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Boris Gryzlov

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Updated: 21.11.2003

Acting Russia's Interior Minister since March 2001 and Unified Russia party leader.

Born in 1950, Boris Gryzlov moved to Leningrad (now St Petersburg) with his parents when he was 4 years old. His father was in the military, and his mother was a teacher. In 1968, he entered the Leningrad Electronic Institute, where he specialised in radio engineering. There, Gryzlov was also an accomplished student and a "most active" member of the Komsomol.

Gryzlov remained in Leningrad, and in 1985 while working for a trade union, he became acquainted with "most useful people" in the city district, the ones like Nikolay Patrushev, the current director of the Federal Security Service (FSB).

In 1998, Gryzlov became actively engaged in politics, waging an unsuccessful campaign for the St. Petersburg Legislative Assembly. In August-September 1999, he headed the campaign headquarters for Viktor Zybkov, a candidate for governor of Leningrad Region. Zybkov got only 10 percent of the vote, but his campaign was considered very successful in terms of organisation, according to "Nezavisimaya gazeta."

Vladislav Reznik, a well-known St. Petersburg businessman acquainted with Gryzlov, said of Gryzlov that he was a brilliant organiser and splendidly led the campaign for Unity in St. Petersburg and that he was a systematic and consistent person.

Zybkov's headquarters was supposed to have been headed by Dmitry Kozak, but Kozak was summoned at the last minute to work in Moscow. Kozak, who is now deputy head of the presidential administration, recommended that Gryzlov take his place.

In October 1999, during the run-up to the December 1999 State Duma elections, Gryzlov ran Unity's St. Petersburg headquarters and topped the movement's regional list. The movement polled around 17 percent in the city, and Gryzlov won a deputy's mandate. Kozak again played an important role in Gryzlov's career, recommending him for the job that would catapult him into the national spotlight, - head of the Unity faction in the Duma. The Kremlin tapped Gryzlov, who was completely unknown at that time on the national level, to head the Duma's second-largest faction.

In his role as Unity head, Gryzlov developed a reputation for being both loyal and ambitious. The Unity faction has, on most issues, voted unanimously and according to the Kremlin's wishes. As a rule, only its top officials speak publicly. A number of Moscow newspapers suggested that it was Gryzlov's loyalty that prompted President Vladimir Putin to tap Gryzlov for the post of interior minister in March 2001.

In November 2002, Gryzlov was named the chairman of the Higher Council of the successor party to Unity, the Unified Russia party. A struggle for power among competing clans within the party had been going on in the party for some months, and most observers believed Putin tapped Gryzlov to introduce a firmer hand within the party's top ranks although they were uncertain whether Gryzlov had the political stature to do the job.

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