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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Emotions, Opinions Run Hot on Streets After Vote

Political passions were close to the surface in Moscow following Sunday's first-round presidential ballot.


Almost anywhere people gathered, they were likely to be debating the merits and drawbacks of the two main candidates, President Boris Yeltsin and his Communist challenger, Gennady Zyuganov.


Standing together in the drizzling rain, three old women were peddling cigarettes outside of Savyolovsky train station Tuesday when a track-suited thug came barreling out of the metro station and lunged for the central babushka and grabbed her bag.


Proving tougher than her young attacker, the babushka held on as the youth dragged her several meters before letting go of her bag and running off.


"That's democracy for you," said Valentina Nikolayevna, a street trader who refused to give her last name, as a crowd of people gathered to help the startled victim pick up the cigarettes and 1,000 ruble notes that she dropped in a pool of muddy water during the struggle.


"Before, young people were forced to study. They had the chance to find work," said Nikolayevna, her gray roots peeking through dyed orange hair. "Now they don't have anything to do but steal from a poor old woman. It is all Yeltsin's fault."


For a people who claim to be fed up with politics, the mood in the city is far from apathetic. Spontaneous debates erupt on trolleybuses. Minor mutinies arise in bread shops.


Over the weekend, the daily Moskovsky Komsomolets reported that a woman, 76, was stabbed to death by her 69-year-old friend over a political disagreement.


"We need Zyuganov to bring order back," said Nikolayevna, a former veterinary assistant who used to work on a collective farm before she retired and started selling dill outside Savyolovsky train station.


"I don't know. They say that things will only get worse with the Communists," said another older saleswomen, who only identified herself as Alexandra. "What kind of life did we have for 73 years?"


"No, no. These are different Communists," retorted Nikolayevna, who admitted that endless lines for kolbasa, or sausage, were a drawback to life in the Soviet Union.


"Zyuganov will make things better. He'll fill the stores -- and not with imported poison from America, but with our own products."


But Alexandra was not convinced. "If only there were a reliable candidate, I would happily go to vote, but I stopped voting three years ago," Alexandra said.


One passerby, Ludmilla Valuyeva, warned the disgruntled babushki, "If you don't go out to vote, you won't be trading cigarettes in the street anymore."


"Before Yeltsin came along they barely made enough money to buy bread -- and now they stand out here and earn 500,000 rubles a day," said Valuyeva, adding that Yeltsin's biggest mistake was raising the price of kolbasa.


"These old women will never forgive him for that alone," Valuyeva said.


"Out of spite they will not vote for Yeltsin -- just because he raised the price of kolbasa."


"Why should I vote for Yeltsin if he sent my grandson to Chechnya," screamed one kerchiefed old woman, her tattered brown coat missing most of its buttons.


"Keep quiet and sell your cigarettes," retorted Valuyeva. "I can't stand these old women."


Tensions were running just as high Tuesday at Leningradsky train station, where a delegation of street traders from Dubna displayed their fleet of portable luggage carriers.


"I'm an invalid, and the Soviet Union fed me all my life. I never had to work before," said Maria Ivanova, a pensioner with limited vision. Ivanova, who voted for Zyuganov on Sunday and will vote for him again, turned to trading to supplement her 137,000-ruble pension.


"Yeltsin bankrupted us. We don't need him," Ivanova said.


"Oh yes we do," blurted Tatyana Novikova, a young mother of two, who was selling luggage carts alongside Ivanova.


"You old people speak nonsense," Novikova said. "You live in poverty all your lives and now you want the Communists back. My family's future is better off with Yeltsin."


Ivanova countered with praise for the defunct Soviet system. Free education. Free medical care. Guaranteed employment.


"And we worked for free, too," Novikova added. "Who wants to wait 10 years for an apartment?"