President of Russia Dmitry Medvedev: Dear friends,
I am very pleased to be visiting the Faculty of Law. Not only because I graduated from here, and worked here for a long time, but also because today is a special, memorable day. We are honouring the memory of our colleague, professor and first mayor of St Petersburg Anatoly Sobchak. Time passes very quickly, relentlessly fast, and already 10 years have gone by since his passing. I remember following him to his grave 10 years ago.
And today, as I hand out awards in his name, I would like to say that there are probably about three terms or characteristics which, in my view, adequately describe the personality of Anatoly Sobchak, one of the leading Russian politicians of the late 20th and early 21st century.
When I speak about Anatoly Sobchak today, I want to use the term 'true'; Anatoly was, no doubt, an academic and teacher in the true sense of the word.
You know how things go, sometimes a professor will use a concept in a lecture that is perhaps not ideal but nevertheless inevitably becomes the fundamental basis of a given legal phenomenon. So what Mr Sobchak said was to some extent my first acquaintance with civil law.
He was a real St Petersburger. And not only becase he gave our city back its first name. This is undoubtedly to his credit and in light of the period when it occurred, a courageous decision; people tried to talk him out of it, saying it is not right that people living in chaos and poverty should vote on a name, but he did it anyways.
It was indeed a courageous step and the residents supported him. But again I repeat that this is not the issue, rather that he was very fond of St Petersburg throughout his life and tried to think about its well-being in any situation – both during the very difficult period when he headed the Leningrad City Council (we worked together at that time), and then as mayor.
It was an extremely difficult period. Those who worked in government during this time remember how everything was, how hard life was, and how critical people were of any type of authority.
One of my last meetings with Anatoly was in the Kremlin (I was already working in the Kremlin). The presidential election campaign was on and I was at the head of Vladimir Putin's election campaign headquarters. He came to me and, surprisingly, did not talk about how the new configuration of power would look, what would happen in Moscow or in Russia more generally if you elect our candidate (of course, this bothered him too); he wanted to talk about St Petersburg.
And finally, he was a true politician. He was part of an entirely new generation of politicians which was not known to the Soviet period. This was the source of his tremendous dignity, this was how he responded to enormous problems.
Apart from the fact that he was an open, honest and free man, things I spoke about quite recently, he was also the man who first brought legitimacy to Soviet politics. It was perceived as quite surprising at the time.
Turning to the audience, he said that to act as such does not comply with our Constitution and Soviet law. It was surprising to see a politician cite the law, especially the same law that many more were subjecting to criticism. And this was his first attempt to stem disregard for the law.
We are currently in very short supply of such active politicians at the regional level, even more so at the municipal one, and even the federal one. We still do not understand that every policy must have a legal dimension.
Anatoly Sobchak was one of the first to understand this and gave everyone at the time a brilliant lesson on how to approach public policy. He will undoubtedly remain one of the brightest representatives of our city, our beloved city, and one of the best representatives of the new Russia.
Today I would like to present three scholarships to our young colleagues, scholarships in the name of Anatoly Sobchak. And do you know what I wish you? In addition to reading Professor Sobchak's books (this is never superfluous, because they are a primer on civil law of that period), I would like you to be equally persistent in engaging with the science of law and as assertive in defending your views as our faculty's professor Anatoly Sobchak was.