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Labour battalions have been a form of alternative service or unfree labour in various countries in lieu of or resembling regular military service. In some cases they were the result of some kind of discriminative segregation of the population, while in some others they have been a conscious choice.
In some countries labour battalions were created from part of population which for various reasons were not suitable for regular military service, often because this population was considered "undesirable" or "unreliable", e.g., political enemies, population of occupied territories or "lower races".
Examples include labour battalions in the late Ottoman Empire and early Turkish Republic both during World War I and during World War II, labour service in Hungary during World War II, as well as labour battalions in other territories held by Nazi Germany and its allies (see also "Hiwi".).
In some countries labour battalions are a form of civil conscription instead of military conscription for people who cannot join military service for various reasons, e.g., due to bad health or being conscientious objectors to any forms of violence, as long as they aren't considered unfit for other work.
Until the last days of the Soviet Union with obligatory military duty in the state, men deemed unfit to regular military duty but not unfit for other work, as well as many able-bodied ones, were assigned to construction battalions (стройбаты) of the Soviet Army .
- Bevin Boys in the United Kingdom from 1943 to 1948
- Civil conscription
- Civilian Conservation Corps as a public work relief program in the United States from 1933 to 1942
- Bausoldat in East Germany
- Hand and hitch-up services
- Labour army
- Labour camp
- Reichsarbeitsdienst in Nazi Germany from 1933 to 1945
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