Udaltsov, a 55-year-old former military pilot who served in the Chernobyl nuclear cleanup, said millions are being made on the corrupt sale of land. More money is made on extorting protection from businessmen, he said.
“If you want to live,” he said, “you’ll pay.”
‘Criminalization of power’
In the 2007 Duma elections, United Russia won 64.3 percent of the vote, the Communist Party 11.57 percent, the Liberal Democratic Party 8.14 percent and Fair Russia 7.74 percent.
A poll last week by the independent Levada Center predicted that this year United Russia would slip to 53 percent, with the Communist Party rising to 20 percent, the Liberal Democrats at 12 percent and Fair Russia at 9 percent.
People here said that even if United Russia loses some of its Duma seats — it has 315 of the 450 — it won’t matter because the parties are all pretty much alike.
Krasilnikov said the current Duma never generates its own laws but adopts only those submitted by the government or president. How a voter casts a ballot matters little, he said. In 2008, he said, the local mayor, a member of United Russia, won more than 90 percent of the vote. “Everyone understood very well he did not have that kind of support.”
Krasilnikov lives on the edge of town in a community of small houses called Kupavna, along the commuter rail line between the Dawn and 33 Kilometer stops.
Recently, he said, the mayor’s team decided to build themselves houses in the wide pine-dotted median outside his window, where construction is prohibited. “We tore down their fences,” he said, “and we aren’t particularly young.”
Valery Kolesnikov, the 68-year-old chairman of the street committee, said the grandmothers on the street were particularly fierce. They have driven the interlopers away, he said, but they could return any time.
Back in town, Alexander Molokoyedov was on the phone in the Communist Party office, recruiting election observers for Sunday. The party’s first secretary had forbidden him to give an interview, he said — because of trick questions. But soon he gave in to a reporter’s disappointment and chatted for 90 minutes.
“Our main task is not to allow falsification of the votes,” he said. “And they have lots of cunning ways.”
So the observers will prevent falsification?
“No,” he said.
Molokoyedov, who is 74 and a 30-year Communist Party member, refused to criticize the mayor. The previous ones did nothing, he said, and now the city looks clean and has nice new fountains. “But, of course, everyone is talking about the criminalization of power,” he said. “What really goes on, we don’t know.”
All he knows is that everyone is sick and tired of the way the country’s run.
“The patience of people is hard to explain,” Krasilnikov said. “Usually it ends in an explosion.”