Anatoly Sobchak

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Anatoly Sobchak
Международная Леонардо-премия 26.jpg
Anatoly Sobchak (standing) with Alexandr Yakovlev (right)
Mayor of Saint Petersburg
In office
June 1991 – June 5, 1996
Preceded by Boris Gidaspov
Succeeded by Vladimir Yakovlev
Personal details
Born Anatoly Alexandrovich Sobchak
Анато́лий Алекса́ндрович Собча́к

(1937-08-10)August 10, 1937
Chita, Zabaykalsky Krai, Russian SFSR, USSR
Died February 20, 2000(2000-02-20) (aged 62)
Svetlogorsk, Kaliningrad Oblast, Russia
Resting place Tikhvin Cemetery
Saint Petersburg, Russia
Nationality  Russia
Political party Communist Party (1960s-1991)
Independent (1991-1996)
Our Home – Russia (1996-2000)
Spouse(s) Nonna Gandzyuk (married 1958)
Lyudmila Narusova (married 1980)
Children Maria, Kseniya
Alma mater Leningrad State University
Profession legal scholar, educator

Anatoly Alexandrovich Sobchak (Russian: Анато́лий Алекса́ндрович Собча́к, August 10, 1937—February 20, 2000) was a Russian politician, a co-author of the Constitution of the Russian Federation, the first democratically elected mayor of Saint Petersburg, and a mentor and teacher of both Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev.[1]

Biography[edit]

Soviet legal scholar[edit]

Anatoly Sobchak was born in Chita, Siberia, USSR, on August 10, 1937. His father, Alexander Antonovich, was a railroad engineer, and his mother, Nadezhda Andreyevna Litvinova, was an accountant. Anatoly was one of four brothers. In 1939, the family moved to Uzbekistan, where Anatoly lived until 1953 before entering Stavropol Law College. In 1954, he transferred to Leningrad State University. In 1958, he married Nonna Gandzyuk, a student of Hertzen Teacher's College. They had a daughter called Maria Sobchak born in 1965, who is currently a St Petersburg lawyer while her son Gleb Sobchak born in 1983, graduated from the Law Faculty of St. Petersburg State University.[2][3]

After graduating from Leningrad State University, he worked for three years as a lawyer in Stavropol, then returned to Leningrad State University for graduate studies (1962–1965). After obtaining his Ph.D., he taught law at the Leningrad Police School and the Leningrad Institute for Cellulose and Paper Industries' Technology (1965–1973) and between 1973 and 1990 he taught at Leningrad State University. In 1980 he married Lyudmila Narusova, at that time a history student at the Leningrad Academy of Soviet Culture and later a prominent MP. They had a daughter Ksenia Sobchak, currently a television presenter and the most notorious figure of Moscow's demimonde society.[citation needed]

After obtaining his D.Sc. in 1982 he was appointed Professor and Head of the Department of Common Law in Socialist Economics. He was very popular among law students, especially for his mildly anti-government comments. During his work at Leningrad State University he established close relations with its then administrator of international affairs, Vladimir Putin, which he maintained for the rest of his life.

Legislator[edit]

In 1989 after Russian election laws changed during Perestroika, he was elected as an independent candidate to the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union. He was one of only a few deputies who had a legal background, so he contributed enormously to most of the laws created during 1989-1991. He became one of the founders and a co-chairman of the Inter-Regional Deputies Group along with Andrei Sakharov and Boris Yeltsin. He also was a chairman of the Parliamentary Commission on the Investigation of the Events of April 9, 1989 in Tbilisi. The Commission condemned the military, which was blamed for many deaths when dispersing demonstrators. The Commission's report made it more difficult to use military force against civil demonstrations in the Soviet Union and Russia.

He was a member of the President's Consultative Council during Mikhail Gorbachev's tenure and contributed to legislation that originated from the presidential administration.

After the Soviet Union was dissolved in 1991, Sobchak was not a member of the central Parliament but was a member of Yeltsin's Presidential Council and the chairman of the Constitutional Assembly that prepared the Constitution of the Russian Federation in 1993. The constitution is often informally called Sobchak's constitution, although its real authors have been somewhat less known.

Mayor of Saint Petersburg[edit]

In April 1990 Sobchak was elected a deputy of the Leningrad City Council, and in May he became the chairman of the Council. From the beginning his leadership was marked by a strongly authoritarian bent.[4] The Council decided to change the structure of the city governance so as to have a Mayor elected by direct elections. The first of such elections in June 1991 were combined with the referendum on the city name. Sobchak won the elections, and the city voted to return to its historical name of Saint Petersburg. The name change was established in one of the last sessions of the Congress of People's Deputies of the Soviet Union, held on September 12, 1991. The change needed an amendment of the Constitution of the Soviet Union and its passage required much effort by Sobchak.

Sobchak was Mayor of Saint Petersburg in 1991-1996. During his tenure the city became a place of glamorous cultural and sporting events. Most of the everyday control of the city structure was handled by two Mayor's deputies - Vladimir Yakovlev and Vladimir Putin; critics alleged deterioration of city infrastructure, growing corruption, and crime during this time. In 1994 he had his portrait painted by Russian artist Zinaida Sotina.[5] In the 1996 mayoral election Sobchak was opposed by his former first deputy Vladimir Yakovlev and lost by a margin of 1.2%. The major pitch of Yakovlev's campaign was that Sobchak's patronage of the arts (with city money) and involvement in federal politics prevented him from solving the real problems of the city.[citation needed]

Emigration and Return[edit]

In 1997 a criminal investigation started against Sobchak. He was accused of irregularities in the privatization of his own apartment, his elder daughter's apartment, and his wife's art studio. By the standards of the 1990s in Russia the allegations were relatively minor (although the alleged losses for city finances were still in the tens of thousands of dollars). Thus, Sobchak's supporters saw the criminal process as a political repression.

On November 7, 1997, Sobchak flew to Paris on a private plane without passport processing on the Russian side. The formal reason for his departure was medical treatment in a Paris hospital for his heart condition, but Sobchak never checked in at the hospital. Between 1997 and 1999 he lived the typical life of a political immigrant in Paris.

In June 1999 his friend Vladimir Putin became much stronger politically (in a few weeks he became the Prime Minister of Russia), and he was able to make the prosecutors drop the charges against Sobchak. On June 12, 1999 Sobchak returned to Russia. After his return Sobchak became a very active supporter of Putin in his quest for the Russian presidency.

Death[edit]

Funerals of Sobchak. Vladimir Putin with the widow and daughter of the late mayor of Saint Petersburg
The plaque Anatoly Sobchak situated on Moika Embankment, 31 in St. Petersburg

On February 20, 2000, Sobchak died suddenly in the town of Svetlogorsk of the Kaliningrad Oblast during his trip to support Putin's election, shortly after his meeting with Putin on February 16. The official cause of death was a heart attack, but the findings of two medical experts were contradictory according to journalist Andrei Karaulov.[6] A criminal investigation of Sobchak's death was opened only on May 6, 2000, more than two months later.[7] The Democratic Union party led by Valeria Novodvorskaya made an official statement that not only Sobchak, but also two of his aides had heart attacks simultaneously, which indicated poisoning.[8] Two other men were present with Sobchak during his death, but their names were not publicly disclosed.[6] This led to some doubt and speculation as to the actual reasons of his death.[citation needed]

He was interred in Tikhvin Cemetery at the Alexander Nevsky Monastery in St. Petersburg, near the grave of Galina Starovoitova.[9]

Honours and awards[edit]

This article incorporates information from the Russian Wikipedia.

See also[edit]

References[edit]

External links[edit]