Staunton, April 4 – March 18 was not only a vote about the president of the Russian Federation. In the country’s company towns, it was a vote about how local people feel about the oligarchs who control their lives. In places where oligarchs are hated, the level of participation and the vote for Putin was lower than in those where the oligarchs were less despised.
That is the conclusion Vasily Dyakonov offers in a close reading of the returns for the Versiya portal (versia.ru/pochemu-zhiteli-mnogix-monogorodov-golosovali-za-kommunistov), one that shows some company towns had high levels of participation and support for Putin while other monogorody did not.
The analyst says that the March vote offer no basis for speaking of any revival of the infamous “red belt” of the 1990s, of regions which routinely voted for the communists, or even for talk about some kind of a red archipelago of company towns. But voting in the monogorody does appear to have been a referendum about oligarchs who control them.
In the absence of any other way of expressing their feelings about those who control the companies that determine the fate of their lives and despite voting for the incumbent president in every case, residents of some company towns either refrained from voting or cast fewer votes for Putin than did those in others, Dyakonov says. And those differences are important.
They suggest – and Dyakonov does a case by case analysis – that the company towns are not homogenous in their feelings about the oligarchs as many have thought but rather diverge according to their assessment of the social policies of the companies they head which determine life in these places.
Although the Versiya analyst doesn’t suggest it, it is entirely possible that some in the Kremlin may be paying attention to these differences as well and that those oligarchs whose behavior allowed Putin to get greater participation and a higher share of the vote may be rewarded in future while those whose actions didn’t could be punished.
In any case, Dyakonov’s article represents an extremely useful reminder that in a political system where people can vote on so few things, they may choose to express their views on issues of greatest concern to themselves by their votes that at least superficially appear to have little or nothing in common with their feelings.