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Viacheslav “Ivan” Shiryaev (1938 - )

The Order of the Companions of O.R. Tambo in

Viacheslav “Ivan” Shiryaev (1938 - ) Awarded for:
For his excellent contribution to the struggle against apartheid and attainment of a democratic, non-racial and non-sexist South Africa, and promoting friendship ties, joint cooperation programs and projects between Russia and post-apartheid South Africa.

Profile of Viacheslav "Ivan" Shiryaev

Viacheslav Shiryaev, popularly known as Comrade Ivan, was born in January 1938 in the town of Orsk, south of Urals, Russia. He completed the Higher Engineers Navy Course in 1961. In 1969, he completed studies at the Diplomatic Academy of the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics (USSR) Foreign Affairs and became a First-Class Counsellor in diplomatic ranks. He served in diplomatic roles in various countries such as Angola, Algeria and Madagascar in the years 1969 to 1979 and from 1986 to 2000 when he retired.

It is particularly the years 1979 to 1983 which bear indelible imprints in Comrade Ivan’s connection with the African National Congress (ANC) as a liberation movement. During these years, he was deployed by the USSR Government in Angola, as the First Chief of the Soviet Specialist under the ANC leadership attached to the ANC Regional Command as the military-political adviser.

Among his key tasks was to help the ANC in reorganising the combat units into regular armed forces. Three basic camps, Kashito, Luanda and Malange, were chosen for preparing the ANC combat units.

Through his recommendation, Soviet specialists were brought into Angola to work with the ANC after the success of the revolution in Zimbabwe. In total, 6 000 ANC combatants were trained under his command. The kind of training conducted under Ivan’s command included training instructors in tactics, military engineering, radio communications, artillery, anti-aircrafts, political education and as motor mechanics, translators/interpreters and medical orderlies.

As the Head of the Soviet Military Specialists under the ANC in Angola, he had regular contacts with the ANC leadership, special representatives of the President of the Angolan National Liberation Movement, Augustino Neto, the United States military mission in Angola and the Angolan provincial leaders in Kashito and Malange.

He also offered special training in underground military combat work to various ANC cadres such as Mr Billy Masetlha, Mr James Ngculu and several others. Mr Shiryaev also accompanied Mr Chris Hani on visits to six USSR military schools that were preparing MK combatants in Russia and the Ukraine in 1985. During 1985 and 1986, he played a role in the decision by Mr Oliver Tambo, Mr Alfred Nzo and Mr Joe Modise to train MK pilots and naval combatants in the USSR.

Mr Shiryaev continues to promote good ties between Russia and South Africa. In 2004, he assisted the leadership of the United Russia Party to establish contact with the ANC through the Office of then Secretary-General, Mr Kgalema Motlanthe. He is a regular participant in the activities organised by the South African Embassy in Moscow, including the recent State Visit by President Jacob Zuma to the Russian Federation.

He has been actively promoting and advocating the establishment of a Russia-South Africa association of veterans of the liberation struggle, which will promote further friendship ties and undertake various joint cooperation programmes and projects. A friend of South Africa indeed, Mr Viacheslav Shiryaev is one in the legion of international cadres who amply demonstrate that the success of the struggle for freedom in South Africa owes much to the distinct role and sacrifices of the international community.

We are exceptionally proud to honour Mr Viacheslav “Ivan” Shiryaev with the Order of the Companions of OR Tambo in Silver for his tireless efforts of assisting the ANC while in exile to advance the struggle for liberation in South Africa, and showing the spirit of internationalism and friendship to the people of South Africa.