Characteristics of the personality of the Russian Defence Minister Sergey Shoygu

Sergey Shoygu family and youth

Sergey Shoygu (in the centre) in his youth with his family

Sergey Shoygu, son of Kuzhuget, was born on 21 May 1955 in the city of Chadan, the Tuvan ASSR (now – the Republic of Tyva). His father was Shoygu Kuzhuget (1921-2010), whose official name in the passport was mistaked with Kuzhuget Shoygu. S.Shoygu father worked in the institutions of the Communist Party of the USSR for a lifetime and retired as the chairman of the Tuvan ASSR Council of Ministers. The mother of S.Shoygu was a Ukrainian-born Russian Alexandra Yakovlevna Shoygu (1924-2011), who was a member of the Tyvas People's Deputy Regional Council. S.Shoygu also had two sisters – Larisa and Irina.

Sergey Shoygu in his teen years

S.Shoygu school years are described as a crazy teenager who studied averagely at school and was more interested in various sports and outdoor activities. Due to his reputation as a hooligan, S.Shoygu was called as "Shaitan", which translates from into "Satan".
In 1967, at the age of 12, Shoigu took part in an archaeological expedition in Tuva and spent several months working in a flooded area of the Sayano-Shushenskaya hydroelectric station, which explains his current interest in geography. He participated in archelogical expeditions since 5th grade through graduating highschool. In 1977 he graduated from the Krasnoyarsk Polytechnic Institute and received a diploma as a construction engineer. During his studies, S.Shoygu met with his next wife, Irina Antipina, whose father was Alexander Antipin - the head of the construction field in Krasnoyarsk.

Sergey Shoygu's early career

After graduating, for about 11 years Sergey Shoygu worked in various Siberian construction areas, climbing the career ladder from foreman to managing director.  The rapid growth of S.Shoygu career is characterized by the fact that at the age of 28 he led the construction of the Sayanogorsk Aluminum Factory, which employed around 10,800 prisoners. During this time, S. Shoygu also got acquainted with the Second Secretary of the Achinsk City Committee, Oleg Shenin, who played a significant role in the progress of S.Shoygu’s career during the time of the Soviet Union's existence. With the favor of O. Shenin in 1988, S. Shoigu became the second secretary of the Abakan city committee. In 1990 Shoigu left for Moscow, where he applied for a post as the head of the Committee rectifying the consequences of the Chernobyl atomic station accident, but was unsuccessful. However, very soon after, he became the Deputy Head of the State Architecture and Construction Committee of the Russian Federation, and it is mentioned that this happened with the support of O. Shenin. In general, it appears that S.Shoygu career was greatly supported by his own and family ties with the Communist Party's staff.

