There is one aspect of the March 2 presidential election that gets little attention. The election of Dmitry Medvedev as Russia’s next president represents what can be called the "Pitersky" sweep. Should Vladimir Putin accept the position of prime minister in the Medvedev administration, all 4 top state officials — Medvedev, Putin, the Duma Speaker Boris Gryzlov, and the Federation Council Speaker Sergei Mironov — would have been born in or come from St. Petersburg. The same is true for a number of high-ranking members of the Cabinet: Sergei Ivanov, the First Deputy Prime Minister, Alexei Kudrin, the Deputy Prime Minister and Finance Minister, and Dmitry Kozak, the Minister of Regional Development.
The Pitersky sweep may have a positive impact on Russia’s long-term economic and political development. Of 87 Russians on the most recent Forbes list of the world’s billionaires, only one (#785, Andrei Rogachev, the 59th wealthiest Russian with $1.5B) lives in St. Petersburg, whereas 75 Russian billionaires are Moscow residents. To the extent the list reflects the distribution of wealth in the country, it points to a disproportional concentration of money in the Russian capital at the expense of other cities and regions.
The creation of the Pitersky center of political power may accelerate the transformation of St. Petersburg into a true competitor to Moscow. Aggressive development of other regional heavyweights (Nizhny Novgorod, Krasnoyarsk) would follow.
Balancing the economic dominance of Moscow with other highly competitive players will be a boost for the Russian economy. Eventually, it may even help curing one of the country’s most debilitating illnesses: the over-centralization of political power.