. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Pies and Cakes but No Party

Loud Russian pop music and fresh cabbage pies greeted voters at nearly every local polling station Sunday.

But while the food and even the locations of the polling stations -- grade schools and technical colleges -- were a throwback to Soviet times, the festive party atmosphere that brought Soviet citizens out to vote is all but gone, voters said.

The Soviet patriotic music that once played over loudspeakers has been replaced with thumping pop music. Voters no longer cluster around the food buffet. Local election officials are no longer stern and solemn. And the ballot is crowded with candidates.

Tables at polling stations Sunday were covered with piles of traditional Russian pies stuffed with cabbage, potato or meat; pastries filled with poppy seeds; cream cakes; and open-faced sandwiches with cheese, sausage or ham.

But hardly anyone was buying the inexpensively priced food.

"The most striking thing was that there was absolutely no one at the big buffet, literally no one," said Felix Terentyev, 65.

Soviet authorities used to fill polling stations with all sorts of food that rarely appeared in ordinary stores, including salami, cheese and even red caviar, to convince people to come and vote.

Voters got in line hours before polling stations opened in hope of buying delicacies.

While the biggest crowds could be found in front of the buffet 20 years ago, the biggest crowds on Sunday were of elderly people staring at lists of candidates for the State Duma.

"To me it looks different because we always had only one candidate before and everyone knew him. Now, most people have no idea who they are voting for," said Vladimir Koltsov, a 53-year-old taxi driver.

Some polling stations Sunday did not even have national white, blue and red flags out front -- an oversight that some elderly voters said proves once and for all that election day is no longer a party but just another ordinary day.

See also Election Special 2003