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The Arkhangelsk senator that wanted to change Russia

Senator Dobrynin spoke out about a number of issues considered highly sensitive in the Russian political debate.

During his three years in the Federation Council, Konstantin Dobrynin became a vocal critic of current political trends in Russia. Opponents will sigh of relief as he now exits the legislative assembly.

It came as a surprise to many when Arkhangelsk Governor Igor Orlov in May 2012 appointed 35-year old Konstantin Dobrynin his man in the upper chamber of the federal parliament. Few knew much about Dobrynin, who came from the post as deputy director of a local paper and pulp company and had political experience only from the local Plesetsk municipal council.

But Dobrynin soon came to be a well-known man all over Russia for his legislative engagement. From the post as deputy chair of the parliament Committee on constitutional legislation and state-building, the young lawyer soon challenged powerful forces in the highly conservative body.

On a range of issues, several of them controversial, Dobrynin moved against the tide and made bold statements, and ended up in open conflict with several of Russia’s top hardliner legislators and politicians.

Among the legislative issues, which resonated in the Russian political landscape was Dobrynin’s opposition to the anti-gay legislation, the socalled Law on homosexual propaganda


The upper chamber of the Russian parliament is a body of conservatives, Konstantin Dobrynin admits. Photo: Council.gov.ru

”I voted against, because this has nothing to do with lawmaking”, Dobrynin says in an interview with Radio Svoboda. ”You can propagate a system of views in an audience, and that’s it. A law on gay propaganda simply does not make sense”, he underlines.

Earlier, Dobrynin had voted against also the socalled Dima Yakovlev-Bill, the legislation which targets a range of U.S activities in Russia, and also prohibits U.S citizens from adopting Russian children.

In addition, the liberal legislator opposed laws limiting people’s right to public assembly, as well as restrictions on the Internet. He worked hard for the ”de-stalinization” of Russia and took action against colleagues who proposed legislation justifying the totalitarian horrors of the Soviet past.

Some people will feel relief as Dobrynin now exits the parliament. Among them are Federation Council colleague Vitaly Milonov and member of the State Duma Mikhail Degtyaryov, and most likely also federal Minister of Culture Vladimir Medinsky. The latter was harshly criticized by Dobrynin in connection with his politically-inspired attacks on the leader of the Russian State Archives.

Milonov and Degtyaryov became key opponents of Dobrynin because of their hardliner stance on a wide range of issues, including the anti-gay law.

”Yes, most of the senators are conservative people. But that is actually the way our country is at the moment”, he underlines.

However, Dobrynin has firm belief in a good future for Russia.

”The history runs in cycles and there will come a new cycle”, the 38-year old retired senator adds. ”Everything has its time”.

Dobrynin was not on the list of proposed senators for recently re-elected Arkhangelsk Governor Igor Orlov. Some would say the outspoken representative in the parliament body had become a burden for Orlov. Instead, the governor appointed Viktor Pavlenko, the long-serving Arkhangelsk city mayor, to the job.

According Dobrynin, he himself decided to quit in the chamber. However, analysts would argue that he was kicked out against his will. He says to Radio Svoboda that he is committed to continue with activities related to his public-political engagement.

He admits that new senator Viktor Pavlenko has a rather different approach than himself.

”He is conservative and there will be a different tonality, different assessments and different points of view. Some people come, some people go”.

Dobrynin says he did win respect and support from several of his fellow senators, however first of all in the parliament backrooms and corridors, away from the plenary hall. And he is confident that he actually did achieve a lot.

”Why did I do it? Well, I simply wanted to change something, I wanted to change the country”, he says.