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The term militia (pronounced /mɨˈlɪʃə/[1]) is commonly used today to refer to a military force composed of ordinary citizens[2] to provide defense, emergency law enforcement, or paramilitary service, in times of emergency without being paid a regular salary or committed to a fixed term of service. It is a polyseme with multiple distinct but related meanings. Legal and historical meanings of militia include:

  • Defense activity or service, to protect a community, its territory, property, and laws.[3]
  • The entire able-bodied population of a community, town, county, or state, available to be called to arms.
    • A subset of these who may be legally penalized for failing to respond to a call-up.
    • A subset of these who actually respond to a call-up, regardless of legal obligation.
  • A private, non-government force, not necessarily directly supported or sanctioned by its government.
  • An official reserve army, composed of citizen soldiers. Called by various names in different countries such as; the Army Reserve, National Guard, or State Defense Forces.
  • The national police forces in several former communist states such as the Soviet Union and the Warsaw Pact countries, but also in the non-aligned SFR Yugoslavia. The term was inherited in Russia, and other former CIS countries. See: Militia (Police).
  • In France the equivalent term "Milice" has become tainted due to its use by notorious collaborators with Nazi Germany.[citation needed]
  • A select militia is composed of a small, non-representative portion of the population,[4] often politicized.[citation needed]


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