Red Town longs for cheap sausage

Russian elections: With 43 parties on the ballot, some voters find it difficult to get to grips with democracy

Father Konstantin looks as if he modelled as an apostle for a cathedral mural. His grey beard, black robes and baldness give him a saintly, stoical look. But, as Russians trooped to the polls yesterday, there was anxiety in his face.

Fifty-seven years ago his church, a crumbling 19th century brick building, was shut down under Stalin. Its decorated walls were painted white, and it became a garage. Yesterday, as he stood in the hall of his church, the priest was pondering the possibility that his aisles might again echo with the clatter of godless mechanics.

"The Communists are willing to say anything to get into power," he said, "It would be a disaster for the people. If they come to power, sooner or later, they would break up the Church." He had advised his several hundred Sunday regulars not to vote for any "extremists" - left or right. " People need peace," he explained.

Peace is a word with special resonance in Krasno Gorsk, "Red Town", a community of 50,000 on the edge of Moscow. You only have to brave the biting winter winds for a few minutes to find someone who'll tell you not only about the horror of the German wartime advance, but exactly how close they came - seven miles. There is an anti-Fascist museum. The military hospital is treating wounded soldiers from the Chechen war. Yet the priest's wishes may not be fulfilled.

Boris Gurelik, 60, was towing his small grandson along on a sledge after casting his vote in the Palace of Culture. "I voted for the 'new' Communists," he said cheerfully, referring to the Communist Party of the Russian Federation, led by Gennady Zyuganov - who yesterday assured the world that, if his party wins, there would be no return to Soviet-era Communism. "Everyone's voting communist," continued Mr Gurelik. "Yeltsin cheated us all. If the Communists win, they'll form a coalition, take over the cabinet, and the economy will revive at once. At least, I hope it will."

Inside the palace, polling station No 933, dozens pored over election documents. Choice, like real democracy, is still new and rare in Russia; some were clearly puzzled by the list which - with 43 parties - occupied a poster-sized sheet of paper, festooned with helpful party symbols. Clusters of voters formed, studying the field. Only a few bothered to retreat behind the curtains of two voting booths. Many voted in front of everyone else.

Although the elections were for the State Duma - or lower house - their impact on next year's presidential election is more important. In parliament, their effect will almost certainly depend on whatever alliances are formed by the largest parties. But the Duma's power is limited, compared with the presidency; the ruling group would need a consistent two-thirds majority to overturn the president's veto. What matters is which party leaders emerge to run for the Kremlin's top job.

Half the Duma's 450 seats are allocated to parties by proportional representation. The other half go to individual candidates, elected on a first-past-the- post system in each constituency. In the Palace of Culture, a list of the latter was being studied earnestly by elderly women, who had clearly never heard of most of them.

"It should be someone with a Russian name, but there aren't any ," muttered a middle-aged woman. "I like his face," she added, pointing at the photo of a stern-faced individual with a Jewish name, "but he's not Russian." She eventually settled on a local administrator.

Predictions of strong Communist gains seemed to be holding up. But, in Krasno Gorsk, not everyone wanted Red Town to become just that. The town has its share of "new Russians", the minority who have profited from free-market reforms. Dozens spent yesterday afternoon skiing, flitting up and down a small slope in brightly-coloured jump suits. "I want to beat the Communists," said Alexander, a 33-year-old businessman who runs an international translation service. "So many people want the Soviet Union back. They want cheap sausage. But I know what cheap sausage means - it means long queues."

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
i100 In this video, the late actor Leonard Nimoy explains how he decided to use the gesture for his character
Arts and Entertainment
Secrets of JK Rowling's Harry Potter workings have been revealed in a new bibliography
arts + ents
Down-to-earth: Winstone isn't one for considering his 'legacy'
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Sauce Recruitment: Retail Planning Manager - Home Entertainment UK

salary equal to £40K pro-rata: Sauce Recruitment: Are you available to start a...

Ashdown Group: Front-End Developer - London - up to £40,000

£35000 - £40000 per annum: Ashdown Group: Creative Front-End Developer - Claph...

Recruitment Genius: Product Quality Assurance Technologist - Hardline & Electric

£18000 - £24000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: The role in this successful eco...

Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000

£28000 - £30000 per annum: Ashdown Group: QA Tester - London - £30,000 QA Tes...

Day In a Page

HIV pill: Scientists hail discovery of 'game-changer' that cuts the risk of infection among gay men by 86%

Scientists hail daily pill that protects against HIV infection

Breakthrough in battle against global scourge – but will the NHS pay for it?
How we must adjust our lifestyles to nature: Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch

Time to play God

Welcome to the 'Anthropocene', the human epoch where we may need to redefine nature itself
MacGyver returns, but with a difference: Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman

MacGyver returns, but with a difference

Handyman hero of classic 1980s TV series to be recast as a woman
Tunnel renaissance: Why cities are hiding roads down in the ground

Tunnel renaissance

Why cities are hiding roads underground
'Backstreet Boys - Show 'Em What You're Made Of': An affectionate look at five middle-aged men

Boys to men

The Backstreet Boys might be middle-aged, married and have dodgy knees, but a heartfelt documentary reveals they’re not going gently into pop’s good night
Crufts 2015: Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?

Crufts 2015

Should foreign dogs be allowed to compete?
10 best projectors

How to make your home cinema more cinematic: 10 best projectors

Want to recreate the big-screen experience in your sitting room? IndyBest sizes up gadgets to form your film-watching
Manchester City 1 Barcelona 2 player ratings: Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man?

Manchester City vs Barcelona player ratings

Luis Suarez? Lionel Messi? Joe Hart? Who was the star man at the Etihad?
Arsenal vs Monaco: Monaco - the making of Gunners' manager Arsene Wenger

Monaco: the making of Wenger

Jack Pitt-Brooke speaks to former players and learns the Frenchman’s man-management has always been one of his best skills
Cricket World Cup 2015: Chris Gayle - the West Indies' enigma lives up to his reputation

Chris Gayle: The West Indies' enigma

Some said the game's eternal rebel was washed up. As ever, he proved he writes the scripts by producing a blistering World Cup innings
In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare and murky loyalties prevails

In Ukraine a dark world of hybrid warfare

This war in the shadows has been going on since the fall of Mr Yanukovych
'Birdman' and 'Bullets Over Broadway': Homage or plagiarism?

Homage or plagiarism?

'Birdman' shares much DNA with Woody Allen's 'Bullets Over Broadway'
Broadchurch ends as damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

A damp squib not even David Tennant can revive

Broadchurch, Series 2 finale, review
A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower: inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

Inside the mansion of Germany's 'Bishop of Bling'

A Koi carp breeding pond, wall-mounted iPads and a bathroom with a 'wellness' shower