Militsiya or militia (Russian: мили́ция; IPA: [mʲɪˈlʲitsɨjə], Belarusian: міліцыя, Kyrgyz: милиция, Lithuanian: milicija, Polish: milicja, Romanian: miliția, Slovene: milica , Tajik: милитсия, Ukrainian: міліція, Uzbek: militsiya or милиция), often confused with militia, is used as an official name of the civilian police in several former communist states. The term was used in the Soviet Union and several Warsaw Pact countries, as well as in the non-aligned SFR Yugoslavia, and it is still commonly used in some of the individual former Soviet republics and eastern Europe.
Name and status
The name originates from a Provisional Government decree dated April 17, 1917, and from early Soviet history, when both the Provisional Government and the Bolsheviks intended to associate their new law enforcement authority with the self-organization of the people and to distinguish it from the czarist police. The militsiya was reaffirmed on October 28 (November 10, according to the new style dating), 1917 under the official name of the Workers' and Peasants' Militsiya, in further contrast to what the Bolsheviks called the "bourgeois class protecting" police. Eventually, it was replaced by the Ministry of Internal Affairs (Russian: МВД, MVD; Ukrainian: МВС, MVS; Belorussian: МУС, MUS), which is now the official full name for the militsiya forces in the respective countries. Its regional branches are officially called Departments of Internal Affairs—city department of internal affairs, raion department of internal affairs, oblast department of internal affairs, etc. The Russian term for a raion department is OVD (ОВД; Отдел/Отделение внутренних дел), for region department is UVD (УВД; Управление внутренних дел) or, sometimes, GUVD (ГУВД; Главное управление внутренних дел), same for national republics is MVD, (МВД; Министерство внутренних дел).
Functionally, Ministries of Internal Affairs are mostly police agencies. Their functions and organization differ significantly from similarly named departments in Western countries, which are usually civil executive bodies headed by politicians and responsible for many other tasks as well as the supervision of law enforcement. The Soviet and successor MVDs have usually been headed by a militsiya general and predominantly consist of service personnel, with civilian employees only filling auxiliary posts. Although such ministers are members of their respective countries' cabinet, they usually do not report to the prime minister and parliament, but only to the president. Local militsiya departments are subordinated to their regional departments, having little accountability before local authorities.
The official names of particular militsiya bodies and services in post-Soviet countries are usually very complicated, hence the use of the short term militsiya. Laws usually refer to police just as militsiya.
The short term for a police officer (regardless of gender) is militsioner (Russian: милиционер, Ukrainian: мiлiцiонер). Slang terms for militsioner include ment (plural: менты, menty) and musor (plural: мусора, musora). Although the latter word is offensive (it literally means "trash" or "garbage"), it originated from an acronym for the Moscow Criminal Investigations Department (МУС, short for Московский уголовный сыск) in Imperial Russia. Ment is a close equivalent to the English slang term "cop" and has derived from the Lwów dialect.
The following countries have changed the name of the police force from Militsiya to Police western-style name:
- 1989 — Bulgaria.
- 1990 – Poland, Romania, Estonia, Lithuania, Moldova.
- 1991 – Latvia.
- 1992 – Mongolia, Macedonia, Azerbaijan.
- 1993 – Georgia.
- 1997 – Yugoslavia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
- 1998 – Kazakhstan.
- 2001 – Armenia, Turkmenistan.
- 2011 – Russia.
- 2015 – Ukraine.
The police are still called Militsiya in Belarus, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan, Kyrgyzstan, as well as in unrecognised republics of Abkhasia, South Ossetia and Transnistria but in Kyrgyzstan there is an active discussion about renaming the police force from Militsiya to Police.
The organizational structure, methods and traditions of the militsiya differ significantly from those of western police. Militsiya as an organization consists of many functional departments, such as the GIBDD, a traffic police. Organized crime detectives form highly independent squads inside regional militsiya. Some units may have the distinctive names (like OMON in Russia) which are more specific than militsiya or militsioner.
