Never has the political fate of one man been so aligned to the whims and actions of another as Dmitri Medvedev to his superior Vladimir Putin. Forever cast as the hapless Robin to Putin’s Batman, Medvedev risks going down as one of history’s great ‘useful idiots’ at a time when Russian dominance started to slowly take centre stage in global affairs.
Under Putin’s direction, Medvedev was appointed Chairman of the board of directors at Gazprom, Russia’s largest energy producer as an attempt to rein in the oligarchs at the head of the company. When it came time to choosing a successor, Medvedev didn’t entirely have it in the bag as other contenders to the throne were came in the form of the two Sergeis: Ivanov and Naryshkin. Early polls however showed Medvedev to be the popular favourite which may have won him the affections of Putin towards the end of the latter’s presidency.
He served as President of Russia for four years from 2008 to 2012 and his tenure presided over the Great Recession as well as the Russo-Georgian War, none of which he will remembered for. It’s possible these two events may have triggered Putin to take on a larger role than is conventional of a Prime Minister subordinate to a President.
The War in Georgia increased his popularity among his constituents to be up to 70% though that number has plummeted to a point where today he is tainted by allegations of corruption for having used state expenses to slowly accumulate yachts, palaces and vineyards. In contrast to Putin’s impermeable tough-guy brand, Medvedev has been the fall guy for Russia’s woes including their fall in living standards and increased public corruption.
Neither KGB, FSB, nor a member of the political elite siloviki, the rise of Medvedev was an unlikely one in Russia given its history of strongmen and revolutionaries. Born in Leningrad (now St Petersburg) to a well-to-do family of Ukranian extraction, the bookish Medvedev went on to study law at Leningrad State University. It was at university that his first foray into politics came. Under the political tutelage of Anatoly Sobchak, Medvedev was introduced to future president Vladimir Putin. Medvedev would then go on to being Putin’s campaign manager for the 2000 presidential election, which Putin won with 52.94% of the vote, a moment that sealed and charted Medvedev’s political fate.