Kazakstan - Military Personnel

Kazakhstan’s Armed Forces have been working to modernize, reform and expand their capabilities since the state became independent in 1991. Much of the attention on this development has been on security cooperation with Russia, the United States and other partners, but there have also been internally driven efforts that could have just as significant an impact. One of these efforts over the past several years has been the increase in the number of professional contract soldiers in the Armed Forces, which was part of a plan to have contract soldiers make up 99 percent of the Armed Forces by the end 2016.

They were fresh faced and dressed in green, their caps pushed lazily to the back of their head. This is the Kazakhstani army. Made up almost entirely of conscripts earning US$6.00 a month [as of 2004] - the average military pay was annually increased by 25% in the two years 2009-2011. The bulk of the Kazakhstani army is made up of conscripts between the 18 and 27. University graduates join for a year, other men for two years and potential officers for three. People who suffer from weak health, have families may get exemption under the Kazakh law, and those at university have delayed entrances. One of the biggest complaints among the officers is the current conscription system, as they are not satisfied with soldiers changing every few years.

Before everybody served in the army, and nobody could buy a military ticket out. It was impossible, but now it is very easy for someone with a little money, therefore the only ones serving now are the young guys, who couldn't afford to buy their way out. It is the lower third of boys, the weaker people, who serve. Others buy military tickets out because they are afraid of the army and the services. The rest study at university and pass military preparation there. Most soldiers serve only to get military ticket. It is almost impossible to work for a state company without such a ticket.

Only food, clothes and salary are paid for by the government. The average soldier's monthly pay in 2004 was 810 tenge. Military officers got between 20 000 - 35 000 tenge per month. And there are no privileges for bus fares and for other municipal services. Even in the 1990s soldiers still received such privileges, but they have been abolished.

President of Kazakhstan Nursultan Nazarbayev signed the decree on retirement of enlisted servicemen who served the compulsory military service and the next scheduled drafting of citizens of the Republic of Kazakhstan in the army in April-June and October-December 2013. Minister of Defence Adilbek Dzhaksybekov approved the action plan of call-up to military service. The plan included such activities as physical evaluation, ideological and psychological activities, etc. The plan of call-up of citizens to military service comprises all issues of drafting campaign. It is planned to call-up more than 15 thousand draftees in spring 2013. About 7 thousand of them will serve in the military units of the Ministry of Defence, the other 8 thousand in the Republican Guard, Internal Forces of the Ministry of Internal Affairs, Frontier Service of the National Security Committee and Ministry of Emergency Situations.

There were indications of severe problems in filling the ranks of the armed services in the 1990s. Some accounts indicate that as many as 20,000 soldiers were absent without leave from the army in 1993, and desertion and low morale among conscripts continued to be a major problem in the mid-1990s. Another concern was the deteriorating physical condition of inductees, one-third of whom were said to be unfit for conscription. Discipline appeared to be problematic as well. In 1993 more than 500 crimes by soldiers were reported in Almaty Province alone; members of the Kazakstani peacekeeping force in Tajikistan reportedly robbed and raped villagers they were sent to protect. At the command level, in 1993 one general was dismissed for selling weapons and other military goods.

Creating the projected national armed forces has proved more difficult than expected. Since independence, the officer corps, which was overwhelmingly Slavic in the early 1990s, suffered a severe loss of manpower. In 1992 nearly two-thirds of the company and battalion commanders in Kazakstan had to be replaced as Russian-speaking officers took advantage of CIS agreements permitting transfer to other republics. When these transfers occurred, almost no Kazak officers were available as replacements. In the entire Soviet period, only three Kazaks had graduated from the Military Academy of the General Staff, and only two had earned advanced degrees in military science.

Within the armed forces, after the Soviet collapse, the pattern was familiar: 97 percent of the new Kazakstani officer corps was ethnic Russian. There was a serious shortage of national cadres; the number of former-Soviet, active duty Kazak officers numbered only about 3,000 from lieutenant to general officer — "not enough to wash one's hands with" — and insufficient to man a single division because of rank and specialty dysfunction. There was not a single Kazak general commanding a division, army or military district among the 3,000; colonels numbered only about 50, mostly in support roles. Until December 1, 1990, there were only 99 Kazak officers attending Soviet institutes and academies. Kazakstan hosted only three military prep-schools, two military secondary schools (as opposed to 34 in Ukraine), and two ex-Soviet Army military schools: the Almaty Higher All-Arms Command School (only six Kazaks among the faculty and 84 Kazaks out of 1000 students at independence) and the Border Guards Academy.

Social restraint also prohibited ethnic Kazaks from joining the military. One did not hear the words 'become a commander, become an officer' from the mouths of parents in local areas. On the contrary, what they say is, "If you become an officer, you will become too Russian and move away."

The percentage of ethnic Russians in the new Kazakstani armed forces did not exactly mirror conditions in other Central Asian states. The question of ethnic composition in Kazakstan was complicated by the fact that nearly 40 percent of the population was ethnic Russian — mainly the result of drawing Kazakstan's borders in the 1930s to include areas of Mother Russia dating back to the 16th century. No one expected the artificial boundary to actually create an independent state which would break off such a huge chunk of the historical Russian Empire. Therefore, one must be careful when discussing ethnic Russian officers in the Kazakstani armed forces, because they may include those who have accepted Kazakstani citizenship based on their residence in northern Kazakstan.

