Russia's Medvedev Reflects on Rise to Power, Religion and Rock Music

Russia's president talks about rock music, and his career and religion.

April 12, 2010, 10:11 PM

April 13, 2010— -- Even though Dmitry Medvedev grew up in the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics, Western influences breached the barriers, and he developed a deep love of rock music and for bands such as Led Zeppelin, Deep Purple and Pink Floyd.

As a teenager, Medvedev saved for months to buy a copy of Pink Floyd's "The Wall," an album the band released in 1979.

"Although I lived behind the Soviet Iron Curtain, the music seeped through. We listened to what the whole planet listened to," the Russian president told "Good Morning America" anchor George Stephanopoulos in an exclusive interview Friday.

Fresh from signing the new START nuclear arms treaty with U.S. President Barack Obama, Medvedev opened up about his youth, his love of technology and his commitment to religion.

Medvedev is a former law professor and businessman who wears his BlackBerry smartphone on his belt, and at 44, he's the youngest Russian leader in more than a century.

In his youth he lived in Leningrad -- now known as St. Petersburg -- in a 430-square-foot apartment with his parents. Both were professors -- his father, of physics and his mother of Russian literature. Medvedev followed in his academic parents' footsteps, becoming a law professor.

He married his childhood friend and sweetheart, Svetlana. The couple's son, Ilya, was born in 1995.

Medvedev cut his political teeth while the Soviet Union was crumbling, working side by side in the St. Petersburg mayor's office with a former KGB officer named Vladimir Putin.

Their political stars rose in tandem.

When Putin became prime minister, Medvedev was his chief of staff, and then was Putin's handpicked successor to the office of president in 2008. The two remain close friends.

But Medvedev has been dogged by allegations that he is little more than Putin's puppet. It is an accusation he flatly denies.

Medvedev Needs His Religion

In fact, in a separate exclusive interview about the new treaty, Medvedev said he found that question "annoying," adding that he was "tired" of answering it.

"The decision is taken by the person who is designated to do it by law. If you consider the questions of foreign and domestic politics, the defense, the security, this is only the president. And nobody else," Medvedev said.

Medvedev is his own man in another significant way. Unlike many of his predecessors, this Russian leader has publicly declared his faith.

He was baptized a Russian Orthodox Christian when he was 23 years old.

Asked why he embraced religion when he was raised in a secular nation, Medvedev replied that he "needed it."

"Why do people go to church?" he said. "They come because they feel a need, except if they're sightseeing. So at 23 I felt I needed it. I believe it's good for me, because afterwards my life changed.

"You don't really talk aloud about something like that because the religious feelings should be somewhere deep inside of you. If someone is displaying it, it's not really honest. It's more PR for yourself. But I believe religion is important for every person."

Russia's newest president has embraced the digital age.

"My day starts browsing the Internet," he said. "I do go to official sites and journals. I go to international sites. And you'd be surprised -- I do watch the sites of the opposition."

Medvedev is committed to being in top physical form, and most days he works out at the gym for about an hour.

He was publicly very unhappy with Russian athletes' disappointing performance at the Winter Olympic Games in Vancouver.

Medvedev: Nation's Athletes Should "Prepare Better" for Next Winter Olympics

Russia typically dominates at the Winter games, but took just 15 medals -- three of them gold -- in Vancouver, marking the nation's worst-ever medal count for a Winter Olympics.

Medvedev called for the resignation of several of his country's sports officials.

"I didn't have an Olympic Games, I didn't take part in them, but they were a tough games for our country, yes, because for the first time we had a steep decline in the medal count.

"This is not a national disaster, but we have to take a lesson from it," he said. "We should prepare better next time. Because when you host the Olympics you are counting on many medals."

The next Winter Olympic Games will be held in Sochi, Russia, in 2014.

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