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GALINA PEROVSKAYA, TEXTILE WORKER, SARATOV

All my life I lived in the Soviet Union, and people had lots of rights and opportunities - most importantly, a guaranteed free education. I'm from a large family, my mother was an uneducated cleaner, yet I became a senior textile engineer. I have the Soviet educational system to thank for that.

I was still a young woman when I became general director of a large textile enterprise. Everything functioned properly, we had plenty of income. In fact our products were so profitable that I was able to build a new factory equipped with the most modern technology. This success attracted people looking for work to the town, and we built a hostel where newcomers could live until we could build more apartments. Gradually we built new homes so our workers would not have to wait for accommodation from the city authorities.

We even managed to build two new kindergartens for factory employees - the women were so happy and secure about the future they all had lots of babies. The town had a wonderful atmosphere, full of smiling children. Now the birth rate in Russia is falling. Our factories and our town have been devastated. That's why I'll be voting for Zyuganov.

DIMITRI KRADINOV, HISTORY STUDENT, TAMBOV

As a member of the Communist Party it's my duty to vote for Zyuganov, but I am also voting for him as an individual. I respect him as a great thinker.

I believe in the theories of the scientist and historian Gumelyov, according to which Russia is a mighty nation doomed to dominate the Eurasian continent. I support the theory of the Modern Russian Idea, which encompasses spiritual rebirth and the power of the Russian state. The epitome of that was the Soviet Union. After the Revolution the country was completely destroyed in the early Twenties, yet within 20 years it became so powerful that only the Soviet Union could conquer the fascist plague, and save Europe.

We can never have real democracy, it's not in people's genes. In the West people have inclined to individualism for centuries. Russians are natural collectivists; that is our tradition. Russian people need a strong leader and a solid structure to control them, because they are naturally cruel, unpredictable and ill-disciplined.

There are only 80 Young Communists in Tambov, but we formed the association less than a year ago, and it is growing quickly. I make speeches at local colleges. The reactions tell me we will have a lot of followers in the near future.

MIKHAIL FELIN, FORMER SPETSNAZ, ATTAMAN OF THE INTER-REGIONAL COSSACK BROTHERHOOD OF RUSSIA, VEDENYOVO

I fought at the White House during the events of October 1993. Later I was illegally arrested and held in prison without charge for nine months. I was only released after a number of deputies, including Zyuganov, intervened in my case.

Gennady Andreyevich is a sober, clever and very honest man, and I believe that he is the only person who can find a way out of the crisis the country is in, and rebuild the army.

We are not afraid that the Cossacks will have problems under the renewed Communists. If you know Russian history, the Cossacks were split after the Revolution. Half of them were with the Red Army, half were against the new regime. But it was not their spirit and culture that was split, they were only divided by their village leaders, the Attamani, who decided to join one side or another for their own benefit.

Even under Stalin, not all the Cossacks were repressed. During the Second World War there was a famous elite Cossack division which won many victories under the red flag.

A genuine Cossack community has always lived according to principles similar to Communism. There was shared ownership of the land, with fixed rights and obligations. Firstly, to work the land for the benefit of the whole community. Secondly, all the men should have military training, so that if the motherland is threatened they can protect her properly.

Today's Cossacks are also split. Our division is the Cossack Brotherhood. We admit only sober, healthy, hardworking people, all with high education, or qualified workers. We have our own businesses, farms, factories, we don't need donations from the state. In fact we are a state within the state, not like those Cossacks around Yeltsin, who are like clowns with their sabres and furry hats. They're not real Cossacks, they're more like beggars - they do nothing but plead for state donations.

NINA BERDNIKOVA, TV JOURNALIST, MOSCOW

Yeltsin's bombardment of the White House in 1993 exposed his so- called democracy as a sham. He claimed to reject all special privileges, yet he and his entourage grabbed everything they could. He only used his democratic credentials to seize power.

We have 25m refugees and 2m orphans, more than after the war, and a large elderly population. None has any kind of decent life. Pensions are tiny, there are virtually no medical services. The intelligentsia, doctors, teachers, engineers are in the same position. When I was a scientific researcher I could afford a month's holiday on the Black Sea. Today it's impossible for people with education and good qualifications to survive on state salaries, never mind have a holiday.

So I will vote for Zyuganov because the Communist programme aims to improve the position of old people, children, women and the unemployed, and to rebuild our society.

MARIA PETROSIEVICH, TEXTILE WORKER, KORABLINO

I've lived with the Communists, and I've lived with the democrats. Of course there were problems under the Communists, but nothing like today. And what is important is that before, it was possible to solve these problems.

Now we're surrounded by craziness, and we've had enough. We want to live normally. We want to work, and we want to be sure of the coming days and the future. Today we don't live, we fight for survival.

Everybody in our town, except for a privileged few, has been living on bread and potatoes for years now. People only have enough money to buy bread. Potatoes, veg- etables, and very often milk and meat, they get from their relatives living in the countryside. Either that or from their own dachas that were constructed and given to them in Soviet times.

Can you imagine how a family of four can survive without income, without work, without unemployment benefit? I know of whole families who have committed suicide.

I am a deputy chairman in the trade union, and I have 4,500 people to look after from our enterprise. I can do nothing for them. When people come to me for help, I listen to their stories and my heart is full of pain for them. Very often, I cannot control myself, and I weep with them. Talking to people in my role as a trade unionist I know that our whole town, and 70 per cent of the region, will be voting for Zyuganov.

The democrats say "reforms, reforms", but where are their reforms? The whole country is simply being sold, either wholesale or in bits. That's not reform, it's destruction, and it's obvious to me that the Communists understand the economy far better.

