INTERNATIONAL

From professor to President, Dmitry Medvedev’s impressive career

Vladimir Radyuhin

MOSCOW: At 42, Dmitry Medvedev is Russia’s youngest leader since Nicholas II was crowned tsar in 1894.

Like outgoing President Vladimir Putin, Mr. Medvedev was born and grew up in St. Petersburg, then known as Leningrad. Both men graduated in law from Leningrad State University. They have known each other since the early 1990s, when Mr. Medvedev served as a legal consultant to St. Petersburg’s City Committee for External Economic Affairs, which was headed by Mr. Putin.

In 1999, Mr. Putin, then Prime Minister, brought Mr. Medvedev to Moscow, appointing him deputy head of his office. Shortly after President Boris Yeltsin resigned and Mr. Putin became acting President, Mr. Medvedev joined the Kremlin staff and led Mr. Putin’s presidential election campaign in 2000.

From 2001, Mr. Medvedev, besides his day-to-day responsibilities as the deputy chief of the Kremlin staff, was also elected Chairman of the Board of Russia’s natural gas monopoly Gazprom. He played an instrumental role in helping Mr. Putin restore state control over Gazprom and turning it into one of the world’s largest and most successful energy giants.

In 2005, Mr. Putin promoted Mr. Medvedev to the post of First Deputy Prime Minister in charge of key projects in agriculture, health, demography, education and housing construction. In December 2007, Mr. Putin, barred by the Constitution from seeking a third term in office, endorsed Mr. Medvedev to succeed him.

“I have known him for more than 17 years,” said Mr. Putin, adding: “We have worked very closely together all these years, and I completely and utterly support this choice.”

Unlike Mr. Putin, the new President has no background in either the KGB or its successor, the Federal Security Service (FSB). He was born into a family of academics and worked as a university professor early in his career.

Liberal views

He has distinctly liberal views, likes wearing jeans and has been a fan of Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and other British hard-rock bands of the 1970s at a time when their music was blacklisted as subversive in the Soviet Union. Mr. Medvedev is married to his school sweetheart Svetlana and has a teenage son Ilya.

In his election campaign speeches, Mr. Medvedev pledged to strengthen the independence of the judiciary, promote multi-party system, and roll back expanding state interference in the economy. He famously declared that freedom was the most important policy for any successful modern state. “We are well aware that no non-democratic state has ever become truly prosperous for one simple reason: freedom is better than non-freedom. I mean freedom in all its manifestations — personal, economic and finally freedom of expression.”

People close to Mr. Medvedev praise his self-organisation, single-mindedness, ability to learn quickly and think unconventionally. He is thoughtful, competent and pragmatic, deeply probes the nature of the assigned task.

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