Sergey Shoygu career in the 90s of the last century

S.Shoygu arrival in Moscow coincided with the collapse of the USSR, which in some ways created new opportunities. One of these available niches was the field of emergency response. Given the catastrophic experiences of the Chernobyl accident and the political chaos that ruled the USSR during its gradual collapse, the new Russian political leaders became aware that they were not prepared to deal with emergencies. Until that time, Soviet civil defence was linked to the The Soviet Armed Forces) and the Communist Party, but the armed forces were demoralized, while the party was discredited. S.Shoygu had the opportunity to form his name in a highly significant area of Russia. In December 1990, the Russian Rescue Corps was formed, and in spring of 1991 S.Shoygu was appointed as its leader. The Rescue Corps initially became the National Emergency Committee, which was transformed into a Ministry of Emergency Situations in 1994, and S. Shoygu became  its Minister.
Sergey Shoygu and his Corps played a direct role in the August Coup (19-21 August 1991) and Shoygu supported Yeltsin. Later, in October 1993, Yegor Gaidar, the Prime Minister of the Yeltsin government, authorized the Russian Rescue Corps to be armed. The next day, the Armed Forces unexpectedly supported Yeltsin on the dismissal of the State Dome. Until then, the Armed Forces had kept a neutral position between the parliament and the president. It is possible that S.Shoygu was responsible for armament of the institution in the goal to support Yeltsin, if necessary, in the case if the army would stand on the parliament side,  and not on the presidential side. Later, in the same year, S.Shoygu was rewarded for loyalty to B.Yeltsin with the Medal Defender of a Free Russia.    
In the 1990s, which was a very difficult time for Russia due to many regional conflicts, the Ministry of Emergency Situations stood out among other Russian institutions and services. The Ministry of Emergency Situations had generous state support, which contributed to its rapid growth. S.Shoygu was able to attract many former military and important personnel members to the ministry led by him. Established contacts and lessons learned in dealing with these people certainly helped S. Shoygu after he became Minister of Defence. In 1993, the Ministry of Emergency Situations became a paramilitary organization with a large contingent of armed forces. Under the leadership of the ministry, S. Shoygu received the rank of Major General, although he never served in the Armed Forces, only completed basic military training at the Polytechnic Institute. In the newly formed ministry, its activities made the public image of S.Shoygu in the Russian information space and strengthened his image as a brave, strong and confident leader who is present in all emergency situations and actively participates in their resolution.

Boris Yeltsin rewards Sergey Shoygu with Hero of the Russian Federation star

S.Shoygu, at this time, was greatly helped by his good relationship with the then Russian President, B.Yeltsin, who highly appreciated S.Shoygu and, as evidenced by the involvement of S.Shoygu in various important and risky tasks that were not directly related to the scope of the Ministry of Emergency Situations, he  was trusted a lot by B.Yeltsin. For example, in October 1998 S.Shoygu went to Tripoli to discuss issues of economic cooperation with Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi, including military technical cooperation issues that allowed Libya to bypass the sanctions imposed on it by the UN Security Council. In 1999 S.Shoygu became one of the leaders of the party Yedinstvo and even was promoted as a possible prime minister candidate.

Sergey Shoygu career during Vladimir Putin's time until November 2012

The time when Vladimir Putin became Russia's president was due to the start of the Second Chechen War and the explosions in apartments in Moscow. V. Putin was able to use these events to increase his political capital, and also S.Shoygu benefited from being actively involved in solving emergency situations, thus establishing closer personal ties with V. Putin. The image and reputation of S.Shoygu remained intact and was only increasing in the future. In the Beslan school hostage crisis in 2004, the Ministry of Emergency Situations was entrusted with the post-operative elimination, and the ministry led by S. Shoygu supported Putin in the resolution of the rather unsuccessful crisis.

Sergey Shoygu career development since 1990

S.Shoygu loyalty and dedication was rewarded, he was appointed The Mayor of the City of Moscow role in May 2012. V.Putin then started the third term of his presidency, and some Russian political analysts have come up with the idea that the appointment of S. Shoygu as a governor is a step towards preparing him for a seat in the Kremlin. Six months spent in the post of governor of Moscow allowed S. Shoygu to get acquainted more closely with Russia's political developments, gain even greater publicity and increase his political prestige.

