That is some fascinating personal data on the new man.
Here's Strat on the big picture as they see it:
Geopolitical Diary: The Course of Russia
Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday ended the mystery by formally endorsing First Deputy Prime Minister Dmitri Medvedev as his successor. Given Putin's genuine popularity with a majority of the population, along with his hammerlock to the levers of power, his endorsement is tantamount to Medvedev's election. Now the speculation has turned to precisely whether Putin will continue to pull the strings, and if so how he will do it.
We suspect that Putin will continue to pull the strings and that he is smart enough to figure out how he will do it. These are interesting but ultimately not important questions. The reason is that the process Putin initiated when he replaced Boris Yeltsin was inevitable. If Putin had not done it, someone else would have. And given the dynamics of Russia during that period, the only place that person would have come from was the intelligence community. To take control of the catastrophic reality of Russia, you had to be closely linked to at least some of the oligarchs, have control of the only institution that was really functioning in Russia at the time -- the security and intelligence apparatus -- and have the proper mix of ruthlessness and patience that it took to consolidate power within the state and then use state power to bring the rest of Russia under control.
The Soviet Union was a disaster. The only thing worse was Russia in the 1990s. The situation in Russia was untenable. Workers were not being paid, social services had collapsed, poverty was endemic. The countryside was in shambles. By the end of the 1990s Russia was either going to disintegrate or the state would reassert itself. The functional heart of the Soviet system, the KGB, now called the FSB, did reassert itself, not in a straight line. Much of the FSB was deeply involved in the criminality and corruption that was Russia in the 1990s. But just as the KGB had recognized first that the Soviet system was in danger of collapse, so the heirs of the KGB had recognized that Russia itself was in danger of collapse. Putin acted and succeeded. But it was the system reacting to chaos, not simply one man.
Which means that while the personal fate of Putin is an interesting question, it is not an important one. The course has been set and Medvedev, with or without Putin, will not change it. First, the state is again in the hands of the apparatus. Second, the state is in control of Russia. Third, Russia is seeking to regain control of its sphere of influence. Medvedev, or any Russian leader who could emerge, is not going to change this, because it has become institutionalized; it became institutionalized because there was no alternative course for Russia, the fantasies of the 1990s notwithstanding.
It is important to remember one of the major factors that propelled Putin to power -- the Kosovo war. The United States went to war with Serbia against Russian wishes. Russia was ignored. Then at the end, the Russians helped negotiate the Serb capitulation. Under the agreement the occupation of Kosovo was not supposed to take place only under NATO aegis. The Serbs had agreed to withdraw from Kosovo under the understanding that the Russians would participate in the occupation. From the beginning that did not happen. Yeltsin's credibility, already in tatters, was shattered by the contemptuous attitude toward Russia shown by NATO members.
It is interesting to note that on the same day Putin picked Medvedev, the situation in Kosovo is again heating up. NATO is trying to create an independent Kosovo with the agreement of Serbia. The Serbs are not agreeing and neither is their Russian ally. Putin, who still holds power, is not going to compromise on this issue. For him, Kosovo is a minor matter, except that it is a test of whether Russia will be treated as a great power.
Whether Putin is there, Medvedev is there, or it is a player to be named later, the Russians are not kidding on Kosovo. They do not plan to be rolled over as they were in 1999. Nor are they kidding about a sphere of influence in the former Soviet Union. They are certainly not kidding about state domination of the economy or of the need for a strong leader to control the state.
The point is that the situation in Russia, down to a detail like Kosovo, is very much part of a single, coherent fabric that goes well beyond personalities. The response that Russia made to its near-death experience was pretty much its only option, and having chosen that option, the rest unfolds regardless of personalities. Putin has played his role well. He could continue to play it. But the focus should be on Russia as a great power seeking to resume its role, and not on the personalities, not even one as powerful as Putin, and certainly not Medvedev.