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."

News
peopleHowards' Way actress, and former mistress of Jeffrey Archer, was 60
Sport
Romelu Lukaku puts pen to paper
sport
News
Robyn Lawley
people
Arts and Entertainment
Unhappy days: Resistance spy turned Nobel prize winner Samuel Beckett
books
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebookA unique anthology of reporting and analysis of a crucial period of history
News
people
Life and Style
Troy Baker and Ashley Johnson voice the show’s heroes
gamingOnce stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover
News
i100
Life and Style
Phones will be able to monitor your health, from blood pressure to heart rate, and even book a doctor’s appointment for you
techCould our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?
News
people
Extras
indybest
Travel
Ryan taming: the Celtic Tiger carrier has been trying to improve its image
travelRyanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?
Sport
Usain Bolt confirms he will run in both the heats and the finals of the men's relay at the Commonwealth Games
commonwealth games
Life and Style
Slim pickings: Spanx premium denim collection
fashionBillionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers 'thigh-trimming construction'
News
Sabina Altynbekova has said she wants to be famous for playing volleyball, not her looks
people
News
i100
Life and Style
tech'World's first man-made leaves' could use photosynthesis to help astronauts breathe
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

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

SAP Project Manager

competitive: Progressive Recruitment: SAP PROJECT MANAGER - 3 MONTHS - BERKSHI...

Senior Investment Accounting Change Manager

£600 - £700 per day + competitive: Orgtel: Senior Investment Accounting Change...

Microsoft Dynamics AX Functional Consultant

£65000 - £75000 per annum + benefits: Progressive Recruitment: A rare opportun...

Day In a Page

Save the tiger: The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

The day America’s love of backyard tigers led to a horrific bloodbath

With only six per cent of the US population of these amazing big cats held in zoos, the Zanesville incident in 2011 was inevitable
Samuel Beckett's biographer reveals secrets of the writer's time as a French Resistance spy

How Samuel Beckett became a French Resistance spy

As this year's Samuel Beckett festival opens in Enniskillen, James Knowlson, recalls how the Irish writer risked his life for liberty and narrowly escaped capture by the Gestapo
We will remember them: relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War

We will remember them

Relatives still honour those who fought in the Great War
Star Wars Episode VII is being shot on film - and now Kodak is launching a last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Kodak's last-ditch bid to keep celluloid alive

Director J J Abrams and a few digital refuseniks shoot movies on film. Simon Usborne wonders what the fuss is about
Once stilted and melodramatic, Hollywood is giving acting in video games a makeover

Acting in video games gets a makeover

David Crookes meets two of the genre's most popular voices
Could our smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases via Health Kit and Google Fit?

Could smartphones soon be diagnosing diseases?

Health Kit and Google Fit have been described as "the beginning of a health revolution"
Ryanair has turned on the 'charm offensive' but can we learn to love the cut-price carrier again?

Can we learn to love Ryanair again?

Four recent travellers give their verdicts on the carrier's improved customer service
Billionaire founder of Spanx launches range of jeans that offers

Spanx launches range of jeans

The jeans come in two styles, multiple cuts and three washes and will go on sale in the UK in October
10 best over-ear headphones

Aural pleasure: 10 best over-ear headphones

Listen to your favourite tracks with this selection, offering everything from lambskin earmuffs to stainless steel
Commonwealth Games 2014: David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end

Commonwealth Games

David Millar ready to serve up gold for his beloved Scotland in the end
UCI Mountain Bike World Cup 2014: Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings

UCI Mountain Bike World Cup

Downhill all the way to the top for the Atherton siblings
Save the tiger: The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The animals bred for bones on China’s tiger farms

The big cats kept in captivity to perform for paying audiences and then, when dead, their bodies used to fortify wine
A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery all included in top 50 hidden spots in the UK

A former custard factory, a Midlands bog and a Leeds cemetery

Introducing the top 50 hidden spots in Britain
Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

Ebola epidemic: Plagued by fear

How a disease that has claimed fewer than 2,000 victims in its history has earned a place in the darkest corner of the public's imagination
Chris Pratt: From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

From 'Parks and Recreation' to 'Guardians of the Galaxy'

He was homeless in Hawaii when he got his big break. Now the comic actor Chris Pratt is Hollywood's new favourite action star