morale among Border Troops seems to be quite low. Outposts are generally in desolate areas, and tho troops are assigned to areas far from their homes. In addition, long duty hours and lack of leave contribute to the poor attitudes of the men on an outpost. To counteract this, heavy propaganda emphasis is placed on tho privilege the men have In defending the borders of the USSR from any intrusion. It soon becomes evident to many of tho border guards, however, that the border strip is designed more to keep Soviet citizens in the USSR than to keep foreigners out.

Social contacts between regular army units and the local population are generallyin the USSR. However, because of the police functions of tbe border guards, contacts between them and the local civilians are discouraged. Io addition, the isolation of the Borderare primarily of Russianthe local population ls increased in the many areas of the USSRationnl minority, such as the Kurds, inhabits the border regions. On the Soviet-Turkish border, for example, mutual antagonism exists be-tweeen the Kurds nnd the border troops as representatives of the "central government."

Il was against thisof harsb conditionslow morale, andbetween thethe Border Troopsviewed thesocialism. Hisled him to slipthe border toask asylum.

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