Marie Claire Australia - 01.05.2018

(Ben Green) #1 53


Clockwise from above:
Sobchak at a rally to support
education last year; with her
mother Lyudmila Narusova
and Russia’s President Putin
at the cemetery where her
father Anatoly Sobchak
was buried; a billboard in
Saint Petersburg promoting
Sobchak as a presidential
candidate; on the cover of
Russian Playboy in late 2006.

“Last summer, Sobchak began
negotiating a possible run with the
administration,” Kremlin adviser and
member of the ruling United Russia,
Sergei Markov, told marie claire. “When
she told Putin she would run, he said,
‘Do whatever you like.’” (A statement
that constitutes a glowing “go for it” in
Russian political parlance.)
Sobchak has simply shrugged of
the suggestion she was essentially a
decoy, saying, “I am responsible for my
words and actions.”


ince bursting into the limelight
in 2004, Sobchak has astounded
fans and irritated critics. Putin
had been in oice for four years
when Sobchak, then aged 23, was cast
as the host of House-2, a reality TV show
that was akin to a Russian version of
Big Brother. For a while, her career
followed the tried-and-true course of
celebs the world over: there were cloth-
ing and shoe lines, a restaurant, a talk
show, a Playboy cover. She also wrote a
book called Marry a Millionaire.
“For as long as I [have] known her,
she tries to grab every cool project and
turn it into her own. And for as long as
the project excites her, she stays sincere
and serious about it,” Mikhail Zygar,
Sobchak’s former producer and manag-

er at the independent television channel
TV Rain, has said. But Sobchak insists
this latest career project – politician – is
much more than a dalliance. After all,
Russian politics is in her blood.
She was raised in Saint Petersburg
and both of her parents were politicians.
Her father, Anatoly Sobchak, was the
city’s first democratically elected mayor.
Her mother, Lyudmila Narusova, won a
seat in the Russian parliament in 1995.
During her father’s tenure as mayor,
much of the day-to-day running of Saint

Petersburg fell to one of his deputies,
one Vladimir Putin. It was said to be a
formative experience for Putin, a former
middling KGB oicer with political
aspirations of his own. Such was Putin’s
closeness to Anatoly and his family, the
president to this day is said to call
Sobchak the afectionate “Ksiusha” –
instead of Ksenia – leading to the belief
that he is her godfather.
Anatoly was ultimately forced out
of his job, facing accusations of corrup-
tion, which he claimed were fabricated
to stop him running for president. He
fled to Paris while his protégé, Putin,
climbed the ranks.
In the late ’90s, Putin helped
Anatoly return to Russia and he joined
Putin’s campaign. But, in 2000, Anatoly
died suddenly. While at first he was said
to have had a heart attack, his death
was later ruled a possible murder, but
his assailants remain unknown.
Putin wept at the funeral.


leven years later, “Ksiusha”
made her most radical move
to date – publicly turning on
Putin and establishing herself
as his political opponent. In 2011, pro-
tests swept Moscow and tens of thou-
sands of people took to the streets to
voice their anger after Putin was
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