We all lose our tempers occasionally on social media, but very few of us are also the governor of Karelia, a northwestern region of Russia that borders Finland. Artur Parfenchikov can claim both these honors, after telling off one of his constituents this September, when she asked the government to restore childcare services in her remote town.
Parfenchikov’s press secretary now says the governor regrets “getting emotional” with Anna Vlasova, a mother who contacted him online and complained about the closure of her town’s daycare center, due to public spending cutbacks. Parfenchikov now apparently plans to visit the village of Suoeki, where Vlasova lives, and “solve the issue on the spot.”
The governor took a slightly different tone in early September, when he told Vlasova that her town is simply too small to justify state spending on childcare. “Take the full three years of maternity leave [half of which would be unpaid], work something out with the grandmas, hire a nanny — do what everyone does. But enough of these ‘comments’ already. Aren’t you bored yet? When the child turns three, take him to Suoyarvi [16 miles away],” the governor wrote on Vkontakte. When Vlasova complained that appealing to Parfenchikov was useless, he answered, “Of course it’s useless. Maybe you’re child’s father or his grandpas should be getting involved here.”
As the newspaper Novaya Gazeta points out, a higher retirement age and the rising profile of domestic political issues in Russia has made the public especially sensitive to state officials’ outbursts and gaffes online. For example, in early November, Sverdlovsk regional youth policy department director Olga Glatskikh fielded a question about insufficient public funding for children’s projects, telling a room of women that the government owes parents nothing. “The state didn’t ask you to have kids,” Glatskikh said. In October, Saratov’s (now former) regional labor minister, Natalia Sokolova, said 3,500 rubles (about $50) should be enough to meet senior citizens’ “physiological needs,” encouraging pensioners to subsist on cheap pasta.
Photo on front page: Pixabay