A few days after Russia's attack on Ukraine, central bank governor Elvira Nabiullina is said to have asked the president to fire her.

The Bloomberg agency reported this in March;

Vladimir Putin refused.

It is unclear whether the story is true.

But the outbreak of war was certainly a shock for Nabiullina: for years she had fought to stabilize the Russian financial system, her successes had been celebrated internationally, but also by Putin.

Now the Kremlin chief sacrificed all these achievements for his war with the stroke of a pen.

Catherine Wagner

Business correspondent for Russia and the CIS based in Moscow.

  • Follow I follow

People from her environment assure Russian journalists that this affects Nabiullina personally, but she also shows it herself: At the end of February, she changed her style of clothing.

Previously she liked to wear brightly colored blouses and jackets, but since then she has appeared almost exclusively in black – just like her first deputy, Kseniya Judaewa.

Since the outbreak of the war, Nabiullina has also refrained from wearing brooches, which had become one of her most distinctive trademarks.

With them, Nabiullina revealed to the public what decisions she was planning.

For example, during the pandemic, when she announced measures to support the financial system, she put a tumbler on her collar.

Now times are too serious for such games, says her new wardrobe.

This alone sets Nabiullina apart from most officials who downplay the consequences of the war.

The central bank has also recently published surprisingly gloomy forecasts about the future of the Russian economy under sanctions conditions.

Liberal and with a clean slate - but conform to the system

But Nabiullina is also part of the system - she is considered a "system liberal", as a representative of market values, but who remains loyal to Putin's system of power, even if it is becoming increasingly autocratic.

An internal video message from early March shows that, despite all doubts, she is ready to lead the central bank through the turmoil of the aggressive war: In it she calls on her employees to refrain from political discussions at work and at home.

Because they only burned forces that are necessary for the actual goal, namely that "people and companies get through this period with as few losses as possible".

Unlike most of Putin's allies, there are no corruption scandals about Nabiullina, no stories about huge penthouse apartments or luxury villas in the style of Versailles.

So it's possible she couldn't be bought;

nevertheless, she should have little opportunity to leave the power structure (and not her homeland as well).

The President, who is supposed to think highly of their expertise, will know how to prevent this.

Biographical Success Story

Having grown up poor in the Bashkir city of Ufa, Nabiullina, who is now 58, soon attracted attention as a very good student and was able to study economics at the famous Moscow State University.

There she met her future husband, Yaroslav Kuzminov, who in the early 1990s was one of the founders of the Moscow Higher School of Economics - one of the most renowned universities in Russia and long considered liberal, but which has recently become more and more compliant under increasing pressure from the Kremlin .

In 2007 Nabiullina was appointed Minister of Economy by Putin;

In 2013 he brought her to the head of the central bank.