Sergei Kuzhugetovich Shoigu[a][b] (Russian: Сергей Кужугетович Шойгу; born 21 May 1955) is a Russian politician and army general who has served as the minister of defence of Russia since 2012. Shoigu has served as the chairman of the Council of Ministers of Defense of the Commonwealth of Independent States since 2012.
Shoigu was the minister of emergency situations from 1991 to 2012. He briefly served as the governor of Moscow Oblast in 2012. A close confidant and ally of Vladimir Putin, Shoigu belongs to the siloviki of Putin's inner circle.
Early life and education
Shoigu was born on 21 May 1955 in Chadan in the remote and impoverished Tuvan Autonomous Oblast to an ethnic Tuvan father, newspaper editor Kuzhuget Shoigu[c] (1921–2010) and a Ukrainian-born Russian mother, Alexandra Yakovlevna Shoigu (1924–2011), who was a member of the Tuva Regional Council of People's Deputies. Kuzhuget Shoigu rose to secretary of the Tuvan Regional Committee of the Communist Party, becoming a major figure in the Communist power structure of the republic.
After graduating from School No. 1 of Kyzyl city in the Tuvan ASSR, Shoigu studied at the Krasnoyarsk Polytechnic Institute. Graduating in 1977 with a degree in civil engineering, Shoigu worked in construction projects nationwide for the next decade, advancing from low levels to become an executive. In 1988, Shoigu became a minor functionary in the Abakan branch of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, and then in the Komsomol for a few years. In 1990, Shoigu moved to Moscow from Siberia, and was appointed deputy chairman of the State Architecture and Construction Committee of the Russian Federation, assisted by his father's connections. Future President Boris Yeltsin had held a similar position in the Construction Committee, and also come from a civil engineering and party background, and Shoigu thus gained Yeltsin's trust.
Minister of Emergency Situations (1991–2012)
Shoigu as Minister of Emergency Situations, 2002
In 1991, he was appointed by Yeltsin to head the newly established Russian Rescue Corps by Yeltsin, responsible for the rescue and disaster response system. The Rescue Corps replaced the previous Soviet civil defense system and soon absorbed the 20,000-strong militarized Civil Defense Troops of the Ministry of Defense, with Shoigu being appointed chairman of the State Committee of the Russian Federation for Civil Defense, Emergency Situations, and Disaster Response. Civil Defense remained a quasi-military organization in continuation of Soviet practice and Shoigu was politically involved, such as an unsuccessful attempt to evacuate Russian-backed Afghan President Mohammad Najibullah in 1992 and the intended distribution of weapons from the Civil Defense stocks to Yeltsin supporters during the October 1993 coup. In keeping with the militarized nature of Russian civil defense, Shoigu received the rank of major general in 1993, and was promoted swiftly to lieutenant general in 1995, colonel general in 1998, and to army general, in practice the highest Russian military rank, in 2003. The committee was renamed the Ministry of Emergency Situations (MChS) in 1994, making Shoigu a government minister. He became popular because of his hands-on management style and high visibility during emergency situations, such as floods, earthquakes and acts of terrorism. Under Shoigu, the responsibilities of the ministry were expanded to take over the Russian State Fire Service in 2002, making the MChS Russia's third-largest force structure.
In 1999 he became one of the leaders of the Russian pro-government party Unity, created by the Kremlin in opposition to the anti-Yeltsin elites of the Fatherland – All Russia alliance. Unity allowed for the rise of Vladimir Putin to President and in 2001 was combined into the ruling United Russia party, although Shoigu was the only delegate to vote against the merger. Shoigu was awarded Russia's most prestigious state award – Hero of the Russian Federation – in 1999.
Governor of Moscow Oblast (2012)
With over twenty years of service as Minister of Emergency Situations, Shoigu established a close relationship with Vladimir Putin, and was rewarded by being appointed Governor of Moscow Oblast in 2012, taking office on 11 May of that year.
