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26 May

On May 26, 1972, the United States and the Soviet Union signed the first Strategic Arms Limitation Treaty. Also known as SALT-I, it was the first of its kind and included a temporary agreement on certain measures with respect to the limitation of strategic offensive arms.…

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Peter Carl Faberge

Peter Carl Faberge was a world famous master jeweler and head of the ‘House of Faberge’ in Imperial Russia in the waning days of the Russian Empire.

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Prominent Russians: Dmitry Medvedev

Born September 14, 1965

Who is Dmitry Medvedev?

The mass media often stresses that Dmitry Medvedev is Russia’s first leader in decades with no known links either to the country’s Communist party or intelligence services. The 44-year old politician is the youngest head of Russia in the past 115 years; the last Emperor, Nicholas II, was crowned in 1896 at the age of 28. Many also consider Medvedev the most advanced President – he is the first Russian leader to communicate with the people through a video blog.

So where did he come from?

Academic Life. First steps in politics

Dmitry Medvedev, the son of university professors, was the only child in his family. He has said – “my childhood was happy, my family – a good one.”

Medvedev’s schoolteacher Vera Smirnova remembers: “He was very zealous; he devoted all his time to studies. He was rarely seen playing with other children in the backyard. He looked a little like a small old man.”

Image from www.barbacuca.ru Image from www.barbacuca.ru

As a schoolboy, Medvedev always liked chemistry and even dreamed of becoming a great chemist, like Mendeleev – but this was not to be.

He attended the Law Faculty of Leningrad State University (now Saint Petersburg State University) – the same one that Lenin and Putin graduated from. Medvedev received a Bachelor’s law degree in 1987 and a PhD in law in 1990. For the next nine years he lectured at his Alma Mater combining his teaching activities with local politics.

Medvedev was an adviser to the Chairman of the Leningrad City Council and an expert consultant to St. Petersburg City Hall’s Committee for External Affairs.

He joined the team of the city’s newly elected mayor, Anatoly Sobchak,

where he met future President Vladimir Putin. Medvedev and Putin worked together in the mayor’s office for the next five years. Some witnesses say many people took Medvedev for Putin’s secretary and didn’t take him seriously. While others emphasize Sobchak himself appreciated Medvedev more than Putin.

Even after the death of his mentor in 2000, Dmitry Anatolyevich maintained warm relations with Sobchak’s family.

Medvedev goes to Moscow

Image from www.newsru.com Image from www.newsru.com

When Sobchak’s term was over, in 1996, Medvedev returned to academic life while Putin moved up to the Kremlin to work for then President Boris Yeltsin. Medvedev followed him only four years later, after Putin became acting president of Russia in late 1999. The next year Medvedev headed Putin’s presidential election campaign and following the latter’s victory ascended steadily in power. That same year, he became First Deputy Chief of Staff of the Presidential Executive Office. In 2003 he advanced to Chief of Staff and in 2005 was appointed to the newly created post of First Deputy Prime Minister.

As part of his fight against corruption among oligarchs in 2000, Putin appointed Medvedev as the Chairman of the Board of Directors of Gazprom, Russia’s gas giant. Within a year he became Deputy Chairman and in June 2002 he become the Chair for the second time. He left the post only in 2008, shortly after being elected President of the Russia Federation.

Putin steps down

Putin’s second term as President expired in 2008 and under the country’s Constitution he wasn’t allowed to run for re-election for a third time. Before stepping down, Putin expressed his support for Medvedev, then First Deputy Prime Minister, as the next head of state. In response, Medvedev claimed that if he won, he’d make Putin his prime minister.

And that is exactly what happened. Medvedev won the 2008 election by a landslide. With 70.28 percent of the ballots, he even set a record in the history of presidential elections in Russia. Although some outside observers tried to criticize the vote as rigged, most agreed that it was the majority’s will.

Medvedev was sworn in on 7 May 2008 and his first decision as the country’s leader was to appoint Putin as his prime minister. This lead to speculation that Putin still held power in Russia and that he would again run for president in 2012, when Medvedev’s term expires.

Presidency

Medvedev’s key presidential campaign credo was “freedom is better than no freedom.” This indicated that Russia planned to build a free society and be more open with the West.

In his inauguration speech Medvedev said that “further development of civil and economic freedoms and the creation of new civil opportunities” were among his key priorities as President.