Militsiya personnel ranks mostly follow those of the Army – from private (Rus: ryadovoy), which is the lowest rank, to colonel general – with only these exceptions: there are no ranks of Army General and Marshal. Detectives (Russian: operativnik short for operativniy rabotnik) hold a rank of lieutenant at least and could be promoted to major or the lieutenant colonel. The militsiya of an oblast (or other equivalent subnational entity) is usually headed by a general. The rank name is suffixed with of militsiya (e.g. major of militsiya for a major). Militsiya personnel carry firearms, but are not permitted to carry their weapons when they are off duty.
Unlike in some other countries' police agencies, militsioners are not assigned permanent partners, but work alone or within larger groups. Neither street patrols nor detectives are allowed to drive police vehicles themselves, so a specialist driver (either a serviceman or a civil employee) is assigned to each car and is also in charge of its maintenance. GIBDD (the traffic militsiya) is the only exception: its members drive their own (or even own private) cars and are specially trained in risk-driving.
One unique feature of militsiya policing approach is the system of territorial patronage over citizens. The cities, as well as the rural settlements are divided into uchastoks (Russian: pl. участки, "quarters") with a special uchastkovyi militsioner ("quarter policeman"), assigned to each. The main duty of uchastkovyi is to maintain close relations with the residents of his quarter and gather information among them. In particular, uchastkovyi should personally know each and every ex-convict, substance abuser, young hooligan etc. in given uchastok, and visit them regularly for preemptive influence. Uchastkovyi is also responsible for tackling minor offences like family violence, loud noise, residential area parking etc. Uchastkovyi is also the main, and actually the real, militsiya force in remote areas and small settlements where permanent police departments are not created. Uchastkovyi militsioners possess separate small offices within their quarters and maintain citizens admittance in definite weekdays.
This system slightly resembles the US system of sheriffs but shows some notable differences. Uchastkovyi is neither a chief police officer in a given community nor a universal one (not combining detective, incarceration or special tactics tasks).
The system of uchastkovyis dates back to imperial times when uriadniks were conducting lowest-level policing in rural areas. In Soviet Union, uchastkovyis were also responsible for such tasks as maintaining propiska limitations and overseeing former political prisoners, which were subject to daily registration at the local MVD office.
Although women constitute a significant proportion of militsiya staff, they are usually not permitted to fill positions that carry risks (such as patrolman, guard, SWAT), but are allowed to carry firearms for self-defense. Instead, they are widely represented among investigators, juvenile crime inspectors, clerks, etc. However, limited attempts are being made to appoint women as traffic officers or operativniks.
Another unique militsiya feature is the use of conscripted soldiers from the Internal Troops for regular urban policing. The Internal Troops are the gendarmerie-like military force who can be assigned to carry out simple public security tasks like patrolling while being accompanied by professional militsioners, or cordoning large crowds at sport events, concerts, and protests. These soldiers possess no firearms on their policing duties, however they do have cold weapons; when called to perform riot control duties, they are typically armed with riot batons. The soldiers typically wear standard grey militsiya uniforms, however they are authorized to wear a green military uniform and will sometimes even wear armor vests and protective helmets on their policing duties.
While not on law enforcement duty, soldiers reside in barracks and maintain standard military training. ODON is a famous Internal Troops unit which is frequently used for policing Moscow; its soldiers can be spotted by a shoulder patch which features a white panther; other Internal troops units in the Moscow region use a shoulder patch with a white falcon.
Until late 1936, the People's Militsiya and Internal Troops of the NKVD had no personal ranks, much akin to the Red Army, Red Navy, and OGPU, and used position-ranks. When personal ranks were reintroduced in the military in 1935, the Militsiya created a curious rank system that was a blend of standard military ranks such as Sergeant, Lieutenant, Capitan and Major, and old positional ranks like 'squad leader', 'inspector', and 'director', some with several grades like 'senior' or 'junior'. The collar rank insignia was completely original and not based on military insignia.
