Putin’s protege

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The Guardian takes a closer look at Dmitry Medvedev

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Story Transcript

guardian.co.uk

REPORTER: The British rock band Deep Purple have many fans. But this weekend, one of them is about to become leader of the world’s biggest country.

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DMITRY MEDVEDEV, RUSSIAN PRESIDENT-ELECT (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Together we will take Russia forward!

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There hasn’t been much doubt about this ever since the current president, Vladimir Putin, endorsed 42-year-old Medvedev for the job. Until recently, Medvedev has refused to campaign. This hasn’t stopped him from receiving a rock star’s welcome during a recent visit to Kazan. The Kremlin has carefully stage-managed all of Medvedev’s public appearances, keeping critics away. Russia’s opposition has complained about the lavish attention given to Medvedev by state-run television. Four candidates are standing in Sunday’s election, but only one of them is on the tele. Medvedev was born in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, in 1965. He is the son of university professors. He had an ordinary Soviet childhood and attended School 305. He went back to the school recently, where his teachers have fond memories of him.

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NINA MUZIKANTOVA, DIRECTOR, 305 SECONDARY SCHOOL (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): If all the children were like Dmitry Anatolevich, we would have had a big leap forward. Of course I remember Dmitry Anatolevich as an active pupil who was interested in his studies and who was ambitious. All his teachers remember him like that. He was persistent and knew what he wanted.

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Medvedev later studied law at Leningrad State University. It is the same university which Putin and several other future Kremlin power brokers also attended.

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NILOLAI KROPACHOV, DEAN OF LAW FACULTY (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): With Medvedev, it is impossible not to remember him from his time here as a student. When you prepared to teach the next class, you knew you had to get ready for the kind of student who understands, and demands a proper level of education. He stimulated you in your work.

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In 1991, Medvedev and Putin met, when both worked for St. Petersburg’s mayor. It was an encounter that would eventually propel Medvedev all the way to the Kremlin. The big question now is what sort of president will Medvedev be? Medvedev has made several tantalizing speeches. He has called for Russia’s economy to be liberalized and for an independent judiciary and a free media. In reality, though, most experts believe his policies will be broadly identical to Putin’s. Putin, of course, isn’t going away either. When Medvedev takes over as president in May, Putin is likely to become Russia’s new prime minister. Opinions among voters in Moscow over Medvedev’s presidency are mixed.

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STREETER 1 (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): The way he behaves, it’s as if he is already president and we don’t have a choice. We are facing facts, it does not matter whether you vote or not. He will be the president anyway.

STREETER 2 (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Everything has already been decided, so I’m not going to the election. I don’t see the point. And I can’t say anything about Medvedev because I don’t know anything about him.

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One element is missing from Sunday’s vote. It is drama. A national competition was recently held to draw Russia’s next president. The results show that even Russian children already know who the president will be.

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STREETER 3 (SUBTITLED TRANSLATION): Looking at this exhibition, I feel very sad. I don’t like the revival of personality cult. It reminds me of the times of the Soviet Union. We have had that, and I don’t want it to be repeated.

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Please note that TRNN transcripts are typed from a recording of the program; The Real News Network cannot guarantee their complete accuracy.