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The political cradle for Putin and Medvedev

The career path of Russian presidential contender Dmitry Medvedev originates in the former Tsarist city St Petersburg - just like that of outgoing President Vladimir Putin.
None | By DPA, Moscow
UPDATED ON MAR 01, 2008 11:49 AM IST

The career path of Russian presidential contender Dmitry Medvedev originates in the former Tsarist city St Petersburg - just like that of outgoing President Vladimir Putin.

The current deputy prime minister was named by Putin as his favourite candidate for succession and is regarded as the frontrunner in the March 2 presidential elections.

Like Putin, Medvedev hails from Leningrad as the city of St Petersburg used to be called under communist rule, and Putin and Medvedev have known each other for almost 20 years.

People in their native city are proud of the two prominent politicians. The local university showcases a photo of Medvedev at the top of its website.

"He was a good student and even won a couple of martial arts prizes for the legal faculty," recalls Nikolaj Kropatshev, the dean of the university.

Medvedev studied law in his hometown until 1987 and later completed a doctorate in civil law before lecturing until 1999 at the same faculty that was Putin's Alma matter.

Although an expert on the law Medvedev sometimes found it hard to make himself heard, one of his former students remembers: "But in the noisy lecture halls he always found it difficult to make himself heard with his quiet voice."

"He also used to talks in phrases and would dismiss many of the students' requests with the sentence: 'That's your problem'," the student added.

St Petersburg's south-western part of Kutshino is not the best showcase for the otherwise beautiful city: A district made up of prefabricated concrete high-rises housing about 300,000 residents, it was where Dmitry Anatolyevitch Medvedev was born on Septeber 14, 1965.

The single child of a linguistic lecturer and a professor of mechanical engineering, he was a "well-behaved boy and never contradicted his mother in public," his former neighbour Vera Borisovna remembers.

And one of his former teachers at School 305, Vera Smirnova, reports: "Dima was polite, hard-working and always punctual."

Nonetheless "Dima" was not merely interested in mathematics and geography: In 1989, he married Svetlana Linnik, a girl also from Kuptchino, and a student in his neighbouring class who later became a teacher.

In 1996 the couple gave birth to a son, Ilya. Even after the family moved to Moscow, they remained close to their native city: Medvedev still heads the fan club of Zenit St Petersburg football team and his wife remains a trustee of the local boarding school.

Isaac Square with its splendid cathedral is regarded as one of the most beautiful boulevards of the world's most northern multi-million-strong city.

In the 1990s, Medvedev would see the square's central statue of Tsar Nicholas I whenever he looked out of the window - during his employment as a local university professor, he also worked as an advisor to St Petersburg's then mayor.

It was in this role that he first met Putin who headed the committee for foreign affairs in the mayor's office. When Putin became deputy mayor in 1994, he appointed the legal expert as his advisor.

Thirteen years later, Medvedev is due to succeed Putin in the Kremlin. Putin is constitutionally barred from running after two consecutive terms.

It would be a career jump according to Medvedev's taste. The quiet politician, who loves the British rock group Deep Purple, once used to have a job in a wood trading firm, - today he is chairman of Russian energy giant Gazprom.

At the same time, the tested Petersburg duo is set to remain in place after Medvedev's likely election as president as Putin has promised to take the prime minister's post.

Asked why he continues to advance the career of his St Petersburg comrade up to this day, Putin once said: "We simply are on the same wavelength."

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