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Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila take part in the national census at their Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on October 16.
Prime Minister Vladimir Putin and his wife Lyudmila take part in the national census at their Novo-Ogaryovo residence outside Moscow on October 16.
Vladimir Putin and Dmitry Medvedev have participated in the all-Russia census. And observers have been scrutinizing all the details of the events surrounding their questionnaires.

Putin, as the Russian and foreign press have noted, appeared in public for the first time in over a year with his wife, Lyudmila. The prime minister's data was taken down by a young census taker named Yevgenia at the prime minister's official residence at Novo-Ogarevo. Russian Internet users drew attention to the modest -- one might even say bureaucratic -- atmosphere of the room where the Putins answered the census taker's questions (Putin's website has posted a video of the session here).

In commentaries to the photographs posted on the blog of one Russia's most popular bloggers, Rustem Adagamov, most attention was paid to the antediluvian television and video-cassette player in the background, as well as to the little table with bottles of mineral water and three overturned cut-crystal glasses. Attention was also paid to the beige couch into which Vladimir and Lyudmila Putin, both also dressed in beige, literally disappeared.

"There should be a carpet hanging on the wall." "And where are the crystal vases and the books from the Classics and Contemporaries series of the Lives of Remarkable People collection?" "And why isn't the remote control covered in cellophane?"

These were the kinds of poisonous comments bloggers posted, suggesting that the prime minister's image makers selected such an interior as a contrast to the situation in the residence of Dmitry Medvedev at Gorki 9. During a recent meeting between the president and the prime minister there, photographs revealed Medvedev's stereo system, which experts have estimated cost about $200,000.

The prime minister's official site reported that during the detailed questioning, Putin said that he was born on October 7, 1952, that he is now 58 years old, and that he was born in Leningrad. "Married, a Russian citizen, an ethnic Russian," he continued, answering the questions. "Name the source of your income," Yevgenia asked, a little embarrassed. "I'm employed with no other sources of income," the prime minister answered.

Some press reports contained the opinion that the White House has decided in this way to refute rumors that the second couple has gotten a divorce. "The fact that the prime-ministerial couple so rarely appears in public is connected with Vladimir Putin's full working schedule," the prime minister's press spokesman, Dmitry Peskov, was quoted as telling Reuters. writes that several observers have noted that Lyudmila Putina acts very constrained in the video and seems uncomfortable in front of the cameras, particularly when the census taker is asking about their marriage.

President Dmitry Medvedev (right) and his wife Svetlana (left) participate in the census at their Gorki residence on October 16.
Earlier, the Moscow Patriarchate also denied the rumor that Lyudmila Putina has entered a monastery.

At the same time, the census process proceeded very smoothly at the residence of the head of state. Dmitry and Svetlana Medvedev greeted their young, female census taker with tea and pies. Dmitry Medvedev told how more than 20 years ago, he also served as a census taker in Leningrad. "If they didn't open the door, we had to demonstrate some stubbornness," he confessed.

The president asked about the whistle that every census taker is supposed to carry. "In the event of danger, one long signal means 'restrain the criminal,' and two short whistles means 'help, " census taker Anastasia explained.

The first couple answered all the questions on the form. The Medvedevs said that their 15-year-old son, Ilya*, lives with them.

-- RFE/RL's Russian Service

* CORRECTION: We incorrectly identified the Medvedevs' son as "Igor" in the initial version of this post.

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