AFP Photo / Vladimir Rodionov AFP Photo / Vladimir Rodionov

He also named technological innovation and modernization as the main guidelines of his presidency.

Georgian conflict: 8 – 12 August 2008

Medvedev’s first presidential year was rich in events, but the Georgian conflict in August was probably his main challenge.

On 8 August President Medvedev claimed that “…tonight Georgian troops in South Ossetia, in fact, performed an act of aggression against Russian peacekeepers and innocent residents …”

On the fifth day of the conflict Medvedev described Georgian actions as “genocide” and “ethnic purges.” He said that the decision had been made to start an operation “to force Georgia to peace.”

President Medvedev always stressed that he was responding to Georgia’s barbaric aggression and he simply had to act.

“It’s not an easy choice, but it’s the only way to save peoples' lives,” Medvedev said at the time.

Later, he stated that he’ll “never forget that night. It was very hard to order the use of force, while knowing the consequences. We did everything right. And I’m proud of it. Our response was symmetrical and proportional.”

AFP Photo / Dmitry Astakhov AFP Photo / Dmitry Astakhov

Meanwhile, Russia’s actions were condemned by most G7 leaders and its response was proclaimed disproportional. Russia was even accused of starting the conflict. French President Nicolas Sarkozy was the only Western leader to revile “Georgian aggression” in South Ossetia. But the French leader also criticized the scale of Russia’s response, calling the Russian army’s reaction “disproportionate.”

Only in September the following year did the international community officially confirm that Georgia initiated the 2008 summer conflict in the Caucasus.

In a report commissioned by the Council of the EU it was said that the conflict in Georgia was started by a Georgian attack that was not justified by international law.

On 26 August 2008, Medvedev issued a presidential decree recognizing the former breakaway republics of Abkhazia and South Ossetia as independent states. He stressed that the military conflict in South Ossetia had killed every hope for peaceful co-existence and emphasized that Russia’s key goal was to provide security for its own citizens in the region and the people of South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

AFP Photo / Viktor Drachev AFP Photo / Viktor Drachev

President Medvedev said "western countries rushed to recognize Kosovo's illegal declaration of independence from Serbia. We argued consistently that it would be impossible, after that, to tell the Abkhazians and Ossetians (and dozens of other groups around the world) that what was good for the Kosovo Albanians was not good for them. In international relations, you cannot have one rule for some and another rule for others."

Meanwhile, the international community refused to recognize South Ossetia and Abkhazia as independent states. Apart from Russia, only three UN Members (Nicaragua, Venezuela and Nauru) have done so.

In August 2008 President Medvedev formulated the five principles of Russian foreign policy. They are as follows:

  • Fundamental principles of international law are supreme.
  • The world will be multipolar.
  • Russia will not seek confrontation with other nations.
  • Russia will protect its citizens wherever they are.
  • Russia will develop ties in friendly regions.

In his state-of-the-nation address in November 2008 Medvedev described Georgia's military offensive in South Ossetia as a consequence of policies of the US administration, which "is over confident and intolerant of criticism, and prefers unilateral decisions." "The conflict in the Caucasus was used as a pretext to send NATO warships to the Black Sea and then to quickly thrust on Europe the need for deploying the US anti-missile system," he said.

Financial crunch

The financial crisis that hit the world in 2008 has also been a tough test for the President.

In June 2008, in the opening speech at the 12th International Economic Forum in St. Petersburg, President Medvedev openly blamed "aggressive" United States policies for the global financial crisis. He claimed that America's "economic egoism" and Western protectionism had led the world into its worst economic slowdown since the Great Depression of the 1930s.

AFP Photo / Dmitry Astakhov AFP Photo / Dmitry Astakhov

Medvedev added that now, in the 10th year of an economic boom fuelled by soaring prices for its oil and gas exports, Russia is in an ideal position to help solve the global financial crisis since it did not share the problems of other leading economies.

"Russia is now a global player and understands its role in supporting the global community," the president said.

Five months later, during his first address to the Federal Assembly, Medvedev reiterated these ideas, adding that “We will overcome the global financial crisis and emerge from it stronger.”

The President called for unification in order to counter the financial crunch. He expressed his hope that Russia’s partners, especially the new US administration, “will make a choice in favor of a full-fledged relationship with Russia.”

