Earth's coldest city has first female mayor

Sardana Avksentyeva is the first female mayor of Yakutsk, a Russian city in Siberia (and the only large city on Earth that's located in the permafrost zone).

Daria Sukharchuk
Daria Sukharchuk NewsMavens, Central & Eastern Europe
Earth's coldest city has first female mayor - NewsMavens
Sardana Avksentyev, YouTube

Why this story matters:

Sardana Avksentyeva, a woman from the local Yakut nation was elected the mayor of Yakutsk in September 2018.

Since being elected, Avksentyeva has cut administrative spending by selling off the government fleet and reducing the number of overseas trips taken by city officials. She is also advocating for more mental health counsellors in the schools (last year, several Russian schools were attacked by their own teenage students).

She won the election following public discontent with a deeply unpopular pension reform, and the falling popularity of Russia's ruling party (which lost several federal states in last September's elections), but is reluctant to openly associate herself with the opposition. She strives to maintain a good relationship with the local pro-Kremlin governor and denies having any ambition higher than her current mayoral seat.

This is the story of a woman who just won a historic victory against all odds, but who is still toeing the line between the political status-quo and her own deepest convictions.

During her interview with Meduza, she denied being a feminist and said that women are "all about emotion", and aren't good at strategic planning. But she herself is a living example to the contrary. Her attitude to gender equality and the political status-quo provide insight into how ambitious women realize their ambitions in a country such as Russia.

Details from the story:

  • Yakutsk is a city in eastern Siberia, with a population of 300,000 people split almost equally between the local Yakut nation and ethnic Russians.
  • It is the only major city on Earth that is located in the permafrost zone.
  • While Yakutsk itself is not an industrial city, the Yakutia region is a major centre for mining (diamonds, gold, uranium)
  • Yakutsk is one of just 7 state capitals (out of 83) that has a direct mayoral election.
  • In September 2018, several federal states and cities held elections, and in many cases, the ruling United Russia party sustained unexpected losses
  • Sardana Avksentyeva ran for mayor together with a local businessman Vladimir Fedorov, who was blocked from running by the local administration (Fedorov is now vice-mayor and is responsible for the city's plumbing and cleaning services). The experts interviewed by Meduza say that their partnership was made successful by the fact that they were able to capture both the Yakut and Russian electorate (Avksentyeva is Yakut, while Fedorov is Russian). 
  • At the start of their campaign, they could not book any space for meeting voters and often held their meetings in someone's backyard.
  • Booking billboards for the election campaign was impossible as well -- so the duo asked their businessmen friends put Sardana's campaign posters on their trucks.

Project #Femfacts co-financed by European Commission Directorate-General for Communications Networks, Content and Technology as part of the Pilot Project – Media Literacy For All

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