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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Sizzling Sibling Rivalry Rivets Russians to Steamy Soap Saga

Forget Boris Yeltsin and Gennady Zyuganov. The mortal struggle which captivated millions of television viewers Wednesday was not over the destiny of Russia but between Racquel and Ruth, the twin sisters who are the stars of the top-rated Brazilian soap opera "Tropikanka," who approached the tumultuous climax of their 120-episode feud in a three-hour Wednesday-morning blockbuster.


"The dacha can wait until Saturday because on the first channel, the Tropikanka is revealing her secrets," said ORT Channel 1's announcer during a break in the soapy triple bill, which had been heavily plugged over preceding days in an attempt to get people to stay in the capital rather than take advantage of the Wednesday election holiday to visit their dachas or vegetable gardens.


A high turnout is expected to favor Yeltsin, and ORT, whose coverage of the election has been overtly pro-Yeltsin throughout, produced its unmissable dose of "Tropikanka" as a secret weapon to keep voters in the capital, glued to their TV sets.


"They wanted people to stay at home so that they would vote," said Elizaveta Braterskaya, 50, who had been following the epic daily drama for two months. "They promised us that the secret would be revealed, but it turned out that these weren't the last episodes at all. There are still five more to go; we were cheated."


Cheated perhaps, but only by the racy standards of the fast-paced daytime tale of Latin love, intrigue, jealousy and passion that has captivated the nation since early spring.


Wednesday's episodes seemed a fair trade for a quiet day at the dacha: Racquel, the evil twin, gets her revenge on ex-husband Marcus, who is about to marry her good sister Ruth, by drugging him, stripping him naked and placing him in a compromising postition just in time for Ruth's return from work. Marcus, whom Ruth had always loved but married Racquel instead, had just forgiven his wife-to-be for posing as her identical sister after the latter was presumed dead in a boating accident.


Gripping stuff; so gripping, indeed, that a television set exploded halfway through one episode in the voting station of Novaya Lyada, near Tambov, according to Itar-Tass. "There were no casualties," reported the agency drily, "but the indignation of the voters and members of the election committee knew no bounds. As guards put out the flames the committee was obliged to transfer the voting to another location."


A new location with a television, presumably.