Sergey Shoygu activities as a defence minister

On November 6, 2012, after replacing the then Minister of Defence, Anatoliy Serdyukov who was dismissed because of a connection to a corruption scandal, Sergey Shoygu was appointed as the new Russian minister of defence. The position of Minister for Defence  was a very big challenge for S. Shoygu, because it meant working with much more resources and fighting more significant bureaucratic resistance. S.Shoygu was given a difficult task to implement the reforms initiated by Anatoliy Serdyukov, but at the same time to cope with the dissatisfaction of the military elite and the fears of the consequences of the reform of the Armed Forces.
Looking at S. Shoygu's current role as Minister of Defence, one can conclude that its results have been quite successful. He has been able to reach a compromise between the need for reform of the Armed Forces and the plunder of Russian generals. His decisions to gradually renew the formation of the division level, to abolish the changes in the system of higher military education, to introduce new military uniforms, to get the participation of military cadets in the parade of the Victory Day celebrations, and other decisions are largely viewed as populist and focused on the need to demonstrate dignity among Soviet leaders- raising their morale for Shoygu. At the same time, S.Shoygu has been able to make the necessary reforms. The wearing of military uniforms is also a diametric difference between S.Shoygu and Anatoliy Serdyukov. Demonstration of the kind of respect and loyalty in this case is one of S. Shoich's benefits.
An important part in the work of S.Shoygu in the post of defence minister was the Russian aggression in Ukraine and the annexation of the Crimea in 2014, which favored the image of S.Shoygu and his assessment of work in Russia. The imminent execution of the Crimean peninsula was the first major military reform effort. Despite the undoubted role in the pursuit of aggression against Ukraine, S. Shoygu is not targeted by Western states.

Sergey Shoygu’s relationship with Vladimir Putin

S.Shoygu’s relationship with Putin is characterized as quite close, and both officials are often seen together in various events. In 2000, S.Shoygu gave a gift of a black labrador named Koni to V. Putin, who became the president's favorite. Both statesmen have been working together on a variety of male hobbies. For example, in 2013 S.Shoygu and V.Putin together spent a holiday in the Tuva Republic, which was widely advertised in the Russian media and was essentially made a campaign to make a better image of both statesmen, portraying themselves as patriots, who choose to take vacation in their homeland and to do manly activities - hunting, fishing, horseback riding, etc.
S.Shoygu tries to maintain close ties with V. Putin in order to secure his position in the offices of the Russian power elite and among Putin's loyal people. It is estimated that since 2012, S.Shoygu has been one of the closest political allies of Putin. Due to his loyalty and dedication, he has even been named V.Putin's "worker".

Sergey Shoygu and Vladimir Putin in a vacation

At the same time, S.Shoygu is also making a lot of important decisions. The increase in Russia's defence budget is mainly due to the efforts of S. Shoygu and not V. Putin's efforts. The same applies to the decision to bring rocket missile complexes to the S-400 Russian Air Force Base in Latakia, a Syrian coastal city. The creation of the National Defence Management Center is also largely the direct initiative of S.Shoygu. Consequently, it can be concluded that S.Shoygu has emerged as an important figure in the decision-making process. He chooses to make decisions relatively unnoticed, for example, for operations carried out by the Russian Armed Forces, reports from the press conferences are largely accounted not for S.Shoygu, but by the official representative of the Ministry of Defence Igor Konashenkov. This reduces the attention  given to S. Shoygu as an important military decision maker.

Sergey Shoygu’s chance to become Russia's president

Thanks to his rather good reputation, a successful and stable career in high-ranking positions in Russian state institutions, as well as a fairly close relationship with the current Russian President, Putin,  Shoygu is mentioned as the next possible Russian president. However, this statement has quite a number of counter arguments that make it doubtful. A well-known political scientist in Russia, Stanislav Belkovsky, says that becoming a Russian president is not possible because of his ethnic background. "Unlike the USSR, Russia is a national state in which only people with a Russian surname could become the head of the Kremlin," says Belkovsky. For example, in 2012, shortly after S.Shoygu’s accession to the post of defence minister, an internet survey was conducted, in which respondents were asked how they would respond if S.Shoygu was elected president of Russia. In the results of the survey, 60% had stated that their attitude was negative, only 20% said positively about such a possibility. Separate respondents cited the reason for their rejection of both S. Shoygu's ethnic background, including the probability that his mother is jewish, and the possibly close ties with B.Yeltsin. Doubts about S. Shoygu are also expressed in his religious affiliation, which is still unclear. One of the preconditions that is need for the next Russian president is belonging to the Russian Orthodox Church.

