Dmitry Medvedev is the president of Russia. The third man to hold the post, he was inaugurated on May 7, 2008. He won the presidential election held on March 2, 2008 with 71.25% of the vote. Formerly Vladimir Putin’s chief of staff, Medvedev had never held elective office before 2008. He previously sat on the board of directors of Gazprom and is backed by Russia’s largest political party, United Russia.
Early life and education
Medvedev was born September 14, 1965, in Leningrad to parents who both worked as university professors. His father, Anatoly, was a physicist who taught at a technical institute, and his mother, Yulia, taught Russian language and literature. Medvedev grew up in a tiny 37 sqm apartment in the Kupchino suburb of Leningrad. Despite encouragement from his parents to pursue a scientific career, he showed an interest in law from an early age.
As a child, Medvedev has said that, he was mainly interested in sports and books, later developing an interest in foreign rock music, obsessively collecting illegal copies of albums by groups like Led Zeppelin and Deep Purple.
Medvedev entered law school at Leningrad State University in the fall of 1982. More than a decade apart, both Medvedev and his predecessor as president, Vladimir Putin, took courses from Anatoly Sobchak, an outspoken Democrat and the future mayor of St. Petersburg. As a student, Medvedev supplemented his stipend by working in construction and as a street cleaner.
He graduated in 1987 and completed his PhD in 1990. He specialized in private, corporate and securities law.
While working toward his doctorate and amid the unraveling fabric of the Soviet power structure, Medvedev joined Sobchak in his campaign for the Congress of People’s Deputies of the Soviet Republic. Sobchak, often cited as one of the earliest voices advocating free markets and political pluralism, advocated these positions in his campaign and drew the ire of KGB agents who confiscated his campaign literature.
Medvedev and others stayed up late into the night to print another set by hand, according to Sobchak’s widow, Larisa Narusova. Sobchak easily won the election. Medvedev remained close to Sobchak as he, one of the few deputies with a legal background, set about creating many of the laws that would provide the foundation of a post-Soviet Russia.
For his part, Medvedev published the first of several law textbooks, an award-winning volume on the Russian civil code that was first published in 1991. From 1990 to 1999, Medvedev maintained a private practice in law, co-founded or advised several businesses and worked in government. Interviews with those familiar with Medvedev at the time describe his role as a go-between for government officials and business leaders, a leg work man with a deep knowledge of the legal structure.
Sobchak was elected to the Leningrad City Council in 1990 where he helped overhaul the structure of city politics and mandate a general election for the mayoral position. When the first elections were held in June 1991, Sobchak won. Medvedev went to work again for his former professor in the city government. He served as a legal adviser to Sobchak and a legal consultant to the
committee for external affairs – headed by Vladimir Putin.
Putin and Medvedev worked together closely for years. As Sobchak busied himself writing the constitution of the Russian Federation and laying the legal foundation for the new government, running the city fell to deputies like Putin. A city council member at the time said Putin made the decisions while Medvedev did the legwork. Putin sold off city property and liaised with foreign officials. Medvedev provided legal advice, extended his private interests and continued to teach law at his alma mater. They remained with city government until 1996 when a former deputy, Vladimir Yakovlev, ran against Sobchak riding a wave of corruption charges and ousted him from office.
From the time he graduated law school, Medvedev maintained a double life in business and politics. In 1990, he co-founded a small, state-controlled company called Uran. Four years later, he co-founded a consultancy group called Balfort. Both companies were founded with his classmates from Leningrad State University (now St. Petersburg State University).
In 1993, Medvedev joined Ilim Pulp as legal affairs director, where he helped turn the paper-processing company into a multi-million dollar industry leader. There, he used a connection to former KGB and military intelligence officers to help fight off a hostile takeover attempt of the lumber company.
Medvedev also co-founded Fintsell, a holding company with a stake in Ilim Pulp. In 1998, he took a position as chairman of the board of directors of Bratsky Forestry Complex. He also worked as a consultant for the insurance company, Rus’, under Vladislav Reznik, who later went on to head the State Duma’s committee on credit organizations and financial markets.
In 2000, Medvedev became chairman of the board of directors at the state-controlled gas monopoly, Gazprom. He was the board’s deputy chairman from 2001 to 2002 before resuming the chairmanship.
He was head of Gazprom when Gazprom Media took control of the flagship holding in Vladimir Gusinsky’s media empire, the NTV television channel. Under Medvedev’s management, Gazprom considered a merger with Rosneft, a company that bought most of Yukos’s assests in an auction arranged by the state as a way for Yukos to pay off its tax bill. However, Medvedev made no politically charged statements against Mikhail Khodorkovsky and other disgruntled oligarchs. He insisted that such auctions were the only “legally effective” means to recover back taxes. From 2005 to 2007, with Medvedev at the helm, Gazprom was at the center of the “gas wars” with Ukraine and Belarus.
