RUSSIAN PRESIDENTIAL ELECTIONS: Democratic fervour fades in the sunshine

Boris Yeltsin lost at least one vote yesterday because of the "dacha factor". Vitaly Matveyev, a musician from Moscow who was relaxing at his dacha (hut and allotment) in Druzhba, south of the city, had planned to get up early and take the the suburban train to the capital to re- elect the Russian President, especially since public transport was free on election day.

But when he woke and saw the sun was shining after two days of torrential rain, he changed his mind. "I'll stay here and take my kids into the woods instead," he said. What about the fate of Russia? "What will be, will be. "It's in the hands of the gods. I don't think my little voice will make much difference." Typical Russian fatalism, typical Russian susceptibility to mood, which is why experts told us not to set too much store on polls showing Mr Yeltsin having overtaken his Communist rival, Gennady Zyuganov.

The President's fate will depend on the rest of his supporters being more committed than Mr Matveyev: on any summer weekend, 20 per cent of urban Russians are out of town. In view of the Russian preference for not taking anything for granted, it was surprising Mr Yeltsin last week announced, like a bumptious sportsman, that victory was in the bag. It was an invitation to his constituency to be complacent.

Anti-Yeltsin voters, many from the older generation, were thought more likely to go to polling-stations because they lived through Soviet times when voting, albeit for a single candidate, was a citizen's sacred duty.

Yesterday Mr Matveyev's father was up at 6am for an hour's walk over muddy fields to the bus which would take him into the nearby town of Kolomna to vote. A pensioner and lifelong Communist who has found economic reforms hard to accept, he was planning to vote for the nationalist retired general, Alexander Lebed. "It's because I don't like Zyuganov as a personality," he said.

Old Mr Matveyev intended to combine voting with going to his daughter's flat in town to take a bath for the first time in two weeks. Druzhba (Friendship), one of a chain of Soviet-era allotment settlements which also includes Raduga (Rainbow), is 100km (62 miles) from the capital but conditions are primitive. The commuter belt south of Moscow is not exactly Surrey. Here, for example, there is no running water and Mr Matveyev normally washes from an upturned bucket.

Across the lane from the Matveyevs, Viktor Frolov, an engineer at a railway centre, was watering his cucumbers, after which he and his wife were going to drive home to Moscow to vote for Mr Zyuganov. "The Yeltsin years have been hard for all involved in science and teaching," he said.

At 10am there was a lively stream of traffic to and from Moscow. People who had voted early were driving out to their dachas to enjoy the rest of the day. People who had been at their dachas were cutting the weekend short and returning to town to vote. Police were gearing up for huge traffic- jams.

By the side of the road, the real country folk were coming from village polling-stations dressed in their Sunday best, as if for church. In the market town of Bronitsa, halfway to Moscow, the local House of Culture, turned into a polling-station for the day, was reporting brisk business.

To the side of the yellow-curtained booths, on a trestle table decorated with vases of peonies, a local catering firm was running a buffet. Manager Lyudmila Logvinova said her voting intentions were private but hinted she would opt for a pro-reform candidate. "Food may be expensive," she said, "but at least now there are no more empty shelves and a good choice of things to eat."

John Travolta is a qualified airline captain and employed the pilot with his company, Alto
people'That was the lowest I’d ever felt'
Life and Style
healthIt isn’t greasy. It doesn’t smell. And moreover, it costs nothing

Other places that have held independence referendums
Jonas Gutierrez (r) competes with Yaya Toure (l)

Newcastle winger reveals he has testicular cancer - and is losing his trademark long hair as a result

Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Arts and Entertainment
Blossoming love: Colin Firth as Stanley and Emma Stone as Sophie, in 'Magic in the Moonlight'

Actors star in Woody Allen's 'Magic in the Moonlight'

peopleThe Times of India said actress should treat it as a 'compliment'
Arts and Entertainment
Maxine Peake plays Hamlet at Manchester's Royal Exchange
theatreReview: Maxine Peake brings emotional ferocity to Shakespeare's most starring part

Watch this commuter wage a one-man war against the Circle Line
We are phenomenally good at recognising faces; the study showed that humans have been selected to be unique and easily recognisable

Human faces unique 'because we don't recognise each other by smell'

Home body: Badger stays safe indoors
lifeShould we feel guilty about keeping cats inside?
A male driver reverses his Vauxhall Astra from a tow truck

Man's attempt to avoid being impounded heavily criticised

Arts and Entertainment
US pop diva Jennifer Lopez sang “Happy Birthday” to Gurbanguly Berdimuhamedow, president of Turkmenistan
musicCorporate gigs become key source of musicians' income
Arts and Entertainment
While many films were released, few managed to match the success of James Bond blockbuster 'Skyfall'
filmsDaniel Craig believed to be donning skis as 007 for first time
The Guildhall School of Music and Drama is to offer a BA degree in Performance and Creative Enterprise

Arts and Entertainment
Pulp-fiction lover: Jarvis Cocker
booksJarvis Cocker on Richard Brautigan
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

IT Portfolio Analyst - Prince2

£45000 - £50000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client, a glob...

Project Co-ordinator - Birmingham - Permanant

£20000 - £25000 Per Annum Plus excellent benefits: Clearwater People Solutions...

Head of Maths

Negotiable: Randstad Education Group: Head of Maths position at a prestigious ...

Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham - Huxley Associates

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Commission: SThree: Huxley Associates are currentl...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week