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Medvedev was one of a group of St. Petersburg lawyers and security officials summoned to Moscow when Putin ascended to power in the Kremlin. As the individuals associated with Yeltsin’s administration faded from power into Putin’s second term, a group of former KGB security officials, widely known as the siloviki, filled powerful positions and began to exercise control over policy, both foreign and domestic. Members of the siloviki drove a hawkish foreign policy line and took positions at companies where the state had begun to wield more influence in recent years. For sure, the St. Petersburg contingent was the dominant force in Kremlin politics, but it had several camps.

In his position as deputy head and then head of the Presidential Administration, Medvedev did not align himself with the fading Yeltsin figures or the siloviki. Instead, he found an affinity with other St. Petersburg lawyers and Kremlin technocrats. He brought several of his university colleagues to Moscow or placed them in prominent positions at state-controlled companies like Gazprom.

The St. Petersburg lawyers and technocrats were seen as having a more liberal bent on economic policy, favoring open markets and more pluralism, on civil administration, advocating market principles in resolving Russia’s social issues, and on foreign policy. They included Elvira Nabiullina, the minister for economic development, and Dmitry Kozak, the minister for regional development. In speeches since December 2007, Medvedev has sounded a more liberal tone on economics and a more open attitude on foreign policy than Putin. Though no one doubts that for the time being Medvedev remains a Putin protégé.

Medvedev’s policy style can be summed up as a kind of controlled liberalism, where the state becomes involved only in cases where the problem is too big or the stakes are too high for private enterprise to succeed, i.e. when the state risks losing control over a strategic sector of the economy.

This economic liberalism would seem to be at odds with his time at Gazprom, the world’s largest gas company and a state-controlled entity. Medvedev said in November 2007 that he felt Gazprom should not hold a monopoly on the Russian fuel market, and he would see that foreign companies and other actors have a chance to work in Russia. “Gazprom will not be able to ‘digest’ all of Russia’s energy resources,” Medvedev said. “And thank God for that – otherwise Gazprom would become the ministry of energy – and we have been trying to avoid this state of affairs.”

In speeches in 2008, Medvedev said that “Freedom is better than no freedom.” He spoke out for economic freedoms, human rights and freedom of expression. He also said that Russia is a country riddled with corruption and saturated with a sense of “legal nihilism.” He has called for reforms of the judicial system and a real separation of that system from the executive and legislative branches.

Medvedev hasn’t taken up Putin’s mantle of “sovereign democracy” – a term used to describe democracy managed by domestic interests – for Russia. The idea arose during Putin’s second term. “I still don’t like this term. In my opinion as a lawyer, playing up one feature of a full-fledged democracy – namely the supremacy of state authorities within the country and their independence (from influences) outside the country – is excessive and even harmful because it is disorienting,” Medvedev said in a July 2007 interview.

Maybe the biggest departure from Putin's program was Medvedev's call for an end to the practice of placing state officials on the boards of major corporations. Medvedev himself sat on the board of Gazprom, and Russia is almost unique in Europe in that senior government officials double up as board members of nearly every significant business in the country. “I think there is no reason for the majority of state officials to sit on the boards of those firms,” Medvedev said. “They should be replaced by truly independent directors, which the state would hire to implement its plans."

Perhaps, the most significant statement of Medvedev's views to date is his article Go Russia! that appeared on September 10, 2009 in, considered to be a fairly independent website where many serious analysts are published, including representatives of the liberal camp. The article was seen by many analysts as a call to the elite and civil society to take part in changing economic and political life in the country.

In his article Medvedev sets out an agenda of modernization for his address to be delivered soon before the Russian parliament. The president describes the problems of the country and depicts his vision of the future.

The article proposes a step-by-step system of actions aimed at modernizing Russia's economy and democracy without breaking with achievements of the Putin presidency. The president makes it clear that the development of democracy and political freedoms in the country “is directly linked to scientific and technical conditions,” and there will be no democratic “superstructure” without technological “basis”.

The president is with those who advocate a strong, but democratic Russia, and not with the forces of inertia and paternalism. It is significant that for the first time at such a high level paternalistic sentiments have been criticized.

Finally, the president stresses that it is unacceptable to “imitate Western samples,” which does not rule out studying and understanding other countries’ experience.

Some analysts compare Medvedev’s article with the US President Franklin Roosevelt’s address to the nation. Roosevelt also spoke plainly, clearly and frankly about difficulties and problems of the US during the Great Depression.

The full text of the article, in English, is available here.

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