Thu, Dec 13, 2007 - Page 13 News List

In Russia, it is all in the name

In Russia, the children of wealthy politicians dominate gossip pages and set trends. Some even mimic Western celebrities by creating brands carrying their surnames

By Natasha Singer  /  NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE , MOSCOW

Next year, British tabloid Tatler will publish its first foreign edition in Russia. The children of politicos, such as Dasha Zhukova,top left, Nina Gomiashvili, above, and Ksenia Chilingarova, top right, are likely to feature in its pages.

PHOTO: NY TIMES NEWS SERVICE

Americans who love celebrities follow the escapades of Lindsay Lohan and Angelina Jolie. The British consume themselves with the romantic lives of their royals. But in Moscow, where raw political power and big money hold sway, it is the children and grandchildren of politicians and oligarchs whose love lives, fashion tastes and socializing are widely chronicled and followed.

They are women like Dasha Zhukova, 26, a doe-eyed brunette, who is the daughter of a Russian tycoon and reportedly the girlfriend of another, Roman Abramovich, 40, the billionaire who owns the Chelsea soccer club in London. She might turn up at a reception at Spasso House, the residence of the US ambassador here, or in Los Angeles with Abramovich to watch his team play David Beckham's.

And they are women like the sisters known as "the Gorbachev girls," Anastasia and Ksenia Virganskaya, 20 and 28 respectively, who are granddaughters of Mikhail Gorbachev and who recently appeared at a party here with Donatella Versace in gowns chosen by the designer.

These and other well-connected beauties are the It Girls of Moscow, part of a transnational jet set that shows up from Monaco to Ascot.

Entertainment programs on Russian television interview them. Local glossy magazines register their every heartbreak and hemline. And beginning next year, Tatler, the UK society magazine, plans to start publishing its first foreign edition here, to focus on Russian socialites who, like Paris Hilton in the West, influence the handbags, the lap dogs and the taste in boyfriends to which other trend-conscious people aspire.

"We don't have our own Angelina Jolie or our Britney Spears with the resources to wear fancy clothes," said Ksenia Chilingarova, a poet and magazine editor. Chilingarova, 25, is an It Girl herself, the daughter of Artur Chilingarov, a deputy speaker of Russia's lower house of parliament and a polar explorer. (He gained international notoriety last summer for claiming a chunk of seabed under the North Pole for Russia.)

At 11am on a recent Friday, Chilingarova was dressed in evening attire - a common sight in Moscow because constant traffic jams prevent people from going home to change at the end of the day - for a party that night to be given by the crystal purveyor Nadia Swarovski.

"The reality is that the children of famous people are so popular because they have the money to dress up, wear jewelry, travel to Paris and London and be photographed doing it," Chilingarova said.

Indeed, the party pages of Russian editions of Harper's Bazaar, Hello, OK!, Viva! and GALA are so popular that readers flip to the back to read them first, and to check out what local socials are wearing, said Shakri Amirkhanova, the editor in chief of the forthcoming Russian-language Tatler. Ten years ago, the wives of successful businessmen who spent a lot of time and money getting gussied up in flashy clothes served as role models, she said.

"But now it is a new generation - I call them 'the children of' - who have influential lifestyles," said Amirkhanova, 29.

Amirkhanova, who is the granddaughter of Rasul Gamzatov, a well-known poet, used to date Boris Yeltsin Jr, the grandson of the former Russian president, and has attended Paris fashion shows with Zhukova and other It Girls. "If they work in fashionable jobs, if they wear a mix of designer and high street clothes, if they go on spiritual retreats in Tibet and drink green tea and do yoga and have iPhones, other people will follow," she said.

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