Several University students have taken a strong interest in the Russian election that was held Sunday. Many of these students are native Russians who want to know how the outcome will effect their homeland.
Boris Yeltsin won the first round of the Russian election Sunday with 35 percent of the vote. In the second round he will face Communist Party Leader Gennady Zyuganov, who received 32 percent of the vote.
The balloting marks just the second free presidential election in Russian history; in 1991, Yeltsin won control of the Russian Federation before the Soviet Union fell.
Galina Briskina, a College of Liberal Arts senior, is a native Russian who lived the first 20 years of her life there. Briskina said the election is a step toward democracy in Russia.
“I remember people being very, very skeptical about socialism and politics and not trusting any propaganda the media and schools were giving us,” Briskina said.
Aleksey Jorochkin, an Institute of Technology sophomore, said he doesn’t like either Yeltsin or Zyuganov.
“I don’t think I’d vote for either of them,” Jorochkin said. “I wouldn’t vote for a Communist. While Yeltsin isn’t perfect, he’s at least not communist.”
Jorochkin said that if Zyuganov wins, Russia will probably be more hesitant to make trade agreements with other countries. He said the nation would not revert back to communism under Zyuganov, however.
“People know what it is like,” Jorochkin said. “They will never go back to communism.”
College of Liberal Arts Junior David Hakobyan, a native Armenian, said the people of rural and southern areas of Russia vote for communist leaders because they are facing hard times under democracy. “There is not enough money to go around for the rural areas,” Hakobyan said. But he added that “(Under communism,) life was easier, not better.”
Hakobyan said communism in its previous form will never exist again. “No one would accept communism now,” he said.
Evelyn Davidheiser, a political science professor who recently published a book on the 1996 Russian election, said Yeltsin’s support comes from the urban areas and the youth.
“Russian youth are very apathetic about politics, and they don’t vote,” Davidheiser said, adding that Russian youth who do vote will vote for Yeltsin.
“People under 30 hate communism,” she said.
To rally youth support, Yeltsin has organized several rock concerts where he has been seen dancing.
Davidheiser said the fear of fraud is rampant. “Depending on who you support, they say the other candidate will cheat,” she said. Davidheiser said this undermines the authority of the winner.
Because no single candidate achieved 50 percent of the vote Sunday, a run-off election will be held either July 7 or 14, with only Yeltsin and Zyuganov competing.
Davidheiser said a Yeltsin win might not be best for the future of democracy. Yeltsin named Alexander Lebed, who obtained 15 percent of the vote, to the post of first deputy prime minister Monday. As prime minister, he will have control of the army and the KGB, the former Russian secret police and intelligence agency. Davidheiser said Lebed is very authoritarian and does not embrace democracy.
Other University students weren’t that surprised with the outcome of Sunday’s election.
“It was exactly what I expected,” said Kris Hiller, a CLA senior who is going to Russia to study next year. “My opinion is that (Yeltsin) will win one way or another.”