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Window on Eurasia — New Series: Tambov Villagers Vote for Party of Power Because They are Told To Do So, Investigation Finds

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Paul Goble

            Staunton, October 8 – United Russia did not need to falsify the results it obtained in many places because most rural voters took part and voted as they were told to. according to an investigation by Nina Abrosimova and Gleb Limansky of voting patterns in the villages of Tambov Oblast.

            Given official results showing that almost all residents who could vote did and that almost all of them voted for the Kremlin-approved candidate, the two journalists said they expected to hear stories about massive falsification (–vot-eto-menya-volnuet/).

            But instead, they report, they encountered something “still more frightening” – such massive indifference that those taking part did so not to express their point of view about the candidates but rather “to knowingly give up their civic rights” by voting because they were told to and voting in a particular way for the same reason.

            The authorities are inclined to think that high participation and overwhelmingly support for the candidates mean that the population backs those in office, Abrosimova and Limansky say. But this isn’t the case. They said they encountered few voters in the villages they visited who were enthusiastic about the governor they nonetheless voted for.

            Voting for them is simply a civic exercise; it isn’t the occasion for expressing an opinion.

            The two spoke with Moscow analyst Dmitry Oreshkin about this. He said that the rural residents of Tambov are what Americans call “rednecks,” people who are “very conservative,” have their own opinions, but are inclined to follow whatever those above them say about the country and the world.

            “They willingly believe all the tales about foreign aggression” and about “how necessary it is to defend the Motherland from Western influence,” he says. Many of them are dependent on the state for their incomes, and they view voting the way the bosses want as just one more requirement of getting along, especially as they distrust those challenging incumbents.

            In villages, this leads to an entirely natural “falsification” without any action required by political technologists, Oreshkin says. In larger cities, the technologists have to act because residents are less prepared to follow the tradition of voting and voting a particular way because those in power have told you do.

            Abrosimova and Limansky say that village residents like those in Tambov aren’t angry when they hear the remarkable results. “No one expresses particularly hot feelings regarding possible falsifications,” they say. Instead, “they talk about all this with a smile.” As one villager put it, “the order was given and the order was fulfilled.”

Window on Eurasia — New Series