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The New Putin Generation

Russia's youth see their Presidentand his handpicked successor, Medvedevas the key to their prosperity
Medvedev works the crowds at a political rally in the Volga River city of Kazan
Medvedev works the crowds at a political rally in the Volga River city of Kazan AP Photo

On the eve of Russia's Mar. 2 presidential election, there's no shortage of youthful enthusiasm at St. Petersburg State University's law school. And for good reason: Just inside the building, portraits of distinguished alumni remind students they are part of a privileged group. President Vladimir V. Putin's picture hangs prominently above all others—including Lenin. A portrait of Putin's handpicked successor, Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry A. Medvedev, is nearby. "I will definitely vote," says 20-year-old student Anastasia Miryotina. "The bulk of the population will support Dmitry Anatolyevich, and I think that's correct."

Don't look for cynical, disaffected youth in the hometown of Putin and Medvedev, despite the authoritarianism of the regime. Young voters here are coming of age in an era of growing prosperity and stability under the outgoing President—a sharp contrast to Boris Yeltsin's chaotic experiment with democracy and economic reform in the 1990s. Nationwide, young Russians say they'll support Medvedev and his expected Prime Minister: Putin. Surveys predict two-thirds of the electorate will show up for the poll, and more than 70% of voters will support Medvedev.