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DOSAAF (Russian: ДОСААФ), full name Volunteer Society for Cooperation with the Army, Aviation, and Navy (Russian: Добровольное Общество Содействия Армии, Авиации и Флоту), was a paramilitary sport organisation in the Soviet Union, concerned mainly with weapons, automobiles and aviation. The society was established in 1927 as OSOAVIAKhIM and from 1951 to 1991 carried the name of DOSAAF.
The society was preserved in some post-Soviet Republics, e.g. Russia and Belarus, although these may use a different name. In Ukraine, for example, the counterpart is "Society of Assistance to Defense of Ukraine". In Russia it was reformed in December 1991 as the Russian Defence Sports-Technical Organization ROSTO (Russian: Российская оборонная спортивно-техническая организация – РОСТО). In December 2009, ROSTO was renamed DOSAAF Russia. For Belarus, see DOSAAF (Belarus).
The stated goal of the society was "patriotic upbringing of the population and preparation of it to the defense of the Motherland". Among the means to achieve this was the development of paramilitary sports. Initially, an important goal was financial support of the Soviet Armed Forces. At the same time, ordinary sports were supported within the framework of DOSAAF facilities such as sports halls, stadiums, swimming pools, gymnasiums and others.
The precursor of DOSAAF was the OSOAVIAKhIM (ОСОАВИАХИМ, Союз обществ содействия обороне и авиационно-химическому строительству СССР, Union of Societies of Assistance to Defence and Aviation-Chemical Construction of the USSR) created on 27 January 1927 by merging the Society of Assistance to Defence (Общество Содействия Обороне (ОСО)), Society of Friends of the Air Force (Общество друзей Воздушного флота (ОДВФ)) and Society of Friends of Chemical Defense and the Chemical Industry (Общество друзей химической обороны и химической промышленности (Доброхим СССР)).
The goal of the society was preparation of reserves for armed forces. It soon became a powerful militarised organisation with its own airfields, radio clubs, parachuting towers and firing ranges. It became prestigious and romantic among the youth to earn badges such as "Voroshilov sharpshooter" (Russian: Ворошиловский стрелок), "Voroshilov horse rider" (Russian: Ворошиловский всадник) and "Distinguished Parachute Jumper". Gradually, OSOAVIAKhIM developed into a back-up military training organization. Its courses included advanced disciplines like tactics, topography and armament. In contrast to the usual draft, a person could join OSOAVIAKhIM as early as 14.
OSOAVIAKhIM supported a number of professional research and development programs for airplanes, glider, airships and stratospheric balloons, some of which were later taken over by the Soviet Air Forces. In the 1930s, Sergey Korolev's rocket research organisation (the GIRD) and Oleg Antonov's glider project, among other efforts, were part of the OSOAVIAKhIM.
In March 1948 OSOAVIAKhIM was reorganised into three societies: The Voluntary Society of Assistance to the Army (Russian: Добровольное общество содействия армии (ДОСАРМ)), The Voluntary Society of Assistance to the Air Force (Russian: Добровольное общество содействия авиации (ДОСАВ)) and The Voluntary Society of Assistance to the Navy (Russian: Добровольное общество содействия флоту (ДОСФЛОТ)). On 20 August 1951 they were re-merged as a single society, DOSAAF.
As was common in the late Soviet Union, "voluntary" actually meant "partially obligatory". For example, every member of the Komsomol had to be member of DOSAAF (and most Soviet youth had to be in the Komsomol, e.g., if they wanted higher education). Membership was 10 kopeks in the 1960s–1970s – postage for a letter was 4 kopeks.
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