“A Normal Guy,” “A Classic Liberal,” “He Understands Everything.” Deputies and journalists who know Boris Nadezhdin talk about him to Spektr
Boris Nadezhdin. Photo from his personal page on VKontakte
via Spektr.press

2 February 2024

by Aleksandr Litoi

Source: Spektr.press

The Central Election Committee is inviting Boris Nadezhdin to come in at 10 o’clock on 5 February to be notified of insufficient signatures, the Telegram channel ‘Elections TsYK for All!’, which broadcasts rumors about the presidential campaign, reported today. Before this, similar rumors were spread by the RT channel.

Whatever stands behind them—the actual end of the election campaign for Nadezhdin or another stage in his PR action—we have seen people giving their signatures for the antiwar candidate standing in line both in Russia and abroad, something that has not been observed in Vladimir Putin’s headquarters. Meanwhile, for many years Nadezhdin was known only for a series of lost campaigns for elections at various levels and his presence on Russian television talk shows, where in response to attacks that bordered on insults he tried to defend liberal views. 

Nadezhdin himself talked about his program for Spektr in October 2023. Today, on the threshold of a new turn in the election race, we briefly remind readers of the potential candidate’s biography and quote a few opinions from people who know Nadezhdin personally. 

Sixty-year-old Boris Nadezhdin has four children from three marriages. Nadezhdin became a deputy for the first time—to the municipal council of Dolgoprudny, outside Moscow—in 1990. Since then he has been considered a public politician and open to communication: prepared to give journalists commentaries at nearly any hour of the day. Therefore the Wikipedia page about him is detailed and supported by numerous citations.

From it, one can learn, for example, that five generations of men in the Nadezhdin family have had the name Boris. Boris Nadezhdin’s great-great grandfather, also Boris, was kept out of the election to the very first Duma in Russian history, in 1906 because he didn’t meet the property qualification.

The present-day Boris Nadezhdin graduated from MFTI [Moscow Institute of Physics and Technology] and still lives in Dolgoprudny; he got a second higher degree from the Moscow Institute of Law. He worked for a while as an engineer and in the late 1980s opened a cooperative specializing in preparing university applicants to enter institutes of higher education.

In the 1990s, besides being a deputy in Dolgoprudny, Nadezhdin was in business and was an administrator in the Moscow Oblast government and the Russian presidential administration. Nadezhdin ran for the State Duma’s third session (1998-2003) from the Union of Right-wing Forces (SPS).

Since 2003, Nadezhdin has lost elections at various levels: State Duma, Moscow Oblast Duma, Moscow-area gubernatorial. He has worked with Right Cause, the Party of Growth, and Civic Initiative. In 2015, he was nominated in the United Russia primaries, where he also lost. The only successful elections for Nadezhdin in 20 years were in 2021, when he managed to be elected once again to the Dolgoprudny council of deputies from Just Russia. 

Dmitry Gudkov, former State Duma deputy

Dmitry Gudkov, who was forced to leave Russia due to the risk of criminal prosecution, has known Nadezhdin for a very long time. His father Gennady Gudkov—also a former deputy and now a political émigré—was on good terms with him in the 1998-2003 State Duma. Dmitry is convinced that Nadezhdin himself decided to run for president, and not after a call from the president’s administration:

“If only he had been able to test the waters as to whether they would let him collect signatures, for example. He saw that Yavlinsky wasn’t running, no one was running. . . . So that running was a way for Nadezhdin to relaunch his political career. . . . He is trying to be milder, but we coincide in our views on the war and the dictatorship. He’s very easy to get along with. . . . I remember he and I played a guitar duet. There was some kind of political event for young people. I brought my guitar and so did he.”

Dmitry Gudkov believes that Nadezhdin’s campaign has already been beneficial, regardless of whether they register him as a candidate. Gudkov himself sent out photos of the lines to “sign for the antiwar candidate” to Western politicians, and, according to him, they were impressed at how many Russians so far have been prepared to oppose the system.

“If Nadezhdin were to abruptly change his position—for instance, to suddenly call on people to vote for Putin—he would simply lose his political capital. At the same time, there are examples in history, on the contrary, when a politician has received unexpected support and has started defending his views more firmly.

Andronik Arutyunov, MFTI associate, cochair of the University Solidarity trade union.

“He’s easy to get along with. He taught a law class at MFTI and then resigned because his bureaucratic workload got to be much more than he was being paid for. He fled the institute because of the paperwork, not the students. He attended the first meetings of the MFTI workers’ trade union. When he was asked, he reposted various materials from our trade union. Nadezhdin’s wife works at the MFTI high school. In fact, Boris himself taught “Conversations About What Is Important” there, talking to schoolchildren about the Constitution.

Ilya Ponomarev, former State Duma deputy

“Our paths have crossed many times, both when Nadezhdin was a deputy in the Duma, while working on various laws, and afterward. There have also been many conferences and broadcasts. An ordinary guy, a classic system liberal. Intelligent, with correct views, an experienced politician who is always ready to take a detour. An ideal sparring partner for the Kremlin. I think all these lines and calls from the emigration are going to bury him now, the Presidential Administration is afraid of the “Grudinin effect” and is going to shut him down.

Lev Ponomarev, human rights activist

“A decent man. I trust him. I feel close to him because I, too, graduated from MFTI. For many and for me, too, his success is surprising. Perhaps he first thought of this 20 years ago, when he started appearing on state television. He made a career for himself as a public democrat, while at the same time not being a radical. . . . I would say he tamed the “Putinoids” who run state television into thinking he was a boy they could bully. But at every one of his appearances he has defended his point of view!”

 Oleg Kashin, journalist  

“In the years 2003-2005 I wrote a lot about so-called youth politics. One of the themes was the attempts to revive, through young people, the liberal parties that did not get into the State Duma. The leader of the Yabloko youth party was Ilya Yashin, his old comrade was Aleksei Navalny, and their chief mentor was Sergei Mitrokhin. The SPS had the same scheme. Forgotten names—Oleg Kozlovsky and Yulia Malysheva—were leaders of the youth wing, the slightly older apparatchik Natalia Shavshukova, and her boss—Boris Nadezhdin. In general, he was one of the pillars of the SPS apparatus. . . . He gained fame taking part in the Election Day performance put on by the Quartet I group, which was a part of the SPS electoral campaign. Later, on television talk shows, he seemed to occupy the “liberal to be bullied” niche, but unlike the amusing Americans and Leonid Gozman, he looked much more dignified on television. Whether it was a mask or a real image as a cynic and sybarite who understands everything—the Dolgoprudny landowner from the MFTI with a bunch of wives, children, and grandchildren. It is this image that won’t let me see him as a stooge carrying out a mysterious assignment from the president’s administration.”

Translated by Marian Schwartz

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