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(CNN) -- As part of its in-depth look at modern Russia, CNN talks to the people who are influencing and changing contemporary Russian society, as well as those who live with these changes.
Kasyanov is a former Russian prime minister and leader of Other Russia, the opposition coalition in Russia. He is also a presidential candidate in the 2008 election.
Pushkov is a Russian journalist and former speech-writer for Mikhail Gorbachev. He is also the anchor on the weekly political analysis program, "Postscript."
Olga Sergienko, 26
A freelance columnist and arts and culture editor for Harper's Bazaar, Olga used to write a sex column for the Bolshoi Gorod, a weekly Russian paper. She also wrote a "shopoholic" column for Expert Magazine monthly subsidiary called Vesch for a year. She has contributed to Russian editions of Glamour, Men's Health and Cosmopolitan.
Peter Trenin, 26
Peter is the co-founder and president of a small PR firm based in Moscow called Capufactura. The company does positioning and promotion for the Moscow City government and a variety of businesses.
Maria Gaidar, 24
Maria is the founder of the Da Youth Organization. Da is a civil organization run by Russian youth geared toward public advocacy and protecting the rights of different groups. Maria is also the daughter of former Prime Minister, Yegor Gaidar, and ran for a seat in the Moscow City Duma in 2005, when she was only 22 years old. Maria is critical of President Putin's government and has been arrested several times at dissenters' marches.
Dmitry Stepaniuk, 25
Dmitry is a graduate from the Moscow University for International Affairs (MGIMO) and is currently pursuing a graduate degree in aerospace technology at the Moscow Aviation Institute. He wants to one day work as a diplomat with space programs, and feels Russia can assert itself as a great international player through its space program. He is also an ardent supporter of President Putin's administration.
Deripaska is one of the original Russian oligarchs who rose to prominence during the Yeltsin years of the 1990s. He is also Chairman of RUSAL, the world's largest aluminum company, and ranks as Russia's sixth wealthiest person according to Forbes most recent billionaires list. He is popularly referred to as "The Aluminum King."
Steve Chase is the President of Intel Russia. Steve heads up all of Intel's operations in Russia, including Intel's offices in the Siberian town of Akademgorodok, or "Silicon Siberia." Steve divides his time between Novisibirsk/Akademgorodok, Moscow, St. Petersburg and Nizhny Novgorod.
Victor Bogorad, Political Cartoonist
Victor is one of Russia's most respected political cartoonists. He draws an average of five cartoons a day and freelances for a variety of publications, including the Moscow Times and St. Petersburg Times. Many of his cartoons are in private collections and collected by enthusiasts around the world. He is based in St. Petersburg and participates in frequent solo and group exhibitions. One of his more recent exhibitions was a commemoration of slain journalist Anna Politkovskaya by international cartoonists.
Valentina Matvienko, Gov. of St. Petersburg
Gov. Matvienko has been the Governor of St. Petersburg since 2003. She graduated from the Communist Party of the Soviet Union's Academy in 1985 and became a party official in Leningrad's municipal government and has continued to rise through the political ranks. She is a close Putin insider and has been loosely touted as one of Putin's possible successors.
Vladimir Gelman, Political Scientist
Gelman is a political expert and lecturer at the European University in St. Petersburg.
Alexei Balabonov, Russian Filmmaker
Alexei Balabonov, 48, is one of New Russian Cinema's most talked about filmmakers. He has made 11 films, and his most recent film, "Gruz 200", is very controversial. It was screened at the Sochi Film Festival and will be screened again at St. Petersburg's Festival of Festivals.
The film is set in 1984 and captures the darkness of totalitarian Soviet rule on the brink of perestroika during the war in Afghanistan. "Gruz 200" is a Soviet military term for a cargo of dead soldiers sent home from the war in Afghanistan. Russian television stations are refusing to air the film and censors have slapped it with a strict over 21 adult tag. Balabonov himself characterizes his latest work as a "very difficult film."