Russia: First in Civil Defense

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In contrast to the U.S.'s desultory interest in civil defense, the Soviet Union is well advanced on a thoroughgoing program to protect its people against nuclear attack. The Soviet government has built shelters by the thousands and organized elaborate training programs, reported the Rand Corp.'s Leon Gouré, leading U.S. authority on Soviet civil defense, at a civil defense conference last week at the University of California at Los Angeles.

The Soviet civil defense effort is expanding steadily on a compulsory basis. "Once the Soviet government makes a decision of this sort," said Gouré, "it does not have to ask for public support or popular approval." Under directives from the Ministry of Internal Affairs, all units right down to collective farms and apartment houses are required to organize so-called volunteer self-defense groups consisting of 48 trained fire fighters, shelter attendants and first-aid workers for every 500 residents. A claimed 22 million Soviet citizens—10% of the whole population-serve in these formations. Since 1955, these units have carried through three compulsory training courses for all citizens. This winter, says Gouré, the Soviet Union is giving every urban citizen between the ages of 16 and 55 an 18-hour course in how to protect himself against nuclear attack and how to behave in shelters. "Soviet shelter facilities," says Gouré, "are the most extensive anywhere." They range from concrete installations in every factory to the root cellar under every peasant hut.

The new trend in Soviet civil defense, says Gouré, is toward greater emphasis on getting people out of the cities. Says Gouré: "The very latest information we have shows that the Russians aim at evacuation in case of nuclear attack to initial staging areas ten to 50 miles beyond city limits. And if there is time enough before the actual attack, they have plans to move the people farther on to dispersal in small towns and rural areas." Later this year, a compulsory C.D. course will give groups in every major Soviet city a total of 64 hours' training in evacuation procedures.