Black candidates stir up local elections in Russia

07:59 by Editor · 0 Post a comment on AAWR

Joaquim Crima is a new face of Vladimir Putin's modernisation plans

He grows watermelons, loves Vladimir Putin and is widely respected in his small rural community in southern Russia.

But Joaquim Crima – an aspiring politician standing in local council elections in October – differs from his Russian neighbours in one crucial respect: he's black.

In a country notorious for its deep-seated racism and skinheads, Crima's decision to run for his local council has prompted a storm of interest in the Russian media, with some rather predictably comparing him to Barack Obama.

It also appears to have rattled the local authorities. They have come up with a second candidate of African descent, Filipp Kondratyev, in an apparent attempt to split the pro-Crima vote.

Born in Guinea-Bissau, Crima told the Russian daily Kommersant he had dreamed of travelling to Russia since childhood, after meeting a Soviet military adviser who told him about the Russian cosmonaut and first man in outer space, Yuri Gagarin. Crima arrived in the Soviet Union 20 years ago, to study. He married an Armenian woman, and settled in Srednyaya Akhtuba district, near Volgograd.

He is building his own house, on the proceeds of his watermelon business. His neighbours speak highly of him, referring to him respectfully by his Russian patronymic, Vasily Ivanovich.

"I'm a Russian eagle, but with a suntan," Crima told Kommersant. After posing for campaign photos hoeing his garden, he said that he was keen to implement Putin's plan to modernise Russia by 2020.

Experts are sceptical, however, that Crima has much chance of success in a country where elections are fixed in advance. An independent, he has lambasted local officials, complaining that residents do not have water or gas.

Few believe his candidacy marks a breakthrough in race relations. Last year 102 people were killed in racial attacks in Russia, and 450 beaten or wounded.

"The level of racism in Russia is pretty monstrous," said Galina Kozhevnikva, deputy director of Sova, which monitors xenophobic incidents. "We don't have data from Volgograd, but all anecdotal evidence suggests things are not good." continues here

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