Job satisfaction among Russian officers

I just came across an article that reports the results of a survey of Russian soldiers, primarily junior officers. Unfortunately, the text is only available to subscribers. Here’s the citation for those with access to the right databases: СУРКОВА И.Ю. Удовлетворенность воинской службой в российской армии: факторы и прогнозы, Социологические исследования, 2012, #3.

First, some demographic background: The survey was conducted in all four military districts over the course of four years — from 2007 to 2010. It is not clear from the description if this was a panel survey, with the same respondents questioned  every year. The median age of the 600+ officers surveyed is 29.  The respondents averaged ten years of military service, mostly in the ground forces, though 28 percent served in the air force. 91.2 percent of the respondents are male, which matches the overall composition of the Russian military pretty closely.

Pay is the first topic addressed by the survey. According to the data, the average salary of officers in 2007 was 4500 rubles per month lower than the national average (8049 vs 12,603). Though average pay for those surveyed had increased by 2010 to 10,705, the national average had increased faster, to 18,453. So by 2010, officers were receiving 7,747 rubles per month less than the national average. (This was all before the significant increase in pay took effect last January, but shows why such an increase was so necessary.) The material situation of respondents was made worse by the difficulty of finding work for officers’ spouses in military towns and the absence of nearby relatives, who often provide additional material support for young Russian families. Some respondents noted that they had to give blood for money in order to make ends meet.

At the same time, respondents who come from poor villages consider themselves well off relative to both their parents and their peers, especially if they are serving in smaller towns or other areas where differences between military and civilian pay are less pronounced.

The monetization of benefits that took place in 2004 also had a negative effect on the financial status of those surveyed, since people working in the military were affected by the elimination of the right to free transport. 58 percent of those surveyed believed that benefits were a better system than equivalent financial compensation. They believed that benefits were an indicator of status — that as long as officers received benefits they were a part of the country’s elite. Even if benefits were to be replaced by an equivalent increase in pay, this attitude means that job satisfaction was likely to decline.

The concluding part of the study presents a logit regression that shows that respondents were less likely to be satisfied with their jobs if they cared about the financing of their unit, were upset about violations of rules by senior officers, or who experienced job stress. No surprises here, at first glance. But it’s interesting to look at the factors that did not affect job satisfaction for these officers — whether the respondents had adequate housing, length of service, and total monthly income all didn’t matter. The conclusion drawn by the author is that in order to increase job satisfaction, the military needs to focus on financing of units and ensuring proper and respectful relations between commanders and subordinates. I guess that means another effort to fight corruption at the unit level.



Bonus pay for officers and contract soldiers explained

Having already covered basic pay for both conscripts and contract soldiers/officers, what’s left is to go through the recent set of decrees that spell out the bonuses to be paid to officers and contract soldiers. Most of this information is derived from the various new decrees and regulations that came into effect on January 1 and are helpfully compiled by Rossiiskaia Gazeta.

1. Years of service bonuses (monthly, applied to combined rank and position pay):

a) 10 percent for 2-5 years

b) 15 percent for 5-10 years

c) 20 percent for 10-15 years

d) 25 percent for 15-20 years

e) 30 percent for 20-25 years

f) 40 percent for 25 or more years

For some types of service, a month counts as two or 1.5 months.

2. Qualification bonuses (monthly, applied to position pay):

a) 5 percent for third class

b) 10 percent for second class

c) 20 percent for third class

d) 30 percent for master class

3. Working with classified materials: Up to 65 percent of position pay, depending on level of classification. ( I haven’t found anything that spells out the details on this. Maybe it’s still coming.)

4.   Carrying out dangerous duties in peacetime:

a) Up to 100 percent of the monthly position pay for diving

b) Up to 60 percent of the monthly position pay for participating in military exercises, ship deployments, or other duties that take place outside of the permanent location of the soldier or officer’s military base

c) Up to 50 percent of the monthly position pay for parachute jumps, mine clearance, use of explosives, disposal of explosives or other armaments, participation in flights from an aircraft carrier, firefighting, working with confidential informants

d) Up to 30 percent of the monthly position pay for working at the Baikonur space launch facility, for working with HIV or typhus-infected personnel or in departments or laboratories that deal with dangerous infections, for working at medical facilities where conditions are dangerous to one’s health, or for working with corpses, X-rays, or dangerous substances

e) Up to 20 percent of the monthly position pay for working in refueling naval nuclear reactors, nuclear fuel, or radioactive waste.

