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Alexander Karelin - A Political Career

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In 1999, Russian President Vladimir Putin's Unity Party selected Karelin to run for a seat representing his hometown in the parliament. Karelin was elected in December 1999, although he disliked campaigning: "They told me to grow hair instead of having my favorite short haircuts. They told me I should not drive sport-utility vehicles—but I don't fit in a regular car. Finally I said, 'Maybe you want me to pierce my ears and nose, paint my cheeks, use lipstick and makeup? Look, the people who vote for me see me every day as I am. I don't have to pretend to make them like me.'"

Karelin loves the opera, theater and ballet, voraciously reads Russian history and literature, and writes poetry. "This is a highly talented man," said Larisa Mason, a graduate of Leningrad State University who has served as an interpreter for Karelin. "His knowledge and his feeling for poetry, literature and music are incredible. He is witty, full of puns and constantly embellishing his language with passages from books and music. And he is a big teddy bear, too."

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