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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

A Deputy From Kandalaksha

Melis Laptev has not been a legislator for three years, like most of his colleagues, but for 13.

Laptev, a railroad engineer from Kandalaksha, near the northern city of Murmansk, spent a decade in Russia's Brezhnev-era legislature before becoming a delegate to the country's first democratically elected Congress of People's Deputies.

"We didn't vote unanimously on everything", he said of the old legislature, which convened two or three times a year to rubber stamp the Communist Party's directives. "But things certainly are different in this legislature".

In the present Congress, getting deputies to agree on even procedural matters can be difficult, he said.

Laptev, 51, says that he was at first reluctant to run for office. But his coworkers, who nominated him, convinced him to continue public service.

A 32-year veteran of the Kandalaksha October Railway, he was one of a few deputies at the Seventh Congress in uniform, with his "honored railway worker" pin -- the highest award in his line of work -- attached to his lapel.

As a deputy, he has devoted much of his time to securing and improving government benefits for his constituents, who qualify because they live in a harsh climate.