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Street light revolution When locals didn't fall to their knees to thank this Russian official for a lamp, he flew into a rage and threatened to cut off the town

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The opening ceremony for a street light in the town of Kholmets. Oleg Dubov is the man standing in the center.
The opening ceremony for a street light in the town of Kholmets. Oleg Dubov is the man standing in the center.

Oleg Dubov, the long-time head of the Tver region’s Oleninsky district, recently staged a grand opening ceremony for the launch of a lone street light in the town of Kholmets. He assembled a crowd, brought out balloons, and even held a ribbon cutting. When some in the audience started criticizing the event, however, Dubov turned on his people, lashing out with obscenities and accusing his constituents of trying to stage a drunken “mini-Maidan” revolution.

The incident took place on July 26, but the Russian media only took notice after the popular blogger Ilya Varlamov wrote about it on August 4. The ceremony for the street light was carried out as part of the so-called Local Initiative Support Program (PPMI). According to the Vkontakte group Nash Dom: Oleninsky Raion, the people of Kholmets had been waiting for a street light for so long that they “came to the opening ceremony as if it were a holiday celebration.” The lamp post was decorated in balloons and multi-colored flags, and Dubov was front and center for a formal ribbon cutting.

According to the news portal eTver, it wasn’t long before Dubov was in a heated argument with several of his constituents. One woman asked if the street light could be moved or adjusted, so it illuminated the road (which leads to a water tower), instead of shining on an unoccupied house (as it does now). Another woman suggested that a street light should be installed at a nearby bus stop located near a school and two local stores.

Instantly annoyed, Dubov barked back, “This is none of your damn business!” When two young men (in town to visit their parents) spoke up, Dubov started swearing at them, in front of the whole crowd, which included several children. People asked him to mind his language and stop smoking, but Dubov only doubled down and continued his tantrum.

Afterwards, the Vkontakte group Nash Dom: Oleninsky Raion announced that “a group of drunk, aggressive young people” who don’t live in the town but have “relatives with close ties to the opposition” disrupted the street light’s opening ceremony. “The alcohol-fueled riffraff started shouting slogans and insults. Also well sauced, one of these guests’ mothers joined in — everyone burning through their vodka. The head of our district was there, looking into these illuminated faces. These people were basically nobodies, but they were already acting like they owned the place, and not just in Kholmets. Throughout the district, the whole opposition fancies itself some kind of ‘infantry,’” the Vkontakte group’s post says.

Here's what all the fuss is about.
Here's what all the fuss is about.

On his own Vkontakte page, Oleg Dubov called the confrontation at the street light ceremony a “mini-Maidan by drunk vacationers,” vowing that the district government would no longer accept new PPMI financial assistance requests from the people of Kholmets. “Territories that allow protests can’t count on any understanding or support from the district,” he explained.

After Ilya Varlamov wrote about Dubov’s outbursts, the district official published a screenshot showing how much the blogger charges for promoted content. Dubov asked his readers, “Any further questions?” implying that Varlamov was paid to drag his name through the mud.

In office since 1996, Oleg Dubov has provoked the public’s rage and ridicule before. Two years ago, he staged a similar opening ceremony for a landfill in the town of Mirny, which several locals also criticized as a “circus timed for the coming elections.” According to the online portal eTver, residents in Kholmets are preparing an official complaint to the region’s governor about Dubov.

Story by Alexander Filimonov, translation by Kevin Rothrock