Vote and dance – thinking is optional The elections in the Russian backwoods, part I Grigory Pasko, journalist Kirzhach is a small town in Vladimir Oblast, 130 kilometers southeast of Moscow. Historians note that Kirzhach arose as a sloboda [settlement] alongside the Kirzhach Trinity Monastery of the Annunciation or Presentation, founded in the 1300s. After the closure of the monastery in 1764, the sloboda became the village of Kirzhach, which was transformed into a town in 1778. The official website of the town in the section “Economy” indicates that there are a silk works, a canning plant, a furniture and sewing factories, as well as the plant «Avtosvet» in Kirzhach. Recently, the Turks have built the «Beko» plant alongside the town, where they produce dishwashing machines and refrigerators.
Of architectural monuments, the Annunciation Monastery with the Annunciation Cathedral and the Saviour’s Church have remained in Kirzhach.Kirzhach is also known for the fact that 21 km from it stands an obelisk at the place of the death of the first cosmonaut, Yuri Gagarin.Entry into Kirzhach Rayon is characterized by an abrupt change in the quality of the road surface: in Moscow Oblast, the roads are, in general, decent, but in Kirzhach Rayon, they are atrocious. And only because this is already Vladimir Oblast.Even the ubiquitous stele with the name “Kirzhach” on it standing at the town line is mute but vivid testimony that this place is far indeed from the opulence of the capital.Entrance to Kirzhach – you’re not in Moscow any more (photo by Grigory Pasko)Right in the center of Kirzhach, on the Palace of Culture, there hands a huge banner with the inscription “Kirzhach votes for Putin”. On houses, fences, brick posts hang posters with calls to vote for Putin and the party «United Russia». Not a single leaflet or poster calling to vote for any other party did I see on the day of the elections in Kirzhach.The law on this account states that agitational printed materials (leaflets, posters and other materials) hung up previously in the procedure established by law not in the buildings in which electoral commissions are accommodated, the place for voting, or at a distance of no less than 50 meters from the entrance thereto, shall be left on the day of voting in the former places. And so they hang in the former places. Although it’s difficult to believe that the law had previously defined such a place as a brick fence, the wall of a house or a store. And another thing. School No. 2, in which electoral precinct No. 70 was situated, is found 100 meters from the huge banner on the Palace of Culture. The law is formally being observed: the distance is greater than 50 meters. But the fact is that you can see the banner pretty much from all corners of the town.“Kirzhach votes FOR PUTIN” proclaims the banner on the Palace of Culture (photo by Grigory Pasko)And what’s strange is that agitational materials only of the party «United Russia» had been hung up previously.The first thing I did was to go into the territorial electoral commission and report to its chairwoman Lyubov Lokteva that I wanted to visit several electoral precincts. She did not object: by law I have this right.And so I walked up to School No. 2. Suddenly three women ran out towards me, chalk in hand, and attacked a wall to white out some kind of inscriptions. Among which stick out “Oligarchs – pidarasts” (“pidarasts” are what homosexuals have been derisively called in Russia since time immemorial). The women weren’t doing a very good job, so they also pasted leaflets over the partially whited-out graffiti. Then one of the women (I later made her acquaintance: Galina Viktorovna Tyulyayeva, deputy chairwoman of the electoral precinct) asked me not to take photographs.Inside electoral precinct No. 70 (photo by Grigory Pasko)The electoral precinct was situated on the second floor of the school. At the entrance stood a massive, imposing looking policewoman with broad hips and a pistol on her belt. Behind a table sat a bored young lass. In front of her – a metal pan with cookies. Probably, this is the kind that Putin had in mind when he pontificated about them from the podium in Luzhniki. Nobody seemed interested in the cookies.Also standing at the entrance was a woman, whose duties included giving out tickets to a dance to all the young people who voted. On the tickets was written: “Vote, dance. The best musical forces of the country in your town.” Among the “best” were named Demo, Plazma, DJ Sukhov, «Chinchilly», «Karamelky» and Bogdan Titomir (When I asked my son if any of these names meant anything to him, he unhesitatingly described Titomir as “dregs from the bottom of the barrel”; he’d never even heard of «Karamelky» or Demo).Poster with a call to “Vote/Dance: Only having voted, will you receive a free ticket to a super-show!” (photo by Grigory Pasko)The matter, of course, isn’t in any «Karamelky», but in the question of how much this free celebration of life cost and who exactly paid for it? Only if you look at the ticket itself with a magnifying glass can you identify in the corner a little circle with the inscription “Electoral Commission of Vladimir Oblast”. Okay, now it’s clear: the money came from the pocket of the state – that is, the voters. This is how the administration of Vladimir Oblast ensures a high turnout of voters at these elections.