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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

New Defense Minister Heads Back to School

Newly promoted Defense Minister Anatoly Serdyukov went back to school this week for a crash course in national security.

Serdyukov, 45, whose military experience is limited to two years of compulsory service as an infantryman in the 1980s, has opted to bone up on the art of war at the country's top military academy.

On Monday, the defense chief began a monthlong course on national security at the Academy of the General Staff of the Armed Forces in southwestern Moscow, Defense Ministry spokesman Vyacheslav Sedov said.

"[Serdyukov] began his studies yesterday. He will take a general course on strategy and tactics," Sedov said Tuesday.

"He realizes perfectly well that he needs additional knowledge in the area where he will be working," he said.

Serdyukov will take two three-hour classes two or three times per week for the next month, Izvestia reported Tuesday.

"He could have acquired this knowledge on the job and claimed that he had known it all along, but he wanted to study, and his decision was welcomed in military circles," Sedov said.

Anatoly Tsyganok, a retired colonel and head of the Moscow-based Center for Military Forecasting, said a one-month course would not provide Serdyukov with the skills he needed to be an effective defense minister.

"In that period of time, the best he'll be able to do is learn the military jargon," Tsyganok said.

Serdyukov's appointment in February came as a surprise to many. Most Soviet and Russian defense ministers served as career military officers, although his predecessor Sergei Ivanov, worked in intelligence.

Serdyukov, by contrast, was a former furniture-store manager who worked his way up to become head of the Federal Tax Service.

He has kept his head low since moving to the Defense Ministry, although he did conduct an apparently staged "surprise" inspection of a cadet school in St. Petersburg, where he suspended the commanding officer for failing to maintain the school building.

National media also reported that Serdyukov had ordered an internal audit of the ministry and brought in several officials from the Federal Tax Service to lend a hand.

No one has been fired as a result of the audit, but General Anatoly Mazurkevich recently resigned from the ministry's international military cooperation department. Three more proteges of Ivanov -- the heads of finances, armaments and personnel -- may also resign soon, Izvestia reported.

The academy where Serdyukov is studying primarily trains senior officers, who take a two-year course. But it also offers a special executive course for government officials and top officials in the defense industry.