Joaquim Crima, a 37-year old native of Guinea Bissau, in West Africa,
is running for district chief, in a small village in central Russia. He
is likely the first black person to ever be a candidate in Russia.
Joaquim Crima, a
37-year-old native of the West African nation of Guinea Bissau, says he
will run for public office in the small, central Russian village where
he lives. The announcement is significant because of Crima's racial
heritage. Few, if any, Russian citizens of African descent have run
for public office in the country.
Human rights groups say
African immigrants in Russia often face discrimination and racial
prejudice. Statistics from the Moscow Protestant Chaplaincy, a group
dedicated to researching hate crimes in Russia, indicate at least one
dozen immigrants were killed this year and hundreds more attacked
because of the color of their skin.
There are no official Russian statistics on hate crimes.
came to Russia in the last days of the Soviet Union to study and become
a teacher at a University in Volgograd. He acquired Russian
citizenship and is now earning a living selling watermelons. He says
he is ready to run for chief of district in the Volgograd region. He
says it is his right because Russia is a democracy.
anticipation of the October 11 election, Crima has adopted a Russian
name, Vasily Ivanovic. Local election officials say he faces a
difficult challenge, and that he may not be taken seriously by voters.
They say most Russians will only vote for him because of the novelty of
his candidacy, or as an act of protest against what they may consider
to be Russia's dismal political system.
Alexander Verkohvsky is
head of the Sova Center for Information and Analysis in Moscow, a group
dedicated to researching xenophobia and nationalism in Russia. He says
many Russians are not used to immigrant ethnic minorities trying to run
for political office.
"It's a very seldom situation when a
person of a [faraway] foreign region tries to do that," said
Verkohvsky. "People who are originally from some post-Soviet countries
of course participate in Russia's life."
Crima says it does not
matter that Russians may not be accustomed to ethnic minorities running
for office. He says if Russia is a democracy he should be free to run
for public office. Therefore, he says, he will not withdraw his
Crima says he wants to change things for the better in his village. He describes how he got involved in politics.
says he became interested in politics because there were many electoral
promises that were not fulfilled in the last election. He says he
wants to see what he can do to improve conditions in his area.
says he is not worried about the difficulty he faces as an ethnic
minority candidate. He says he will work hard for the benefits of his
constituents, if elected.