Professional sphere of activity/official position/biography:
Scandalous TV and radio host, journalist, actress, screenwriter, film and television personality, and not the most successful political figure of the Putinist era.
At various times, she has hosted a number of TV shows, including the reality show Dom-2 (TNT), Blonde in Chocolate (Muz-TV), The Last Hero (Channel One), the talk show Gosdep-2 (Snob) and Sobchak Live (Dozhd); she has co-hosted the program Barabaka and the Grey Wolf on the radio station Silver Rain. She was the general producer of the TV channel Super in 2019-2020. Since 2019, she has been running her own YouTube channel Beware: Sobchak.
From October 22, 2012 to October 19, 2013, she was a member of the Coordinating Council of the Russian Opposition. A member of the political council of the Civic Initiative party. In 2018, she was nominated as a candidate for president of the Russian Federation; she came in fourth place with 1,237,692 (1.68%) votes.
She is a citizen of Russia and Israel.
Ksenia Sobchak is a darling of fortune. Born into the family of Anatoly Sobchak, associate professor of law at Leningrad State University, who later became the mayor of St. Petersburg and the boss of future Russian President Vladimir Putin, she joined the future Putin political elite from her youngest nails.
In 1989, when Ksenia Sobchak was 8 years old, future Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, as her father's proxy, posted flyers and campaigned for him in the USSR parliamentary elections. And Anatoly Sobchak himself, having been elected the chairman of the Lensovet 20th convocation in 1990, invited the assistant to the rector of LSU, lieutenant colonel of the 1st department of KGB Vladimir Putin to his team. Sobchak and Putin's families had friendly relations: in one of her interviews, Ksenia recalled how she and her father and Putin's family went on vacation to Finland. During her school years, Ksenia Sobchak's future head of the FSO and head of the Rosgvardia Viktor Zolotov was in charge of Ksenia Sobchak's security, to whom she caused a lot of trouble by constantly escaping from oversight.
According to Sobchak herself, the status of the mayor's daughter left a mark on her childhood. She was the only one who came to school in a car, she was accompanied by guards everywhere, and this hindered the building of relationships with other children. Nevertheless, it is clear that Ksenia's status as the daughter of the mayor of St. Petersburg and as a member of Putin's elite gave her clear advantages in life, which she used successfully. And her piety for Vladimir Putin has persisted over the years and has been expressed in a variety of forms.
Having successfully entered and then graduated from MGIMO, Ksenia Sobchak did not want to work in her field, as she considered a job as an ordinary member of the Foreign Ministry staff or an embassy service too "shallow" for her, which prompted her to look for a job in television. After trying her hand at a casting call for the role of presenter of the program Afisha on the RTR TV channel, where she failed, Ksenia switched to other projects. In 2004, the producers of the vulgar reality show Dom-2 on TNT channel chose Sobchak for the role of co-host with Ksenia Borodina. It was this reality show that provided Ksenia with a springboard for future media success, becoming the basis of her wide recognition.
After working for some time in journalism and show business, Sobchak turned her eyes to politics. Apparently, the status of the daughter of the famous politician and former mayor of St. Petersburg seemed to her insufficient and did not satisfy the political ambitions of the socialite, who considered herself no worse than her late father and mother, who had managed to become a member of the Federation Council by that time.
Ksenia's first steps in politics were not very confident. In 2006, she announced the founding of a youth movement under the strange name of "Everybody is free" which is unremarkable except for an action of little recognition dedicated to improving the area around the monument to Sergei Yesenin on Tverskoi Boulevard. During this action, the participants of the movement collected the trash, painted the benches and playgrounds on the boulevard, and Sobchak herself in the presence of journalists and bystanders rubbed off the yellow bikini with a red heart painted by an unknown vandal from the crotch of the monument to Yesenin, which according to the witnesses, was not on the monument in the morning of the same day. In the end, Sobchak's youth movement turned out to be of no use to anyone and gradually stalled, fully justifying its name.
