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Leadership in Developing a Civil Defense


Pictured: Marshal V. I. Chuikov’s article, “Population Protection—The Main Task of Civil Defense” published in Voennye Znaniya (Military Knowledge), No. 1, January 1964, p. 3.


As Commander-in-Chief of the Ground Forces and Chief of the Civil Defense, Marshal of the Soviet Union Vasily Ivanovich Chuikov was entrusted with the leadership of the country's civil defense system. Planned and implemented throughout the country, all civil defense measures concerned every citizen. Protecting the country's population and territories from all possible damage from weapons of mass destruction was the purpose of this system of protective measures. For the modern, Western reader, it is important to note that Chuikov wrote his article during the height of the Cold War when the threat of weapons of mass destruction was a very serious concern. As one can tell, he was very thorough in covering the various tasks and contingencies, which reveals the depth of his ability to plan strategically. An excerpt of his article appearing in the January issue of Voennye Znaniya provides insight into Vasily Ivanovich’s comprehensive approach to civil defense considering the possibility of a nuclear missile strike:


“With the advent of nuclear missiles, the problem of protecting the population has radically changed. Now it is impossible to limit ourselves to the expansion of protective measures only in individual cities and at military facilities. It is necessary to show maximum concern for the anti-nuclear protection of the population of the entire country, including rural areas.

Obviously, in the event of a war, the imperialist bloc will try to launch nuclear missile strikes primarily at the industrial, agricultural, scientific and administrative-political centers of the Soviet Union and the countries of the socialist camp. It is the task of the leaders of civil defense, of the entire Soviet people, to use all our forces and means to protect these centers.


A study of the latest achievements of Soviet science and technology, existing methods and means of ensuring the protection of the population shows that there are many reliable and effective measures that can significantly reduce losses in the event of thermonuclear strikes by the enemy.


First of all, civil defense leaders must take into account the advantages of the socialist system in their practical activities. The planned management of the national economy contains, for example, innumerable possibilities for the most reasonable distribution of the country's productive forces and the settlement of its people. Restricting the growth of large cities, stopping the concentration of industry in them, early withdrawal of enterprises and institutions not related to the life of the city to the suburban area - all these are effective measures to protect the population from means of mass destruction. Of course, such measures in modern conditions are not easy to implement, since many industrial centers have developed historically. But whenever possible, this task, in our opinion, must be solved.


The main method of protecting the population in modern conditions is its dispersal (evacuation) from large cities - the likely targets of an enemy nuclear missile attack. It goes without saying that dispersal will play its role if it is very clearly planned, provided with material and technical means. What kind of transport, whom and where to evacuate is determined by the local authorities. The success of the evacuation will largely depend on the population itself, on its training, organization and discipline. Therefore, when educating the population, it is necessary to explain in detail to him the duties, procedure, means and methods of evacuation.


When solving the problems of dispersal, it should be borne in mind that a significant part of the workers, engineers, and office workers will have to stay in the city. This is, first of all, a working shift at industrial, transport, energy and communications enterprises. Before civil defense, there is a need to shelter people at their place of work. This will require the accumulation of a certain fund of protective structures. At every enterprise, in every institution, collective farm and state farm, you can find the appropriate places to hide people: special shelters, basements of industrial and residential buildings, underground workings, etc. The chiefs of civil defense, their headquarters and services, the heads of organizations and institutions should foresee the use of such conditions in advance.


A huge danger in a nuclear explosion is the defeat of radioactive substances. In order to preserve their life and health, each person must be able to use the protective properties of industrial, residential and other buildings, have personal protective equipment for the respiratory organs and open parts of the body, know and observe the appropriate modes of life and work in the territory contaminated with radioactive fallout on the trail of the cloud nuclear explosion. Our task is to broadly explain to the population what exactly can be used as a means of protection in such cases. And not only to explain, but also to teach citizens to independently manufacture individual and collective means of protection.


The nuclear missile war, which the aggressive circles of the imperialist states are preparing to unleash, will require enormous material and human resources. Therefore, the problem of protecting the population is closely related to the issues of ensuring the stable operation of industry and agriculture in wartime conditions. The survivability of objects of the national economy will play an important role in meeting the needs of the Armed Forces and the population of the country.


Housing, food, water, clothing - all this is necessary for a person in any situation. Therefore, it is necessary to take effective measures to prepare in advance for the protection of farm animals, food, water sources. The heads of collective and state farms, based on local capabilities, are obliged to carry out a certain set of measures, and the headquarters of civil defense - to provide them with methodological assistance.


In the event of a nuclear missile war, pockets of mass destruction may arise, and then the civil defense will have to immediately organize rescue operations. In order to provide timely assistance to the population who have received various types of injuries, it is necessary to have a sufficient number of forces capable of skillfully and quickly carrying out rescue and urgent emergency recovery operations.


The backbone of the civil defense forces are formations designed to rescue people and provide them with medical assistance. Each citizen who is in the formation is called upon to constantly improve his skills, to be always ready to do everything in his power to protect his native enterprise, collective farm or state farm.


Now the training of the personnel of the formations is widely deployed. Good experience has already been accumulated in organizing and skillfully conducting classes. However, we have not yet achieved that the formations were exemplary everywhere. To do this is the immediate task of the chiefs of civil defense and their headquarters. The main attention should be focused on the individual training of fighters and formation commanders, on the training of units, groups, teams, and detachments. It is also necessary to generalize and disseminate the advanced experience of training and educating personnel, studying the local press and radio, oral propaganda.


Successful protection of the population from weapons of mass destruction is unthinkable without comprehensive training of people for civil defense. Such training should be carried out not only in study groups. Every Soviet person needs to independently study protection measures against nuclear, chemical and bacteriological weapons. It should be clear to everyone what a poor knowledge of methods of protection, rules of behavior, methods of providing self-help and mutual assistance in the face of an enemy attack can lead to.


In educating the population, it is necessary to achieve greater organization, improve the quality of classes, and eliminate the still encountered facts of formalism and irresponsibility. The headquarters of civil defense, the committees of the DOSAAF, the SOKK and the Communist Party of the USSR, the health authorities should maintain close ties with the party, Soviet, Komsomol and trade union organizations. Only by relying on the public can we successfully cope with this important state task.”


Translated by Igor Musienko.

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