Altay Krai

   An administrative province of the Russian Federation. Part of the Siberian Federal District and the West Siberian Economic Region, Altay Krai—sometimes called the “Pearl of Siberia”— shares a border with Kazakhstan, Novosibirsk, Kemerovo, and the Altay Republic. It has a population of 2.7 million and covers 169,000 square kilometers of foothills, mountains, and grasslands. Established by the wealthy Demidov family in the 18th century, Barnaul (pop. 650,000) is the regional capital. The province has both heavy and light industry (power generation, engineering, petrochemicals, building materials, and textiles), although its economy has contracted significantly since 1991. Altay Krai is a major producer of agricultural products for Siberia, being the only Russian region in the area to grow crops such as sunflowers, soybeans, sugar beets, and certain kinds of fruit. The area’s mineral-rich mountains include deposits of lead and iron ores, manganese, tungsten, bauxite, gold, and other rare elements. Forests cover much of the large territory, providing the region with rich timber reserves.
   The ethnic makeup of the population is dominated by ethnic Russians (92 percent); however, there is a sizable community of Germans (4 percent), many of whom descend from Mennonites who settled in the region in the early 1900s. Descendents of early communities of Old Believers and Cossacks are also prevalent. A former prosecutor, Aleksandr Karlin, is currently the governor of the Altay Krai administration. During his term of office, he has developed strong trade links with Belarus. Karlin was appointed by Vladimir Putin to replace Mikhail Yevdokimov, who died in a car crash in 2005.
   Yevdokimov was a popular singer and stand-up comedian before assuming the governorship; he was one of only a few governors to win office against a Putin-backed competitor—the incumbent Aleksandr Surikov—in the last years of popular elections. Yevdokimov was under pressure to resign when he was killed; his death came shortly after he suffered a no-confidence vote, which passed by a vote of 46 to 5.
   While his death was not suspicious in nature, it did cause a national outcry when the driver of the other car, Oleg Shcherbinsky, was sentenced to four years of imprisonment (the decision was later overturned). The case highlighted the problem of irresponsible driving on the part of state officials, which often puts average citizens in danger; Yevdokimov’s car had been traveling at a rate of more than 120 kilometers per hour.
   See also Religion.

Historical Dictionary of the Russian Federation. . 2010.

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