Russia’s New President, Dr. Dmitry Medvedev Speaks at Moscow State University
Some predictions are easy. By the time you read this, unless something wildly unexpected occurs Dr. Dmitry Medvedev (pron. Myed-vyed-yev) who was Russia’s First Deputy Prime Minister, Chairman of Gazprom, the huge State run natural gas monopoly and President Vladimir Putin’s chosen successor, will have been elected President of Russia on March 2, 2008 with about 80% of the vote. During his “campaign” he won’t have debated the other candidates—the three weak ones the State let run after barring former PM Mikhail Kasyanov, the State controlled media will have carried only positive stories about him, and outside election observers will have been restricted. Putin is very popular, however, because he brought stability and greater prosperity after the severe economic hardships of Glasnost and Perestroika, so even in a free election Medvedev would have been a shoo-in.
The 42-year old Medvedev seems different from Putin even though he’s been on the former KGB agent’s team for 17 years. An able administrator, he’s a mild-mannered moderate with a Ph.D. in private law from Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) State University. From a family of educators—his father an engineering professor, his mother a language instructor and later a museum guide—he was an assistant professor at his alma mater for 9 years, and authored textbooks. He’s married to his childhood sweetheart, has an 11-year old son. Distancing himself from the former KGB agents in Putin’s office, he’s worked on national projects affecting average citizens—improvements in agriculture, health, housing, education—especially pre-school, and on efforts to help foster families and increase the birthrate. A hard rock fan, he doesn’t like labels or ideology, belongs to no political party. Recently he pledged to continue Russia’s economic renewal and also institute social reforms. He considers himself a democrat, saying “no non-democratic state has ever become truly prosperous, for one simple reason: freedom is better than non-freedom.”
What will Medvedev’s presidency be like? Will Putin, whom he’ll appoint to the lesser post of Prime Minister, who will probably also become Gazprom chairman, actually be the one in charge? Will there be a continuation of “The New Cold War” (see Canadian journalist Mark MacKinnon’s fascinating book by this title). Yes, according to most observers. But will Medvedev make Russia freer and implement reforms, and could he rival Putin in 2012 when Putin can legally run for President again? The only easy prediction about what’s next for Russia is—it will be interesting to watch. Once again Kremlinologists are needed to read the Russian chai leaves.
On January 25, 2008, St. Tatiana’s Day, the holiday for Russian students, future President Medvedev—handsome, impeccably dressed, serious, with a commanding stride and presence—gave a brief opening address to an invitation only university audience at Moscow State, Russia’s pre-eminent university. Education Update was there.#