Russia emerges with its own Obama!

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Moscow, Aug.4 (ANI): A watermelon seller, Joaquim Crima, who lives in a small town in southern Russia, is being dubbed the "Volgograd Obama".

Crima, a 37-year-old native of Guinea-Bissau, plans to stand for mayor of the district of Srednyaya Akhtuba, part of the Volgograd Region.

If elected, he would become the first black man ever to hold public office in Russia.

Even though the elections are to be held in October, Crima has a Russian passport and has lived in the district for more than a decade, reports The Times.

A series of large billboards has appeared in Srednyaya Akhtuba showing him dressed in a crisp white shirt and tie, with the slogan: "Vasily Crima - the new head of the district".

There are thousands of Africans in Russia, most of whom, like Crima, arrived on scholarships to Russian universities. Many are forced to stay on due to political instability or lack of economic opportunities back home, but they are subjected to ingrained everyday racism and the threat of racist attacks.

Unlike US President Barack Obama, Crima has decided to play into, rather than attempt to transcend, the racial stereotypes.

He has promised that if elected he will "toil like a negro" for the good of the district, which has problems with water and gas supplies, bad roads, and allegedly corrupt officials.

In September, Crima will mark 20 years of living in Russia and the former Soviet Union.

He first arrived in 1989 as a student on a Soviet-era exchange programme, and was sent to university in Moldova, then a Soviet republic. After a year, he was transferred to the Pedagogical University in Volgograd where he specialised in biochemistry.

He decided to stay in Russia after graduating, and met Anait, a Russian woman of Armenian origin, whom he later married. The pair moved to her town of Srednyaya Akhtuba more than a decade ago and have a nine-year-old son.

Despite his education, the would-be mayor makes a living standing by the side of the road between Volgograd and Srednyaya Akhtuba, selling watermelons grown and harvested by his father-in-law.

Because he lives in a town where everybody knows him, Crima doesn't face the day-to-day racism that plagues African immigrants in Moscow and other Russian provincial cities.

He says local people have accepted him, although when he travels to Volgograd itself or further afield, he has to be on his guard. (ANI)

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