However, Ksenia herself was not discouraged. She re-established herself in the socio-political context already during the mass protests of 2011–2013, which were initiated by the mass violations during the elections to the State Duma of the sixth convocation. According to Sobchak, she came to the first major rally on Bolotnaya Square on December 10, 2011, just as an ordinary participant. Ksenia was allegedly outraged by the scale of the falsifications carried out by those whom she considered "the people of her father's team". Ksenia said that she had tried to meet with Vladimir Putin before the rally to inform him of her plans, but there was no time in the president's schedule for her. On the eve of the 100,000-strong rally on Sakharov Prospect, Sobchak took part in a vote for future speakers, in which she took one of the first places. In her speech, she called for a struggle for the opportunity to influence the government and build a dialogue with it, instead of fighting for power itself. It is worth noting that Sobchak's speech, as well as her very appearance on stage, did not arouse enthusiasm among the protesters – she was booed off in the crowd.
On March 10, 2012, Sobchak spoke at the For Fair Elections rally on Novy Arbat. She again spoke in favor of dialogue with the authorities, for which she was once again booed, and then spoke about her experience as an observer and called for judicial and political reforms, less state control over the media and the creation of social elevators for young people.
In April 2012, Sobchak visited Astrakhan, where she supported the former candidate for mayor Oleg Shein, who did not recognize the results of the mayoral elections and went on hunger strike. In Astrakhan Sobchak gave several interviews and held a broadcast, where the governor-elect Mikhail Stolyarov was invited but did not show up.
Sobchak did not show up at the "March of millions" on 6 May 2012, which ended in clashes between riot police and protesters. As she said after the fact, she allegedly knew in advance that the main goal would be to stand on the bridge, break through and sit-in". The events of May 6, 2012 marked the beginning of the Bolotnaya Case, a series of trials against some opposition leaders, civil activists and protesters who were charged with participation in the mass unrest and violence against the authorities. Sobchak later claimed that she was a member of the organizing committee of the event and knew that no riots were planned, and that what she said about clashes with police and a sit-in were her guesses. However, she refused to disclose her sources of information. Most of the defendants in the Bolotnaya Case were convicted and found to be political prisoners. Later, Sobchak noted that she spoke in defense of the "riot police boys", despite numerous videos of police officers beating protesters, and Sobchak's publications became a common argument in favor of the assumption that the opposition planned mass riots on May 6. It should be noted that the "riot police boys", so zealously defended by Sobchak, ended up being the beneficiaries of the situation. Six riot police and policemen were given apartments as a result of those events, and no one was punished for using violence against the protesters.
The events of May 6, 2012 did not scare the perky Kseniya. Already on May 8, she Sobchak took part in the protest festivities, then got into a police van and visited the "OccupyAby" camp in Kitay-gorod. "The toilets have been agreed to, now we need to agree with Putin", she tweeted. Everything is more or less clear about the toilets (the point was to install infrastructure for the protesters), but what Sobchak was going to negotiate with Putin is still unclear. Most likely, it was just a joke that escaped from the gut of "Putin's goddaughter", reflecting, however, her eternal desire to compromise with the authorities.
A month after May 6, searches on the "swamp case" were conducted in the Sobchak apartment on Tverskaya-Yamskaya, where she lived with an opposition activist Ilya Yashin. Ksenia recounted the search with indignation. "It was insulting, humiliating and deliberately done in this way", Sobchak said indignantly. "They went everywhere, rummaged through. I go to the bathroom and all the time I see a policeman, who stood right in front of me, facing me and watched, pardon me, how I'm doing a little urine". And the mustachioed and "fat", by Sobchak's definition, the investigator advised her to live with the Chekist, but not with the oppositionist. The investigators confiscated all the savings found in the apartment – over a million euros, 480,000 dollars, and 480,000 rubles in cash. Curiously, the riot policeman who watched Ksenia go to the toilet no longer aroused such warm feelings in her as the "riot boys" who beat up the protesters on May 6.
At some point, Ksenia was apparently tempted not only to participate in the protest, but also to drive it. In late October 2012, elections to the Coordinating Council (CC) of the opposition, which got Sobchak. However, her work in the Coordinating Council of the opposition was not very fruitful. Konstantin Krylov, a late member of the CC, said that Sobchak appeared at meetings rarely and did not show anything special: "All I remember in this regard, a ring with some very large black stone, which was on her finger. And also the fact that she was sitting next to Yashin". Human rights activist Sergei Davidis agreed with this point of view. According to him, Ksenia "belongs to a certain number of media stars who don't understand why they won, and when it became clear that the protest wave was subsiding, they stopped all involvement with the CC. According to many of those who took part in the activities of the Coordinating Council of the opposition, the very presence of these media stars in the council was one of the reasons for the failure of the entire project.
