Mikhail Krasnov, 45, is Colombia’s first mayor of Russian origin. Krasnov is a university professor of economics and has lived for 16 years in Tunja, the city of which he will be mayor for the 2024-2027 term. The new local mayor managed, with almost no financial resources, to win last October’s local elections, beating the city’s traditional major candidates.
Krasnov spoke exclusively to Colombia One about his view of Colombia and being a foreign-born mayor in the country. He received us at the Founder’s House, where Gonzalo Suárez Rendón, who founded what today is the capital of the department of Boyacá, was living on August 6, 1539, precisely the day when, four centuries later, the new mayor of the capital of the beautiful department of Boyacá began his term of office.
Asked about the national political history, Krasnov highlights the presidency of Juan Manuel Santos, because he achieved peace with the extinct FARC and international recognition in the form of the Nobel Prize. As for Gustavo Petro, after assuring that he voted for him and that at that time it was “a historical necessity”, he is in favor of working with the president, as he would do with any other president of the country.
Colombia’s Russian Mayor is a proud Tunjano
Krasnov, who came to Tunja as an exchange student from the German university where he studied economics, is enthusiastic about his city. Son of a Russian father and Ukrainian mother, he is very clear that citizens will demand the changes he promised in his campaign, so he has been preparing his mandate for weeks. Turning the city into an industrial center, getting investors and taking advantage of its proximity to Bogota, is his main goal. To this end, he hopes to work side by side with all the country’s institutions, regardless of their ideology.
“Tunja is the city that was once the capital of the country. It is very old with great potential… a city of opportunities. It is the third most competitive city in the country, after Bogotá and Medellín. We are well positioned because we have highways to the plains and to the coast and we share the same economic region with Bogotá,” says the mayor as he explains his projects.
In addition to obtaining industrial investments, Krasnov wants to make Tunja “a center of religious and cultural tourism, turning it into a center of Catholic pilgrimage in the style of Santiago de Compostela (Spain)”.
Watch the full interview with Tunja Mayor Mikhail Krasnov:
“El Ruso” (the Russian in Spanish), as his neighbors call him, sees Colombia’s political and social conditions as a great opportunity. “For the first time I am in a country where every year is better. I was born in the Soviet Union, where every year was worse, then I studied in Europe, where the golden 80’s and 90’s are over (…). Now I am in Colombia where everything is getting better”, he says, convinced that this is Colombia’s moment.
The mayor understands, however, that the Colombian education system must be changed, putting more emphasis on the humanities, especially in secondary education stages, and avoiding university entrance before the age of 18.
On a curious note, the mayor explains that he had to go to the Public Registrar’s Office to prove that he was a real person. He received a complaint from some opposing lawyer stating that Krasnov was not a “physical person, but a creation, a microchip projection”.
So “I had to go for a biometric examination to prove that I am me,” the mayor said, with a laugh about having to prove that he is not a hologram.
Changing form and substance
One of his goals is to change the way people understand public life. “They see me in the street and tell me: don’t forget about me”, he says, pointing out that the people elected him to fight against corruption, and yet such conduct perpetuates corruption “because clientelism, influence peddling, is corruption”.
He considers that in order to change the image of Colombia abroad, the first thing to do is to understand that the country must stop selling a bad image of itself, through television series that emphasize a negative view not truly representative of the Colombian people.
As for his political future, he says that he is not ruling anything out, but that to go beyond the mayor’s office, the legal framework would have to be changed. The Constitution does not allow a Colombian not born in Colombia to be president, for example. For Krasnov this is absurd and he gives as an example his 4 year old daughter: Colombian, as she was born in Colombia, she lives in Russia. “30 years from now she could arrive, not speak Spanish, not have lived a single day here and yet be president of Colombia”.
A few days ago, the mandate of the first Russian mayor of Colombia started. The challenge is huge, almost as big as the enthusiasm radiated by the professor who one day decided to take up the task, as Mayor of Tunja, of working to improve his adopted land of Colombia.