Minister of Defence (2012–present)
On 6 November 2012, Shoigu was appointed Minister of Defence by Putin, succeeding Anatoly Serdyukov, who had implemented sweeping reforms of the Russian Armed Forces in response to performance in the Russo-Georgian War. According to expert Sergey Smirnov, the so called "Petersburg group" of siloviki (Sergei Ivanov, Sergey Chemezov and Viktor Ivanov) had wanted one of its associates to succeed Serdyukov, but Putin was reluctant to strengthen the clan and opted for the neutral Shoigu. Serdyukov was unpopular with senior military leaders and seen by them as a civilian with no military background, something that Shoigu addressed by symbolically tying himself to the military through wearing his army general uniform, reviving historical units dissolved under the reforms, and reinstating officials dismissed by Serdyukov. Furthermore, Shoigu appealed for support for reform within the army rather than taking a confrontational stance, appointed deputy ministers of defense from the military, and removed Serdyukov-appointed civilian tax service officials from the top echelons of the Ministry of Defense.
As defence minister, Shoigu continued aspects of Serdyukov's attempts at modernizing the Russian Armed Forces through reform. This included the creation of the Special Operations Forces Command to facilitate rapid intervention in conflicts within the perceived Russian sphere of influence and counterterrorism efforts. Serdyukov's goals of increasing the share of the Russian Armed Forces made up of professional contract servicemen rather than conscripts continued under Shoigu. However, the demographic challenge of a decreasing pool of military-aged and -eligible males forced him to increase national conscription quotas in early 2013, including even North Caucasians perceived as a security risk by authorities such as Chechens. This followed on from Serdyukov's initiatives of reducing available draft exemptions.
In November 2012, Shoigu decided to resurrect the tradition of Suvorov and Nakhimov cadets participating in the 9 May parade. In July 2013 Shoigu ordered commanders to begin every morning in the barracks with a rendition of the Russian anthem, to compile an obligatory military-patriotic book reading list and take the preparation of demob albums under their control. In August that year he ordered to dress all Defense Ministry civilian workers, other staff and management employees in so-called "office suits".
Shoigu at the 2014 Moscow Victory Day Parade
In February 2014, Shoigu said Russia was planning to sign agreements with Vietnam, Cuba, Venezuela, Nicaragua, the Seychelles, Singapore, and several other countries either to house permanent military bases and/or to house airplane refueling stations in those countries. Since then, only an agreement with Vietnam has been effectively signed.
In July 2014, Ukraine opened a criminal case against Shoigu. He was accused of helping to form "illegal military groups" in Eastern Ukraine who at the time fought against the Ukrainian army.
On 30 September 2015, Russia began a military operation in Syria. The operation was carried out by the Russian Aerospace Forces, with the support of the Russian Navy.
Shoigu was reappointed as defence minister in 2018 (in the Medvedev second government) and in 2020 (in the Mishustin government).
Shoigu with Israeli Prime Minister Benyamin Netanyahu, October 2017
Shoigu holds a meeting with U.S. National Security Advisor John R. Bolton in Moscow in October 2018
As defence minister, Shoigu on multiple occasions accompanied Putin during weekend breaks that the pair would spend at undisclosed locations in the Siberian countryside.
On 11 February 2022, Shoigu met UK Defense Secretary Ben Wallace. Shoigu denied that Russia was planning an invasion of Ukraine.
On 24 February 2022, Russia launched a large-scale military invasion of Ukraine. Shoigu said the purpose of the invasion "is to protect the Russian Federation from the military threat posed by Western countries, who are trying to use the Ukrainian people in the fight against our country." The sources say the decision to invade Ukraine was made by Putin and a small group of war hawks in Putin's inner circle, including Sergei Shoigu and Putin's national security adviser Nikolai Patrushev. In a 11 March video conference with Putin, Shoigu claimed that "everything is going to plan."
On 13 May, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin initiated a telephone conversation with Shoigu, the first call since 18 February. The call lasted about an hour with Austin urging an immediate ceasefire in Ukraine.
On 23 February 2022, the European Union considered Shoigu responsible for actively supporting and implementing actions and policies that undermine and threaten the territorial integrity, sovereignty and independence of Ukraine as well as the stability or security in Ukraine. Therefore the European Union added Shoigu to the list of natural and legal persons, entities and bodies set out in Annex I to Regulation (EU) No 269/2014.