It was hoped that indigenous Russian officers would remain in the military. It is difficult to determine if that occurred. There was a sharp exodus of ethnic Russian officers following the shift to Kazakstani service, but whether they returned to Russia or merely left military service for civilian life in Kazakstan has yet to be identified. Moscow did attempt to assist Almaty in stopping this exodus; in July 1993 Moscow amended its Law on Conscription and Military Service to ensure that Russian citizens undergoing their military service on the territory of other republics (e.g., Kazakstan) would continue to receive legal rights envisaged by the Russian laws until December 31, 1993. This was later extended to December 31,1999. Those officers and warrant officers who remained were not obligated to take Kazak citizenship or swear an oath. This move was unsuccessful.

The failure of legislation to halt the exodus of Russians is perhaps explained by attitudes about service in Kazakstan as portrayed by Russian officers to journalists. "A wall of mistrust is gradually being erected between the officer corps and the top army command." Russian officers complained that although the Russians made up the majority of officers, only ethnic Kazaks were promoted to the rank of general. They resented serving under senior Kazak officers whose "rampant incompetence" resulted from "promotions based on the factor of ethnicity and capability for political maneuvering rather than expertise... It is not surprising that more and more ethnic Russians are abandoning military service. . . ." leading to cases where only 30-40 percent of the officer slots are filled. This is in spite of the fact that many ethnic Russians regard Kazakstan as their "historic native land." Refusal to continue service was usually based on alleged "creeping discrimination" against Russians and insufficient pay compared to what their counterparts in Russia and other republics made.

Kazakstan also had to face the question of language. Few of the 60 percent non-Kazak populace spoke Kazak at independence. This was especially true for those ethnic Slavs making up the officer corps (even those born in Kazakstan). The desire to push the Kazak language was hindered not only by the embarrassing number of Russified Kazak intellectuals who did not speak Kazak, but the knowledge that until domestic military educational institutions could be established, personnel would have to continue to train in Russia—where they needed the language.

The greatest ethnic challenge among Centural Asian states to creating a new armed forces is in Kazakstan. Kazaks still held only a plurality in their own country by the end of the decade. They struggled to determine whether they want to form a Kazak armed forces or a Kazakstani armed forces; until they resolve that issue, ethnic policy cannot be confirmed.

Councils of sergeants were created in the Armed Forces in 2010. Their main task is to provide comprehensive assistance and support to commanders in educating military personnel, to create conditions in military communities to develop the creative potential of each sergeant. All-army sergeants council is the umbrella body of a network of similar organizations throughout the Army. A total number of different compounds of sergeants councils of different levels, starting from the company is 915 in the Armed Forces of Kazakhstan. At meetings of the Sergeants councils are discussed the most pressing issues of the sergeants.

On 23 May 2012 the Defense Ministry held a meeting of All-Army sergeant council of extended membership. It has been involved sergeants from the chairmen of boards of independent battalion in the meeting. Minister of Defense Adilbek Dzhaksybekov took part at this event as well. As Minister of Defense noted, the attendance of representatives of the senior command level is conditioned due to the need to work together to raise the status of sergeants and strengthen the institution of sergeants.

He identified three main areas for further improvement of the sergeant composition: "We need to focus on improving the quality of staffing positions because combat readiness of troops depends largely on the professionalism of junior officers," said Minister of Defense Adilbek Dzhakybekov. "Also, it's time to tackle those who influence the quality of equipment and weapons. If we want to maintain machinery, it is necessary to decide the question of training junior technicians. Creating conditions for effective training of sergeants - is a separate area, which should be addressed."

Defense Minister said that in the next few years at the National Defense University it is planned to create Academy of sergeant composition, which provides for the simultaneous preparation of sergeants in several specialties: infantry, artillery, engineering, communications and others. In this regard, the Defense Minister instructed the Chief of the Cadet Corps in conjunction with the Office on work with sergeants to develop a detailed plan for the transition to a new system of education. He also noted the need for educators and trainers from the number of trained non-commissioned officers with extensive military experience.

In each garrison are established mobile training team, which trained more than 6,000 sergeants for two years. Introduced the practice of holding annual instructor-teaching duties with the sergeants kinds of arms, regional commands, brigades to improve the literacy of junior sergeants officers:

"Today we stand at the threshold of the next stage of development of the Kazakh Army sergeants corps. This is due to the introduction of a number of amendments to the legislation of the Republic of Kazakhstan this year- said the sergeant major of the Armed Forces master sergeant Temirbek Halyk. - Now in the Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan "On military service and the status of servicemen" is translated definition of sergeants officers as military commanders, carrying out administrative functions with regard to personnel entrusted and carrying out training and education of employees. Prior to that, the concept of "sergeant" had been a few blurry. There was no clear gradation between trains sergeants, specialists and privates, sergeants and command staff, with training."

The Law of the Republic of Kazakhstan "On military service and the status of servicemen", adopted in February 2012, made more concrete in many areas of sergeant corps. Thus, the new law sets clear dates of service in the military rank of sergeant. Now, the difference in seniority between the first sergeant rank and senior sergeant rank of master sergeant is about 20 years. Gradation of sergeants made in three categories: the Junior, Senior, Principal compositions. Depending on that, the time increased on the limit state for military service: senior sergeants - up to 47 years, senior staff - up to 55 years. Also in accordance with the Development Strategy provides for the introduction of the Armed Forces it is taken into account the staff sergeant positions. This will create career opportunities for professionals logistical, technical and other support positions, will eliminate the long-term stagnation of personnel and increase the factor of the succession of generations.

Kazak Military Personnel

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