New insignia were issued to GUGB in 1937 and to Militsiya in 1939. It was now based on collar rank patches of the Red Army and Internal Troops. Confusingly, the special NKVD rank system was left intact, so for example 'Captain of Militsiya/State Security was assigned the three-box insignia of an army Colonel (in the Red Army, this patch was reassigned to Lieutenant Colonel in September 1939, but the NKVD did not alter their insignia) and Major of Militsiya/State Security was mapped to one-romb insignia of Kombrig (a brigade commander) (which was abolished for commanding officers of the Red Army in May 1940). This created a great deal of inconsistency and tension between army and NKVD/NKGB officers.
The NKVD rank system was streamlined in 1943 when imperial-style shoulder boards replaced the collar insignia patches. The ranks now copied those of the Soviet Army, with the exception of top officers starting with 'Senior Major' who were renamed Commissar of Militsiya 3rd, 2nd, and 1st rank, although they still wore army-style Major General, Lieutenant General and Colonel General shoulder boards.
The GUGB/NKGB maintained their commissar ranks until 1945, and switched to equivalent General ranks after that. Militsiya retained commissar ranks until 1973.
Some MVD officers had distinct ranks of General of the Internal Service of 1st, 2nd and 3rd rank; they were replaced with Major General, Lieutenant General and Colonel General in the 1970s.
Ranks of militsiya are considered special ranks, not to be confused with military (all-forces) ranks, which are used by the internal troops of MVD. All militsiya ranks have the words "of militsiya" at the end, which are part of the rank name and not a descriptive addition.
Table of ranks and insignia of former Russian militsiya
|Private Staff||Junior Supervising Staff|
for every day uniform
|Medium Supervising Staff||Senior Supervising Staff||Supreme Supervising Staff|
for every day uniform
Non-police services of the MVD
The Soviet and some post-Soviet Ministries of Internal Affairs have also included:
- militarized forces ( "Internal Troops );
- department of prisons (i.e. GULAG and its successor bodies), if not merged with other ministries or agencies;
- passport and registration service, if not merged with Migration service.
These non-police services should be distinguished from the militsiya itself, except passport and registration service, which structures are often included into OVD and sometimes considered as one of the important militsiya services. Their members have always used different generic names and specific ranks (e.g. Major of the Internal Service, rather than Major of Militsiya).
Militsiya in the Russian Federation
The Russian MVD was recreated as the MVD of the Russian SFSR in 1990, following the restoration of the republican Council of Ministers and Supreme Soviet, and remained when Russia gained independence from the Soviet Union. It controlled the Militsiya, the State Road Inspection Service (GAI), and the Internal Troops. Since the disbanding of the Tax Police, it also investigates economic crimes.
The long-time additional duties of the Imperial MVD and NKVD, such as the Firefighting Service and Prisons Service, were recently moved to the Ministry of Emergency Situations and the Ministry of Justice respectively. The last reorganization abolished Main Directorates inherited from the NKVD in favour of Departments. The current minister of internal affairs in Russia is Rashid Nurgaliyev.
Throughout the first half of the 1990s, the Russian militsiya functioned with minimal funding, equipment, and support from the legal system. The inadequacy of the force became particularly apparent during the wave of organized crime that began sweeping Russia after the beginning of perestroika. Many highly qualified individuals moved from the militsiya into better-paying jobs in the field of private security, which has expanded to meet the demands of companies needing protection, while others joined the organized crime itself. Frequent taking of bribes among the remaining members of the militsiya has damaged the force's public credibility. Numerous revelations of participation by militsiya personnel in murders, prostitution rings, information peddling, and tolerance of criminal acts have created a general public perception that all militsioners are at least taking bribes. Bribery of officers to avoid penalty for traffic violations and petty crimes is a routine and expected occurrence, as well as tortures and abusing of suspects in the custody. Up to 50–80% of suspects were reportedly tortured and beaten in order to extract a "confession."
