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When Crime Doesn't Pay

Remember the local elections last October which were widely touted as being much “cleaner” than the ones held last March? Well, considering the nadir of post-Soviet election fixing that was reached in March, it wasn’t too hard to achieve some sort of improvement, I suppose.

But it would be ludicrous to say that what happened in October was anything close to a democratic process or that the people who were decreed the winners had secured any reasonable legitimacy. People who keep asserting that Vladimir Putin and Putinism and United Russia are actually supported by the majority of Russians have never quite been able to answer the question of why, then, is political competition systematically rooted out at all levels and across the country? If the liberals are so feckless, as many Russia watchers endlessly repeat, then why was the last mayoral election in Sochi nothing more than a stage-managed farce?

Every once in while, the curtain slips a little bit and we get an impression of how United Russia manufactures its wins (and, in this case, a little glimpse into the morality and intelligence of one of its supporters).

United Russia supporter Vera Nesvyashchenko lives in Suzdal. Although she loves Putin and the party, she’s a little miffed because she hasn’t been paid for the work she did during the October mayoral “campaign.” So she’s written an open letter to the prime minister asking him to look into the matter, RFE/RL’s Russian Service reported. (The story was widely picked up in the Russian media. I like the “tags” associated with this version: Vera Nesvyashchenko, provocateurs from United Russia, Radio Liberty, Suzdal, the cynicism of United Russia, cynics of United Russia, black PR.)

Respected Vladimir Vladimirovich!

I am Vera Nesvyashchenko, a resident of Suzdal. I support you. I support the United Russia party. That is why during our city’s mayoral election in October 2009 I was pleased to accept an offer by the leadership of the local party chapter to become a campaign worker during the election campaign.

The work of the campaign workers was overseen by Tatyana Sribnaya (head of the election campaign of [Suzdal Mayor]Olga Guseva and head of the local branch of United Russia). I – like other young people – was given the assignment of “street cleaning.” That is, we were to tear down the posters of Olga Guseva’s main rival, mayoral candidate Oleg Grigorenko.

In addition to “street cleaning,” we were also told to look into mailboxes to see if there were any campaign materials for Olga Guseva. If we found in the mailboxes campaign materials for Oleg Grigorenko, we were ordered to take them.

On the eve of the election, I met with a friend who told me that we could draw up lists of people who would vote for Olga Guseva. He had been told this by Tatyana Sribnaya, who said the party would pay 200 rubles for every name on the list. After that, I too began making lists of people who would vote for Olga Guseva. I made a list of 36 names and wrote it in a notebook that was provided by the secretary in the party headquarters.

Several days after the election, I phoned Tatyana Sribnaya and asked about my pay, and she told me I would be paid later. All October I waited for the money I’d been promised (for the list and for the “street cleaning”). I called Tatyana Sribnaya several more times and once even met with her in her office as deputy head of the Suzdal Raion. Seven months have passed and I still have not received the money I earned.

Other campaign workers have told me that they were all paid what was promised.

Tatyana Sribnaya, who acted in the interests of Olga Guseva, hired me on a paid basis for services rendered during campaigning for mayoral candidate Olga Guseva. But the remuneration promised has not been received.

I am raising a small child and I am pregnant. Therefore I do not work. The money that I expected to receive for my work was intended to maintain my health during my pregnancy.

Not having received any reply from the prime minister, Nesvyashchenko has filed a lawsuit against the party and the first hearing in the case was held today. The next hearing is scheduled for September 3.

In June, a local court rejected Grigorenko’s appeal to have the results of the October election annulled. He charged a litany of election law violations, all of which were rejected out of hand.

According to official figures, Guseva won the election by 111 votes. Ironically, although she was United Russia’s candidate, she was also supported by the so-called opposition Communist Party. That party, however, also picked up RFE/RL’s story on its website, under the headline: “The Latest Revelations Of Election Hooliganism By United Russia.”

(For other such revelations, see previous Power Vertical posts here, here, and here.)

-- Robert Coalson

About This Blog

The Power Vertical
The Power Vertical

The Power Vertical is a blog written especially for Russia wonks and obsessive Kremlin watchers by Brian Whitmore. It offers Brian's personal take on emerging and developing trends in Russian politics, shining a spotlight on the high-stakes power struggles, machinations, and clashing interests that shape Kremlin policy today. Check out The Power Vertical Facebook page or


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