5. Serving outside the Russian Federation (applied to total pay) :

a) 40 percent for serving in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, or Tajikistan

b) 30 percent for serving in Azerbaijan, Armenia, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, or Moldova (evidently including Transnistria)

c) 20 percent for serving in Ukraine

d) 10 percent for serving in Belarus.

6. Personnel serving in conditions of military conflict or emergency situations receive a 50 percent bonus to total pay.

7.  Personnel who belong to the special forces or to the Unified Command for conducting counter-terrorist operations in the North Caucasus who are permanently based or temporarily located in Dagestan, Chechnya, Ingushetia, North Ossetia, Kabardino-Balkaria, and Karachaevo-Cherkessia get a bonus equal to 200 percent of their monthly position pay. Personnel who do not belong to these commands who are fighting against ‘unlawful combatants’ in those regions get a bonus equal to 100 percent of the monthly position pay.

8. There are also bonuses for serving in the far north or in difficult climates, but I haven’t been able to find the amounts — perhaps they haven’t been published yet. If they have been published, I’d be grateful to any of my readers who might send me a link….

Finally, there are some one time payments listed

1. For relocating to a new place of service, personnel get a payment equal to their monthly salary plus 0.25 of their monthly salary for each dependent.

2. Upon retirement, personnel who have served less than 20 years get a payment equal to two times their monthly salary. Those who have served more than 20 years get a payment equal to seven times their monthly salary. Those who have received state medals or decorations during their service get a payment equal to one additional monthly salary.

3. The families of personnel who dies while serving in the military or up to one year after leaving service if the death is caused by wounds received while serving receive a one time payment of 3 million rubles (to be adjusted annually for inflation) plus a monthly pension.

4. Personnel who are forced to leave the military because of wounds received while serving receive a one time payment of 2 million rubles for contract soldiers or 1 million rubles for conscripts (to be adjusted annually for inflation) plus a monthly pension.

There’s a lot here. Perhaps the most interesting bit is the decision to declare those serving in the North Caucasus eligible for significant bonus pay — comparable or larger than bonus pay for serving in other countries. It seems that the hope is that this will make soldiers more willing to serve in these more dangerous areas.

Otherwise, everything seems more or less straightforward. I get the impression that the resulting salaries (at least for contract soldiers and officers) will for the first time in decades be competitive with the civilian job market. Whether this is enough to counter the negative image of the military among the general population and lead to a substantial increase in recruitment and retention of personnel, only time will tell.


New pay structure for conscripts announced

In late December, the Russian government approved some more rules and regulations dealing with military pay. These included a decree on stipends for conscripts and a separate decree on bonuses and other forms of additional pay for officers and contract soldiers. In this post, I’ll cover pay for conscripts.

Position Monthly pay (rubles)
Petty officer (starshina) 1800
Assistant duty officer at command post, translator 1700
Deputy platoon commander, head of medical clinic 1600
Head of firing range, checkpoint or fuel depot 1500
Squad commander, head of coding post, sanitation or cooking instructor 1400
Artillery weapon firing commander, driver-mechanic of self-propelled strategic missiles 1300
Driver-mechanic, senior driver, senior communications operator, recon, nurse, senior rescue personnel, student at professional military school 1200
Driver, communications operator, rescue personnel, grenade-thrower, sniper, machine-gunner 1100
Rifleman, camoufleur, road builder, electrician, student at technical school or at military school (incl cadets at Nakhimov and Suvorov schools) 1000

In addition to this basic income, conscripts receive various bonuses, including for:

  1. Higher qualifications: 5 percent for 3rd class, 10 percent for 2nd class, and 20 percent for 1st class specialists.
  2. Serving in unusual or difficult conditions:

a) Up to 100 percent of the stipend for serving on submarines or as aircraft crew

b) Up to 70 percent of the stipend for serving on a surface ship, in a position that requires parachuting or diving, in the Presidential regiment, or in special units

c) Up to 50 percent of the stipend for medical specialists, staff of the space forces, or soldiers serving on combat duty

d) Up to 20 percent of the stipend for ground-based aviation specialists working in positions that ensure flight safety; soldiers working in refueling naval nuclear reactors, nuclear fuel, or radioactive waste; soldiers working as tank crews; or for rescue unit personnel

e) Up to 10 percent of the stipend for soldiers serving in border guard posts.

3.  Carrying out dangerous duties in peacetime:

a) Up to 100 percent of the stipend for diving or parachute jumps

b) Up to 50 percent of the stipend for mine-clearance or fire-fighting (for each day spent performing those duties)

4.  Working with classified materials: 10 percent for secret classification, 20 percent for top secret, 25 percent for materials “of special importance”

5.  Additional 1000 rubles per months for orphans or others who are eligible to receive additional support according to the federal law on orphans and children lacking parental support.

