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."

News
scienceExcitement from alien hunters at 'evidence' of extraterrestrial life
Life and Style
Customers can get their caffeine fix on the move
food + drink
News
newsRyan Crighton goes in search of the capo dei capi
Extras
indybest

PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn evocation of the conflict through the eyes of those who lived through it
Arts and Entertainment
Actors front row from left, Jared Leto, Jennifer Lawrence, Meryl Streep, Ellen DeGeneres, Bradley Cooper, Peter Nyongío Jr., and, second row, from left, Channing Tatum, Julia Roberts, Kevin Spacey, Brad Pitt, Lupita Nyongío and Angelina Jolie as they pose for a
film
Sport
sport
Life and Style
techCould new invention save millions in healthcare bills?
Sport
David Moyes gets soaked
sport Moyes becomes latest manager to take part in the ALS challenge
Voices
A meteor streaks across the sky during the Perseid Meteor Shower at a wind farm near Bogdanci, south of Skopje, Macedonia, in the early hours of 13 August
voicesHagel and Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise, says Robert Fisk
News
peopleEnglishman managed quintessential Hollywood restaurant Chasen's
Life and Style
food + drinkHarrods launches gourmet food qualification for staff
Arts and Entertainment
Michael Flatley prepares to bid farewell to the West End stage
danceMichael Flatley hits West End for last time alongside Team GB World champion Alice Upcott
Life and Style
Horst P Horst mid-fashion shoot in New York, 1949
fashionFar-reaching retrospective to celebrate Horst P Horst's six decades of creativity
News
Members and supporters of the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender (LGBT) community walk with a rainbow flag during a rally in July
i100
Life and Style
Black Ivory Coffee is made using beans plucked from elephants' waste after ingested by the animals
food + drinkFirm says it has created the "rarest" coffee in the world
Life and Style
news

As Voltaire once said, “Ice cream is exquisite. What a pity it isn’t illegal”

Life and Style
food + drinkThese simple recipes will have you refreshed within minutes
Independent
Travel Shop
the manor
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on city breaks Find out more
santorini
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on chic beach resorts Find out more
sardina foodie
Up to 70% off luxury travel
on country retreats Find out more
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

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

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fund, London

£50000 - £60000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer - CCNP, Hedge Fu...

Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Multicast, Low Latency

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Senior Network Engineer-CCIE, Mul...

Network Infrastructure Engineer

£30000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Infrastructure Engineer (...

Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Multicast)

£35000 - £45000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, BGP, Mult...

Day In a Page

All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Robert Fisk: All this talk of an ‘apocalyptic’ threat is simply childish

Chuck Hagel and Martin Dempsey were pure Hollywood. They only needed Tom Cruise
Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

Mafia Dons: is the Camorra in control of the Granite City?

So claims an EU report which points to the Italian Mob’s alleged grip on everything from public works to property
Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Emmys look set to overhaul the Oscars as Hollywood’s prize draw

Once the poor relation, the awards show now has the top stars and boasts the best drama
What happens to African migrants once they land in Italy during the summer?

What happens to migrants once they land in Italy?

Memphis Barker follows their trail through southern Europe
French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

French connection: After 1,300 years, there’s a bridge to Mont Saint-Michel

The ugly causeway is being dismantled, an elegant connection erected in its place. So everyone’s happy, right?
Frank Mugisha: Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked

Frank Mugisha: 'Coming out was a gradual process '

Uganda's most outspoken gay rights activist on changing people's attitudes, coming out, and the threat of being attacked
Radio 1 to hire 'YouTube-famous' vloggers to broadcast online

Radio 1’s new top ten

The ‘vloggers’ signed up to find twentysomething audience
David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

David Abraham: Big ideas for the small screen

A blistering attack on US influence on British television has lifted the savvy head of Channel 4 out of the shadows
Florence Knight's perfect picnic: Make the most of summer's last Bank Holiday weekend

Florence Knight's perfect picnic

Polpetto's head chef shares her favourite recipes from Iced Earl Grey tea to baked peaches, mascarpone & brown sugar meringues...
Horst P Horst: The fashion photography genius who inspired Madonna comes to the V&A

Horst P Horst comes to the V&A

The London's museum has delved into its archives to stage a far-reaching retrospective celebrating the photographer's six decades of creativity
Mark Hix recipes: Try our chef's summery soups for a real seasonal refresher

Mark Hix's summery soups

Soup isn’t just about comforting broths and steaming hot bowls...
Tim Sherwood column: 'It started as a three-horse race but turned into the Grand National'

Tim Sherwood column

I would have taken the Crystal Palace job if I’d been offered it soon after my interview... but the whole process dragged on so I had to pull out
Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard: Young, gifted... not yet perfect

Eden Hazard admits he is still below the level of Ronaldo and Messi but, after a breakthrough season, is ready to thrill Chelsea’s fans
Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

Tim Howard: I’m an old dog. I don’t get too excited

The Everton and US goalkeeper was such a star at the World Cup that the President phoned to congratulate him... not that he knows what the fuss is all about
Match of the Day at 50: Show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition

Tom Peck on Match of the Day at 50

The show reminds us that even the most revered BBC institution may have a finite lifespan – thanks to the opposition