In the film, Double Diamond Kachkanar: A Mountain, a Factory, and One Town’s Uphill Battle to Elect a Mayor, the New Eurasia Foundation’s Maria Eismont, Charles Maynes, and Andrei Babaev explored regional elections in Russia. Double Diamond Kachkanar is the second film they have made on this subject; they screened the first, How Krasnoturinsk Elected a Mayor, at Carnegie in March.
Carnegie hosted a screening of the new film, followed by a panel discussion with Regina Yan, executive vice president of the Eurasia Foundation, Maria Eismont, Charles Maynes, and Independent Kachkanar and Kachkanarsky Chetverg’s editor Lyudmila Lapteva. Carnegie’s Thomas de Waal moderated.
The mayoral race in Kachkanar
The new film revisits the March 2009 mayoral race in Kachkanar, a small one-factory town deep in the Ural Mountains. Kachkanar’s forty thousand residents are entirely dependent on the local mining plant, which is owned by Evraz Group, Russia’s second largest steelmaker.
In March 2009, the plant put forward its own candidate for the mayoral elections, Vladimir Glukhikh. Glukhikh was, according to Lapteva, a decent candidate. However, he used his connections to try to prevent his opponent from getting fair media coverage. This ultimately turned the population against Glukhikh and in favor of Sergei Nabokikh, a newcomer from a different region of Russia. Nabokikh won the election, in no small part due to the barriers created by the plant’s candidate.
The role of civil society
The newspapers Independent Kachkanar and Kachkanarsky Chetverg followed and covered the elections very closely. Lapteva and her team led the protest against the plant’s dominance in local politics, in spite of attempts to block the paper’s distribution. Inspired by the preceding elections in Krasnoturinsk, the subject of Eurasia Foundation’s first documentary, and the strong local independent media coverage, the citizens of Kachkanar challenged the local steel mill’s hold over the town.
Eismont and Maynes pointed out that powerful civil society outbursts like the one in Kachkanar have occurred recently in at least four small towns across Russia. They expressed their hope that documentary case studies like those in Kachkanar and Krasnoturinsk would help dispel the widely-held perception that Russia is undemocratic and that its people are subservient to those in power.
The new mayor
Lapteva explained that under Mayor Nabokikh, her papers have continued to cover the news from the independent perspective. This has sometimes brought them into conflict with the new administration.
Yet in spite of those conflicts, Lapteva concluded that the new mayor elected by the people of Kachkanar has shown himself to be a good spokesman for the town. “He understands many things: he understands the impact of the plant on the town, their interests, but he also understands that the people who work at the plant also have a big impact on how the factory runs.” As a mayor chosen by the citizens, rather than the plant’s management, Nabokikh has the chance to be a real representative for all the people of the town.