Is it true that Soviet students spend the summer working in construction units? Who or what forces them to?

Grigori Reznichenko ::: Young people in the USSR. Answers to questions

To begin with, there is no compulsion here what­soever. The whole thing is purely voluntary. In fact not everyone can get into a construction unit-there are always more applicants than there are places for them. Each unit has its own assignment, usually a building project, and is provided with tools and equipment, accommodation, etc. So the size of the unit depends on the scale of the job and the ac­commodations that are available.

Now as to what prompts students to sign up for the construction units. The main reason, according to numerous surveys, is the wish to be useful to society in some concrete way. The desire to earn money also carries weight although the units often decide to donate the money they’ve earned to various funds administered by public organisations. For in­stance, student-donated money was used about 15 years ago for building tractors for Cuba, and later for sending parcels to the patriots in Vietnam and Chile.

Why are students attracted to this form of so­cially useful work? Above all, they like the respon­sibility, the sense of independence and the satis­faction of seeing the results of their work. The unit usually completes its assignment during the vacation period-it builds a school, shop, cowshed, a road and so on, and all by itself from beginning to end.

A growing tendency is for members of construc­tion units to work in the field in which they are trained. In 1977, for instance, 142,000 students work­ed in specialised units: archeological, art restora­tion, medical, railway, retail trade and so on.