Russian Elections: Brazilian soap keeps public from dachaland

Foreign journalists waited for two hours yesterday to watch Boris Yeltsin vote in Moscow, only to be told that he had cast his ballot beyond the glare of publicity in a village outside the city. Many quickly jumped to the worst conclusions about the health of the president, who had already aroused suspicions by dropping from view in the last days of the election campaign.

Many Russians were unaware that the Kremlin leader had failed to turn up at his usual polling station near his home in the prestigious suburb of Krylatskoye, and had voted instead at Barvikha where he convalesced last year after his two heart attacks. Those who knew took the news in their stride. It was not going to influence voting decisions that they had made weeks if not months ago.

"I have voted for a person whom I do not greatly respect but who will take us forward into the future," said Larissa Sergeyevna, in her late forties, who did not want to reveal the secret of her vote but was nevertheless implying that she had chosen Mr Yeltsin. Did she know that he was apparently ill? "Ah, that's nothing," she said. "We have got used to him disappearing from time to time. He'll be back."

She was one of only a trickle of voters at the polling station on Dostoyevsky Street in central Moscow yesterday morning. To discourage city dwellers from taking advantage of the warm weather and travelling out to their dachas instead of voting, state television was showing a triple episode of a popular Brazilian soap opera, Tropicana. Many people were evidently glued to their sets.

But voting seemed to pick up after lunch. At 2pm there was a livelier flow of people coming from polling station No 2148 in the Akademicheskaya district of the city, and most of them said they had voted for Mr Yeltsin rather than Gennady Zyganov, the Communist leader, despite whatever health problems he might have.

"It's not good news, of course," said Mikhail Vasin, a young businessman, "but I have voted for Yeltsin anyway. I think he will be okay. He's a healthy bloke, a sportsman. So what if he drinks? We all drink, don't we? And even if he has to retire, it won't be the end of the world. He has a good team around him. But Zyuganov - if he wins, that will be the end of the world."

Olga Grigorievna, a doctor, was equally calm after voting for the incumbent president. "We're all people. We can all get colds," she said, showing more faith in the official explanation of Mr Yeltsin's absence than most foreign observers here.

One might have thought that Russians, who lived through the last days of Leonard Brezhnev, when the Kremlin made ridiculous claims that the dying leader had only minor ailments, would have been more inclined to question what they were told. Perhaps strong Yeltsin supporters just did not want to contemplate the worst. For Communists, of course, news that Mr Yeltsin was not well only strengthened their determination to vote for Mr Zyuganov, who last week was ostentatiously dancing and playing volleyball to prove he was in good health.

"I have known Yeltsin since he was in Sverdlovsk [as regional Communist leader in the Soviet era] and I can tell you that his drink problem goes back that far," said Vasily Parfyonov, a retired journalist and Zyuganov voter. "He may be trying to fight his weakness but the passion for alcohol is not curable. Russia needs a healthy leader."

If the president is forced to retire because of ill health, the constitution says the prime minister should take over pending fresh elections. But General Alexander Lebed's appointment as Mr Yeltsin's national security adviser has added a new factor. He has said he favours the revival of the post of vice- president, and clearly aspires to the top Kremlin job for himself.

Yesterday, Yeltsin voters understood that they were choosing a package which included General Lebed, a nationalist and advocate of strict law and order. Some found the situation reassuring; others did not.

"The fact that Lebed is at his side gives me more confidence to vote for Yeltsin," said Valya Zosikova, who spent last year in Cambridge. "Lebed will see that everything is all right."

But Kostya Fadeyev, a student of computer studies, disagreed. "I'm voting for Yeltsin, not Lebed," he said. "I don't want to see Lebed coming in through the back door." He added, however, that he did not think this likely. "Lebed will be out in six months. He's a soldier. He's too straight to survive for long in the Kremlin.

