Prominent Russians: Dmitry Kozak
Dmitry Kozak is the Deputy Prime Minister of Russia in charge of planning the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in Sochi. There are six Deputy Prime Ministers and two First Deputy Prime Ministers in the Russian government. He is widely believed to be one of Prime Minster Vladimir Putin’s most trusted advisors, particularly on matters of judicial reform.
Dmitry Nikolaievich Kozak was born on 7 November 1958 in the village of Bandurovo, in what is now Central Ukraine. According to official sources, he completed his compulsory military service as a paratrooper. However in 2006, the Minister of Defense Sergey Ivanov revealed that Kozak, in fact, served in the GRU, the special foreign intelligence service of the USSR.
Kozak began his third level education at the Vinitsky Polytechnic Institute, in Ukraine. When he was 22, he moved to St. Petersburg to study law at Leningrad State University. His teacher remembers him as an outstanding scholar, in contrast to the current President of Russia, Dmitry Medvedev, who followed him two years later, and failed to impress professors. The careers of Kozak and Medvedev were to become closely intertwined, with both lawyers vying for top judicial and governmental posts in the Russian Federation.
Kozak graduated with a “Red Diploma,” the highest possible university grade. His outstanding result allowed him to begin work in the St. Petersburg Public Prosecutor’s office. Within four years he was already a senior public prosecutor.
As the Berlin wall came down in 1989, Kozak re-orientated his career towards business. He became the chief legal advisor to the St. Petersburg construction company Monolit-Kirovstroi, and later a legal consultant to the Association of Sea Trading Ports.
In 1990 Kozak moved to the state sector, where he has since spent most of his career. In the office of the Mayor of St. Petersburg (1991-1996), Anatoly Sobchak, Kozak was the chief legal counsel. He was instrumental in drafting the St. Petersburg legal codex after the collapse of the Soviet legal system. His demand of strict adherence to the new legal framework, while lax regulation elsewhere was leading to the rise of mafias and crime cartels, led officials to coin the term “Kozak’s sieve” – the idea being that only the cleanest, finely tuned legislation could receive Kozak’s approval. While in St. Petersburg, Kozak met the future Russian President and Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and the two have since maintained a close relationship.
Mayor Sobchak was defeated in the 1996 election for Governor (the post of Mayor was replaced by that of Governor), but Kozak stayed on in his position as legal chief. In 1998 he became Vice-Governor of St. Petersburg, but left within a year, citing policy differences with the new Governor, Yakovlev. Curiously, Kozak has succeeded Yakovlev at several points in his later career – as Presidential Envoy of the Southern Federal District and as Regional Development Minister.
A short break from government gave Kozak the chance to open a legal firm, YUST Group. But his break did not last long; in 1999 Kozak was invited by President Boris Yeltsin to advise the presidential administration on legal reform. Yeltsin was replaced by Vladimir Putin in 2000, and Kozak became Putin’s Chief of Staff. Kozak had managed Putin’s election campaign in 1999, as he did for his re-election in 2004.
In the presidential administration, Kozak worked mainly on legal reforms to modernize Russia’s judicial system, decrease corruption and raise its investment potential.
Kozak briefly stepped into the world of international relations in 2003 with a failed attempt to resolve the Transdniester dispute. Transdniester is a Russian-speaking self-declared republic within the borders of Moldova. Kozak proposed what was essentially a two-state solution, but within a federal structure and with co-operation in key areas of economic and foreign policy, but his plan was rejected by Moldova.
In the wake of the 2004 Beslan Hostage Crisis, when almost four hundred hostages, most of them schoolchildren, were killed when Russian forces stormed a school held by Chechen terrorists, Kozak was made Presidential Envoy for the Southern Federal Region. The region is the poorest and most troubled in Russia, having suffered several wars, as well as bloody ethnic and border disputes, since the collapse of the Soviet Union. Kozak’s priorities included improving the social and economic situation in the area, and the stimulation of job creation to reduce the use of the area as a terrorist and separatist breeding ground. Kozak served in this position until 2007. He was honored with the Order of Akhmat Kadyrov in 2007 for his work in Chechnya. The Southern Federal Region remains the most violent corner of the Russian Federation.
In 2007 Kozak joined the Ministry of Regional Development, becoming its Minister in the Putin government. In the build-up to the 2008 Russian presidential elections, Kozak was often touted as a likely successor to Putin, but Dmitry Medvedev was ultimately elected to the post. As Vladimir Putin left the presidential administration, so did his close ally Kozak, and in 2008 he was made one of eight Deputy Prime Ministers, with a special responsibility for organizing the 2014 Winter Olympic Games in the southern resort city of Sochi. In 2008 Kozak was awarded a Second Level Order of Merit for the Motherland, for his “many years of prolific government work.”
Written by Aaron Mulvihill, RT