The world’s most entertaining mayor’s race

Last week, I blogged that Andrei Lugovoi, prime suspect in the Alexander Litvinenko murder, is running for mayor of Sochi, the Black Sea resort town that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. [Update: Looks like Lugovoi’s out.] But Lugovoi’s only one of the 25 fascinating characters (including some Passport favorites) running in what’s shaping up ...

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Last week, I blogged that Andrei Lugovoi, prime suspect in the Alexander Litvinenko murder, is running for mayor of Sochi, the Black Sea resort town that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. [Update: Looks like Lugovoi's out.] But Lugovoi's only one of the 25 fascinating characters (including some Passport favorites) running in what's shaping up to be one of the world's more interesting political contests.

Liberal opposition leader and political sex symbol Boris Nemtsov is running, and got ammonia thrown at him by pro-Kremlin hooligans a few days ago. Ex-KGB oligarch Alexander Lebedev is in the running, as is freemason lodge leader Andrei Bogdanov, who we last met when he was waging a high-profile beef with far-right leader (and Lugovoi's boss) Vladimir Zhirinovsky during his highly suspicious presidential run.

But there's more! Former Bolshoi ballerina Anastasia Volochkova is running, as is porn star Yelena Berkova, and local wrestling promoter Stanislav Koretsky. Then, of course, there's the guy who will most likely win, Anatoly Pakhomov from Vladimir Putin's United Russia Party.

Last week, I blogged that Andrei Lugovoi, prime suspect in the Alexander Litvinenko murder, is running for mayor of Sochi, the Black Sea resort town that will host the 2014 Winter Olympics. [Update: Looks like Lugovoi’s out.] But Lugovoi’s only one of the 25 fascinating characters (including some Passport favorites) running in what’s shaping up to be one of the world’s more interesting political contests.

Liberal opposition leader and political sex symbol Boris Nemtsov is running, and got ammonia thrown at him by pro-Kremlin hooligans a few days ago. Ex-KGB oligarch Alexander Lebedev is in the running, as is freemason lodge leader Andrei Bogdanov, who we last met when he was waging a high-profile beef with far-right leader (and Lugovoi’s boss) Vladimir Zhirinovsky during his highly suspicious presidential run.

But there’s more! Former Bolshoi ballerina Anastasia Volochkova is running, as is porn star Yelena Berkova, and local wrestling promoter Stanislav Koretsky. Then, of course, there’s the guy who will most likely win, Anatoly Pakhomov from Vladimir Putin’s United Russia Party.

A lot of these candidates have fairly minimal connections to Sochi, which doesn’t seem to be a huge problem in Russian politics. Though the Communist Party’s candidate did gripe about Lugovoi, “Maybe he vacationed here once.”

So why does every egomaniac in Russia want to be mayor of Sochi all of a sudden? First, the upcoming Olympics makes the race a perfect opportunity for self-promotion. Second, for the slightly more serious candidates, a recent upset in Murmansk, where a United Russia incumbent was defeated in a mayor’s race by an independent candidate, has the Russian opposition sensing blood in the water. 

Has the financial crisis broken United Russia’s seemingly invincible grip on Russia’s regional politics? Let the games begin.

Photos: Getty Images

Joshua Keating was an associate editor at Foreign Policy  Twitter: @joshuakeating

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