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You're reading: Open Democracy: The career of the Kremlin’s grey cardinal

The Presidential Administration is an unusual Russian government body in
that the most important person is not the head of the organisation but
his first deputy. Until 2011 this deputy was the now departed Vladislav Surkov; since 2011 Vyacheslav Volodin has
been in charge. Change of deputy, change of policy, or so it would
seem. Under Surkov, say the experts, Putin would never have flown with the cranes, nor signed controversial laws like the Dima Yakovlev bill

Vladislav Surkov only became first
deputy to the head of the Presidential Administration in 2008; before
that, from 1999, he was but a lowly Duma deputy.  In fact, his influence
on government policy was immeasurably greater than merited by his
official post. Surkov was regularly described as the regime’s ‘grey
cardinal’, or power behind the throne of Russian politics. However, he
was never a grey cardinal to his own boss but to Putin – assistant to
the king directly, rather than the cardinal. 

Surkov’s CV is reasonably typical for a Moscow politician,
although he is not a Muscovite by birth. There has, incidentally, been
some ideological wrangling over where exactly he was born. Surkov’s
opponents maintain that his father was Chechen and that he was born in
the aul [village] of Dubai-Yurt; his supporters, or rather information
team, that he was born in the Lipetsk region and any other assertions
are false.

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