At the same time, Sobchak herself had plenty of opportunities and time to get her basic, unchanging message across to the opposition through the Coordinating Council: "We need to influence the government, not change it". Her insistence on this thesis, coupled with her obvious ties to Putin's top brass, is very troubling.
On the other hand, it must be said that Ksenia has lost a great deal as a result of the events of 2011–2012. Not in life and health, of course. And not her freedom, of course. But her income situation is worse. She lost many contracts. By August 2012, Sobchak was deprived of all projects on federal television. At corporate parties, according to her, she was also invited less. It is possible that her own words at one of the rallies played a cruel joke on her: "Ksenia Sobchak, and I have something to lose". It is possible that her father's former friends and colleagues who have taken over power in Russia decided to show her that she really does have something to lose. And to show her in the most demonstrative way.
Sobchak was upset by this fact, but clearly did not want to quarrel with Putin to the end. "It seems to me that he misinterprets my actions – or they are interpreted to him. And here the problem, I think, is already personal revenge, – she said. – What's happening to me is a personal story. For some reason he considers me a traitor". Ksenia assured that she is "a friend, not an enemy" of Putin, as she calls to hear her generation and "offers ways to solve problems". "I would really like to explain to Putin why I did what I did, so I wanted to meet with him even before the Bolotnaya Square rally – I asked my mother for help..." – she told in early 2013. In September of that year, the long-awaited meeting finally happened. Putin came to the presentation of the collected works of Anatoly Sobchak. Apparently, Sobchak's former aide and his daughter managed to reconcile. A few days later, Ksenia Sobchak was invited to a meeting of the Valdai International Discussion Club, where she was allowed to ask Putin a question that casually mentioned rallies.
The one and a half million euro seized from her during the search was returned to her back in September 2012, having found no violations.
The next milestone in Ksenia Sobchak's political biography was her assessment of the annexation of Crimea. Apparently, she visited occupied Crimea in 2014. This is indicated by her joint report from Crimea with Anton Krasovsky titled "Iskonno nyash" for the website Snob.ru. In particular, the article stated that Sobchak and Krasovsky "spent three days in mid-April in the liberated territories of Russia, met with compatriots and talked to them about the future of Crimea". Which means that Crimea was then "liberated territory" for Ksenia, and the Crimeans were her compatriots.
In a 2015 interview with Radio Liberty, Sobchak refused to answer the question of Crimea's ownership directly, stating that Crimea "is our big hemorrhoid for the next hundred years. They're obviously not going to give it back. And what to do with it is not clear. This is a story that will take a very long time to clean up".
Ksenia has had such an inarticulate position for quite some time. In 2019, she came to Kyiv and gave an interview in which she said that the Russian Federation violated international law when it annexed Crimea. And the Russian Federation should return these territories to Ukraine. However, she also noted that a referendum should be held there. The TV hostess said that the return of Crimea is currently impossible. "We are brotherly peoples. We need to get over what has already been done, and try to find somehow a positive way out, other than 'give back Crimea", Sobchak said.
In 2018, already a presidential candidate in Russia, Sobchak applied to the Ukrainian embassy for permission to travel to Crimea. "I sent a letter to the Ukrainian embassy. If I go to Crimea, only through Ukraine. If I get permission to go there, I will go there", she said on Ekho of Moscow radio station.
However, in 2020 she (for the second time!) visited the annexed Crimea in order to interview the so-called "prosecutor of Crimea" Natalia Poklonskaya, thus violating Ukrainian laws and demonstrating her disregard for the sovereignty and territorial integrity of this country.
The main political "achievement" in Ksenia Sobchak's biography at the moment is her nomination as a candidate for the presidential elections in Russia in 2018.
Vedomosti newspaper first mentioned Sobchak's possible participation in the 2018 presidential election, citing a source in the presidential administration, who called the TV hostess a coordinated candidate and an ideal sparring partner for Putin. The publication displeased Sobchak because the journalists did not bother to get a comment from her. Dmitry Peskov, Putin's press secretary in Russia, denied statements about the discussion of women candidates, and Vladimir Putin, when asked about the possible nomination of Sobchak, replied: "Well, for God's sake!".
