|Jean Gregoire Sagbo, Russia's 1st black politician|
In a country where racism is entrenched and often violent, Mr. Sagbo's election as one of Novozavidovo's 10 city councilors is a milestone. But among the town's 10,000 people, the 48-year-old from Benin is viewed simply a Russian who cares about his hometown. He promises to revive the impoverished, garbage-strewn town where he has lived for 21 years and raised a family. His plans include reducing rampant drug addiction, cleaning up a polluted lake and delivering heating to homes.
Mr. Sagbo isn't the first black in Russian politics. Another West African, Joaquin Crima of Guinea-Bissau, ran for head of a southern Russian district a year ago but was heavily defeated. Mr. Crima was dubbed by the media "Russia's Obama." Now they've shifted the title to Mr. Sagbo, much to his annoyance. "My name is not Obama. It's sensationalism," he said. "He is black and I am black, but it's a totally different situation."
Inspired by communist ideology, Mr. Sagbo came to Soviet Russia in 1982 to study economics in Moscow. There he met his wife, a Novozavidovo native. He moved to the town about 65 miles north of Moscow in 1989 to be close to his in-laws. Today he is a father of two, and negotiates real estate sales for a Moscow conglomerate. His council job is unpaid.
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