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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Mayor Gives Father Frost Yearly Moscow Welcome

Father Frost and his sidekick Snegurochka traded in their traditional troika for a convertible and a police escort down Tverskaya Ulitsa this weekend on their second annual visit to Moscow.

Police closed down Tverskaya, the city's most central avenue, Sunday morning to accommodate the motorcade carrying Father Frost, or Ded Moroz, to City Hall, where 2,000 young fans were waiting.

Father Frost's visits are part of a 1997 deal between Moscow Mayor Yury Luzhkov and Vologda region Governor Vyacheslav Pozgalyov, which created the Veliky Ustyug Father Frost Hometown Project. The project is aimed at building up the Vologda regional economy by modifying the Father Frost myth.

While Father Frost, a Soviet creation, has always been said to hail from the North Pole, the project has declared his hometown to be Veliky Ustyug in the Vologda region.

But despite the new legend, the project's directors did not find any suitable Father Frosts in Veliky Ustyug and were forced to import Muscovite Dmitry Nazarov to play the role.

Andrei Borisyonok, director of the project's Vologda office, said it was important that Father Frost be tall and stately, with sharply defined features.

"Nazarov is over 2 meters tall, and the people who see him tell us that he is an ideal Ded Moroz," he said.

The project provides significant benefits for Veliky Ustyug, some 800 kilometers north of the nation's capital.

Since entering the agreement, Moscow has funded construction of a 640-student school in Veliky Ustyug, which was completed in time for the beginning of classes this past September. Moscow has also funded construction of a municipal swimming pool, Borisyonok said.

But while Moscow foots the bill, the project appears to have few direct benefits for the capital - besides the lucky children who get to see Father Frost on Tverskaya. Borisyonok acknowledged that the mayor's political aspirations may play a role.

"It's probably about politics: If everything is good in the regions, then things will be good for Moscow," he said.