State government career
Medvedev’s rise to the upper echelons of the Kremlin power vertical began in earnest in 2000, when his longtime boss and friend, Vladimir Putin, was elected the president of Russia. Medvedev is a Putin protege, a fixture in his administrations dating back to Putin’s appointment as prime minister in 1999.
After Sobchak’s loss in the mayoral race in 1996, Putin had gone to Moscow. Medvedev remained behind in St. Petersburg where he taught and pursued his business interests.
President Boris Yeltsin appointed Putin as prime minister in August 1999 and tapped him as his preferred successor. Putin summoned Medvedev to Moscow to head the government administration in November 1999. One month later, Yeltsin resigned and Putin brought Medvedev along as deputy head of the presidential administration. During presidential elections in 2000, Medvedev was the head of Putin’s campaign.
From 2001 to 2003, besides his day to day responsibilities in the Kremlin staff supporting the president’s activities, Medvedev was assigned to special projects. This included heading the commission which oversaw the drafting and enactment of framework legislation on the reform of the civil service and looking at ways to best overhaul the judicial system.
Medvedev was one of several St. Petersburg colleagues whom Putin moved to Moscow, and his rise through the echelons of government was – like Putin’s – meteoric. While in the presidential administration, Medvedev avoided an affinity with either of two poles of power forming in the Kremlin: the camp of security service officials (known as the “siloviki”) and the group around Alexander Voloshin, Putin’s chief of staff and one of Yeltsin’s key associates. When Voloshin resigned in October 2003, he was replaced by Medvedev.
For most of his professional career, Medvedev had been a behind-the-scenes player, known mostly to those paying attention as a business leader and behind-the-scenes government player. That all changed in November 2005, when Putin appointed Medvedev to a specially created post as first deputy prime minister in charge of five national projects. Two months earlier, Putin had outlined the national projects which focused on domestic development. Medvedev took the lead and the national projects garnered enormous media attention on state-run television. Medvedev’s popularity ratings were bested only by the sitting president.
However, the appointment of Sergei Ivanov, a hawkish former security official with a deeper political resume, to another post as first deputy prime minister called Medvedev’s coronation into question. By the beginning of 2007, Ivanov was seen as a more likely candidate. The appointment in September of Viktor Zubkov as prime minister in the fall of 2007 further muddied the waters.
A flood of news articles and opinion pieces obsessed over the identity of Putin’s potential successor, but the decision rested only with Putin. He gave no hint as to his preferred candidate until a bit of political theater on December 10, 2007, when he announced his support for Medvedev. The informal endorsement came at a Kremlin appearance with Putin, Medevedev, United Russia party leader Boris Gryzlov, A Just Russia leader Sergei Mironov, and the leaders of two smaller parties. All present sounded their agreement with the president’s choice. In opinion polls after the announcement, Medvedev gained the support of some 80 percent of respondents. Analysts predicted that he would win the March 2 vote with more than 60 percent support. One week later, United Russia, the country’s largest political party which had won a constitutional super majority in parliamentary elections two weeks earlier, formally nominated Medvedev as their candidate in a near unanimous decision. On Dec. 11, 2007, Medvedev said, if elected, he would ask Putin to serve as his prime minister.
Medvedev was elected President of Russia on March 2, 2008. According to final election results, he won 70.28% of votes with a turnout of over 69.78% of registered voters. The fairness of the election was disputed, with official monitoring groups giving conflicting reports. Some reported that the election was free and fair, while others reported that not all candidates had equal media coverage and that Kremlin opposition was treated unfairly. Monitoring groups found a number of other irregularities, but made no reports of fraud or ballot stuffing. Most agreed that the results reflected the will of the people.
On May 7 Dmitry Medvedev took oath as third President of the Russian Federation in a ceremony held in the Kremlin Palace. After taking the oath of office and receiving a gold chain of double-headed eagles symbolizing the presidency, he stated: "I believe my most important aims will be to protect civil and economic freedoms; We must fight for a true respect of the law and overcome legal nihilism, which seriously hampers modern development." As his inauguration coincided with the celebration of victory over Nazi Germany at May 9, he attended the military parade at Red Square and signed a decree to provide housing to war veterans. Following Medvedev's success in the 2008 presidential elections, Putin was indeed nominated by the latter to be Russia's prime minister and took the post on May 8, 2008.
Political philosophy and Network
Medvedev was one of a group of St. Petersburg lawyers and security officials summoned to Moscow when Putin ascended to power in the Kremlin. As the personae associated with Yeltsin’s administration faded from power into Putin’s second term, a group of former KGB security officials, widely known as the “siloviki”, filled powerful positions and began to exercise control over policy, both foreign and domestic. Members of the “siloviki” have driven a hawkish foreign policy line and taken positions at companies where the state has begun to wield more influence in recent years. The St. Petersburg contingent is certainly the dominant force in Kremlin politics, but it has several camps.
