Quoting Reuters, “Maria Gaidar, whose father Yegor was Russia’s first reformist prime minister after the 1991 collapse of the Soviet Union, was appointed last Friday to be deputy governor of Ukraine’s southern Odessa region, a political hotspot now led by former Georgian President Mikheil Saakashvili.”
Maria Gaidar is Russian, and she holds Russian citizenship. There is no obvious notation of Ukrainian, or part-Ukrainian ancestry, that would put in a less jarring context the appointment of a Russian citizen to the Ukraine administration of Petro Poroshenko. Her father was a prime minister of Russia. From 2/09 to 6/11, Maria herself was a deputy governor of Kirov Oblast, which, note, is nowhere near the Caucasus or Ukraine.
The demographics of entire Odessa Oblast are not at my fingertips, so here are the (Wikipedia) 2001 demos of the Odessa-the-city, the largest city and capital of the region:
- Ukrainians: 622,900 people (61.6%)
- Russians: 292,000 people (29.0%)
- Bulgarians: 13,300 people (1.3%)
- Jews: 12,400 people (1.2%)
- Moldovans: 7,600 people (0.7%)
- Belarusians: 6,400 people (0.6%)
- Armenians: 4,400 people (0.4%)
- Poles: 2,100 people (0.2%)
The governor of Odessa Oblast isn’t Russian either; Mikheil Saakashvili is former president of Georgia. The strangeness is apparently caused by a desire to find rulers who can’t be bribed by Odessans. But the numbers do not imply that the appointment of a Russian has any particular political benefit, such as the pacification of hostile ethnics. The appointment of an ethnic Russian, however liberal or hospitable, is vaguely analogous to appointing during World War II, a member of the Japanese pre-war social democratic parties to some mid level position in the state government of Hawaii.
The Odsessans don’t seem to care. The Ukrainian fascists must, but their opinion apparently means little away from the front lines. Maria Gaidar’s motives are obvious. In Russia, her life is in danger. The Odessa appointment is an opportunity to continue in political life, doing…something. From Russia come loud noises of indignation.
A surmise. The field of possible choices for the position could not have been small. For the position of deputy governor, there exists a huge pool of qualified individuals, both domestic and foreign. Have you ever wanted to be deputy governor of Odessa? Here’s your chance. Send your resume stat to
President of Ukraine , 11 Bankova Str., 01220, Kyiv, Ukraine
Perhaps we are missing something. Surely, somewhere, there must be at least one Ukrainian who is both as honest as the day is long and unafraid of getting whacked by the Odessa mafia. Could it be that there is method in the madness of appointing a Russian woman to a political post in far western Ukraine?
Since Donald Trump would snap up this appointment in a heartbeat, there well might be, a message to Putin:
“If the rebel leaders, who seem intellectually underendowed to the extent that their knuckles drag the ground, were instead, some other enlightened Russians, of whom Maria Gaidar is an exuberant example, we might come to terms.”