Vote Apple to keep Communists at bay

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The Independent Online
Moscow - In the new capitalist Russia, where the ability to make fast money counts more than professional qualifications, Irina Glushenkova, a concert pianist, has found herself impoverished, writes Helen Womack.

Yet Ms Glushenkova is not nostalgic for Communism, which would have guaranteed her a living. On the contrary, she is considering how best to use her vote to make sure the Communists, favourites in the coming parliamentary elections, do not return to power.

Ms Glushenkova is a graduate of the once-prestigious Moscow Conservatory. The state gave her a free education at the highest level and, had the Soviet system of subsidising the arts continued, she could have expected a career as a performer. Instead, she went out into a world that does not value her skills. The bankrupt state can no longer support her, while most Russian businessmen have yet to mature to the point where they sponsor culture.

The 32-year-old pianist survives by teaching easy tunes to infants in a private school patronised by rich Russians. For this, she earns the equivalent of pounds 96 a month, which does not go far now that many goods are at Western prices.

Ms Glushenkova lives with her mother and grandmother in a cramped flat in a working class suburb of Moscow. They are bitter about this, because once the family had a spacious wooden house which the Communists confiscated.

This is one reason why Ms Glushenkova will not vote Communist. Another is that, despite having gained little in material terms from reform, she has benefited from the greater freedom in Russia. "I do not want to go back to totalitarianism," she says, so she will vote strategically in an attempt to block the Communists, as well as Russian nationalists.

Ms Glushenkova is confused by the plethora of parties offering themselves, but is moving towards a decision. Free marketeers who have already been in government are rejected, because of the pain they have caused. But there is another reformer who remains untried, and Ms Glushenkova will probably give a chance to Grigory Yavlinsky and his Yabloko (Apple) grouping.