Transitioning from Medvedev to Putin

Editor’s note: This is the first in a series on the coming transition after the 2012 Russian election.

An acquaintance asked what journalists will miss most about covering Russia’s President Dmitry Medvedev as he vacates the top spot in Russia.

“Life itself,” was the first reply, sort of a joke. But perhaps it’s more serious as the life expectancy for the average journalist has improved dramatically during the Medvedev years. But there are a lot of things we will miss, and of course some things will remain the same.

For instance, there is the matter of tea. Russians are serious tea drinkers and Mr. Putin leads the pack when it comes to a good cup of tea. The tea will continue to be excellent whether served at the Kremlin, the Russian White House, the Presidential residence in Gorki, or one of the government houses where business of state is conducted.

Time for tea. Russian President Dmitry Medvedev at military base in Gudauta.

Speaking of the presidential residence in Gorki, a wooded suburb just outside Moscow, it is unclear whether Mr. Putin will take up residence there or the compound will simply be rebranded as the Prime Minister’s residence should Mr. Medvedev accept that position.

President Medvedev seen on a brisk stroll outside the presidential residence in Gorki.

In the coming months we’ll write about many of the personal touches that Dmitry Medvedev brought to the job back on the 7th of May 2008. It seems almost like yesterday when Mr. Medvedev made the long walk up the red carpeted staircase of the Kremlin’s Grand Palace to stand behind the podium and take the oath of office to assume responsibility for Russia’s first copy of the federation constitution.

There was a time when few believed Dmitry Anatolyevich Medvedev (Дмитрий Анатольевич Медведев) would get the job as he was considered to be too liberal and pro-Western for his close confidant Vladimir Putin to endorse him as a candidate.

Without question we will definitely miss the Medvedev girls! Cheerleaders, of a sort. They claim to be “ready to do anything for Dmitry Medvedev.” Really? Good thing the President enjoys a well deserved reputation for his loyalty and close relationship with the first lady, Mrs. Svetlana Medvedeva.

Medvedev girls, ready to support their president.

Prime Minister Putin has the Putin cheerleaders but they’re a bit more risque so we’ll feature them at another time. Meanwhile, the president’s “main squeeze” is his wife and lifelong close friend, Svetlana (Светлана Владимировна Медведева), who he began courting when both were age 14 and attended the same middle school. They were married in 1993 and two years later celebrated the birth of their son Ilya.

President Dmitry Medvedev and first lady Svetlana Medvedeva, close friends.

We admire how Mr. Medvedev interacts with others, from children to adults, and unlike Mr. Putin, Medvedev is comfortable in his own skin and takes energy from being around others. He is a true “people person” which will mark a noticeable change next year.

There are many things we’ll miss about Dmitry Medvedev and we’ll detail those in the coming months. There will be positives about the return of Vladimir Putin as well and some of those will be highlighted in this series.

The spring elections will be upon us soon, too soon, and these gentle days will slowly take their places in the pages of Russia’s modern history.

(By Yakov Mendeleyev)