Pasternak village still divided

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WITH its Bolshevik stars and Christian crosses, the graveyard in the village of Peredelkino on the edge of Moscow bears witness to the fact that Russia has long been a divided society. Yesterday villagers turned out in force to vote and among them were some of Boris Yeltsin's fiercest opponents and some of his staunchest supporters.

'Yeltsin has betrayed Russia, he has not kept a single one of his promises,' said Gennady Nikolayevich, a pensioner and life-long Communist, nailing up a poster outside the polling station which called on the deputies of the Soviet-era parliament to save Russia from the President's 'dictatorship'.

'For Yeltsin. Of course I have voted for Yeltsin. You don't think I'd support those mad dogs in the parliament, do you?' said Pyotr, a factotum for a firm of brokers on the new Moscow stock exchange. He was lightly dressed for the first warm day of spring and was enjoying the sight of the crocuses and pussy willow in the lane. But sticking out of his back pocket was a little gas pistol which he said he needed for self-defence.

All of Russia is concentrated in this village, built where the concrete blocks end and the fir trees begin as a haven for the country's writers. The author of Dr Zhivago, Boris Pasternak, is buried here but apart from him the writers who enjoyed the peace and luxury of Peredelkino's wooden mansions tended to be those who toed the Communist Party line. The village has a number of sanatoria - the polling station is in a rest home for war veterans - which explains the conservative tendency of many voters here.

On the other hand, since Russia took the road to capitalism, Peredelkino has attracted the nouveau riche who are putting up their dachas - some fine brick and glass structures as well as more traditional wooden cottages - alongside the homes of the old elite. The 'yuppies', not surprisingly, believe their interests are best served by a Yeltsin victory in the referendum.

Between those who did well out of the old system and those who are making it under the new are the ordinary local people who are struggling to get by. Yuri, an engineer who made time for church as well as voting yesterday, lives with his wife and two nearly grown-up children in a three-room flat on the Solntsevo concrete housing estate on the wrong side of the railway track.

'It's OK by Russian standards but it's not really right that a brother and sister in their late teens should have to share a bedroom,' he says of his family's housing conditions. He has voted against Mr Yeltsin and to get rid of the parliamentary deputies. 'I'm sick of all them. Khasbulatov (the parliamentary chairman) has got himself a palatial flat and although Yeltsin promised to do away with privileges, it did not take him long to get the Zil out,' he said, referring to the limousine beloved of Russian leaders.

Vladimir, an ambulance driver, and Tamara, a children's hospital nurse, earn jointly pounds 25 a month. They voted for Mr Yeltsin. 'But this is his last chance.'