Russian Lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky Dies at 75

Russian lawmaker Vladimir Zhirinovsky has died at age 75, the speaker of the lower house of Russia’s parliament said Wednesday.

State Duma speaker Vyacheslav Volodin said Zhirinovsky died after “a serious and prolonged illness.”

His death was announced in parliament, where lawmakers stood in silence to honor his memory.

Zhirinovsky had been the leader of the Liberal Democratic Party for three decades. He founded the Liberal Democratic Party in 1991 as the Soviet Union was pulling apart, and the group became the country’s first officially recognized opposition party.

In its early years, the party had a significant presence in parliament. It won the single largest share of votes in the 1993 parliamentary election and took 64 seats in the 450-member Duma. Its prominence steadily declined, and after the 2021 election, the party was down to 21 seats.

Zhirinovsky was born in Almaty, the capital of then-Soviet Kazakhstan, as Vladimir Volfovich Eidelstein, and moved to Moscow at age 18 to read Turkish studies at Moscow State University.

After military service, he held a variety of posts in state committees and unions. His political activities went little-noticed until the Liberal Democratic Party’s founding eight months before the Soviet Union’s collapse.

Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday extended his condolences to Zhirinovsky’s family, calling the lawmaker “an experienced politician, an energetic person open for communication, a bright speaker and polemist.”

“Founder and longtime leader of one of the country’s oldest political parties, he did a lot for the establishing and development of Russian parliamentarism and domestic legislation, and sincerely strove to contribute to solving the most important national problems,” Putin said in a message released by the Kremlin. “And always, in any audience, in the most heated discussions, he defended the patriotic position, the interests of Russia.”

Russia’s former president and current deputy head of the Security Council Dmitry Medvedev said Zhirinovsky gave a “powerful contribution in the creation of the Russia’s entire modern politics.”

“Vladimir Zhirinovsky, sincerely, in his own way, in special, unique ways, tirelessly fought for the authority of Russia,” Medvedev said Wednesday on the messaging app Telegram.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.