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PROTESTANT ELECTED MAYOR OF MAJOR RUSSIAN CITY

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For the first time ever since the days of the Tsars, a Protestant has been elected mayor of a major Russian city.

In a March 18 run-off election in the auto-making city of Tolyatti/Volga, the Evangelical Christian and political independent Sergey Andreyev defeated  “United Russia’s” candidate, Alexander Shakhov. Andreyev won nearly 57 percent of the vote. Shakhov, the candidate of Vladimir Putin’s “United Russia” party, 40 percent.

The English-language Moscow Times reported that the upset occurred despite the national government having poured billions into the city to bail out AvtoVAZ, the city’s largest employer.

“United Russia” attempted to stir up sentiment against the country’s religious minorities. In Tolyatti it portrayed itself as “the fatherland’s savior from sinister and ominous foreign powers.” Posters up around the city portrayed Tolyatti’s Orthodox cathedral awash in bright colors beside the local Baptist church in dark greys, resting below a hovering black raven.

In a statement on March 15, the Russian Union of Evangelical Christians-Baptists (RUECB) protested the characterizations, accusing those responsible for the placards of “religious racism” and “kindling of inter-confessional hatred.”

Similar tactics were used in February 2009, when a forged Baptist newspaper in Smolensk (near Belarus) had branded a candidate for that city mayor as a Baptist bent upon turning the city into “a hotbed of foreign Baptist activity.”

Andreyev, a 39-year-old father of four, is not a Baptist. In a recent interview he stated: “I am neither Scientologist, Baptist nor Hare Krishna. I am an Evangelical Christian.”

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