Jean Gregoire Sagbo, a 48-year-old from West Africa, became the first black to be elected to office in Russia last month. Sagbo, who moved to Russia 21 years ago to study economics, has been elected as one of Russia’s 10 municipal counselors for Novozavidovo, a town approximately 65 miles north of Moscow. In recent years, Novozavidovo has become an impoverished, garbage-strewn town that suffers from high crime rates and a culture of drug addiction. Sagbo has pledged to clean up pollution and help reduce poverty.
Although Russia is a society typically rife with racial conflict, Sagbo’s race has become a non-issue for the people of Novozavidovo, as people say they see Sagbo as simply an “honest politician,” according to the Associated Press. Vyacheslav Arakelov, the town’s mayor said of Sagbo that, “His skin is black but he is Russian inside. The way he cares about this place, only a Russian can care,” reported Headliner Watch.
Although Sagbo is not the first black person to be involved with Russian politics, he is the first to be elected. Joaquin Crima, who is also from West Africa, ran unsuccessfully to lead a southern district last year, according to the Associated Press.
Russian media has hailed Sagbo as “Russia’s Obama,” a title that once also belonged to Crima. However, Sagbo has rejected this title and said, “My name is not Obama. It’s sensationalism, He is black and I am black, but it’s a totally different situation,” reported the Associated Press.