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  2. "Of course, I want to think of this as 'make-believe,' but I'm getting ready for the real thing." How a museum curator from Gatchina with no army service experience became a motorized rifle platoon commander

"Of course, I want to think of this as 'make-believe,' but I'm getting ready for the real thing." How a museum curator from Gatchina with no army service experience became a motorized rifle platoon commander

Yevgeny Rodionov
Source: Aisulu Shukurova's archive
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Yevgeny Rodionov, a 45-year-old museum curator and senior researcher from Gatchina, was conscripted into the military from the Leningrad region. He has never served in the army, and he received his rank of lieutenant when he graduated from the History Department of St. Petersburg State University where he attended military training classes specializing in "military psychology." Judging from his description, Yevgeny Rodionov is not the type of person that the authorities have promised to draft in the first group of the partial mobilization. However, he was not only drafted but was also appointed commander of a motorized rifle platoon. His colleagues and his wife told "7x7" about this situation. They also claim that the man has vision problems, minus four in one eye. They consider what happened to Yevgeny a "mistake" and a "misunderstanding" and they are trying to bring the museum curator back home. Read more about it in this "7x7" story.

Platoon Commander

"On Saturday, September 24, I'm going to the recruitment office. They will tell me where to go next. If they send me back, then it was a false alarm. And if not, then I won't be writing anything here for a long time, and you wish me good luck," this message Yevgeny Rodionov posted on his page in the "Vkontakte" social network on September 22.

His wife Aisulu Shukurova says that Yevgeny received a summons at work. The man was called up for a five-day training camp. But when he went to the military registration office, he was given another summons requiring him to come to the recruitment office. Yevgeny himself wrote about this in the comments to his post:

"They gave me a piece of paper to take to work, which informed that I was drafted into the armed forces. In the human resources department they got nervous because now I had to be fired (the first notice was about a two-week training camp). In addition, the summons said to come tomorrow to the recruitment station (not the military registration office) with toiletries and food for 24 hours. Of course, I want to think of this all as "make-believe", but I am getting ready for the real thing. If I am wrong in my suspicions, I will apologize to everyone for the inconvenience.”

But it was not make-believe at all. Aisulu Shukurova's husband was taken to Luga (a city in Leningrad Region). Yevgeny told her that he had been appointed a motorized rifle platoon commander. The news came as a surprise to her because her husband had never had any experience of military service or combat training. The administration of the museum, where Yevgeny had worked before mobilization, contacted the recruitment office with explanations, and Rodionov was released from a commander’s duties and appointed a deputy political officer.

“But so far nothing is definite. What exactly his duties are is not clear. Formally, by his [military registration] specialty he qualifies, but he does not by the fact that he neither served in the army nor had any combat experience," Aisulu says.

Law-abiding citizen

Yevgeny was born in Gatchina. After graduating from the Department of History of the Middle Ages, it took him some time to find a job in his field. He worked at a construction site, and then he heard that the Gatchina Palace needed a specialist who could work with an arms collection, who also knew European history of the early modern period and could speak foreign languages. Yevgeny was perfect for the job. His wife Aisulu, they have known each other since university, works in the same museum.

“We studied together; I also graduated from the Department [of History] of Middle Ages, only I specialized in Byzantium. And I also lived in Gatchina, so he and I are from the same town. But our story is really intriguing, it’s like a plot for a romance novel: we were friends for a long time, and we both had unsuccessful marriages. And then when we were already working together, we got drawn to each other. I also work at the Gatchina Palace, I’m in charge of paintings. We’re a museum family,” Aisulu says. She adds that before Yevgeny, his mother and grandfather had also worked at the museum.

Prior to his mobilization, Rodionov worked at the Gatchina museum for 15 years. He was a senior researcher and the curator of the arms collection. At first, Rodionov worked on various texts, publications and editions, and he also organized exhibitions, then took over the arms, metals, and numismatics collection. And he had been in charge of this section of the museum for more than 10 years.

“His main brainchild is the arms collection. He has done a lot for it, and he is the author of a four-volume academic catalog. The Gatchina collection is one of the largest in our country and in fact one of the few collections of arms as artistic products, which is fully cataloged. As an author of catalogs and as a specialist Yevgeny is well known in Russia and outside our country," Aisulu says.

