Tinned Fish at the Polling Station

Observations on the recent presidential elections in Russia


L a d u s h k I n -- Putin's popularity wave has risen even higher than expected. On 18 March, the day after the elections, forecasts put the vote in Vladimir Putin's favour at 87%. In London, the queue of voters is said to have been a kilometre long. In Berlin, a women slowly drove by the very long queue with loudspeakers blasting. She was playing Tatiana Kurtukova’s wildly-popular new hit: “Mother Earth, the white birch. For me that is Holy Russia, for others, it’s a thorn (in the flesh).”


In Ladushkin, my small town south of Kaliningrad, the atmosphere was also festive. There was music, folk costumes and heavily discounted tinned fish - a reminder of the one-of-a-kind prices in Soviet-era polling stations. Certainly - it was more of a referendum than an election.


According to the Russian media, there were at least 30 attempted attacks, including ink being poured into ballot boxes. However, there was not even a bag check when entering the polling station in Ladushkin. The procedure is much more rigorous when entering the Kaliningrad bus station.


The general climate

Among us Protestants in Russia, however, the mood is more subdued than the average. They suffer from the separation from their Ukrainian brothers and sisters, from broken friendships and family relationships. People dream of a reconciliation with the Ukrainians.


This grief also extends to the Ukrainians' departure from the traditional, political abstinence of eastern Slavic Protestantism. A recent statement by the Ukrainian Council of Churches (UCCRO) on 10 March once again calls for military action and a military victory. That gives our brothers and sisters in Russia the feeling of residing on another planet. Little of the kind emanates from Russian Protestant circles.


A frequent after-church topic in Russia are the high hurdles for those wishing to travel westward. Anyone seeking a Western visa has to travel, for example, to a Central Asian state. Church and missionary representatives from East and West, who once met in Moscow, now gather in Turkey. An Evangelical-Christian from Moscow who looks after a refugee congregation in Riga has to fly via Turkey and Western Europe to get there. Only leaving the European Union remains relatively unproblematic for Russian citizens. Those who fled to the West two years ago are once again visiting the old homeland. In Germany, it is mainly Russian-Germans who are ignoring the travel warnings issued by their own Western foreign ministry. The know best, what can and cannot be expected in Russia.


William Yoder, Ph.D.

Ladushkin, Kaliningrad region, 01 April 2024, revised on 25 April 2024


A journalistic release for which only the author is responsible. It is informational in character and does not express the official position of any church organisation. This release may be reprinted free-of-charge if the source is cited. Release #24-04, 405 words.


Contribution requested by the German news service IDEA, but was not published by them.