New Governor in Russian Karelia: Alexander Hudilainen

Those of you who follow Russian news know already that Russian Karelia has a new Governor - Alexander Hudilainen. During the last 11 years he was the Head of the Gatchina Municipal Administration in the Leningrad region. In December 2011 he was elected to chair the Legislative Assembly of the region. His appointment to head Karelia has been met with skepticism in the Republic: his predecessor, Andrey Nelidov, whose work was considered unsatisfactory, also came from the Leningrad region. And there was the expectation that a new Governor should come from the ranks of Karelian elite. But Hudilainen has no links to Karelia, apart from the fact that during his childhood he spent summer vacations at his uncle's house in Segezha.

Hudilainen is an ethic Finn and knows Finnish well. His appointment can be read as a message from the Kremlin that now Moscow wants to encourage closer cooperation between Russian Karelia and Finland. If so, this move is very surprising, given that previously the policy has been quite the opposite. Yesterday, at a brief informal press-conference Hudilainen said literally: "The Republic has many useful things. I think it is necessary to use this potential in order to attract investors here. Finland is nearby. I think we can manage to agree with them so that big investors would come over here. I can give the example of the Gatchina municipality. Once I have managed to arrange a number of large investment projects there. One of them was the construction of a dairy factory, one of the most advanced in Europe. Its name is Galaktika [with participation of Valio, DZ]... But this project did not go easily. It took a lot of efforts to attract the investor. I had even to use my Finnish language skills. There is a lot in Karelia, which can be of interest for Finland. So we need to establish en efficient dialogue with them, it is necessary to work with investors." These words were said after Hudilainen met President Putin a day before...

However, I would not exaggerate "the Finnish connection". Just like Nelidov's appointment in 2010, the appointment of Hudilainen suggests that Kremlin is not really interested in Karelia. Otherwise, a more prominent figure would be appointed to head the Republic. The events rather suggest that Moscow wants a quiet Karelia. Given Hudilainen's background (i.e. 25 years of work in municipal administration), he is probably more capable of achieving this aim than Nelidov, who got involved in serious conflicts with members of Karelian elite.

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