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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Khakamada as Self-Help Guru

For MTKhakamada speaking during a packed seminar about how to attain success.
Irina Khakamada is taking a break from politics to become a self-help guru, doling out advice on men, careers and how to get powerful people to listen to you.

President Vladimir Putin's 2004 challenger says her overriding goal is to change Russians' attitudes toward personal success and, just as important, how to attain it. "I am not leaving the people," Khakamada, 51, head of the Our Choice Foundation, told a packed room of mostly women at a seminar last week. "I am continuing my dialogue with them by other means."

The seminar was the first of two hosted by City Class, which sponsors evening lecture series. Khakamada also plans to crisscross the country this summer to promote her latest book, "Sex in Big Politics."

Khakamada, who said she won 30 percent of Moscow voters and 7 percent nationwide in the presidential election, told her audience that to get ahead they should be professional, market themselves and retain a lust for life.

She also knocked what she called Americans' faith that success can be magically willed into being. Real advancement, she said, takes a careful blend of hard work and calculated risk.

The women who flocked to hear Khakamada agreed: When Khakamada asked them if they could name any leading politicians afraid of taking risks, they blurted out: "Yavlinsky! Kiriyenko!"

Yabloko chairman Grigory Yavlinsky and Federal Atomic Energy Agency chief Sergei Kiriyenko, dubbed Harry Potter by Khakamada, would benefit from being bolder, she said.

Khakamada also chided her daughter-in-law for leaving the house at 6 a.m. and returning after midnight in her quest for an MBA. "Perhaps this is the new style of reaching success," Khakamada said, adding that leaving no time for family or outside interests was unwise.

City Class, in advertising Khakamada's seminars, cast Khakamada as a superstar who managed to "do it all." Asked why she chose City Class to help launch her new career, Khakamada said she was approached by the company. She added that she was not "chasing royalties." Her spokesman, Konstantin Lazarev, declined to specify how much she had been paid for the two seminars.

So far, Khakamada is taking to her new occupation. In her first City Class appearance, she ran over the allotted time by more than a half-hour, fielding numerous questions and energizing the women in attendance with her candid, easygoing style. "I would have been an excellent president," she said.

Khakamada said running in the presidential election was the apex of her career, noting that she pushed on despite overwhelming opposition.

Along the way, Khakamada appears to have learned something about politicians. She once told Economic Development and Trade Minister German Gref that Putin planned to fire him -- he didn't -- so Gref would listen to her thoughts about a government initiative.

Taking part in the City Class series may help Khakamada's political career, should she choose to re-enter politics, sociologist Olga Kryshtanovskaya said. She cited Liberal Democratic Party leader Vladimir Zhironovsky, who has dressed up as Batman and starred in a reality-television series where politicians and movie stars compete for control of a medieval-style fiefdom.

For now, Khakamada is sticking to the lecture circuit.