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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

No Secret: TV Revels In Early Poll Results

The one thing Russians did not get to see if they stayed up through Wednesday night to see the election results roll in on live television was a glimpse of the two men most concerned, Boris Yeltsin and Gennady Zyuganov.


That wasn't television's fault: The two simply did not appear in public to accept their victory or defeat. They left that task to their aides and allies.


But on the faces of the anchors and commentators presenting the news -- even before it became possible to announce results when the last polling stations closed at 11 p.m. -- there was clear relief at the fact that Yeltsin had won by a comfortable margin.


Perhaps the most even-handed, and certainly the most entertaining coverage of the election was provided by the rubber puppets of NTV Independent Television's satirical "Kukly" show.


The stage for the show was Moscow's Ryzhsky train station, where the also-rans who dropped out of the race after June 16 and Russia's other political bigwigs were waiting for the "Train of a Bright Future" to arrive -- would it be Yeltsin's or Zyuganov's?


Zyuganov's train was being driven by his radical ally, Viktor Anpilov, who growled and howled along to a song that goes: "Only from having a dog's life does a dog bite." Yeltsin, meanwhile, drove in with a double who identified himself with the words, "I'm your new image."


All might have been well, except that down-and-outs Pavel Grachev, Alexander Korzhakov and Mikhail Barsukov -- the former defense minister and security chiefs sacked by Yeltsin after round one -- had broken the signal lights by throwing rocks at them.


The trains of bright futures crashed.


Back in reality, a beaming NTV anchorman Yevgeny Kiselyov announced before 11 p.m. that, although he could not divulge the results he knew, he could say that turnout was looking good -- and that a high turnout was to the benefit of one candidate and not the other.


On RTR Russian Television, the company's president, Eduard Sagalayev, hosted a talk show together with anchors Nikolai Svanidze and Svetlana Sorokina. "Russia has existed for more than a thousand years and today for the first time Russia has freely and democratically elected its leader," Svanidze said. "This is an exceptional day, this is a fantastic day, and I want to remind us of that."


In a live discussion with an almost entirely pro-Yeltsin audience, and mainly pro-Yeltsin callers, the program focused on the evils of communism:


"I think the main thing that has remained constant about Communists over the past few decades -- the main thing, which I don't like talking about or thinking about, is the lies. Always the lies," one spectator said.


Asked by a caller why there were no "opposition broadcasts" throughout the campaign, Sagalayev denied that his company had provided unobjective coverage. "Real television, the kind we want to do, is television that belongs to everyone including the opposition," he said.


Shortly thereafter, the program showed a report on the suffering that communism has brought to Russia.


Guests on the show included political notables such as former acting prime minister Yegor Gaidar, and "Kukly" scriptwriter Viktor Shenderovich.


Asked what he would be telling viewers had Zyuganov won, Shenderovich replied, "I wouldn't be saying anything on this microphone at all."