In his position as deputy head and then head of the Presidential Administration, Medvedev did not align himself with the fading Yeltsin figures or the “siloviki”. Instead, he found an affinity with other St. Petersburg lawyers and Kremlin technocrats. He has brought several of his university colleagues to Moscow or placed them in prominent positions at state-controlled companies like Gazprom.
The St. Petersburg lawyers and technocrats are seen has having a more liberal take on economic policy, favoring open markets and more pluralism; on civil administration, advocating market principles in resolving Russia’s social issues; and on foreign policy. They include Elvira Nabiullina, the minister for economic development, and Dmitry Kozak, the minister for regional development. In speeches since December 2007, Medvedev has sounded a more liberal tone on economics and a more open attitude on foreign policy than Putin. Though no one doubts that for the time being Medvedev remains a Putin protege.
Medvedev’s policy style can be summed up as a kind of controlled liberalism, where the state becomes involved only in cases where the problem is too big or the stakes are too high for private enterprise to succeed, i.e. when the state risks losing control over a strategic sector of the economy.
This economic liberalism would seem to be at odds with his time at Gazprom, the world’s largest gas company and a state-controlled entity. Medvedev said in November 2007 that he felt Gazprom should not hold a monopoly on the Russian fuel market, and he would see that foreign companies and other actors have a chance to work in Russia. “Gazprom will not be able to ‘digest’ all of Russia’s energy resources,” Medvedev said. “And thank God for that – otherwise Gazprom would become the ministry of energy – and we have been trying to avoid this state of affairs.”
In speeches in 2008, Medvedev said that “Freedom is better than no freedom.” He spoke out for economic freedoms, human rights and freedom of expression. He also said the Russia is a country riddled with corruption saturated with a sense of “legal nihilism.” He has called for reforms of the judicial system and a real separation of that system from the executive and legislative branches.
Medvedev hasn’t taken up Putin’s mantle of “sovereign democracy” – a term used to describe democracy managed by domestic interests – for Russia. The idea arose during Putin’s second term. “I still don’t like this term. In my opinion as a lawyer, playing up one feature of a full-fledged democracy – namely the supremacy of state authorities within the country and their independence (from influences) outside the country – is excessive and even harmful because it is disorienting,” Medvedev said in a July 2007 interview.
Maybe the biggest departure from Putin's program was Medvedev's call for an end to the practice of placing state officials on the boards of major corporations. Medvedev himself sat on the board of Gazprom, and Russia is almost unique in Europe in that senior government officials double up as board members of nearly every significant business in the country. “I think there is no reason for the majority of state officials to sit on the boards of those firms,” Medvedev said. “They should be replaced by truly independent directors, which the state would hire to implement its plans."
Medvedev’s presidency has to date been dominated by the economic crisis which hit Russia in 2008, and Russia’s involvement in the Five Day War which took place in South Ossetia in 2008.
In response to the former, Medvedev ordered the injection of large funds from the state budget into markets to stabilize the situation.
In the wake of the 2008 South Ossetia war with Georgia, Medvedev signed a presidential decree officially recognizing Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent republics, a move which was condemned by the G7. In summer 2008, Medvedev announced that Russian foreign policy would in future be based on five principles
1. Fundamental principles of international law are supreme,
2. The world will be multipolar.
3. Russia will not seek confrontation with other nations.
4. Russia will protect its citizens wherever they are.
5. Russia will develop ties in friendly regions.
In November 2008 Medvedev proposed extending Presidential and State Duma terms of office from four to six and five years respectively. The changes came into force the following month, the most significant changes to the Russian constitution since 2003. In March the following year he announced plans to reform the civil service in line with his mission to stamp out corruption.
Medvedev also increased presidential influence over the Constitutional Court in Summer 2009, amending the law so that the chairperson of the Constitutional Court and his deputies would be nominated by the president rather than elected by fellow judges as was previously the case.
In May 2009, Medvedev set up the Presidential Commission of the Russian Federation to Counter Attempts to Falsify History to the Detriment of Russia's Interests. He also created a new department of the Internal Ministry, the Department of Counteraction to Extremism, in 2008.
On September 24, 2011 Medvedev proposed Putin to run for president in March 2012, which gives Putin strong chances to extend his rule until 2024. Medvedev also said he would be ready to take over from Putin as prime minister if United Russia were to win in the December polls.
In seventh grade, Medvedev met his future wife, Svetlana. They both graduated in 1982. When he was 23, he was baptized into the Russian Orthodox Church. The Medvedevs have one son, Ilya, born in 1996. Medvedev continues to be interested in sport, swimming, jogging, playing chess, and practicing yoga regularly. He is often described as studious, mild-mannered and quiet. As his public profile heightened, he learned to speak more directly, lost weight and his features became more chiseled. He still enjoys classic rock music. His favorite band, Deep Purple, played his going away party as Gazprom’s chairman in February 2008.