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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Army Setting Its Sights On a Touch of Culture

He can shoot straight and command a tank, but when it comes to quoting Pushkin, conversing in French or dancing a Mazurka, the modern Russian army officer leaves a great deal to be desired, and the Defense Ministry is determined to do something about it.

Defense Ministry spokesman Nikolai Malyshev said the army was increasingly concerned by what he called "the unsatisfactory level of general education in the academies" and as a result was extending academy courses from four to five years.

"We want our officers to be well-educated people. Before the revolution the officers of the tsarist army were considered to be the most educated people of their time. We want to restore this tradition," he said.

"We also want to restore Russian army traditions that were forgotten during the communist regime -- like etiquette and dancing," Malyshev said.

The courses will also be designed to equip officers better for civilian life, Malyshev said. General training will be close to that in the civilian colleges and after it all officers will receive a civilian diploma.

"A thorough knowledge of the humanities will help officers to find their way in life after the service," he said.

Valery Stepanov, a 27-year old former army captain who, like thousands of other officers was forced out of the service by the disintegration of the Soviet Union, said the decision would help to keep those cadets who were now planning to leave the service.

"Nobody wants to find himself in a situation in which I was two years ago. I had entered a world that was absolutely new and strange for me. I didn't have any profession, I didn't speak any foreign languages. Military training is too specialized for normal civilian life," he said.