A Change Of Direction In Russia?

Many people are wondering if the new future president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev will act on his own and be a more liberal leader, or will it be more of the same with Putin playing Svengali, manipulating Medvedev behind the Kremlin corridors.

To answer the question, it is necessary to know their past, what went on before Putin and Medvedev became presidents, where they came from, if you will. They both were from St. Petersburg (formally Leningrad) however from very different backgrounds.

Medvedev is a product of Saint Petersburg's middle class; his parents were academics and he eventually graduated from the prestigious law school of Leningrad State University (LGU) with a degree in law. Putin, on the other hand, was a product of the working-class; his father was a factory foreman. He grew up in a poor, hostile and shabby environment, where he ventured into youthful criminal activities. Maturing by the time he was in his teens, he also attended LGU and began a rather uninspiring KGB career as a mundane officer in internal affairs. During his 15 years in the KGB he just barely managed to rise to the grade of lieutenant colonel. He drifted away from the KGB with the demise of the Soviet Union. While still in the active reserves of the KGB he got a job working for the mayor of Saint Petersburg, Anatoli Sobchak, who had been his mentor in law school. Working with Sobchak he befriended Medvedev, who in the past had collaborated with him as a Komsomol activist (KGB asset) when Putin was recruiting students to spy on the foreign students at the Saint Petersburg University, Medvedev was there researching his postgraduate dissertation. The two became stanch friends linked together through loyalty, trust and a common, self-serving philosophy on life.

Putin, a skilled opportunist, gained a reputation in politics as being decisive, cold-blooded and as loyal as a mastiff, going so far as to shield criminal practices of those he worked for. Medvedev is known as a competent administrator following his supervision of several successful corporations, the most notable was when he overhauled Gazprom into the giant natural gas company it is today and, more significantly, reinstated the Kremlin's control over energy companies.

Another noteworthy achievement for his political survival is that Medvedev and his wife, Svetlana have the blessing and endorsement from the Russian Orthodox Church, both being close friends of Moscow's Patriarchate. Within the political scene in Russia this is a patron of significant consequence. But ultimately, he owes his career to Putin, for as Yeltsin, who trusted Putin's loyalty turned over the presidency to him, Putin trusting Medvedev, is handing his rule over to him. The question on everyone's mind at the moment is: will he conform to Putin's bidding or will he go his own way?

Could today's cordial heir to the throne relationship eventually veer from the chartered course once Medvedev has settled in as president? In theory, yes. The Constitution does in fact give all-encompassing power to the president - the possibility of virtually ruling by decree.  But taking in the fact that the present administration is stacked with Putin appointed puppets, rousting them out, or getting their cooperation wouldn't be an easy task.  Putin has done his homework on succession and tightened up any ambiguity. The revised Russian Constitution states that to dismiss the prime minister the president needs the approval of the Duma and Parliament, considering Putin's Unified Russia Party holds the unquestionable majority, such a scheme might be a non-starter.

Medvedev has already declared that he won't tolerate greedy people in public office. Such a sound bite is not easy to put into practice, it would mean adding strong teeth to the law to abolish racketeering and corruption. It would entail heated Kremlin battles against the clans that rule the country, efficaciously demolishing the oligarchy that Putin has so meticulously constructed. The powerful security service types, collectively known as siloviki that constitute a clan with immense influence, can be guaranteed to put up stiff resistance and do all they can to cling to their perks and power. Putin is aware of this and will do all he can to avoid such a confrontation.

In effect, Russia's political stability is sketchy. A war among the clans is simmering backstage, to date forestalled by Putin's acutely authoritarian rule. Russia has gone from a chaotic state under Yeltsin to a totalitarian state under Putin, neither are desirable ways to govern a country. What is needed for the nation lies between the two extremes, but Russia has never had a history of moderation and probably never will. If Medvedev acts too liberally the siloviki will revolt and the struggle for power will develop into a maelstrom. Kremlin's political directions have always altered radically and swiftly like a tropical typhoon and are just as hard to predict.
Many people are wondering if the new future president of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev will act on his own and be a more liberal leader, or will it be more of the same with Putin playing Svengali, manipulating Medvedev behind the Kremlin corridors.

