Who is Maria Zakharova on BBC’s 100 Women 2016 list?

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Politicians actively using social media isn’t a new concept, but those who do it well like Russia’s foreign ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova are only a handful. We take a closer look at her most popular Facebook posts and see what her online audience like about her

By Fann Sim & Catherine Barney

Maria Zakharova is listed under the “influential” and “politics” categories. She is also described by the BBC’s 100 Women 2016 list to have “made waves with her combative and colourful style”. She was appointed official press director for the ministry of foreign affairs in 2015, first woman ever to hold the position in Russia.

Watch her interview with RT about her appointment to the ministry.

Since then, Zakharova has livened up the ministry’s online engagement through animated, day-to-day posts on her Facebook page and blog. For a friendly touch, the 40-year-old diplomat often signs off online as Masha, a common pet name for Maria. Her posts on Facebook are diverse, often ranging from her comments (sometimes, scathing) on international relations to light-hearted ones like updates on her day. Among them, the most popular ones are often updates or nostalgic posts on her personal life.

In the span of one year since she took over the helm of the foreign ministry’s press office, her followers have grown tenfold from about 20,000 to more than 240,000.

She has yet to make any comments on her Facebook page about making the BBC’s list, and has instead posted a picture of her shaking Patriarch Kirill’s hand on his 70th birthday.

Priorities, you know.

What Maria Zakharova does well is balance her vibrant Facebook presence with a personal touch, sharp critics and an inside look to life in the Russian foreign ministry.

23,000👍

Posted earlier this year, Maria Zakharova standing in official ministry of foreign affairs uniform soars to the most liked post of 2016. Not one for posting and calling it a day, Zakharova interacts with her audience in the comments.

One commenter said he looked into her biography and wrote, “Father’s a diplomat. Mother not. It’s weird,” alluding to the lack of information on her personal life.

Zakharova responded candidly and said that her mother is in the art industry. Her candor also won her an award for her “openness to the media” given by the Moscow Union of Journalists.

20,000👍

Zakharova’s nonchalant posting of both her professional and personal life has made this Russian politician relatable to the public. On the eve of polling day pitting Trump against Clinton, Zakharova posted a photo of her wedding day 11 years ago in New York where she worked as the press secretary of the permanent mission of Russia to the United Nations.

After her time in New York, she returned to Russia to work as the deputy head for press at the ministry of foreign affairs.

The press director has kept her family life largely out of view but is happy to talk about her personal life as seen in this story.

20,000👍

During US secretary of state John Kerry’s visit to the Kremlin in March this year, Zakharova provided a restricted view with this snap of the rostra, comparing notes of the two top diplomats. By the time they finished, she says, they both said the same thing.  

Kerry visited Moscow again in July. During this visit, Maria Zakharova gave RT a tour of her office, the foreign ministry.

Zakharova is no stranger to TV, having participated in numerous political talk shows in both Russian and English. Once, she courted controversy when she made remarks on Russian state television for suggesting that Trump won because of the Jews. Making matters worse, she spoke in a Jewish accent.

18,000👍

Before Facebook users spread foreign affairs minister Sergey Lavrov’s deadpan comment about all the pussies in the US election, Zakharova’s candid shot of Lavrov snapping a picture of the Turkish mountain, Ararat was gaining Facebook momentum.

The setting of the picture is almost sweet, like two friends taking a trip together documenting their travels.

The first comment dishes out a soft political jab saying, Турки ноту пустят.))), meaning: the Turks will make a diplomatic correspondence 🙂 🙂 🙂 Inferring that Turkey will take issue with Lavrov for taking that picture.

Zakharova’s keeps her reply light but sharp with some sarcastic political history. “There’s a joke. The Turkish government protested against the fact that the coat of arms of USSR Armenia depicted Ararat, which is not a part of Armenia. The USSR People’s Commissar for Foreign Affairs Georgy Chicherin said: “The flag of Turkey, depicts a crescent moon, but the moon is not a part of Turkey”.

17,000👍

Zakharova commands even without words. A change of her profile photo can garner 17,000 and thousands of comments some of which contain questions related to her field of work.

She answers some of them, including one that asks about the application of the UN charter with regard to Donbass and Luhansk.

No vapidness.

17,000👍

Obama seems to be getting in the way again as the Russian foreign ministry make their way to a United Nation meeting in Manhattan.

As Facebook gets to peek into the exasperation of politicians day-to-day activities, Zakharova snaps another picture of Sergey Lavrov, this time out on the streets with his hands in his pockets. The caption reads: “Manhattan blocked by Obama. Lavrov didn’t wait in a traffic jam and went to the United Nations by foot.”

It’s relatable, even though most of us have never been late to a UN meeting. You can almost hear Zakharova laughing as she posts this picture.

Apart from Zakharova, another Russian woman has also made the list. Runner Yuliya Stepanova was listed as a “defiant” woman for gathering evidence of state-sponsored doping in Russia. Stepanova now lives in secret with her husband.

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