Sport
Premier League Live
footballLIVE Follow all the Premier League action as it happens
News
The slice of Prince Charles and Princess Diana's wedding cake and the original box from 29 July 1981
newsPiece of Charles and Diana's wedding cake sold at auction in US
Life and Style
3D printed bump keys can access almost any lock
gadgets + echSoftware needs photo of lock and not much more
News
James Argent from Towie is missing, police say
peopleTV star had been reported missing
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
Gregg Wallace in Summer's Supermarket Secrets
tv All of this year's 15 contestants have now been named
News
i100(and it's got nothing to do with the Great British Bake Off)
Arts and Entertainment
Inside the gallery at Frederick Bremer School in Walthamstow
tvSimon Usborne goes behind the scenes to watch the latest series
Life and Style
A picture taken on January 12, 2011 shows sex shops at the Paris district of Pigalle.
newsThe industry's trade body issued the moratorium on Friday
Arts and Entertainment
Could we see Iain back in the Bake Off tent next week?
tv Contestant teased Newsnight viewers on potential reappearance
Life and Style
Silvia says of her famous creation: 'I never stopped wearing it. Because I like to wear things when they are off the radar'
fashionThe fashion house celebrated fifteen years of the punchy pouch with a weighty tome
News
i100
Voices
The Ukip leader has consistently refused to be drawn on where he would mount an attempt to secure a parliamentary seat
voicesNigel Farage: Those who predicted we would lose momentum heading into the 2015 election are going to have to think again
Arts and Entertainment
Cara Delevingne made her acting debut in Anna Karenina in 2012
film Cara Delevingne 'in talks' to star in Zoolander sequel
Sport
Mario Balotelli pictured in his Liverpool shirt for the first time
football
News
i100
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
Latest stories from i100
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, CCNA, Linux, OSPF, BGP, Multicast, WAN)

£35000 per annum: Harrington Starr: Network Engineer (CCNP, CCNA, Linux, OSPF,...

Commercial Property Solicitor - Bristol

Highly Attractive Package: Austen Lloyd: A VERY HIGH QUALITY FIRM A high qual...

DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, Linux, Shell, Bash)

£50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: DevOps Engineer (Systems Administration, L...

Data Scientist (SQL, PHP, RSPSS, CPLEX, SARS, AI) - London

£60000 - £70000 per annum: Harrington Starr: A prestigious leading professiona...

Day In a Page

Ukraine crisis: The phoney war is over as Russian troops and armour pour across the border

The phoney war is over

Russian troops and armour pour into Ukraine
Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

Potatoes could be off the menu as crop pests threaten UK

The world’s entire food system is under attack - and Britain is most at risk, according to a new study
Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Gangnam smile: why the Chinese are flocking to South Korea to buy a new face

Seoul's plastic surgery industry is booming thanks to the popularity of the K-Pop look
From Mozart to Orson Welles: Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

Creative geniuses who peaked too soon

After the death of Sandy Wilson, 90, who wrote his only hit musical in his twenties, John Walsh wonders what it's like to peak too soon and go on to live a life more ordinary
Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Caught in the crossfire of a cyber Cold War

Fears are mounting that Vladimir Putin has instructed hackers to target banks like JP Morgan
Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years

Salomé: A head for seduction

Salomé's feminine wiles have inspired writers, painters and musicians for 2,000 years. Now audiences can meet the Biblical femme fatale in two new stage and screen projects
From Bram Stoker to Stanley Kubrick, the British Library's latest exhibition celebrates all things Gothic

British Library celebrates all things Gothic

Forthcoming exhibition Terror and Wonder: The Gothic Imagination will be the UK's largest ever celebration of Gothic literature
The Hard Rock Café's owners are embroiled in a bitter legal dispute - but is the restaurant chain worth fighting for?

Is the Hard Rock Café worth fighting for?

The restaurant chain's owners are currently embroiled in a bitter legal dispute
Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival

In search of Caribbean soul food

Caribbean cuisine is becoming increasingly popular in the UK ... and there's more to it than jerk chicken at carnival
11 best face powders

11 best face powders

Sweep away shiny skin with our pick of the best pressed and loose powder bases
England vs Norway: Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Roy Hodgson's hands tied by exploding top flight

Lack of Englishmen at leading Premier League clubs leaves manager hamstrung
Angel Di Maria and Cristiano Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

Di Maria and Ronaldo: A tale of two Manchester United No 7s

They both inherited the iconic shirt at Old Trafford, but the £59.7m new boy is joining a club in a very different state
Israel-Gaza conflict: No victory for Israel despite weeks of death and devastation

Robert Fisk: No victory for Israel despite weeks of devastation

Palestinians have won: they are still in Gaza, and Hamas is still there
Mary Beard writes character reference for Twitter troll who called her a 'slut'

Unlikely friends: Mary Beard and the troll who called her a ‘filthy old slut’

The Cambridge University classicist even wrote the student a character reference
America’s new apartheid: Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone

America’s new apartheid

Prosperous white districts are choosing to break away from black cities and go it alone