In a 1995 poll of the public, only 5% of respondents expressed confidence in the ability of the militsiya to deal with crime in their city. Human rights organizations have accused the Moscow militsiya of racism in singling out non-Slavic individuals (especially immigrants from Russia's Caucasus republics), physical attacks, unjustified detention, and other rights violations. In 1995 Minister of Internal Affairs Anatoliy Kulikov conducted a high-profile "Clean Hands Campaign" to purge the MVD of corrupt elements. In its first year, this limited operation caught several highly placed MVD officials collecting bribes, indicating a high level of corruption throughout the agency. According to experts, the main causes of corruption are insufficient funding to train and equip personnel and pay them adequate wages, poor work discipline, lack of accountability, and fear of reprisals from organized criminals.
According to the country law, the militsiya ranks in Russia are classified as a "special ranks of the law-enforcement service" or "special ranks". Such a ranks are in general equal to the Russian military ranks. There are 3 types of the "special ranks": – militsiya ranks (for Ministry of internal affairs (MVD) personnel working in the general-purpose militsiya service), – justice ranks (equal to militsya but suffixed with "of justice") – for personnel of the MVD investigatory agency departments, – internal service ranks (suffixed with "of internal service" – in general such personnel wear the Russian military uniform) – for the personnel of MVD, Ministry of Emergency Situations and civil defence, Peneciary service on the service of: fire guard, migration service, administrative function and other.
In some cases the personnel with the special ranks could be promoted into the military rank. For example, if the officer of militsiya is removing to the Internal Troops. Another case: if it is necessary to promote the officer into the higher rank which is absent in militsiya ranks or in ranks of other special service.
The Day of Russian Militsiya is held on November 10.
An opinion poll conducted by the Levada Center in early 2010 showed that 30% of Russians more or less trust the militsiya, while 67% more or less fear the institution and its representatives. 63% consider it likely that they will suffer from arbitrary action on the part of the militsiya, while 24% find this unlikely. In Moscow, 99% of the respondents expressed some degree of distrust in the militsiya.
In August 2010, President Dmitry Medvedev introduced new legislation to reform and centralize the funding of the militsiya, as well as to officially change the militsiya's name to "Police" (the term which was used in the Russian Empire). The change was performed on March 1, 2011.
The term Militsiya is still used in several countries of the former Soviet Union. Its usage, for example, is maintained by the Belarusian (Belarusian: мiлíцыя) government. In Belarus, in addition to the Militsiya, law enforcement is also the responsibility of other agencies such as the Presidential Guard and the State Security Committee (KGB), all under the authority of the country's Ministry of Internal Affairs.
The term was also used in countries friendly to the Soviet Union such as Bulgaria (Bulgarian: милиция) and other Warsaw Pact nations, as well as the non-aligned Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia, although throughout the 1990s, the Yugoslav milicija was slowly phased out and replaced by policija (police). For example, in 2000, a standard Serbian police uniform may have either displayed the word Milicija (Милиција) or Policija (Полиција). Bulgaria changed the name of its law enforcement body to Policija (Bulgarian: полиция) in 1991. In Romania the term was Miliţia or Miliţie, but after the communist regime fell, it was replaced by Poliţia or Poliţie in 1990.
- Politsiya – Russian successor for the Militsiya
- Voluntary People's Druzhina
- ODON of the Internal Troops
- Milicja Obywatelska, police in People's Republic of Poland, with similar name
- Kosmolinska, Natalka and Yuri Oxrimenko. "Homo leopolensis esse." No. 36, 2004.
- Lohman, Diederik. Confessions at Any Cost. Police Torture in Russia. New York : Human Rights Watch, 1999, p. 196. ISBN 1-56432-244-0.
- "Милиция доверия не заслужила." Gazeta.ru. February 17, 2010. Retrieved July 26, 2012.
- Bratersky, Alexander. "Police to get new name in reform." Moscow Times. August 9, 2010. Retrieved August 18, 2010.
- "В Україні замість міліції хочуть зробити 5 поліцій"
- Shelley, Louise I. Policing Soviet Society: The Evolution of State Control. London: Routledge, 1996.