Typical Sergey Shoygu’s  stance
during a speech in conferences

At the same time, there are views that, with the changing ethnic proportions in Russian society (Russia is experiencing a demographic decline, at the same time, higher birth rates are in the part of the Russian North Caucasus, Central Asia and the part of the Siberian Muslims, which means that the ethnic composition in Russia will become more and more ”mixed”); S. Shoygu’s chances for a presidential job could be quite high. It is likely that five years after the previous survey, the results of the repeated survey could be more favorable for Shoygu, given his rather successful role as Minister of Defence.
In general, observers of political processes point out that, despite the good ratings of S.Shoygu, it is unlikely that he could replace Putin as a presidential candidate because the inclination of the Russian presidential power is based on the absence of any alternatives.
Putin will most likely not tolerate the fight of any apparent competitor, and will hold his power for as long as possible. S.Shoygu has never shown any particular effort to engage in politics, except for the short-term participation in the Yedinstvo party at the end of the 90's. S.Shoygu’s loyalty and the lack of political ambitions (or their lack of public disclosure) partly explain his long career in the Russian government. S. Shoygu could be a more realistic target for Russia's prime minister position.

Sergey Shoygu’s personal qualities

S.Shoygu, despite the minimal involvement in public policy, can be regarded as an ambitious person who will not hesitate to use various means to achieve his goals and to hold power. A typical example would be signing up himself in a hospital during Putin's "cleansing" of government (the Russian Employment Law states that public officials can not be dismissed from office while in hospital or on vacation). Of course, one can not believe that such a move would deter Putin from dismissal of S. Shoygu if he so wished, but it serves as one example of S. Shoygu’s motivation to use various means to achieve his goals.
Another characteristic of S.Shoygu is the targeted connection development with influential people and the use of these contacts for the benefit of his own. This characteristic of S.Shoygu has been observed since his youth, when he formed his career with the help of influential Communist Party activists. S.Shoygu is also not afraid to "climb over the corpses" to keep his positions, for example, in the August 1991 Coup against his former "teacher," O. Shenin, who was one of the leaders of the coup. S.Shoygu has always connected to the strongest and has shown loyalty, thus ensuring the stability of his position. To achieve this, S. Shoygu always strives to be in the right place at the right time and evaluate all the circumstances in order to gain the most. His career development since the Soviet Union, as well as active involvement in the establishment of the Rescue Corps, is a direct illustration of this.

Sergey Shoygu’ public image

S.Shoygu began to form his public image by working in the newly formed Ministry of Emergency Situations and it has to be acknowledged that he succeeded quite successfully. S.Shoygu has always appeared in various disasters, including those of a small scale. In the public space, he strengthened his image as a rigorous, diligent, and responsible figure. Often, he was seen in the media in an absolute peace with no change in facial expression, showing a strong and determined leadershi. Even later, as Minister of Defence, S.Shoygu has maintained such an image. S. Shoygu’s laconic and direct style of speech, giving short, concrete orders and comments, created a sense of support in Russian society because the Russian society sympathizes leaders that art firm and knowledgable.
 It is noteworthy that S. Shoygu has attributed his self-depreciated merits to shielding his image, for example by emphasizing his role as being personally involved in securing the road security of Chechnya and Ingush's roads in order to allow refugees to move. Although it may be true that the staff of the Ministry of Emergencies performed such tasks, it is questioned that S.Shoygu himself would have been involved in their implementation. In media reports, most likely, S. Shoygu has been shown to do some work in pre-assured circumstances, which is a common practice in the case of high-level Russian officials.

Sergey Shoygu participating in Night Hockey League

Russian public media has extensively portrayed the various hobbies of S.Shoygu. S.Shoygu really likes hockey - he plays as a member of the Night Hockey League. The Night Hockey League is an elite sports club established in 2011 on the initiative of V. Putin. Its members, including persons such as the former bodyguard of V. Putin and former deputy defence minister, current governor of the Tula Region, Alexei Dyumin, governor of the Moscow region, Andrey Yuryevich Vorobyov and others, are engaged in solving state-wide challenges when they are not playing hockey. Still, without playing hockey, S.Shoygu, together with other officials of the Ministry of Defence, including his deputies Tatiana Shevtsova and Valery Gerasimov, who is also the Chief of General Staff of the Russian Armed Forces, are happy to attend the humor TV show "KVN". This show has also been attended by other high-ranking Russian officials, including V. Putin.

