After Putin, a Putina?

After Putin, a Putina?

The rising profile of his cousin, Anna Putina, suggests Vladimir Putin may be set on dynastic succession.


Vladimir Putin confirmed his candidacy for a fifth term as Russian president on December 8 at a medal-awarding ceremony for soldiers returning from Ukraine. He did so in an entirely stage-managed response to a passionate entreaty from Lt. Col. Aytem Zhoga of the renowned Sparta Battalion in Donetsk. In fact, for a man who was reported dead in late October, Putin has been remarkably active: flying to the Middle East to meet with leaders in Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates on December 5–6, receiving the Iranian president on the December 7, conducting his annual four-hour-plus press conference on December 14, and speaking before the United Russia Party Congress on December 17. Constitutionally, Putin not only can run in 2024 but also again for another six-year term that would take his leadership to 2036. By this time, he would be eighty-three, three years younger than Joe Biden if the incumbent were to be re-elected in 2024 and serve a full term. 

Given this, the reader may ask: Why think about Putin’s successor now? CIA Director William Burns’ assessed in June 2022 that Putin was “entirely too healthy” and that his opponents spread rumors of his ill health. However, anyone’s health in their seventies and eighties is fragile. Accordingly, it would be prudent for Putin and his clan to groom a potential successor.  Perhaps more importantly, it behooves any authoritarian leader to introduce new and significant political figures to the public to ensure their sense of the stability of the current system. During the past two years, rumors of Putin’s supposedly terminal health problems and even death may have catalyzed the Kremlin to present a potential successor who is a generation younger than the current president. 


The last time Putin faced this question directly was in 2007–8, when his two-term constitutional limit was imminent. To solve this problem, the Kremlin spin doctors came forward with “Putin’s Plan” in the fall of 2007. This boiled down to ensuring the continuity of Putin’s power and policy beyond his presidency—a sort of improvisation in which he eventually traded places with then-Prime Minister Dmitry Medvedev. There was much speculation in the Fall of 2007 that the final two candidates were then Deputy Prime Ministers Sergei Ivanov and Dmitry Medvedev. Likely, Medvedev’s advantage in this competition was his relative lack of his own political base, thus making him more malleable for Putin.  Few doubted that Putin remained the senior partner in the relationship, but he lost confidence in Medvedev in 2011 and decided to run again for president in 2012. He has since been re-elected for two six-year terms. In neither of these last two electoral rounds has anybody new emerged as a potential successor.

Putin fully understood the reason for his selection as Yeltsin’s successor in December 1999, which was confidence that he would protect the interests of the Yeltsin “family” after his election. We believe that Putin has given this issue deep thought and has concluded that there is no one better to entrust with protecting his family and their vast interests than a member of his own family. We will lay out a case for his cousin, Anna Putina Tsivilyova. Of course, there are other potential candidates, but in this article, we have chosen to focus on her unique prospects. Since she founded the Defenders of the Fatherland Foundation (DFF) in April, her rise to the Russian media spotlight this year has been nothing less than meteoric. Pointedly, Putin spoke highly of Anna and the Foundation at his press conference on December 14:

As for the Defenders of the Fatherland Foundation, it operates well. There is a strong team of people. I met with the director, Anna Evgenievna [Tsivilyova], and visited a regional branch [in Veliky Novgorod]. These people are wonderful and very passionate about this positive work.

Before delving into Anna Putina’s life, it is essential to understand the significance of the task Tsivilyova has taken on in founding The DFF. From the Decembrist Revolt in 1825 to the February Revolution in 1917 to the Soviet-Afghan War, the potential for unhappy veterans of foreign wars stirring trouble is a constant concern in Russian history. U.S. intelligence estimates that Russia has suffered 315,000 casualties since the beginning of the war in February 2022. And then there is the flood of wounded and non-wounded returning veterans. Meeting the needs of these people constitutes a massive challenge for the Russian government.

Who is Anna Putina?

