Friday, August 30, 2019

Absence of Serfdom in Siberia’s Past Helps Explain Survival of Elected Mayor in Novosibirsk Now, Boyko Says

Paul Goble

            Staunton, August 28 – 0ne of the many things which sets Siberia apart from Russia east of the Urals is that it never had serfdom: indeed, much of its population descends from those who fled the peculiar Russian form of slavery elsewhere. That is widely known, but the continuing impact on the region and its political life is less often acknowledged.

            That makes a comment by Sergey Boyko who is running for mayor of Novosibirsk especially important. Asked by Vadim Shtepa of the Region.Expert portal why there are still elections for the head of the city there when Moscow has eliminated them elsewhere, the candidate points to the absence of serfdom in Siberia (

            “Novosibirsk is quite a free city,” he says. “Apparently, the historical lack of serfdom plays a role. And the authorities decided not to eliminate the mayoral elections lest they face mass protests.” He adds that his ability to get 6500 signatures and be accepted as a candidate also reflects such fears of the possibility of “a major protest” if they did not allow him on the ballot.”

            Boyko also says he is running as an independent candidate because otherwise he would be subordinate to some Moscow “central council” of an existing political party in Russia. (Reginal parties are not allowed.) He adds that he doesn’t want to be influenced by anyone beyond the voters of his city and apparently believes Novosibirsk voters welcome that approach.

            More generally, he observes, “there is no other means of expanding the authority of the regions besides actively seeking this.” And for that to happen, there must be “at the reginal level, politicians not appointed by Moscow but elected by the citizens themselves and independent of Moscow.”

            Among his major goals is to eliminate the disproportion in government spending between Novosibirsk and the capital. The government currently spends eight times more per capita in Moscow than it does in the capital of Siberia. That is wrong: in Germany, he points out, Berliners receive only 20 percent more government spending than do people in Munich.

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