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ENGLISH VERSION13 сентября 2008 11:27

Dmitriy Medvedev: “My birthday already brought me a surprise!”

Russian President Dmitriy Medvedev turns 43 this Sunday. The night before his big day, KP met Medvedev for a short interview

Дмитрий МЕДВЕДЕВ: «Этот день рождения уже принес мне сюрприз!»

KP: Dmitriy Anatolyevich, what will you do on your birthday this year?

Dmitriy Medvedev: We'll have a family gathering. I want to spend my birthday with my family and close friends. My work doesn't allow me to spend much time with them. This will be a good excuse to get together.

Q: Do you like getting presents?

A: Of course, I love getting gifts. But what's more important is the attention I receive from all the people who are close to me. My son, for example, gave me a big surprise last year. He spent a long time preparing for my birthday and even picked out my present himself. Just knowing that the person who is closest to you in the world is trying to make your birthday a special day is a wonderful joy.

Q: Do you think your birthday will bring you any surprises this year?

A: You could say it already has. Now we have puppies at home. I have an English Setter and my son has a Golden Retriever. So our family has gotten much bigger in recent weeks.

What presents has Medvedev been given in the past?

“During my childhood, I dreamed of jeans and Pink Floyd records...”

In his youth, Medvedev dreamed that his parents would give him jeans and an original Pink Floyd record more than anything else. But even though his family wasn't poor, they weren't wealthy either. Such presents would cost around 150-200 rubles – and that was far more than their teacher's salary allowed them to spend.

During the summers, the Medvedev family vacationed in southern Russia where they spent the money they saved year-round. And so, each September, when Medvedev's birthday rolled around, his parents had to explain to him why they couldn't afford to throw him a large party. Young Medvedev quickly got used to moderate, family celebrations.

Medvedev's dream to have records and jeans only came true when he started earning in his college years. In the summer months, he began working at construction sites where he made up to 300 rubles per month. When his university studies began each year, he started working as a caretaker for 100-150 rubles.

Today, Medvedev has an expansive record collection. He has the original records of all the hard rock groups he has listened to since he was 14 years old – including Deep Purple, Led Zeppelin and Black Sabbath. He also collects jazz and pop music.

Baydarka from his classmates

Since he was a young boy, Medvedev loved to play the solitary baydarka. So on his 35th birthday, his classmates decided to buy him a brand new instrument. They still keep in close touch with Medvedev even as president.

It's no accident Medvedev loves to vacation on riverbanks – and not seasides. This year, he spent his week-long vacation sailing on the Volga together with his family. In his free time, the president loves fishing.

Goldfish and Byron in English

Officials in Medvedev's presidential administration, who have worked with him since he was the deputy head and later head of Putin's administration, noted that he spends his birthdays quietly and moderately. He only accepted gifts from individuals who he knew well – and only administrative heads, not regular staff.

“We didn't give him flowers. He doesn't those types of gifts. He doesn't like colorful cards or alcohol either,” one of his employees said. “But he loves books. Once, one of our colleagues brought him a small volume of Lord Byron from London in English – although not on his birthday. Medvedev couldn't take his eyes off the book for three days. He also received a lot of pens and computer mouses as gifts from abroad, but he just handed those out to his colleagues.”

Other officials close to the president recall how Medvedev used to keep an aquarium in his Kremlin office. On several occasions, he was given goldfish from the pet store on Arbat.

Medvedev doesn't like to throw parties on his birthday. He spends his birthdays at home with his family and close friends. Sometimes they travel to Saint Petersburg for their small private celebration.

A Little History

What did Yeltsin and Putin get on their birthdays while president?

Boris Yeltsin was given tennis rackets and icons, traditional clothing from various Russian republics, woven scarfs, socks and even jars of honey. Once, Yeltsin's close colleague Mikhail Poltoranin told KP, he was given a cork-tumbler with his face etched in the wood. «When you would hit Yeltsin in the head so the tumbler would shift, he'd fall down, but get right back up!” Yeltsin gave the most expensive gifts he received while president – including a golden Rolex – to the presidential library in the Kremlin's main building. When he retired, he left over 40 presents there.

The presidential library also has many gifts which Putin received while president, including the NFL championship diamond ring that he was given by U.S. Billionaire Robert Kraft. Putin received numerous other gifts while president, including models of planes, ships, trains, automobiles and tractors. KP saw one of these presents – a Russian jet fighter – on a shelf in the living room of his residence in Novo-Ogarevo.

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