Meet Dmitry Nagiyev - Russia's HOTTEST man after Putin (PHOTOS)

Sergei Savostyanov/TASS
He's a showman, an actor and a TV presenter - with connections to the criminal world and an ominous squint.

Even at the age of 68, President Vladimir Putin remains Russia's sexiest man, according to an opinion poll conducted by the SuperJob recruitment agency, which polled 2,000 men and women.

But who is his main rival? Let us introduce Dmitry Nagiyev, a 54-year-old Russian showman and actor, a man who shared a car with Putin in the 1990s and presented the most scandalous TV show of the noughties.

A guy with a criminal past

Nagiyev was born in Leningrad (now St. Petersburg). His family on his father's side were Arabs who fled Iran for Turkmenistan during World War I. Of the whole family, only nine-year-old Gulam, Dmitry's grandfather, survived. His grandmother on his maternal side came from Germany. "But we were born here, and I am very grateful for it and love my homeland very much," says Dmitry Nagiyev, who describes himself as "a Russian Orthodox Christian".

In his youth he practised sambo and judo under the guidance of future billionaire Arkady Rotenberg, who was also Putin's judo partner. 

Nagiyev's family was poor and, when he was a teenager, he went into the profitable but dangerous business of selling hard currency, which was a criminal offence in the Soviet Union. Once, Nagiyev was detained in possession of hard currency and he avoided prosecution by joining the army. "It was a dreadful and useless time," is how he recalls his military service. He also mentions bullying and the practice of "painting kilometers of grass the color green". But it was there that he realized that he wanted to become an actor. When he completed his army service, he went to theater school. This was during the "hungry" 1990s and he started working part-time at night as a DJ and hosting shows and beauty contests.

"In the 1990s I worked only for gangsters because they controlled all the nightclubs. I've been through this school from start to finish. Everything was difficult, dirty and disgusting there. No people were murdered in my presence but I saw a corpse rolling out of a car boot. I turned away pretending I hadn't seen anything," he recalls in an interview with journalist Yury Dud. To date the video of the interview has been watched 30 million times. According to Nagiyev, he had "warm and respectful" relations with the criminal bosses because "either they regard you as one of them or you work somewhere else".

At that time he was the most popular radio DJ in Russia, being awarded the title four times in a row. This was why he was invited to join the election campaign of Anatoly Sobchak, future governor of St. Petersburg. On the campaign trail, Nagiyev worked with Putin for the first time (the latter was then first deputy head of the St. Petersburg government). The three of them - Nagiyev, Sobchak and Putin - drove around the region campaigning and giving away cigarettes, buckwheat, tinned meat and other foodstuffs to members of the public.

"I would sit behind Sobchak, with Vladimir Vladimirovich seated behind me, all of us in the same Pazik bus. And from time to time Putin would ask me: ‘Dim [short for Dmitry], did you have sufficient buckwheat, tinned meat and sugar?’. According to Nagiyev, his acquaintance with Putin hasn't developed into anything bigger: "It is not my nature, I've never learnt to make friends with the right people."

Goblin on TV

Nagiyev rode his first big wave of popularity in the noughties when he starred in the low-budget comedy TV shows Ostorozhno, Modern! [Look Out, Modern!] and Polny Modern! [Full Modern!]. Together with actor Sergei Rost, the two of them played all the residents of a quintessential multi-story block of flats, ranging from a former tank crewman to a drunken plumber.

In parallel, Nagiyev appeared as presenter in several talk shows, the most scandalous and provocative of which was Okna [Windows] - a format copied from The Jerry Springer Show, complete with fights and an abundance of obscene language under the pretence of discussing "topical issues". Later Nagiyev admitted that he had never even watched recordings of his own shows, regarding them as second-rate trash.

"I was loaned to the hilt and wanted to live in Moscow. And suddenly they pulled Okna, which came as a shock. But before the day was out I had a call from Channel One and was invited to come and speak to Ernest [Konstantin Ernest, general director of the country's main state TV channel]. He said to me: "You're very talented and you've done some good work in these three years creating the enduring image of a goblin. Welcome on board." And I was recruited for Channel One."

His "goblin" image has been reinforced by his "trademark" squint - when he was still a student he suffered a facial paralysis.

With the passage of time, Nagiyev started appearing in leading roles in high-rating TV series and films (mainly cringeworthy comedies). To date he has notched up around 80 film and theatre roles and is regarded as having one of the busiest schedules in the business. In 2016 Forbes listed him as Russia's richest actor, with an annual income of $3.2 million.

Nagiyev did not even miss an appearance after learning that his mother had died, and a couple of hours later he was already live on air presenting an episode of the singing competition TV series, Golos (The Voice).

"It's a hard call. But the viewer couldn't care less what you're going through, and why should they know? You just have to get on with it. At one time, along with everyone else, I had very mixed feelings at the news that Arnold Schwarzenegger failed to fly to his father's funeral. How could he? It was his father, for heaven's sake. But I was also close to the same thing," he says.

In recent years he has tried to change his creative trajectory and has taken dramatic movie roles again (back in the 1990s he put on a chillingly convincing performance as a Chechen insurgent in Chistilishche [Purgatory]): in the film Neproshchennyy (Unforgiven), based on the true story of the revenge-seeking Vitaly Kaloyev, and in the series Chikatilo in which he played the eponymous maniac who murdered 43 people. According to the critics, Nagiyev's dramatic talent is quite something and can even "smooth any rough edges" in a not otherwise outstanding TV offering. 

Almost nothing is known of Nagiyev's private life. The actor has a son from a former marriage, and protects his new family from the attention of the press.

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