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Civil Defense

Civil defense was another part of Soviet strategic defense. It originated with the large-scale relocation of defense industries from the western Soviet Union to east of the Ural Mountains in 1941. Civil defense reappeared in the late 1940s as antiaircraft units were attached to Soviet factories to defend them against strategic bombing. By the early 1970s, the emphasis on civil defense increased, and the chief of Civil Defense became a deputy minister of defense. Each union republic had a general officer as the chief of civil defense in the republic.

In 1989 the purpose of civil defense was to provide protection for leadership and population in wartime and to ensure the Soviet Union's ability to continue production of military matériel during a nuclear or a protracted conventional war. Officers from Civil Defense were attached to union republic, oblast (see Glossary), raion, and municipal governments, as well as to large industrial and agricultural enterprises, and assigned to supervise civil defense work, organization, and training. These staff officers developed and implemented detailed plans for the wartime relocation of important defense industrial facilities and the evacuation of labor forces to alternative sites. They supervised the construction of blast shelters and other installations to ensure that these structures could withstand nuclear strikes. Civil Defense operated a network of 1,500 underground shelters that could protect 175,000 top party and government officials. In 1989 Civil Defense had 150,000 personnel.

After a nuclear exchange, the civil defense effort would be directed at reestablishing essential military production through decontamination, first aid, and civil engineering work to clear collapsed structures and to restore power supplies, transportation, and communications. Civil Defense trained in peacetime by conducting simulations of the aftermath of a nuclear attack and small-scale evacuation exercises. It was also called on to fight fires, conduct rescue operations, decontaminate areas affected by nuclear and chemical accidents, and provide natural disaster relief.

Sources and Resources

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