There was news today that Russian President Vladimir Putin has appointed a new Children’s Ombudsman to replace Pavel Astakhov. Loyal readers will recall the scandal in which Astakhov was forced to resign. As Children’s Ombudsman it was part of his job to defend underage child brides, even in Chechnya. Instead, Astakhov responded with inappropriate remarks about Caucasian women; how, say, 27 is considered too old to marry, and girls are all wrinkled up by then.
Astakhov probably should have been fired for the “wrinkles” remark, but he survived and limped on; only to deliver the coup de grâce to his own career with some other inappropriate remarks delivered to child survivors of a boating accident. Now, in full disclosure, I have watched that vid of Astakhov chatting with the children, and I don’t personally actually think there was anything wrong in what he said; or the fact that he tried to turn the tragedy into a joke. (His comment to the kids was: “So, did you have a good swim out there?”) If you watch the vid, the kids even chuckle at the joke and don’t seem all that offended by it. And Astakhov himself has remarked that he got advice from psychologists, who told him it was better to approach survivors with an upbeat attitude, rather than get them all venting like Hollywood divas and reliving their trauma. But in any case, President Putin, who passed on the “wrinkles” incident, called Astakhov onto the carpet for the “swimming” crack, and soon enough Astakhov was signing a letter of resignation “of his own accord”. Probably wanting to spend more time with his own family.
Well, the post has been absent since that time. Up until now. Everybody in Russia was speculating that the job of protecting children really should go to (…) a woman – duh!
President Putin was offered a slate of several candidates for the appointment, including such names as Elizabeth Glinka (serving on the President’s Council as Spokesperson for Children’s Rights); Human Rights activist Yana Lantratova; and Elena Topoleva-Soldunova. From this list, Putin selected Anna Kuznetsova for the job. Anna is a young mother, she has raised six children of her own, and so she is a bit of an expert in this field. Astakhov himself congratulated his replacement on his Instagram and graciously said some very nice things about her. I’m glad that he isn’t bitter.
A Woman’s Job?
Anna was born in 1982, in the Russian town of Penza, an old Russian frontier town with a colorful history, located 625 kilometers southeast of Moscow. Doing the math, Kuznetsova is 34 years old, going on 35. The VZGLIAD photo doesn’t do her justice; in that one she looks, if not old, well, just …. tired. I found a much better one of her (see above). She is actually quite pretty. Perfect creamy skin. No wrinkles!
In addition to her experience as a mother, Kuznetsova has academic creds as well: She graduated from the State Pedagogical University in Penza with a degree in Psychology. The University is named after Vissarion Belinsky, famous Russian literary critic who lived for a time in Penza. Belinsky hails from the Jacobin and proto-leftist strand of the Russian intelligentsia; a dissident who criticized tsarist autocracy and called for the abolition of serfdom. Belinsky, like his spiritual heir, Nikolai Chernyshevsky, also wrote about the woman’s issue, and promoted equal rights for women. Which brings us back to Anna Kuznetsova. Who, actually, is on quite the other strand of Russian intellectual thought. Not that she appears to be a right-winger or even all that political; but she is definitely a Church person. She is married to a local priest named Alexei Kuznetsov. Which explains the six children. Because it is traditional in the Russian countryside for Orthodox Church families to have lots and lots of kids. They are sort of to Russia what the Mormons are in the U.S. The Kuznetsov family have two daughters and four sons. Using statistical reasoning and Mendeleevan logic, one can speculate that Father Kuznetsov’s sperm carries twice as much Y as X.
Anna’s Church activities are well known. In 2008 she founded a social support organization called “Blagovest” which is the Russian equivalent of “Good News” or “Gospel”. In 2010 she created a fund called “Pokrov”, which is Russian for “cover”, in the sense of a roof over one’s head. The mission of this fund is to support families, maternity issues, and children. In addition to these funds, Anna has worked in several other charitable and philanthropic organizations, including one called “The Mothers of Russia”. These institutions perform charitable works, help mothers and children in distress, and politically support “traditional family values”.
Everybody quoted has a favorable opinion of Kuznetsova, noting her professional demeanor, her kindness and her modesty. One commenter called her “a very good egg”. People noted that, in addition to her experience with children, Anna is also very familiar with local issues, with the everyday problems encountered by real families trying to live normal lives and raise their kids out in the regions.