25 Russians to watch


Alexei Navalny

Blogger, shareholder activist, anti-corruption crusader, Navalny is the first politician in Russia to be created almost exclusively by the internet. The catalyst for his transformation from online to offline political career could be his 15-day prison sentence after leading a protest march on December 5.

Dmitry Rogozin

Nationalist politician who co-founded the “Motherland” political party in 2003. Had to be sent abroad as ambassador to Nato because he was getting too popular. He might come back.

Vladislav Surkov

A former advertising executive, Surkov is the black prince of the Kremlin propaganda machine, dubbed by critics a “puppet master” who establishes political parties, coaxes legislation through parliament and tells state television what to say and when to say it. But has he lost his touch? The fallout from the rigged December 4 elections shows Russians have grown tired of his version of “sovereign democracy”.



Anton Nossik

One of Russia’s most popular and powerful bloggers, Nossik has been labelled the “father” of the Russian blogosphere. He is the media director of internet holding company SUP, which runs Russia’s most popular blogging platform, LiveJournal.

Katya Bermant

Sergei Kanev

Investigative crime reporter for Novaya Gazeta, Kanev has made his reputation reporting on police corruption. He has become an unlikely hero to many police officers (“the ones without the villas”, says a source) who want to see law enforcement cleaned up in Russia.

Oleg Kashin

A reporter for Kommersant newspaper, his probing into Kremlin-supported youth gangs is a model of investigative journalism. It may also have got him badly beaten in November 2010. The assailants were never caught.

Tanya Lokshina

Based at Human Rights Watch, Lokshina is one of the most outspoken human rights advocates in Russia. She has a knack for attracting publicity for the largely ignored conflict in the Caucasus. She even got Hilary Swank to apologise after attending a birthday celebration for Chechnya’s Kremlin-backed president, the warlord Ramzan Kadyrov.

Igor Kalyapin

Founded the Nizhny Novgorod Committee Against Torture in 2000. It has become one of the most effective human rights NGOs in Russia, taking on cases of kidnapping, torture and murder by security forces in the Caucasus that local activists dare not touch. This work was documented in a recent film by state TV channel NTV, which, predictably, was censored before it got on the air.

Katya Bermant

As head of the Children’s Hearts foundation, Bermant has successfully raised money for hundreds of children in need of medical treatment, in many cases organising their trips to leading medical facilities outside Russia.

Yevgenia Chirikova

Yevgenia Chirikova

Vaulted to fame leading a protest movement against building a highway through the protected Khimki forest. Part of a new generation of political leaders, she has played an important role in the protests that have followed the parliamentary elections earlier this month.



Ksenia Sobchak

Russia’s answer to Paris Hilton has grown from professional celebrity to political journalist. In October, she amazed the Twittersphere with a brazen buttonholing of the leader of Kremlin youth gang Nashi, found eating at Moscow’s most expensive restaurant, and asked him how he could afford the oysters on his meagre government salary.

Valeria Gai Germanika

At 27, she is one of Russia’s youngest and most radical directors. Her film Everybody Dies But Me, which was shot mostly on hand-held camera, got her a special mention at the 2008 Cannes Film Festival.

Alexei Popogrebsky

Director of How I Ended This Summer and other critically acclaimed films, Popogrebsky is “shaping up into one of Russia’s most talented, distinctive and potentially exportable directors”, according to Variety magazine.

Vasily Barkhatov

At 28, he has already directed more than 10 operas. His production of The Brothers Karamazov won Russia’s equivalent of an Olivier award in 2009.

Konstantin Chudovsky

While the 29-year-old conductor did not have any formal classical training until his teens, he has already become a familiar face at Moscow’s respected Helikon Opera and other institutions.

Ksenia Sobchak

Marat Guelman

Art gallery director, cultural impresario. Guelman has recently taken on a project to revive Russia’s industrial heartland with culture, working with the governor of Perm to establish a gallery, theatres and festivals in the city. His efforts have borne fruit – Perm’s population is growing once again.

Dasha Zhukova

The socialite partner of Roman Abramovich has made a stunning contribution to modern art in Moscow with the Garage Centre for Contemporary Culture. This popular three-year-old non-profit is funded by her Iris Foundation.



Arkady Volozh

One of a growing number of Russians whose fortunes come from high-tech and innovation, Volozh is CEO of Yandex, the search engine founded in 1997 and now the most-used website in Russia. He made his debut on Forbes’s list of the 200 richest Russians this year, weeks before Yandex pulled off a $1.3bn New York listing.

Serguei Beloussov

Chairman of Parallels, the start-up which designs cloud computing software in addition to the ubiquitous program that runs Windows on a Mac. He is one of a number of entrepreneurs building bridges between Russia and Silicon Valley.

Yuri Soloviev

Head of VTB Capital, the new titan of Russian investment banking, part of state-owned VTB Bank. Soloviev is credited as a strategic visionary who managed to poach the sector’s best talent from rivals such as Deutsche Bank, including himself.

Eugene Kaspersky and Natalya Kasperskaya

The formerly married duo retain a close working relationship as chief executive and chairwoman of Kaspersky Labs, the antivirus software maker. The Moscow-based company was valued at $1bn earlier this year and aims to overtake US rivals such as Symantec and McAfee.

Gennady Timchenko

The secretive co-owner of Gunvor, the oil trader, which climbed from niche player in 2003 to become the world’s fourth-biggest. Timchenko is co-founder of a judo club where Vladimir Putin is president. He is also one of the biggest shareholders in Novatek, the country’s largest independent gas producer.

Yury Kovalchuk

The biggest shareholder in Bank Rossiya, a bank whose assets have surged exponentially since 2003 as it gained access to financial assets previously belonging to Gazprom, the state gas monopoly. Kovalchuk was a co-founder with Putin of a dacha conclave just outside St Petersburg and also co-owns National Media Group, which controls one of Russia’s most popular newspapers and Ren TV.

Arkady Rotenburg

A former judo partner of Putin’s who controls Stroygazmontazh, the energy service company contracted to build a large part of the $12bn Nord Stream gas pipeline to Germany. He also co-owns the Mostotrest construction group, which has won lucrative contracts to develop Sochi, host of the 2014 Winter Olympics.

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