ROMAN ASHAYEV, RAPPER, MOSCOW

I remember when I was eight, I was taken to the Young Pioneers. It was great, I really enjoyed it. I loved wearing the uniform, and all the meetings with drums and music.

I was completely free, and I felt confident in the future. At that time I could say openly that I loved the Russian language, culture and earth, to say I am for all things Russian. Nobody called me a fascist for that; it was completely natural. Now if I say the same things people look at me like I'm some kind of criminal.

In principle I'm an anarchist, but I'm also a patriot; so I will be voting for Zyuganov, and I'm not going to hide from anyone.

VALENTIN NOVIKOV, ARTIST, MOSCOW

In the Soviet Union every republic except Russia had its own Communist Party, and overall there was the Communist Party of the Soviet Union, but there was no specifically Russian Communist Party for the Russian people.

Zyuganov is the first leader of such a party; it's a new party, founded in 1991. It's important to remember this, because it means that Zyuganov is clean - he has no responsibility for the mistakes of the Communist Party of the Soviet Union.

So I support Zyuganov because he is a Russian Communist. But for me he is first of all a Russian, and secondly a Communist. He is the candidate of all the patriotic forces of Russia who are not happy with the situation today.

As a nationalist I think that the state should serve the people, not the people serve the state. But the government we have today does nothing either for its people, or for the prosperity of the country as a whole.

In the Russian empire and later in the Soviet Union the Russian nation was the tree under which other nations sheltered and felt secure. And this is perfectly natural. The inclination of the Russian people is international, directed towards the unification of other peoples and peaceful coexistence.

FATHER VIKTOR PITCHUZHKIN, PRIEST, MOSCOW

There is a Russian saying: "When you meet someone, you judge them by their appearance, but when you leave them you judge them by their brains."

That is why I am voting for Zyuganov. Look at him - he is a real Russian man. No one with his appearance could betray the country. He looks so elegant, his image is attractive, but after listening to his speeches and talking with him, you feel more; you can follow him to the ends of the earth. You are convinced only by him.

He is very clever, very attentive and kind. When I was in the Duma and met him for the first time, he looked into my eyes and said, "How are you? How is your health? What can I do to help you?" And all the people around him are the same: clever and hearty people. They are the kind of people to save Russia.

VLADIMIR KOROLYOV, SINGER, MOSCOW

I'm voting for Zyuganov because I believe in him, because I believe he can make our life easier. I'm not normally interested in politics, but I like to be part of the crowd, not to be left out. All my friends and neighbours are voting for him, and I trust in their collective wisdom. So I'm with them for Zyuganov's Communist party.

My life has always been difficult, but it was much more pleasant to live in the Soviet Union than in today's Russia. In Soviet times we had rich and poor people too, but then the poor were cared for by the state. Now we have lots of rich people, but none of them share their prosperity. I hope that when the Communists come to power the rich will have to share with the rest of us.

TATIANA NEFYEDINA, PENSIONER, DOLGOPRUDNY (above)

My grandson Sergei was conscripted into the army. After only six months he was sent to Chechnya. Two months later he was dead, killed when his lorry was hit by a rocket.

When he was born his father abandoned the family, and his mother asked me to take care of him to help her. I was very unfortunate with my children, and my grandson was my support and my happiness. He was such a wonderful boy, a wonderful boy; he was worth five other children.

After technical school he would go to karate training, and then straight home. We would sit and watch TV together. Very often he bought me cookies or sweets that we had with tea. He was very shy; he had few friends, no girlfriends. He didn't smoke, and he never drank. He went to the war as a boy and he died as a boy.

It's my fault he was killed. I know a lot of parents pay huge bribes to keep their children out of the army. I am very poor, but I could have done something; I could have hidden him or sent him away somewhere. But he said he couldn't hide for the rest of his life. If I had insisted he would still be alive.

Sergei was my future. I always did three jobs, because my salary wasn't enough to support myself and Sergei, and when he finished college he said he would find a nice job and support me: "Now it's my turn to look after you." But he never had the chance. He was killed in Yeltsin's war.

I'm 67, but I still have to work hard as a cleaner because I cannot survive and look after the grave properly on my pension. The army is supposed to pay me compensation for Sergei's death, but they refused - they said his residency papers weren't in order.

Of course after all this I plan to vote for Zyuganov, but I can think of nothing but my dear boy; I have nothing left to live for. My only purpose in life is to tend his grave each day.

NINA SHEYBAYEVA, SIEGE VETERAN , ST PETERSBURG

I will be voting for Zyuganov because we blokadniki [surviv- ors of the siege of Leningrad] don't change our convictions. I'm a positive person, and I'm convinced that socialism is the kind of society which is necessary. Everybody is equal to each other, people are brothers, they have all the freedoms they need, and the state cares about its citizens.

Soviet power gave people the opportunity to make the most of their talents and abilities. For instance, my mother was a humble woman, she only did odd jobs, but I was able to have a higher education. I studied at the university, and I was always happy to work according to my profession. People respected me, and I could respect myself.

When the siege began, I was 16 years old, and I worked like all the people of Leningrad constructing tank traps and barricades. Then I attended special classes learning how to shoot. Although I never had to go to the front, I'm sure I would have made a first-class sniper; at the school I won the Voroshilov Badge of Excellence for my marksmanship.

Later I was part of a team which had to search houses for corpses when people began starving to death. We had to collect the bodies and take them for burial. I lost many school friends during the siege; my own sister is buried in this cemetery.

It was a really difficult time to survive, but we were inspired both by the high culture of our great city, and by our own socialist convictions. We helped each other as much as we could, sharing the last morsels of food with each other. When the blockade ended I weighed only 34kg. I wasn't much to look at then; I'm a lot prettier now.

After all these years I remember exactly how it was, although sometimes it is difficult to believe, especially when you look at the country today. !

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