The following article is from my colleague, Paul Roderick Gregory, in The Hoover Institution
Yakutia is a vast swath of permafrost in far eastern Siberia. Its capital, Yakutsk, the world’s second coldest city, lies just south of the polar circle. Yakutsk was built by Gulag labor for its diamonds and gold. Its current governor, Aysen Nikolaev, belongs to Putin’s United Russia party. The fortunate Nikolaev also has a lucrative seat on the board of Russia’s largest diamond mine, which is located in his state.
Loyal governors are supposed to deliver for Putin when it counts. For example, they were expected to deliver an overwhelming vote for the July 1 constitutional amendments that will allow Putin to serve two more terms until 2036.
Russia’s governors did indeed deliver for Putin, and they did so by hook or by crook. The last public opinion polls prior to the referendum had 41 percent voting for the amendments (24 percent undecided). By the end of voting on July 1, 79 percent had supposedly voted for the amendments.
Yakutia had the largest percentage of negative votes – at 41 percent– among the federal regions. With more than twenty million falsified votes nationwide, as estimated by Russian election experts, Yakutia’s real vote likely was for rejection – a rebuke for local officials and for the Kremlin.