conducted on March 20-23, 2022, at the end of the first month of the “special military operation” (SVO), showed that almost half (46%) of Russian men aged 18 to 50 were ready to be mobilized. Such a high stated readiness was also reflected in an actual readiness to fight, which allowed the Russian authorities for a long time to replenish their army’s ranks by recruiting volunteers and contract soldiers.
In September last year, after the announcement of the “partial mobilization,” more than half of Russian men aged 18 to 59 (55%) expressed a readiness to fight – voluntarily or if called up. Until mid-April, when we last asked the corresponding question, the figure remained at about the same level, fluctuating between 53% and 58%.
Clearly, a stated readiness to fight is not a sufficient basis for assessing potential reserves. It largely reflects general loyalty toward the authorities, Putin and the SVO, shaped by many years of propaganda and the propaganda now in support of the war effort. Actual readiness to go and fight is more correlated with personal socio-economic circumstances. In addition, an important factor is the extent to which the war affected a person or his loved ones.
At the end of March 2023, the agency ExtremeScan
conducted a survey in Belgorod, Bryansk and Kursk regions – near the front line – where the war has become an everyday experience, where fortifications are being built, where military bases and hospitals are located.
Among men aged 18 to 59 living in these regions, 22% expressed a willingness to serve voluntarily, while more than a third (37%) said they would fight only if called up. (Military duty in Russia applies to men from 18 to 50 years old if they did not undergo compulsory military service or finished it as a private or sergeant, and up to 65 years old if they ended it with a rank no higher than lieutenant colonel). If the respondent stated a readiness to go voluntarily, the interviewer asked if he had tried to sign up as a volunteer. More than a third (39%) said that they had, with a sixth saying that they even went to the enlistment office but were refused, having been told that “there is no need at the moment.” In other words, approximately 1.3% of border region residents liable for military service can be put down as volunteers – people not only ready to go to war, but having taken (according to them) some actions to realize that intention.
Overall, across Russia the share of people who expressed a readiness to voluntarily fight in the SVO was 15% (in the border regions, as mentioned above, it was 22%). If we assume that in other regions of the country, these people acted on that intention (with some even going to the enlistment office by their own free will) in approximately the same proportion as in the border regions, then in Russia about 400,000 (or 1%) men of military age – very close to the number mobilized last fall, according to the authorities
– are more or less actually ready to go and fight.Voluntarily or if called up
The “volunteers” from our surveys, who, as mentioned above, accounted for 15%, are almost entirely supporters of the SVO who, for one reason or another, cannot be mobilized or did not take any action to go and fight. (Fathers with multiple children, the disabled, men who suffer from certain diseases and men of advanced age are not subject to mobilization.)