- "He's a physicist who studies manifolds and hyperspace. Quirky theoretical stuff."
- ―Sophia Hapgood[src]
Vrach (Doctor) Gennadi Volodnikov was a Russian physicist secretly commissioned by the Soviet government in 1947 to oversee the excavation of the ruins of Babylon, in search for the legendary Infernal Machine.
Unlike mainstream Soviet ideology which maintained a strict opposition to all mysticism, Gennadi Volodnikov, a prominent Russian physicist, believed in the existence of supernatural phenomena, and the Soviet government covertly funded his 1947 project to locate the Infernal Machine. Volodnikov wished to activate it and use it to communicate with an otherworldy creature called Marduk. Employing such unearthly forces, Volodnikov's government benefactors hoped the Soviet Union could win a decisive victory in the Cold War. Volodnikov's work was considered so confidential by the Soviet government that a multitude of infantry units of the Red Army were assigned to protect Volodnikov's work, even ordered to use lethal force if necessary to maintain the secrecy of his research.
Indiana Jones, an American archaeologist hired by the CIA, was already infiltrating the ruins at Babylon and there discovered the location of the first of the four lost Machine parts, in Soviet-occupied Kazakhstan. Volodnikov eventually found out as well, but Jones was already one step ahead of him, headed toward Kazakhstan.
Volodnikov and his Russian soldiers followed Jones first to Kazakhstan, then the Philippines (specifically Palawan) and finally captured him in Teotihuacan, Mexico, where Jones had just found the third Machine part. However, Jones escaped from his holding cell on the V. I. Pudovkin and reclaimed the Machine parts, fleeing the ship aboard a lifeboat. Throughout the global pursuit, Jones killed off many of Volodnikov's soldiers, though Volodnikov himself always managed to escape unharmed.
In Anglo-Egyptain Sudan, Volodnikov again hunted Jones, while searching for Nub's part of the Machine, the final of the four missing pieces. At Meroë, Volodnikov led a his armed troops into King Solomon's Mines and then into Nub's Tomb in hopes of impeding Jones' mission. As he forged ahead into the tomb, though, Volodnikov did not realize that his Red Army bodyguards, keeping watch behind him, were being quickly dispatched by Jones. Soon, Volodnikov found himself trapped and confronted by Jones at gunpoint. Given the chance to kill Volodnikov, Jones instead let him live when Volodnikov used a bronze gear that was vital to Jones's progress as a bargaining chip. Volodnikov fled the room and Jones succeeded in collecting the final Machine part.
Upon his exit from the tomb, Jones reunited with CIA agents Sophia Hapgood and Simon Turner. However, a lone and unprotected Volodnikov approached them, knowing he had been defeated, and demanded one last time that they give up their mission and give him the parts, claiming that the American agents did not know how to properly handle them. Regardless of the warning, Jones decided to trust his fellow Americans and gave the CIA agents the parts. They immediately departed while Volodnikov spoke to Jones alone, saying that the betrayal would cost them their lives since they underestimated the powers that they currently wielded. For the first time, Volodnikov and Jones had a true conversation from one man of science to another. Afterwards, Volodnikov called off his pursuit of Jones and let him follow the CIA agents to Babylon unimpeded. Volodnikov, though, did later fly to Babylon alone to wait for the results of Jones' discoveries inside the Machine.
After the Machine self-destructed and collapsed, Jones and Hapgood narrowly escaped and were surprised to find Voldonikov giving them a helping hand out of the ruins. Jones ultimately ended his unusual relationship with Volodnikov on friendly terms.
Behind the scenes
Volodnikov is one of the very few primary villains of an Indiana Jones adventure to survive (ultimately befriending Jones). He is replaced as the antagonist by extreme American patriot, Simon Turner, and, in the form of the adventure's final epic confrontation with the non-human monster Marduk.
Gennadi Volodnikov is modeled after Zecharia Sitchin (Russian: Заха́рия Си́тчин; July 11, 1920 – October 9, 2010) a Russian-American amateur archaeologist and author of books proposing an explanation for human origins involving ancient astronauts. Sitchin attributed the creation of the ancient Sumerian culture to the Anunnaki, which he stated was a race of extraterrestrials from a planet beyond Neptune called Nibiru. According to Sitchin, Nibiru's name was replaced with that of 'MARDUK' in Babylonian legend.
The character's name Gennadi Volodnikov is based on Gennady Antoshenkov (1944 - 1995) a software engineer working on the Rdb relational database system and an inventor of the concept of dynamic query optimization. Combined with Volodnik or Vilednik, a tiny village situated approx. four hours outside Ukrainian capital of Kiev.