Anna Putina (Tsivilyova) is a first cousin once removed from Vladimir Putin. Vladimir Putin’s grandfather and Anna’s great-grandfather was Spiridon Putin, who served as Stalin’s cook at the highly secured Gorki compound outside of Moscow. Spiridon’s son and Anna Putina’s grandfather, Mikhail, died fighting in World War II. As a result, Anna’s father, Evgenii, born in 1933, was raised by Spiridon, a man he called “old-father,” at Stalin’s residence. Evgenii became a doctor specializing in urology. He worked in the textile town Ivanovo from 1970 to 2000, where he raised his children, Anna (born in 1972) and Mikhail (born in 1967), to be doctors. In 1996, Anna began working as a psychiatrist at a mental institution, Bogorodskoie, well outside the city of Ivanovo.

As a young girl, Anna met Volodya Putin on family trips to Leningrad during the 1980s. When Vladimir became president, family fortunes prospered. In 2002, Anna left Ivanovo for good. In Moscow, she received degrees in management from princeling-friendly institutions, the Patrice Lumumba University of International Friendship and the State University of Management. Together with her brother Mikhail, Anna began the profitable job of ordering medical equipment for state hospitals at the company Medtekhsnab. After divorcing her first husband, Anna married Sergei Tsilovyov in 2007, possibly having been introduced by her cousin Vladimir and almost certainly gaining his approval of the marriage, an arranged marriage reminiscent of feudal times.  Asked how she met her fiancé, the well-poised Anna answered evasively, “through people.” 

Born in Donetsk, the burly Tsivilyov served as a naval officer in the 1980s and, after the Soviet collapse, in the mid-1990s, found work as a “lead security guard” for Kremlin insider Boris Berezovsky’s Aeroflot Bank in St. Petersburg.In this criminalized town, “security services” was often a euphemism for a protection racket. Putin, as deputy governor of St. Petersburg, had ties to these rackets. Tsivilyov may have crossed paths with the future president. By 2007, he was managing a construction company, Lenexpoinvest, charged with constructing the Len-Expo, a prized project of the Russian president. These and other companies that Tsivilyov worked for have been tied to Putin’s closest associates.

The Tsivilyov family’s interests soon centered on the West Siberian city of Kemerovo, a center for coal mining since the early eighteenth century. The Kremlin fairy dust was heaped on the Tsivilyovs. In 2012, Putin’s alleged bagman, Gennady Timchenko, purchased a major coal-producing enterprise, Kolmar. Despite having no experience in mineral extraction industries, Sergei Tsivilyov was named chairman of its board of directors. In a murky set of incidents in 2018, Tsivilyov became governor of the Kemerovo region and transferred his assets and management responsibilities to Anna. Explaining her surprising move from psychiatrist to coal boss, Anna Putina declared, “In the family, a decision was made.” These machinations were part of Putin’s grand project to replace independent regional elites with trusted lieutenants. In this case, Sergei Tsivilyov supplanted Aman Tuleyev, a strong-willed Kemerovo boss who had repeatedly challenged Boris Yeltsin throughout the 1990s. 

With the help of more than 11 billion rubles in subsidies from the federal government, massive tax breaks, and rising global coal prices, Anna’s business performance has been nothing short of stellar. Under her leadership, coal production increased fifteen times in seven years. Kolmar was transformed into a gigantic enterprise that sprawled across Russia. The company claims its Yakutia reserves contain one billion tons of coal. In 2023, it produced 16 million tons. According to Putina, by 2021, she employed 9,000 workers. About 40 percent of her coal is sold domestically. The rest is exported to China. Radio Liberty, in 2022, estimated her net worth at $2.5 billion. Local citizens interviewed in a story on Radio Liberty view Anna as the powerbroker and brains of the Tsivilyov family.

Ascension and Coalition Building

Putina has effectively used her philanthropic work to fortify her political network. For example, she regularly holds “International Women’s Fora” in Kemerovo. Typical topics focus on the “role of women in industrial regions” and “dealing with Covid.” Her conferences attract thousands of participants, among which are the wives of regional leaders. One prominent backer of these forums is St. Petersburg governor Valentina Matvienko, a wily politician with deep roots in Soviet Leningrad. 

Anna Putina can count on the Putin dynastic network. Anna’s brother, Mikhail, serves as the president’s overseer at Gazprom. Igor Putin and his son Roman have been involved in various business spheres and money laundering. Putin’s romantic partner and purported common-law wife, Alina Kabaeva, oversees a vast media empire. Putin’s daughter, Katerina Tikhonova, supervises investments in AI and biotechnology.