Sobchak was in tune with spirit of era, right man for Russia - Putin
ST. PETERSBURG. Feb 19 (Interfax) - The first mayor of St. Petersburg, Anatoly Sobchak, was a politician of national scale, while also possessing some unsuitable traits such as outspokenness, President Vladimir Putin said.
"He was the mayor of St. Petersburg, quite an achievement, yet he was not the first, second, or third man in the state. But he was doubtless a politician of a national scale," Putin said at a gala concert in Sobchak's memory on Wednesday.
He was a teacher and a friend, Putin said.
Sobchak lived and evolved as a politician at a very difficult, pivotal time in Russian history, the president said.
"The trick was that a man such as Sobchak corresponded to the spirit of the era. Our country needed such a man, and he came along," Putin said.
He recalled a story from his personal experience of working with Sobchak. In 1996, Sobchak, then attorney for President Boris Yeltsin, was dispatched to restive regions of the country to talk to the locals.
"He was a man of high integrity, it was in his guts. He would enter a room full of boos and whistles, and he would leave it under applause," Putin said.
Putin said that during Sobchak's speeches as mayor, his job was to gather notes from the audience and put aside those containing very rude and offensive remarks.
"When he saw me carrying out the selection, he said: give it to me, and started fielding the sharpest questions. His replies were so sincere, so soulful and truthful that people believed him," Putin said.
"And that's the main thing that a politician can and must have: honesty, sincerity, the trust of the people. He had all that," he said.
Putin also spoke of Sobchak's shortcomings as a politician.
"He also had his shortcomings, which probably proved an advantage elsewhere. He was too straightforward. He never wagged the tail, never tried to adjust, almost always tried to speak his mind even where a seasoned politician would keep silent, to say the least. He was never silent and always spoke honestly, directly, and straightforwardly," Putin said.
"All of his friends, all the people who worked with him, got a lot from him, and so did I," Putin said.
Sobchak also did a great deal for St. Petersburg, apart from returning it its historical name, Putin said.
"He gave back St. Petersburg the dignity of the northern capital, breathed new life into the city, primarily spiritual," Putin said.