On October 10, 2017 Glamour magazine published an interview with Sobchak titled "President Ksenia Sobchak is a joke. An art project of a very high level", in which Sobchak's nomination was presented as a resolved issue. On October 14, the media, citing anonymous sources, wrote about a private meeting between Sobchak and Putin while working on a documentary about Anatoly Sobchak. Putin's press service refused to comment on this information, and Sobchak later claimed that at the meeting she allegedly put Putin before the fact of her nomination. On October 18, Vedomosti's website published a letter in which Sobchak officially announced her nomination and explained that she considered participation in the election the best legal way to express protest and that she planned to become a sort of "against all" column.
The accusations that Sobchak is a Kremlin project in the election were heard immediately after the first publication in Vedomosti, where it was mentioned that she might become a "sparring partner" for the president. The main claim about Sobchak is that she is legitimizing the election and wants to fill the niche of protest by breaking the campaign of Alexei Navalny, who has been doing it all over the country for a long time (the authorities have repeatedly said that Navalny will not be allowed to run in the election because of his criminal record, and in the end they did not let him in).
Many members of the opposition claimed that her nomination benefited the Kremlin and was agreed with the authorities. And businessman Yevgeny Chichvarkin first promised Ksenia in case of her "contractual match" with the Kremlin to "send her to ***" because she "makes Putin legitimate and brings down Alexei Navalny", and then, when Sobchak made her statement, he fulfilled his promise.
Sobchak herself and members of her staff tried to emphasize that the alignment with the Kremlin was only an appearance. "[First deputy head of the presidential administration Sergei] Kiriyenko thinks that Sobchak is his game. And Sobchak is playing her own game", said Marina Litvinovich, a member of her staff, explaining that Sobchak and the Kremlin's interests "situationally coincided". "Is the Kremlin interested in her participation in the election campaign? Yes, it is, – she admitted. – But that's their interest. But there is interest in Sobchak herself. Yes, she is also interested in participation in the election. And that's all. The Kremlin and Sobchak don't intersect in anything else, it's just a coincidence of interests".
After playing her role in the 2018 presidential election, Ksenia Sobchak once again abandoned politics and returned to her commercial projects. It is not known when we will see Ksenia Sobchak again in the role of an opposition activist or a presidential candidate, but it is obvious that her mad energy, family affiliation with Putin's top brass, and huge ambitions will not allow her to stay away from the upcoming political events.
Promoting Kremlin interests in the opposition, imitation of opposition activities, political spoilerism, and activities aimed at violating the territorial integrity and sovereignty of Ukraine.
For many years Ksenia Sobchak has been promoting the same thesis in the opposition milieu: "You don't need to change the government, you need to influence it". This call was heard from the stands of opposition rallies, at meetings of the Coordinating Council of the opposition, in interviews and debates. In the end, it became clear that it is virtually impossible to influence the regime, and that giving up attempts to change it only strengthens the regime. Year after year, the regime strengthened and became more and more entrenched. In the end, Russia has developed a full-fledged totalitarian regime that is equally dangerous for its own citizens and for the neighboring countries. The complete suppression of civil society inside the country turned into a monstrous external aggression against Ukraine.
It is impossible to overestimate the contribution of those who have called for interaction and cooperation with this regime all these years. Ksenia Sobchak occupies a special place among these people.
However, the matter was not limited to domestic matters. While promoting the concept of collaboration with the regime in domestic politics, Ksenia Sobchak did not find the strength to speak out against the obvious, blatant violation of international law by Putin's Russia during the annexation of Crimea. Her opportunistic position was manifested here as well, despite all the external gloss, liberalism and supposedly pro-Western sympathies of the daughter of the first "democratic mayor of St. Petersburg". Conformism in domestic and foreign policy has become the hallmark of one who has tried to present herself as a candidate "against all" in Putin's Russia.
Links and materials
Beautiful art project, thrash, banter. Taisia Bekbulatova tells the political story of Ksenia Sobchak
Ksenia Sobchak on prisoners: “Do you yourself believe that all these 12 people are innocent victims of the regime?”