He also repeated these thoughts ahead of the G20 Summit in London in spring 2009. He said that mutual efforts can help overcome the world crisis, and called for the US to head, together with Russia, efforts to create rules and solutions that will spread to other states.

AFP Photo / Vladimir Rodionov AFP Photo / Vladimir Rodionov

At the next G20 Summit, which took place in the American city of Pittsburgh in September 2009, world leaders gathered again to tackle the crisis. Speaking about his expectations for the summit, President Dmitry Medvedev said he expected his counterparts to finally go from words to actions and start implementing the changes declared at the previous two G20 summits, for example the reform of the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund (IMF).

As part of a package of domestic anti-crisis measures, Medvedev ordered the injection of large funds from the state budget into the markets to stabilize the situation.

First address to the Federal Assembly

Medvedev’s first one-and-a-half-hour state-of-the-nation address in November 2008, which came just hours after Barack Obama won the US presidential election, immediately hit the headlines. In particular the President proposed to change the Russian Constitution extending the presidential and parliamentary terms of office from the current four years to six and five years, respectively, leading to speculations that he did it for Vladimir Putin, who could run for president in 2012, or even - for himself. But he rejected both suppositions.

In the address Medvedev also pledged to deploy the Iskander missile system and radar-jamming facilities in the Kaliningrad region, Russia’s Western area, to counter the US missile defense system in Eastern Europe, and to balance security.

Almost a year later, in September 2009, US President Barack Obama announced his decision to scrap George W. Bush’s plan for an AMD shield in Poland and the Czech Republic. It took barely 24 hours for a response from Moscow to discard its own plans for setting up a missile-defense system in the western Kaliningrad region.

Image from www.kremlin.ru Image from www.kremlin.ru

Russia, Forward!

On 10 September 2009 Dmitry Medvedev posted on his blog the article entitled “Russia, Forward!” in which he roundly criticized his country for what he called a humiliating dependence on natural resources, a "half-Soviet" social sphere and instability in the Caucasus.

The President stressed that “in the 21st century Russia needs large-scale modernization … based on values and democratic institutions. We’ll create a smart economy to replace a primitive raw one, and it’ll produce unique knowledge, new things and technologies … that will serve the people.”

Calling for a "permanent revolution," Medvedev vowed Russia would become an "active and respected member of the world community of free nations."

He urged people to give their thoughts on his upcoming state-of-the-nations address - a move that once again proved Medvedev’s image as a liberalizing reformer.

His second address the following month was mainly based on the “Russia, Forward!” article.

AFP Photo / Mikhail Klimentyev AFP Photo / Mikhail Klimentyev

Army reform and New Military Doctrine

In September 2008 Medvedev announced that the Georgian conflict made it clear that Russia needs large-scale military and army reform. In 2009, the military budget was increased by 27 per cent compared to the previous year and amounted to a record 50 billion US dollars. The key goal, it was announced, was to make Russia’s Armed Forces more effective and mobile.

In 2010 Russia’s new military doctrine was adopted by the President. It retained Russia’s status as the world’s nuclear power and allowed for pre-emptive nuclear strikes in case of direct threat to the nation, and also gave the green light to the use of nuclear weapons in local conflicts. Although the US military doctrine is already considering pre-emptive nuclear strikes, this part has provoked heated debate.

START AMD and the big RESET

In April 2010, Medvedev signed a new START treaty with US President Barack Obama. The treaty replaced an old agreement which was due to expire in December 2012. The new START treaty not only meant significantly reducing the amount of nuclear warheads of the world’s two biggest nuclear powers, but also called for other nations to follow their example. It also became a symbol of the reset of relations between Moscow and Washington and the end of the cold war.

However, NATO decided to proceed with its plan to deploy an anti-missile defense shield in Europe. The shield would cover a large part of Russian airspace.  Medvedev made another step towards making ties with the first world more friendly by suggesting cooperation in building the anti-missile defense shield together with NATO.  The alliance never agreed to do so.  Dmitry Medvedev said that in order to continue build trustful relations with Russia, NATO has to present legal, documented guarantees that NATO’s anti missile defense shield is not aimed against Russia, but against Iran and North Korea as NATO has claimed. Otherwise, he said, Russia would be forced build its own missile defense system to protect the country’s security.

