Apr 6, 2021
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And to the civilian shtafirka – the general’s shoulder straps!

And to the civilian shtafirka - the general's shoulder straps!

Photo: Alexey Druzhinin / TASS

The fact that the president of Russia will be able to appoint Russians who are not military personnel to senior officer positions was talked about at the end of November last year. The corresponding bill was submitted by the government of the Russian Federation to the State Duma, and similar amendments were proposed to be introduced into the federal law “On Defense”. It might seem that “the king Putin“Will distribute the ranks of generals to those who have no special relation to the army. In fact, everything turned out to be somewhat different – stripes were legalized only in civilian clothes.

The path to general’s shoulder straps in the army is not easy and thorny. 4-5 years of a military university as a cadet, from a lieutenant to a senior two years, to a captain three more – as a rule, for the majority in distant garrisons, then three years to a major, well, then everything depends on further education (academy), occupied positions and … military fortune, which does not fall on the shoulders of stars and sinecure, but is obtained by hard work. And the rank of general, and the rank of colonel, too, is evaporated with salty sweat while still on the lieutenant field uniform. Therefore, the army does not like either upstarts from their midst (such as the generals’ sons), or people from the outside who have passed the first stages of officer development.

There are exceptions – Minister of Defense Sergei Shoigu he received the military rank “General of the Army” in the position of the head of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, had the first military rank as “lieutenant of the reserve” and then quickly took off to the general’s shoulder straps. At the same time, the army accepted him as one of their own and soon became convinced that they were not mistaken in such an assessment – as if Kuzhugetovich had been pulling the army’s strap all his life and knew thoroughly the whole background of military service. But such an attitude in the Armed Forces is by no means to all military leaders who came from outside, or who grew out of the “jacket” of a student of the military department of a civilian university.

– Even in Soviet times, there was a practice when graduates of institutes with a military department were drafted into the army as an officer for two years, – says military expert Vladislav Shurygin… – In the army, they were called “jackets” and were treated with some disdain – they did not know the specifics of military service and sometimes served a banal duty to serve the allotted time and return to civilian life. However, there were exceptions when yesterday’s students were drawn into the army and connected with it all their lives. A striking example is the ex-chief of the General Staff Anatoly Kvashnin, who after the university became so imbued with military service that he subsequently graduated from the Frunze Military Academy, the General Staff Academy and actually took the second most important position in the Ministry of Defense. As time passed, he was no longer considered a “jacket” and was enrolled in the military elite, but the missed cadet’s bench no, no, and they remembered.

Remember Ostap Bender’s phrase from “The Twelve Chairs” (chapter “The Union of Sword and Plowshare”), addressed to the former head of the city council Charushnikov: “Which regiment did you serve?” He puffed in response: “I, so to speak, did not serve at all, because, being clothed with the trust of society, I ran through the elections.” In the modern Russian army, the question of belonging to a regiment is not asked – the answer is known. Here is the Chief of the General Staff, General of the Army Valery Gerasimov – The Kazan Suvorov School, the Kazan Tank School, the Academy of Armored Forces and the Military Academy of the General Staff. He served in regiments in Poland (Northern Group of Forces), in the Far East, North Caucasus (with Chechnya in addition), in the Leningrad and Moscow military districts – already as a commander. Military bone and well-deserved high rank of general of the army.

Or let’s take the example of the recent conferment of the rank of Colonel General Sergey Kuzovlev… Sergey Yuryevich began his path to the stars in 1990, after graduating from the Ryazan Higher Airborne Command School (RVVDKU) and receiving lieutenant shoulder straps. He passed all stages of military service and received the rank of major general in 2014 as chief of staff of the 58th Army of the Southern Military District. He was assigned a lieutenant general in 2017, when he was already in command of the 8th Guards Combined Arms Army. In the same rank, he remained in the post of chief of staff-first deputy commander of the Southern Military District. Since November 2020, Kuzovlev has been heading the Grouping of Forces of the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation in Syria, and this position is equated to the commander of a military district and is a colonel general. So he received his current title according to his status.

There are many real generals in the Russian army, but generals with civilian ancestry appeared among them. This gradation in the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation was introduced even under the ex-Minister of Defense Anatolia Serdyukov, which spawned in the military department – in the central office – a whole company of generals, who did not know military service and did not smell footcloths. Sergey Shoigu continued this tradition. In his state, the most significant position is occupied by Love Shevtsova – Deputy Minister of Defense, full state adviser of the Russian Federation of the 1st class, who is equated to the military rank of general of the army. In the same place, state advisers of the 3rd class, in the epaulettes of a major general, march along the carpets of the “ministerial floor” Maria Kitaeva, Russians Markovskaya and some others. In the Ministry of Defense, almost half of Shoigu’s deputies are civilians. Even the State Secretary, Deputy Defense Minister, General of the Army, who was dismissed from military service in 2011 Nikolay Pankov (a native of the structures of the state security organs), remained in the military department in the rank of a valid state adviser of the 1st class.

That is, over the past decade, many people have appeared in the central apparatus of the Ministry of Defense that do not correspond to the “table of ranks”, well, who have not served in any regiment since they were born. At the same time, the post of deputy minister assumes the military rank of “Colonel General”, or at least “Lieutenant General” – with all the ensuing consequences. By the way, the rank of “Colonel General”, as well as “General of the Army” in Russia are for life and “state”. Their owners, in addition to benefits and an increased pension, even after retiring or retiring (the maximum service life is 65 years), have the right to use an official car (there is a limit on fuel consumption), and they also have an adjutant / guarantor at their disposal, usually with the rank of ensign or the captain. The “three-star” generals retain their service apartments and dachas, but, as a rule, they are either privatized during the service or new ones are built / bought. Those with the military ranks “Major General” and “Lieutenant General” have less privileges.

The current law signed by Putin, which allows him to appoint “shpakov” and “jackets” to senior officer positions, will legalize those who have already managed to get these positions in one way or another. At the same time, as explained, “civilian generals” have no legal grounds for partial acquisition of the status of military personnel and does not entail from the state the provision of social guarantees to them, established for active military personnel and their family members. The new law also contains such an unpleasant point for “civilian appointees” in the Ministry of Defense, as the president’s right to “dismiss these positions in federal executive bodies and federal state bodies, the activities of which he exercises”. That is, Putin can easily disperse “civilian generals and generals” if he considers their work, to put it mildly, unproductive.

Civilian specialists in the Russian army have always been used, and in a number of positions they are quite effective. However, the holy of holies – the headquarters and central government bodies – have always been the fiefdom of professional military men – real generals. Well, Russia has not matured, thank God, to a woman in the post of Minister of Defense – the Russian land has not become scarce with peasants. So Putin may not have introduced such a law in vain.

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