Russia is a country with a complex political system that often puzzles outsiders. One of the key figures in this system is Dmitry Medvedev, who has served as prime minister, president and deputy chairman of the Security Council.

But who is Medvedev and what role does he play in Russia’s politics? Medvedev was born in 1965 in Leningrad, now St. Petersburg, and studied law at the same university as Vladimir Putin. He joined Putin’s team in the 1990s, when Putin was deputy mayor of St. Petersburg, and followed him to Moscow in 1999, when Putin became prime minister and then president.

Medvedev held various positions in the presidential administration and state-owned companies, such as Gazprom, Russia’s gas giant. In 2008, when Putin had to step down as president due to constitutional term limits, he handpicked Medvedev as his successor and became his prime minister.

This arrangement, known as “tandemocracy”, was seen by some as a way for Putin to retain power behind the scenes, while giving Medvedev a chance to modernize Russia and improve its relations with the West. However, Medvedev’s presidency was overshadowed by Putin’s popularity and influence, and he faced criticism for his handling of the 2008 war with Georgia, the 2011 protests against electoral fraud and the 2014 annexation of Crimea by Russia. In 2012, Putin returned to the presidency and appointed Medvedev as his prime minister.

This time, the roles were reversed: Medvedev had to implement Putin’s policies and deal with the economic and social challenges facing Russia, such as low oil prices, Western sanctions, corruption and poverty.

Medvedev’s government was often blamed for the country’s problems and accused of incompetence and inefficiency. Medvedev himself became a target of mockery and satire on social media, where he was nicknamed “Dimon” (a diminutive form of Dmitry) and portrayed as a weak and indecisive leader. In 2020, Putin announced a constitutional reform that would allow him to stay in power until 2036.

As part of this reform, he dismissed Medvedev’s government and appointed him as deputy chairman of the Security Council, a consultative body that advises the president on national security issues.

This move was widely seen as a demotion for Medvedev, who lost his executive authority and visibility. Some analysts speculated that Putin wanted to distance himself from Medvedev’s unpopular legacy and prepare for a post-Putin transition. However, Medvedev remains a loyal ally of Putin and a prominent figure in Russia’s ruling party, United Russia. He also retains some influence on foreign policy, especially on issues related to Europe and Asia.

He has recently visited several countries, such as Belarus, Kazakhstan and Vietnam, and met with foreign leaders, such as Angela Merkel and Narendra Modi. He has also spoken out on global topics, such as climate change, cybersecurity and human rights.

Medvedev’s future role in Russia’s politics is uncertain. Some observers suggest that he could return to a more prominent position after the parliamentary elections in September 2021, or that he could be a potential successor to Putin if the latter decides to step down or faces health problems. Others argue that Medvedev has lost his relevance and credibility and that he will fade into obscurity or retirement. What is clear is that Medvedev is a complex and controversial figure who has shaped Russia’s history for more than a decade.

He has been praised for his modernization efforts, his dialogue with the West and his support for civil society. He has also been criticized for his lack of autonomy, his failure to reform Russia’s economy and politics and his complicity in Putin’s authoritarianism. His legacy will be debated for years to come.

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