One of the harshest statements Medvedev made in respect to the shield was that Russia could pull out of the START treaty if NATO refused to cooperate.

Skolkovo

During his presidency, Dmitry Medvedev launched the Skolkovo innovation center, also known as “Russian Silicon Valley”.  The modern center for research and development is aimed at encouraging scientific and technology based companies. To exchange knowledge and experience, Skolkovo has opened its own office in the actual Silicon Valley.

The Skolkovo School of Management has its own MBA program based on entrepreneurial leadership, fast moving economies and experiential learning.

AFP Photo / Photographer STR AFP Photo / Photographer STR

Family

Medvedev’s wife, Svetlana Vladimirovna Medvedeva, was his childhood sweetheart. She was born into a military family and graduated from an economic university. They married several years after their graduation from secondary school in 1982. In 1995 their son Ilya was born - the only presidential child so far.

Smoke on the Water

Medvedev is known as an ardent fan of classic English heavy metal and hard rock: Deep Purple, Black Sabbath, Pink Floyd and Led Zeppelin are among his favorite bands. Although their music was on the country’s official black list in Soviet times, he’s gathered a rich collection of their original vinyl records, including Deep Purple’s full anthology.

In 2008 the latter played what they called their “first private gig in Russia” when they performed at the Kremlin Palace theater for Gazprom’s show. Medvedev was leaving his position as Chairman of the gas giant, and as the band’s lead singer and lyricist Ian Gillan told the media after the concert, “the atmosphere was like an end-of-term dance.” The concert took place just weeks before Medvedev’s victory in the presidential election.

AFP Photo / Dmitry Astakhov AFP Photo / Dmitry Astakhov

In 2008 the latter played what they called their “first private gig in Russia” when they performed at the Kremlin Palace theater for Gazprom’s show. Medvedev was leaving his position as Chairman of the gas giant, and as the band’s lead singer and lyricist Ian Gillan told the media after the concert, “the atmosphere was like an end-of-term dance.” The concert took place just weeks before Medvedev’s victory in the presidential election.

A healthy mind in a healthy body

As a schoolboy, Medvedev was fond of sports, in particular weightlifting.

Despite a busy schedule, the President always tries to find the time for swimming – he does nearly one mile, twice a day. He also jogs, practices yoga and loves to play chess. As a native of St. Petersburg, Medvedev follows his hometown’s professional football team, Zenit.

Medvedev is also an avid reader and often reads several books at a time, as reading one whole non-fiction book is a luxury affordable only on vacations. Every day the head of Russia tries to spare 15-20 minutes for reading. His favorite author is Erich Maria Remark.

Recently Medvedev started using e-books and finds them a convenient reading device.

AFP Photo / Dmitry Astakhov AFP Photo / Dmitry Astakhov

Blogger and Photographer

In 2008 Dmitry Medvedev launched a videoblog in which he addresses different issues.  From political to everyday life, Medvedev shared his thoughts with his audience.  Medvedev also makes video posts during state visits to various countries.

In his spare time during his work trips, Medvedev also takes photographs. One of his shots, a picture of the Tobolsk Kremlin in western Siberia was sold for 1.2 million Euros.

2012

Ahead of the presidential election of 2012, speaking at a United Russia party congress Dmitry Medvedev suggested Vladimir Putin for the country’s top job. One of the reasons for this, according to Medvedev, was the fact that Putin is more popular among Russians than he himself. Vladimir Putin accepted the idea of returning to the presidency, while Medvedev said he would like to perform “practical work in the government”. No sooner said than done – following March’s presidential election, Vladimir Putin returned to the Kremlin and Dmitry Medvedev made himself comfortable in the White House, replacing three quarters of the cabinet. He also joined the ranks of United Russia and even agreed to lead the party. Dmitry Medvedev has become the first Russian prime minister with party membership.

Image from www.privet.ru Image from www.privet.ru

Medved Preved!

On Russian websites, Medvedev is very often associated with the Medved meme, the biggest ever flash mob in the history of the Russian Internet community. It resulted in a number of comics that blend Medvedev with a bear. (The word “medved” means "bear" in Russian while the surname "Medvedev" could be translated into English as "bear's").

Medvedev himself is familiar with this phenomenon. Not only does he not take offence, but the President says this popular character has the right to exist. Indeed, why not?

Written by Maria Finoshina, RT correspondent

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