Russia will hold an election on March 18, in which current-President Vladimir Putin will face-off against 36-year-old reality TV star Ksenia Sobchak, among other candidates. Sobchak recently marched onto Russia’s political stage as an advocate for permitting same-sex marriage, giving up the annexation of Crimea, and removing the corpse of Vladimir Lenin from the Mausoleum in central Moscow. All of these policy stances reflect Sobchak’s Western-influenced political views, which remain unpopular in Russia.
Sobchak is most known for her starring role in the Russian reality TV series Dom-2, which seeks to match couples while they work to physically build their own home—because of this, she has a 95 percent recognition rate in Russia. However, the star is not completely new to the political sphere. Her father, Anatoly Sobchak, was the first mayor of St. Petersburg after the collapse of the Soviet Union. In a strange twist, Sobchak even hired former-KGB leader Putin as his deputy. Now, almost 30 years later, Putin will face-off against Sobchak’s daughter in the 2018 presidential election.
Her father’s elite position ensured Ksenia grew up in Russia’s elite circles, played with Putin’s daughters, and was protected by the president’s bodyguards. She even wrote a book, the title of which roughly translates to Married to a Millionaire, a clear-cut display of her previous life in drama and entertainment. For this reason, Sobchak may lose credibility as someone who is too far outside the common mold of an average Russian—and even of an average Russian politician.
Despite her star power and elite connections, many expect that Sobchak will not defeat Vladimir Putin in the upcoming election. Sobchak said that “It’s like in [a]casino…You can’t win in casino; you can’t win dealing with Putin.”
But, Sobchak is still striving to make a difference in the upcoming elections, given the position she has been able to achieve thus far. She wants more money invested in biotechnology and less into missiles. She wants Oyub Titiev, a human rights activist, to be released from a Chechnyan prison, which he was admitted to based on mysterious drug charges. She even wants the Supreme Court to invalidate Putin’s bid in the upcoming election because he has served more than his allowed number of terms as president.
While it is unlikely that Sobchak will achieve any of these goals in the future, it is evident that she will not go down without a fight. And, while the Kremlin may have selected Sobchak as one of the most prominent candidates to run against Putin, it is unclear whether Sobchak’s candidacy will empower future Russian liberals or marginalize them because of the divisive and taboo policies they bring-up.