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Czechoslovakia: Manpower
Country Study > Chapter 5 > National Security > Armed Forces > Manpower


National defense legislation enacted into law within a year after the Communist takeover in 1948 provided for universal male conscription. Male citizens must register for the draft in the spring of the year in which they become eighteen years of age. Unless rejected because of physical reasons or given an educational deferment, most are inducted shortly after registration. In 1986 a little less than 70 percent of the ground forces and about 32 percent of the air forces were conscripts.

Early legislation provided for the annual class of draftees to be inducted in the fall, but since 1968 half of the annual class has been called up in the spring and half in the fall. As of 1987 the basic term of service for conscripts was two years in the ground forces and three years in the air forces; however, to avail themselves of technical training some conscripts opted to serve longer terms. Czechoslovak law made no provision for conscientious objection; anyone convicted of evading military service was subject to a prison sentence of up to five years or from five to fifteen years during a state of emergency.

Of the more than 100,000 young men reaching draft age in 1985, slightly more than three-quarters were expected to be found fit for service, which would provide an adequate number of conscripts to replace those completing their tours of duty during the year. In 1982 the number of Czechoslovak males who were under 30 years of age and who had performed military service within the previous 10 years numbered 700,000. The number in the entire military age-group, that is, between the ages of 18 and 50, totaled about 3.5 million in the mid-1980s. Of that number, as many as three-quarters could be considered mentally and physically fit for service if a general mobilization were ordered. Although not subject to conscription, women also served in the armed forces in small numbers. Women could join the CSLA if they had graduated from high school, passed a qualifying examination, fulfilled the established health and other criteria, and completed a one-year specialized course.

Reserve obligations for conscripts who had completed their active duty generally lasted until age fifty. Upon discharge the conscript was enrolled in the so-called First Reserve, where he remained until reaching age forty. During this period, reserve soldiers and NCOs had to participate in a total of sixteen weeks of exercises. These sixteen weeks generally included three fourweek -long exercises that reservists had to take part in during the years in which they turned twenty-four, twenty-seven, and thirty-two. Between ages forty and fifty, the reservists were carried on the rolls of the Second Reserve. As reservists grow older, the numbers available for call-up (particularly in the Second Reserve) are reduced by many factors, including state of health, occupation of key position in the civilian economy, and hardship cases. Nevertheless, the reserve program would be considered of major importance in any mobilization. Because of the heavy annual turnover in conscript ranks, there are always a substantial number of reservists whose active-duty service has occurred within a ten-year period.

All Warsaw Pact countries have mobilization plans, and all conduct occasional mobilization exercises. Because of strict national security laws, however, little is publicized concerning such exercises in Czechoslovakia; presumably they take place at the local rather than the national level.

In 1987 no official data were available on salaries of officers, warrant officers, and NCOs, nor had information been published on the pay of conscripts. Such data are also considered state secrets. The Czechoslovak press, however, has described the incentives attached to a recruiting program started in 1969. Benefits included a reduction in basic military service (one year instead of two) and bonuses; higher grants and privileges were offered to graduates of secondary schools and universities. A former officer in the Czechoslovak Air Force who emigrated has described the pay and benefits of military pilots: a salary of Kcs7,000 a month (for value of the koruna -- see Glossary), full board "of excellent quality," 30 days' leave plus a 2-week compulsory rest at the Jesenik spa per year, and additional benefits depending on qualifications. The remuneration of pilots was thus "comparable to that of the director of a medium-sized state enterprise with 5,000 or more employees." Given the nature of the society, as of 1987 it was safe to assume that high-ranking officers were well paid and probably received salaries in excess of those paid to civilians at comparable levels of employment.

Data as of August 1987

Last Updated: August 1987

Editor's Note: Country Studies included here were published between 1988 and 1998. The Country study for Czechoslovakia was first published in 1987. Where available, the data has been updated through 2008. The date at the bottom of each section will indicate the time period of the data. Information on some countries may no longer be up to date. See the "Research Completed" date at the beginning of each study on the Title Page or the "Data as of" date at the end of each section of text. This information is included due to its comprehensiveness and for historical purposes.

Note that current information from the CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State Background Notes, Australia's Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade Country Briefs, the UK's Foreign and Commonwealth Office's Country Profiles, and the World Bank can be found on

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