Monday, Aug. 09, 2010

Garry Kasparov

Vladimir Putin is known as one canny operator. So when chess grand master Garry Kasparov made major movements to challenge Putin's United Russia party for control of the Kremlin in 2008, it was seen as a showdown of shrewd calculators. Kasparov, who was the undisputed world champion of chess in both the 1980s and '90s, handed in his rooks and bishops in 2005 to gear up for the 2008 race. His self-professed motivations: corruption and the stemming of democracy in post-Soviet Russia. And so the Baku-born Kasparov pointedly sought to group his umbrella opposition movement under the name of Other Russia.

As he began organizing political rallies, Kasparov was soon exposed to the full force of the Russian security apparatus, which painted the political neophyte as an English-speaking outsider. After pleading with election officials over the 2007 parliamentary elections, which were predetermined to be anything but free and fair, Kasparov found himself in jail for five days. In December 2007, Kasparov withdrew his candidacy for the presidency when Other Russia failed to comply with an election rule mandating a formal nomination convention for any candidate. Through his spokesmen, Kasparov said Moscow applied pressure on landlords to prevent Other Russia from holding its convention.