Meet ‘Russia’s Paris Hilton’ Ksenia Sobchak, the 36-year-old socialite challenging Putin for the Russian presidency

Russian TV personality Ksenia Sobchak attends a news conference in Moscow.

caption
Russian TV personality Ksenia Sobchak attends a news conference in Moscow.
source
Thomson Reuters

TV host, actress, and socialite Ksenia Sobchak – who some call the “Russian Paris Hilton” – is an unlikely challenger to Russian President Vladimir Putin’s tight grip over Russian society.

But Sobchak, 36, whose father Anatoly Sobchak was the first elected mayor of St. Petersburg and one of the framers of Russia’s modern constitution, is a nationally recognized figure in the country, and she’s already made a name for herself among the country’s opposition.

She also attended to the National Prayer Breakfast with President Donald Trump in Washington on February 8 alongside other renowned Russian political figures.

Here’s how Sobchak went from pop culture darling to a straight-talking politician taking on Russia’s authoritarian president:


Ksenia Anatolyevna Sobchak was born into a revered Russian political family on November 5, 1981.

source
Ksenia Sobchak/Youtube

Source: New York Times


Her parents were Anatoly Sobchak and Lyudmila Narusova, both respected liberal St. Petersburg politicians. Ironically, her father was Putin’s mentor, and helped him get his start in national politics.

Source: New York Times


Sobchak’s childhood was spent attending the famous Heritage Museum art school. She also took ballet classes as the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.

caption
Kseniya Sobchak attends the Dior A/W 2013-2014 show at Red Square on July 9, 2013 in Moscow, Russia.
source
Victor Boyko/GettyImages for Dior

Source: The Famous People


Sobchak studied at a variety of schools, including St. Petersburg State University and the Moscow State Institute of International Relations, where she also received a master’s degree in politics. During her studies, her father Anatoly passed away in 2000.

Source: The Famous People


She embarked on a career in acting and television soon after finishing her masters, and starred in her first film in 2004. The movie, called “Thieves and Prostitutes”, was the true story of her childhood.

Source: IMDb


She also began hosting a variety of popular Russian reality TV shows, including one called Dom-2, which she hosted from 2004 until 2012.

Source: The Moscow Times


During her years building her presence on television, Sobchak’s star kept rising. So too did her political inclinations — she began attending rallies in the late 2000s in response to fraud allegations in parliament.

Source: The Associated Press


“I’m Ksenia Sobchak, and I’ve got something to lose. But I’m here,” she said at one rally.

caption
Russian opposition leader and TV host Ksenia Sobchak talks to the media after leaving a building of the Russian Investigative Committee in Moscow
source
Thomson Reuters

Source: The Associated Press


Around this time, Sobchak also began dating prominent anti-Putin activist Ilya Yashin.

Source: New York Times


In 2012, Sobchak launched a new talk show that would cover important social and political topics. Sobchak interviewed prominent opposition figures on the first episode and had intended to interview Russian opposition figure Alexei Navalny next.

Source: RIA.ru


But before she could interview Navalny, the show was abruptly cancelled due to “lack of interest.”

Source: RIA.ru


In October 2017, Sobchak officially declared her candidacy for president in the 2018 race. After Navalny was banned from participating in the elections in December, Sobchak became one of the main opposition candidates challenging Putin.

caption
Sobchak delivers a speech during a demonstration of several thousand Russians for fair elections in Moscow on March 10, 2012.
source
Sergei Karpukhin/Reuters

Sources: Business Insider, Washington Post


Sobchak reportedly personally told Putin that she was running against him. Analysts have argued that her family’s closeness to Putin has allowed her to get away with a lot more politically than others in the opposition camp.

Source: Vedomosti.ru


In February, Sobchak arrived in Washington and spoke with reporters about the upcoming Russian election in March at the National Press Club. She went on to attend the National Prayer Breakfast with Trump on February 8.

caption
Sobchak in Washington, DC on Tuesday
source
Win McNamee

Source: Getty Images


Putin’s reign appears untouchable, and he’s expected to win his fourth term with ease. But with powerful allies, Sobchak is well positioned to mount an offensive against Russia’s elite.

caption
Sobchak attends the Almaty Opening at Ritz-Carlton Hotel on November 2, 2013 in Almaty, Kazakhstan.
source
Vladimir Tretyakov/Getty Images for Capital Partners

She definitely won’t win, at least not this time around, but her prominent position in society makes her an icon for Russians opposed to Putin’s authoritarianism.