Scandal In Crimea: An Actual Potemkin Village? – Part II

Dear Readers,

After yesterday’s historical introduction to the concept of a “Potemkin Village”, it is time to examine the allegations made by Crimean community activist Alexander Talipov.

Feodosia, Crimea, Russia

Talipov, along with Ukrainian blogger Anatoly Shariy, is concerned that the government’s promise of decent housing to some 40 Crimean families, is not being fulfilled on schedule.  Talipov put together and Shariy publicized,   this video expose of the “Potemkin Village” created by bureaucrats in the ancient city of Feodosia.

When it assumed authority over the Crimean Peninsula, the Russian Federal government found a decaying infrastructure, the result of 25 years of Ukrainian neglect.  Russia made many promises to the people of Crimea, vowing to better their lives; including an initiative to move families out of decaying residential houses into brand-new modern flats.

A few days ago, 7 November, Russian media covered a pompous public event, in which high-ranking members of the Russian government handed over apartment keys to eager families.  Officials present included Federal Minister Mikhail Men, Crimean Prime Minister Sergei Aksenov, and many others.

10-year-old Misha Men as a type of Russian “Dennis the Menace”

Mikhail Men has as interesting biography.  Born in 1960 in the Moscow area, Misha was the son of a Preacher-man and hailed from a priestly family.  He was a child actor; at the age of 10 he starred in a Soviet film, a children’s musical, called “Tales of Dennis” (Денискины рассказы, based on the stories of Soviet children’s fiction writer Viktor Iusefovich Dragunsky.

Leaving behind his career on the silver screen, Misha Men finished middle school in 1978 and was accepted into the Moscow Gubkin Institute of the Oil, Chemical, and Gas Industries.  Men did not graduate from this program, but he persevered in the field, was re-trained as an economist, and obtained certification in managing oil and gas companies.  From 1980-82 Men served in the Soviet navy, way out in the Pacific Ocean fleet, where he obtained additional certification in operating cranes.

After his service, Men changed his profession once again, returning to college, this time graduating with a degree in art and film directing.  However, in the end this poly-math did not return to the cinema, instead he continued his career on the economic track.

With the collapse of the Soviet Union, Men found himself in the same situation as many others:  Scrambling to make a living.  He attempted to found his own business, as a publisher.  Later, he changed professions once again, and became a politician.  In 1993 he was elected to the Moscow regional Duma, as a delegate for the liberal “Yabloko” political party.  In 1996 he started his own political movement called the “All-Russian Christian Union”, but this movement never gained enough votes to enter the parliament.

Ministry of Housing logo: Gives you the keys to your BRAND NEW HOME! Then flips you the bird and sticks its tongues out.

In 2002 Men left the Yabloko party, and, at the age of 42, was appointed Deputy Mayor of Moscow, under then-Mayor Yury Luzhkov.  Little Dennis came a long way, through a long and winding road!   Continuously evolving, Men joined the ruling United Russia Party, was appointed Governor of the Ivanovskaya Oblast, resigned from that post in 2013; and since then has occupied a position which combines all of his experiences and talents:  Minister of Housing, Construction, and Communal Services for the Russian Federation.  It is his job to see that Russian citizens are housed properly and provided with the basic services, such as heat and hot water.

A Peek Behind the Curtain

As a powerful Federal official, Mikhail Men’s arrival at the Feodosia media event endowed it with a suitable pomp and dignity.  But was little Dennis just shown a Potemkin Village?  You be the judge!  In tomorrow’s post we will work our way through the Shariy video and the film shot by Alexander Talipov.  Along the way we will examine Talipov’s allegations against the construction firm of a man named Roman Lukichov.

[to be continued]

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