Nizhny elected a Communist and got a governor
The second round of elections for governor of the Nizhny Novgorod region gave victory to Communist candidate Gennady Khodyrev. At least, he was a Communist up until the election results came through. The moment his victory was assured, he announced he was withdrawing from the party.
Plenty of observers had been saying that there was no battle of ideologies going on in Nizhny. The first round was tense the Kremlin wanted to make sure that Andrei Klimentyev, a businessman with a criminal past, didn't get into the second round. Sergei Kiriyenko, the presidential representative in the Volga Federal District, worked hard to make sure this didn't happen.
But the resulting choice between incumbent Gov. Ivan Sklyarov and his Communist rival wasn't of any special importance to the Kremlin. Negotiations with Khodyrev after he won the first round were enough to confirm that he would be suitably loyal.
Anti-Monopoly Ministry defends bird market
The Ptichy Rynok, or bird market, is one of Moscow's landmarks. It sells not just birds but a whole range of creatures from mongrel dogs to exotic snakes. The bird market survived even the anti-market Soviet years, but it's having a harder time surviving Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov.
Citing complaints from neighboring residents and breaches of health regulations, Moscow authorities have long been wanting to close the market down. All this culminated in a definitive closure order from Luzhkov this spring.
Luzhkov isn't proposing closing the market down altogether. Rather, he wants to move it to what officials call a better-equipped and more suitable place. But sellers, customers and the crowds of people who just come out of curiosity don't want it to move. The proposed new site is 15 km outside Moscow; it's harder to get there and sellers will have to pay almost double the rent.
But the bird market recently received support from the Anti-Monopoly Ministry, which asked Moscow authorities to cancel the order on the grounds that it breaks anti-monopoly law by giving preferential treatment to another "economic entity." What really caught the committee's attention was that the proposed new site, which already is operating a competing animal market, was set by organizations linked to Moscow city authorities.
It's no surprise, then, that the Moscow authorities have chosen to ignore the Anti-Monopoly Ministry's decision. In any case, if you haven't seen the market, you'd better go quick, because the ministry's only weapon is a piece of paper with its seal, while Luzhkov has the police and assorted bull-necked fellows at his disposal to enforce his will.
A Website for the president
Work is in full swing on creating a presidential Website, which officials in the administration are grandly calling "Russia's main virtual gateway." A nationwide contest was launched to design the Website. The winners of the contest would get to work directly on the Kremlin site. The results were announced a month ago, and work is under way on implementing the winning proposals.
Well-known spin-doctor Gleb Pavlovsky and his Foundation for Effective Politics (said to have contributed much to Putin's victory) ignored the contest at first, mostly because there was no money in it. This would also explain why no professional design studios took part. The contest was won by an employee of a large Moscow computer firm, a student at Moscow's Orthodox University and a group of young people from Vologda.
The Vologda project took third place, but its authors will probably play a major role in creating the site. While the Moscow winners were calm about the chances of carrying out their ideas, the Vologda group is burning with enthusiasm and has the support of their regional authorities.
The Vologda city fathers are so proud their town has produced such talented young people that they offered to pay for the group's trips to Moscow and have invited one of them to work in the regional administration.
By then, Pavlovsky and his foundation, jealous at the success of what seemed at first a go-nowhere project, were back on the ball. The rumor being spread around now is that Pavlovsky's people were instrumental in choosing the winners and that they themselves kept out of the way at the beginning in the noble aim of making way for young talent.
(Ekaterina Larina is assistant editor of The Russia Journal
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