To answer the question, it is necessary to know their past, what went on before Putin and Medvedev became presidents, where they came from, if you will. They both were from St. Petersburg (formally Leningrad) however from very different backgrounds.

Medvedev is a product of Saint Petersburg's middle class; his parents were academics and he eventually graduated from the prestigious law school of Leningrad State University (LGU) with a degree in law. Putin, on the other hand, was a product of the working-class; his father was a factory foreman. He grew up in a poor, hostile and shabby environment, where he ventured into youthful criminal activities. Maturing by the time he was in his teens, he also attended LGU and began a rather uninspiring KGB career as a mundane officer in internal affairs. During his 15 years in the KGB he just barely managed to rise to the grade of lieutenant colonel. He drifted away from the KGB with the demise of the Soviet Union. While still in the active reserves of the KGB he got a job working for the mayor of Saint Petersburg, Anatoli Sobchak, who had been his mentor in law school. Working with Sobchak he befriended Medvedev, who in the past had collaborated with him as a Komsomol activist (KGB asset) when Putin was recruiting students to spy on the foreign students at the Saint Petersburg University, Medvedev was there researching his postgraduate dissertation. The two became stanch friends linked together through loyalty, trust and a common, self-serving philosophy on life.

Putin, a skilled opportunist, gained a reputation in politics as being decisive, cold-blooded and as loyal as a mastiff, going so far as to shield criminal practices of those he worked for. Medvedev is known as a competent administrator following his supervision of several successful corporations, the most notable was when he overhauled Gazprom into the giant natural gas company it is today and, more significantly, reinstated the Kremlin's control over energy companies.

Another noteworthy achievement for his political survival is that Medvedev and his wife, Svetlana have the blessing and endorsement from the Russian Orthodox Church, both being close friends of Moscow's Patriarchate. Within the political scene in Russia this is a patron of significant consequence. But ultimately, he owes his career to Putin, for as Yeltsin, who trusted Putin's loyalty turned over the presidency to him, Putin trusting Medvedev, is handing his rule over to him. The question on everyone's mind at the moment is: will he conform to Putin's bidding or will he go his own way?

Could today's cordial heir to the throne relationship eventually veer from the chartered course once Medvedev has settled in as president? In theory, yes. The Constitution does in fact give all-encompassing power to the president - the possibility of virtually ruling by decree.  But taking in the fact that the present administration is stacked with Putin appointed puppets, rousting them out, or getting their cooperation wouldn't be an easy task.  Putin has done his homework on succession and tightened up any ambiguity. The revised Russian Constitution states that to dismiss the prime minister the president needs the approval of the Duma and Parliament, considering Putin's Unified Russia Party holds the unquestionable majority, such a scheme might be a non-starter.

Medvedev has already declared that he won't tolerate greedy people in public office. Such a sound bite is not easy to put into practice, it would mean adding strong teeth to the law to abolish racketeering and corruption. It would entail heated Kremlin battles against the clans that rule the country, efficaciously demolishing the oligarchy that Putin has so meticulously constructed. The powerful security service types, collectively known as siloviki that constitute a clan with immense influence, can be guaranteed to put up stiff resistance and do all they can to cling to their perks and power. Putin is aware of this and will do all he can to avoid such a confrontation.

In effect, Russia's political stability is sketchy. A war among the clans is simmering backstage, to date forestalled by Putin's acutely authoritarian rule. Russia has gone from a chaotic state under Yeltsin to a totalitarian state under Putin, neither are desirable ways to govern a country. What is needed for the nation lies between the two extremes, but Russia has never had a history of moderation and probably never will. If Medvedev acts too liberally the siloviki will revolt and the struggle for power will develop into a maelstrom. Kremlin's political directions have always altered radically and swiftly like a tropical typhoon and are just as hard to predict.