Rodionov's family is not in opposition to the special operation in Ukraine. According to Aisulu, February 24 was no surprise to them:

"When the cries of 'moskalaku na gilyaku' [a scornful expression in Ukrainian wishing death to Russians] began in 2014, one could have assumed that such a thing would happen. No normal society, when its neighbors call for execution, for slaughter, would react like ‘it’s just talking.’ Eight years of shelling Donbas is longer than the Great Patriotic War lasted. No one says war is a good thing. You always see what you want to see. If you want to see that it started only February 24, you will see it.”

When the partial mobilization began, Yevgeny decided he wasn't going to hide.

“In the early days [after the decree] it was only assumed that people who had not served in the army wouldn’t be drafted. They simply announced the ranks and ages for eligibility. Then it was stated that those who had not served and had no combat experience shouldn’t be drafted," Rodionov's wife recalls. “He had no intention to flee or hide. He understands the situation, and if the draft included people of his specialty and experience, that was one thing. When he came to the recruitment office, it was clear that in his case it was a military office job.”

But when Yevgeny was appointed commander of a motorized rifle platoon, he knew that as someone without any experience in combat conditions he would only be an obstacle.

“At the very least he would be risking not only his own life, but the lives of his subordinates. But he is certainly not the kind of man who would scream 'get me out of here!'" Aisulu says.

She says that Yevgeny's behavior, the fact that he didn’t try to avoid the service, earned him a lot of respect among his coworkers.

“Because he didn't run either to Yerevan, or Tbilisi, or Kazakhstan, because he didn't hide from his duties. He's a law-abiding citizen, but I want the law to be observed in his case, too," the woman explains.

Irreplaceable Specialist

On September 25, a post was published in "VKontakte" calling what happened to Yevgeny Rodionov "a mistake" and "a misunderstanding.” The link to the post was sent to "7x7" by Yevgeny's friends and colleagues. They all claim that Rodionov is an irreplaceable specialist and would be more useful to society at the museum than in the trenches.

"People like him are vital to the preservation of our heritage, Russian culture; there are no waiting lists for jobs in our field, as you understand. Being a museum worker means a special state [of mind], not everyone can [do that]," Yevgeny’s friend wrote. "And it's all unfair: they said they would not take people like him, but they did... What are the chances that he will come back? Without [proper] preparation and everything... You’ll never know." 

“Our entire museum community knows him as a great professional! He is one of the best specialists at the Gatchina Palace," says Rodionov's colleague at the museum, also Rodionov by his last name. “He is 45 years old, he has never been in real combat, his only military experience comes from university classes, and he wears minus four glasses! As a law-abiding citizen and intelligent man, after receiving a summons he went straight to the recruitment office. Even though they promised the opposite, in the end they would take away everyone who just showed up at the recruitment office voluntarily. He thought that he was called to verify the personal data.”

The comment under the September 25 post about Yevgeny Rodionov being mobilized. Source: vk.com

“If you put on the scales his importance as a specialist, curator, and arms expert against his fairly formal qualification as a lieutenant, you could say that the first cup outweighs," Rodionov's wife believes. “He had two big exhibitions scheduled for next year and the year after that. We can't replace him [at the museum]: There are no such specialists.”

The museum administration promised Yevgeny to keep his job for him. Nikolai Vasiliev, head of the development department of the Gatchina Museum, told "7x7" that the contract with Rodionov had been suspended, and stressed that there is no one to replace him:

“There is no other expert on medieval weapons here.”

At the same time, according to Vasiliev, a man with no combat experience can't teach fighters anything.

“He [Yevgeny Rodionov] went to the military recruitment office as a psychologist. He is a psychologist by his military specialty. He was called up as a psychologist, and he was put on the bus as a psychologist," Vasilyev explains. “The problem is not that he was called up illegally, but that a visually impaired historian and a 'psychologist' by his military specialty was appointed a commander of a rifle unit. He is a historian with no combat experience.”

Nikolai and Aisulu told us that the museum management is negotiating with all "interested structures" in order to demobilize Yevgeny.

“We have to understand what our options are. We don't know when and where he will be dispatched next. It's been almost a week, and the issue has still not been resolved.

Aisulu admits that she tries to stay calm because panicking is useless. Instead, she supports her daughter and both mothers, Yevgeny’s and her own.

“I try to do what I can: I wrote to every entity I could think of, I keep in touch with our administration. But my main duty is to be Yevgeny's support here. So that he knows that everything is fine at home, - she tells "7x7".

She does not think that Yevgeny will be released from service tomorrow, but she hopes to solve the problem by legal means so that her husband will return home.

“If Yevgeny doesn’t get demobilized, how will you take it?”

“I will be praying for him. I will have to support the family, make sure that our daughter is raised properly and goes to school.”


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