A couple of quick points about all this. First of all, the base pay for conscripts is being more or less doubled compared to 2011 rates. Also, the bonuses for higher qualifications and working with secret documents are new. Previously, they were only available for officers and contract soldiers. The publications I have seen do not make it absolutely clear whether the other bonuses are new or not, though Rossiiskaia Gazeta seems to imply that they are.

At the same time, the Rossiiskaia Gazeta article’s statement that conscripts who are responsible and don’t get into trouble will now be getting a sizable amount of money seems to be overstating things a bit. The absolute maximum a conscript soldier who is not an orphan can make under these rules is 6210 rubles/month, assuming I didn’t mess up the math. That comes out to a bit over $200/month. I suppose that’s not completely horrible given that these are mostly 18 or 19 year-olds whose housing and food are being provided by the government. But to call it a sizable amount of money is going a bit far for my taste. Especially when the vast majority of conscripts will be getting stipend in the $30-50/month range. It goes to show just how embarrassingly low conscript pay was in the Russian army — given that these rates are DOUBLE the previous ones.

New pay structure approved

On December 5, the Russian government approved the new pay structure for the Russian military. As before, the pay structure consists of two main parts: position pay and rank pay, with a 2:1 ratio between these two parts. In addition, there are various bonuses, such as danger pay, hardship pay, additional pay for working with classified materials, etc. I won’t cover the bonuses here, as the government decree did not address these topics.

First, rank pay

Military rank

Monthly pay




Army general or admiral (4 stars)


Brigadier Colonel general or admiral (3 stars)


Lt. general, Vice admiral (2 stars)


Major general, Rear admiral (1 star)


Colonel, Captain 1st rank


Lt. Colonel, Captain 2nd rank


Major, Captain 3rd rank


Captain, Captain lieutenant


Senior lieutenant




Junior lieutenant


Chief warrant officer or midshipman


Warrant officer or midshipman


Master sergeant or chief ship petty officer


Senior sergeant or chief petty officer


Sergeant or petty officer 1st class


Junior sergeant or petty officer 2nd class


Private 1st class (efreitor) or senior seaman


Private or seaman


And position pay:


Monthly pay (rubles)

First Deputy Minister of Defense


Deputy Minister of Defense


Commander of a service (ground forces, navy, air force)


Head of a chief directorate, commander of a branch of the armed forces (rocket forces, VDV, etc)


Deputy head of a chief directorate, commander of a combined army


Head of a directorate


Deputy head of directorate


Department head


Deputy department head


Head of a group in a department


Senior officer in a directorate


Officer in a directorate


Corps commander, directorate head at unified strategic command HQ


Division commander


Department head at unified strategic command HQ


Brigade commander, department head in combined army HQ


Regiment commander


Senior officer at unified strategic command HQ


Senior officer at combined army command HQ


Officer at unified strategic command HQ


Officer at combined army command HQ


Battalion commander


Company commander


Platoon leader


Squad leader


Contract soldier initial pay




What does this translate into? The starting salary for a contract soldier is $6000 a year, compared to an average salary in Russia of $9000 a year in 2010. That’s not bad for a starting salary. Anyone with a position of squad leader or above is pretty much guaranteed to be making more than the average Russian salary, and this is before bonuses. A company commander (typically a captain or major) will be making 50 percent more than the average salary. Plus, of course, housing is provided (though the quality of the housing may be quite poor in some locations).

So it seems to me that the Russian government has now followed through on its stated intent of making service in the Russian military financially attractive. Time will tell how this will impact on the recruitment and retention of contract soldiers and junior officers. Also, we will have to see whether the budget can handle the additional expense. But it certainly seems to be another step in the right direction for the reformers.

A quick summary of Russian military pay increases

This is mostly for ease of reference. Starting in January 2012, base pay rates in the Russian military will be as follows:

  • Contract soldiers: 25,000 rubles per month
  • Platoon commanders (Lt.): 30,000 (without bonuses)
  • Regiment commander (Lt. Col.-Col.): 40-42,000 (without bonuses)
  • Brigade commander (Col.-Maj. Gen.): 42-44,000 (without bonsuses)
  • Army commander (Lt. Gen.): 54,000 (without bonuses)
  • First deputy defense minister (Army Gen.): 67,000 (without bonuses)

If you include bonuses, this translates to:

  • Lieutenant: 50,000
  • Colonel: 60,000
  • Major General: 73,000
  • Lieutenant General: 90,000
  • Army General: 112,000

Information taken from VPK, which does not discuss the pay rates of sergeants or mid-level officers (captains, majors).