On 25 February 2022, following Russia's invasion of Ukraine, the United States added Shoigu to the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List.
According to The Siberian Times, Shoigu is known to speak eight languages other than Russian fluently, including English, Japanese, Chinese, Tuvan, and Turkish.
Sergei Shoigu was born to Kuzhuget Sereevich Shoigu (1921–2010 and Alexandra Yakovlevna Shoigu (née Kudryavtseva, 1924–2011). His father was born Shoigu Seree oglu Kuzhuget. His name order was changed because of a passport error, according to the Tuva official line. More likely, he Russified the name from the Turkic oglu "son of...") . Kuzhuget was an editor of a regional newspaper. He later worked in the Communist Party and for the Soviet authorities. He was the secretary of the Tuva Party Committee. He retired with the rank of first deputy chairman of the Council of Ministers of the Tuva ASSR.
Shoigu's father led the Tuvan State Archives. He spent six years as the editor of the newspaper Pravda. He wrote the novels Time and People, Feather of the Black Vulture (2001), Tannu Tuva: the Country of Lakes and Blue Rivers (2004).
Shoigu's mother Alexandra was born in the village of Yakovlev in the Oryol Oblast. From there, shortly before the war, her family moved to Kadievka (now Stakhanov) in the Luhansk Oblast, Ukraine. A zootechnician, Alexandra was an Honored Worker of Agriculture of the Republic of Tuva. From 1979 she was the head of the Planning Department of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic. She was repeatedly elected deputy of the Supreme Soviet (parliament) of the Tuva ASSR. Sergei's great uncle, Seren Kuzhuget, was the commander of the Tuvan People's Revolutionary Army from 1929 to 1938.
Sergei has two sisters, Larisa Kuzhugetovna Shoigu (1953–2021), who was deputy of the State Duma, and Irina Zakharova (1960–), a psychiatrist.
Shoigu married Irina Alexandrovna Shoigu (née Antipina). She is president of the business tourism company Expo-EM. They have two daughters, Yulia (1977) and Ksenia (1991). According to Alexei Navalny, Ksenia is suspected to be a figurehead of her father in the ownership of a palace in the outskirts of Moscow, valued at about £12 million. In 2012, the estate was transferred to the formal ownership of Yelena Antipina. Following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, Ksenia posted a video on social media of her daughter and herself wearing the colours of the Ukrainian flag.
Shoigu enjoys studying the history of Russia, especially Peter the Great's time and the era between 1812 and 1825 (which includes the French invasion of Russia and the Decembrist revolt).
Shoigu is fond of sports and is a fan of the CSKA Moscow hockey team. He enjoys football and is a fan of Spartak Moscow. In March 2016, together with Sergey Lavrov, Shoigu presented the Russia People's Soccer League, with aims to unite fans of the sport from all over Russia.
Shoigu collects Indian, Chinese, and Japanese swords and daggers. He enjoys bard songs and plays the guitar. He does water color paintings and graphics. He enjoys collecting old pieces of wood, some of which he has shown to Putin.
Shoigu stated in 2008 that he was baptized in the Russian Orthodox Church at the age of five, rebutting rumors that he was a practitioner of Shamanism or Buddhism like many Tuvans.
- ^ Also transliterated as Shoygu; Russian: Сергей Кужугетович Шойгу, IPA: [sʲɪrˈɡʲej kʊʐʊˈɡʲetəvʲɪtɕ ʂɐjˈɡu]; Tuvan: Сергей Күжүгет оглу Шойгу, romanized: Sergey Kyzhyget oglu Shoygu, IPA: [siɾˈɡɛj kyʒyˈɣɛt ɔˈɣlu ʃɔjˈɣu].
- ^ The correct name should be Sergei Shoiguevich Kuzhuget as the Soviet official swapped the name of his father, Shoigu Kuzhuget to Kuzhuget Shoigu.
- ^ Born Shoigu Kuzhuget, the Soviet officials swapped the name and surname.
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