The reputation and the connection with corruption of Sergey Shoygu

S.Shoygu has largely avoided various public scandals and political intrigues. However, in October 2015, the well-known Russian opposition activist and head of the Anti-Corruption Fund Alexei Anatolievich Navalny said that S.Shoygu owns a private house built in an oriental style of approximately USD 16 million of value, which is like a small castle in terms of space. Given the fact that S. Shoygu's official income does not exceed USD 120,000 per year, the ownership of such private house in the possession of S.Shoygu is quite a direct sign of his corruption. Activists led by Alexei Anatolievich Navalny claim that S.Shoygu has tried to conceal the fact that he owns this house by registering it to his daughter, Kseniya Shoygu, which, of course, raises the question - as at the time of registration of the home, how the 18-year-old Kseniya Shoygu could have bought a like that. In 2012, the house was re-registered on the name of one of Elena Antipova, who has the same surname as S.Shoygu’s wife. Activists of the Anti-Corruption Fund assume that it could be S.Shoygu’s wife's sister. Georgy Alburov, one of the collectors of evidence in S. Shoygus’s private house case, argued that when they arrived at S.Shoygu's house, they were stopped by the Russian Federal Security Service officers who threatened to accuse them of plotting thefts.

Shoygu’s private house near Moscow

One can conclude that S.Shoygu, like other high-level government officials of Russia, has illegally multiplied his funds by using various complex schemes in order to obtain state budget money. It should be noted that Russia's military budget has grown by more than 50% over the last five years, giving rich people opportunities in this area to increase their income through corruption.

Sergey Shoygu’s national identity and religious beliefs

In the past, S. Shoygu has often said that a city in his native Siberia, rather than Moscow, was more suitable for the Russian capital. Despite these flattering statements about his native region, it is likely that S. Shoygu is still being led by his career calculation, so his priority will be to form close ties with Moscow. However, it is very possible that (this is also reflected in his private house design choices) S.Shoygu is mentally, culturally and historically related to his native region.
It seems that S. Shoygu has inherited some habits from Tuva. S.Shoygu's father was a herbalist, and also S.Shoygu himself is well oriented in the characteristics of different plants. There is a known fact that S.Shoygu has led B.Yeltsin to one of the shamans from Tuva for the "search of the spiritual path", and also has used extra-terrestrial services to predict earthquakes and other possible catastrophes while working at the Ministry of Emergencies. However, it is possible that this was a way of identifying with the Russian society, in which such mystical things are still popular today. Perhaps this was also a way for S. Shoygu to gain strong support for himself in Siberia, showing respect for the traditions and habits of the place he was born.
There is some confusion about S.Shoygu's religious affiliation. Although S.Shoygu had repeatedly said during various interviews that he was baptized at the Orthodox Church at the age of five, many questioned it until S.Shoygu's 2015 proclamation of the Victory Day parade where he showed the movement of the cross.


Recommended literature and internet resources:

Revealed: How Vladimir Putin's defense minister has secretly built a $16MILLION oriental palace on the outskirts of Moscow (despite his paltry $120,000 salary);

Russia’s Sergei Shoigu. Master of emergencies;

Sergey Shoygu: Russia’s Emergency Defense Minister. A Bio-Sketch;

Silent strongman Sergey Shoigu is the real force behind Russia’s military aggression;

The Russian Military under Sergei Shoigu: Will the Reform Continue?;

Биография Сергея Шойгу;

Шойгу, Сергей. Министр обороны РФ;


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