Russian Parliament Speaker Ranked Country’s Most Powerful Woman

Russian Parliament Speaker Valentina Matviyenko
Russian parliament speaker Valentina Matvienko, left, speaks with Prime Minister Vladimir Putin during a State Council meeting in the Kremlin in Moscow. Photographer: Mikhail Klimentyev/AFP/Getty Images

Valentina Matviyenko, the speaker of Russia’s parliament, is the country’s most influential woman, according to the radio station Echo Moskvy.

Pop singer Alla Pugacheva is second, followed by President Dmitry Medvedev’s press secretary Natalya Timakova, his wife Svetlana Medvedeva and Economy Minister Elvira Nabiullina, the Moscow-based radio station said on its website today. Echo Moskvy, which published the ranking for the first time, asked listeners to send in selections, which were ranked by a panel of 24 analysts, politicians and journalists.

The Soviet constitution gave men and women equal rights. Soviet women were subject to the “motherhood contract,” a policy of social benefits given in exchange for lower salaries and limits on career advances. After the fall of communism two decades ago, the practice is still used by some companies.

Matviyenko “is definitely on the top, being the first woman in Russia to be in such a powerful position since Catherine the Great, who lived in the 18th century,” Grigory Kertman, the Public Opinion Foundation’s chief analyst, said by phone. Pugacheva, 62, who has been Russia’s most popular singer for the last three decades, is “well-known, but not influential,” he said.

Matviyenko, 62, started her career 40 years ago in Komsomol, the Communist Party’s youth division. In the 1990s, she worked for the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, becoming deputy prime minister in 1998. As the speaker of the Federation Council, the upper house of parliament, she is next after Prime Minister Vladimir Putin on the ladder of executive power.

Between 2003 and 2011, Matviyenko was the governor of St. Petersburg, Russia’s second-largest city and the hometown of Putin and Medvedev.

Timakova, 36, left a career in journalism in 1999 to become Putin’s press secretary. She stayed in the Kremlin when Putin moved to the premiership in 2008.

“She became the president’s closest adviser, the driver of his political ambitions,” Mikhail Zygar, the editor-in-chief of the RainTV channel, who took part in the survey, said by e-mail.

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