The Communist Party surprised the world by nominating a new candidate for president. Its veteran leader and multi-time presidential candidate, Gennady Zyuganov, lost the party membership’s vote to run against President Putin in 2018, after announcing his bid on the 100th anniversary of the October Revolution.
Instead, a 57-year-old Sovkhoz owner who was not even a party member got the nomination.
Muscovite Grudinin has been in the agricultural business for over four decades. He graduated from Moscow State Agro-engineering University in 1982. After, he began working at the Lenin State Farm where many of his relatives had worked. He built his way up the management ladder, managing the mechanics workshop and serving as deputy director.
In 1995, he became the director of a privately owned Sovkhoz, ZAO Lenin State Farm. His workers on the collective farm earn more than twice the average wage of ordinary Russian farmers. They are also guaranteed medical care, housing and education for their children.
Grudinin’s farm is one of the Moscow region’s biggest producers of fruit and vegetables, and is also Russia’s biggest strawberry farm. It takes pride in being a ‘model enterprise with almost communist internal rules’. The Sovkhoz also actively invests in local infrastructure, funding the construction of a school building and the renovation of a local clinic.
In 2001, he graduated by correspondence from the Russian Academy of Public Administration under the President of Russia (currently, the Russian Presidential Academy of the National Economy and Public Administration).
Until 2011, he was a member of the United Russia party and served as a deputy in the Moscow Region legislature. This and his business ties have attracted great criticism.
Grudinin is also an anti-corruption activist with his own following on YouTube. He has criticised Putin’s ties to people “everyone knows should have gone to prison a long time ago”.
Grudinin argues that Russians deserve a higher quality of life, stating “Russians should have a higher quality of life than those we defeated in the war”. He also claims that his collective farm is proof that “socialist policies work”.
According the most recent VTsIOM poll, Grudinin is in second place at 7%. This is almost double, what Zyuganov received in the last poll to include him. Zyuganov is also heading Grudinin’s presidential campaign.