Governor of Russia’s remote & frozen far-eastern peninsula of Kamchatka plans to lift local mood with ‘Ministry of Happiness’


Pharrell Williams would surely approve: the governor of the vast, but remote and sparsely populated Kamchatka region has proposed setting up a Ministry of Happiness to lift the mood on the wet and windy weather-beaten promontory.

Kamchatka, the size of the United Kingdom, with a population smaller than that of Malta, is snowbound for half the year, and has a climate ranging from subarctic in the south to polar in the north. Now, Governor Vladimir Solodov plans to get locals smiling, against the odds. The move forms part of wider reforms to government agencies on the peninsula.

In a statement on the Kamchatka Region government website on Wednesday, Solodov said, “I’m motivated to achieve big results, and while this may sound a little philosophical, the main criteria for this is people’s happiness.” He continued: “It’s genuinely important for me that, in my position, I can make hundreds of thousands of people a little happier each day”.

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The agency’s official title will be the Ministry of Social Welfare and Family Policy, but it will be known as the Ministry of Happiness, to reflect its switch in focus. The department will no longer focus on simply helping those who find themselves in difficult situations. In Solodov’s words, “It’s important for me to make a change, to move away from the ‘ministry for the wronged and vulnerable’… we need to make people better off and happier”.

The 38-year-old was officially named Kamchatka’s governor on 21 September, having been in the position since April. His reform of the region’s government agencies involves enlarging five ministries and phasing out six others. Five bodies will change their names, and two agencies will become ministries.

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Solodov received 80.51 percent of the votes in this September’s election. He’d previously been the head of the government of the Yakutia Republic and, before that, had been in charge of social and economic policy in the Far Eastern Federal District.

In another of his reforms since arriving in Kamchatka, Solodov cancelled the construction of a wine cellar in the local parliament building, after spotting the plan in the budget for the building’s renovation. Instead, he ordered the funds to be used to celebrate the anniversary of the city of Petropavlovsk-Kamchatsky.

All together now: “Clap along if you feel like a room without a roof/ Because I’m happy/ Clap along if you feel like happiness is the truth/ Because I’m happy.”

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