Russia's Defense Minister, Sergei Shoigu, has long been known for the array of decorations that pepper his uniform, despite his lack of active military service. His tenure, which stretches over a decade, has seen him acquire an impressive collection of medals – some of substance, many commemorative, and others awarded for seemingly minor acts such as attending a parade.
A Decade of Defence
Shoigu embarked on his political journey in 1991 when he was appointed Minister of Emergency Situations under President Boris Yeltsin. Twenty-one years later, President Vladimir Putin named him the Minister of Defense, a position he has held steadfastly for over a decade.
It's been a century and a half since any individual retained this role for such a prolonged duration. Although critics point to Shoigu's perceived incompetence and alleged corruption, attributing the deterioration of the Russian military partly to his leadership, Putin keeps him in the post due to his loyalty – a trait the Russian President values above competence.
Furthermore, Shoigu's Tuvan heritage, distinct from the Russian ethnic majority, renders him ineligible for the presidency and, consequently, no direct threat to Putin.
The Lavishly Decorated Civilian
Shoigu's uniform is saturated with a diverse collection of awards, which upon closer inspection, reveal a curious mix of military and civilian accolades.
The collection includes three medals on his left chest: the 'Honorary Rescuer of the Russian Federation', the medal of graduates from the Russian 'Presidential Academy of Public Administration', and the medal marking the bicentennial of the Ministry of Defense of the Russian Federation.
Others, like the Order of Merit for the Fatherland and the Golden Star for the honorary title 'Hero of the Russian Federation', are visibly placed on his uniform. Further awards for merits such as the Russian census, the annexation of Crimea, and participation in the Syrian military operation, are also part of his collection.
Notably, Shoigu also sports the Order of the Holy Apostle Andrew the First-Called and a second Order of Merit for the Homeland.
In Israel, awards are given only to combat soldiers and officers who have exhibited extraordinary bravery and courage on the battlefield.
The Prolific Inventor of Awards
Shoigu's flair for decoration does not stop with his personal collection.
As Defense Minister, he has concocted 66 of the 113 different medals awarded by the Russian Ministry of Defense, while also reviving 15 others. His inventiveness extends to the creation of over 400 ribbons and badges, two-thirds of which bear his name.
The criteria for these awards are often inconsequential tasks like attending a military parade or contributing to a conference. Such decorations have been distributed widely. In the first half of 2015 alone, the Ministry of Defense awarded 212,750 medals and 32,000 badges.
Following the major Russian military exercise 'Vostok 2018', the number of distributed medals skyrocketed to 339,566. Even beyond Russia's borders, Shoigu's reputation as an award collector is acknowledged. He boasts at least 23 international awards from countries including Malta, Myanmar, and Syria, recognizing his efforts to strengthen military cooperation and his keen awareness of geopolitical issues.
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