Marii El debts and Venetian-Flemish style

What the governor of Marii El republic left behind after 16 years in office

Head of Marii El stepped down voluntarily but has still ended up in detention: he has been accused of bribery. After 16 years in office, he left the small republic with sky-high debts, Venetian architecture, killing political competition and poverty, as Eduard Belozrov reports.

About arrest

On April 13, 2017, Leonid Markelov was arrested by the Investigative Committee (IC) on suspicion of taking a bribe of 235 mln rubles ($4.2 mln).A businessman Nikolai Krivash and the head of the local Region-12 TV channel Natalia Kozhanova have also been detained. Their homes, offices and a Moscow apartment of Markelov’s daughter had been searched.

According to the IC, Markelov received a bribe from Krivash for “patronage”, with the money allegedly to be spent on fictional purchase of shares of the Teplichnoye farm controlled by Markelov. Kozhanova has acted as a mediator.

Leonid Markelov under arrest. Photo by Andrei Nikerichev/ Moskva agency

Markelov told the court reporters that the farm had cost much more than the money paid for it, and he had even paid taxes form that sum.

Markelov’s lawyer Igor Trunov failed to persuade the Moscow court to release his client on bail of 5 mln rubles. Markelov will have to remain in detention until June 12.

Natalia Kozhanova remains in detention as well, while Krivash might be hiding in Australia.

About property

Natalia Kozhanova has been closely connected to Markelov’s family. The Region-12 has been established by Tatyana Markelova, the ex-governor’s step-mother.

Markelova owns several companies where Kozhina has been a director. Markelova also founded four more companies which have won 20 lucrative contracts since 2012.


The Teplichnoye farm used to be a property of the governor’s wife Irina and after their divorce in 2013 the farm had been acquired by his step-mother.

Leonid Markelov in 2015 declared income of 3 mln rubles and four apartments shared with his son and daughter. His wife in 2011 earned 17 mln rubles.

About Akashevo case

There is a suggestion that the case over the bribe given to Markelov has been just an episode in the larger investigation of the fraud in the Akashevo agrarian

The case involves a republic’s former agricultural minister Iraida Dolgusheva. She has been suspected of forging the documents to obtain state financing. The leader of the Communist Party faction in the Marii El parliament Gennady Zubkov said the holding had received some 40 bln rubles.

Former head of the Akashevo holding Nikolai Krivash

The Akashevo owned by two judicial entities occupies 5% of the Russian chicken market. In 2016, the plans to incorporate it into the agrarian holding connected to the federal minister of agriculture Alexander Tkachev were revealed.

About resignation

Unlike other governors ousted lately, Markelov has resigned voluntarily, announcing his plans to “relax and write lyrics”.

A political analyst Nikolai Mironov suggests that Markelov’s resignation has been connected to the actions of the presidential envoy in the Volga federal district Mikhail Babich and a deputy chief of the Presidential Administration Sergei Kirienko. A political expert Konstantin Kalachev points at the conflict between Babich and Markelov over the head of the republic’s tax inspection Kirill Knyazev.

Leonid Markelov was going to “have a rest and write lyrics” after resignation – © RIAN / Alexei Druzhinin

The Nasha Versiya newspaper speculates that Markelov’s resignation and appointment of the head of the Moscow region’s court of arbitration Alexander Yevstifeev as acting governor could be used as a tool to solve political issues during the upcoming regional elections.

They want a Communist Sergei Mamayev from Kirov to challenge Yevstifeev in a competition for the Marii El governor’s office. If Mamayev leaves Kirov, the region’s acting governor Igor Vasilyev (United Russia) will win the elections easily.

What else Markelov left behind

Immediately upon his appointment, Yevstifeev started to clean the “Augean stables” left by Markelov, including “sky-high debts” and pre-bankruptcy situation in the republic.

By Jan 1, the republic’s debt has amounted to 13.513 bln rubles.

The regional mass media dubbed Markelov “Leonid the Marvellous” hinting on his love to specific beautification of the cities, where the exact copies of the Sent Marco square and other European architectural wonders had been erected.

Remake of a Flemish city in the downtown Yoshkar-Ola Photo by

Markelov wanted to reconstruct European environment in Yoshkar-Ola on the whim. He also remade there the copies of Moscow’s Spasskaya tower and the Tsar Cannon, erected Yoshkar-Ola’s own red-brick Kremlin, as well as the monuments to the American actress Graсу Kelly, Monegasque prince Rainier, Patriarch Alexi II and other celebrities.

In September 2015, Markelov disliked how the residents of a remote village had met him. Offended, he threatened to cut off the road connecting the village to the outer world. Later he said he was kidding.

In 2000s, the local media which were disagreed with Markelov, had to print their issues in the other regions. In 2005, the European Parliament adopted a resolution about human rights violations in Marii El citing pressure from the governor on the Mari-language population and the media.

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