National Geographic : 1978 Jan
A junior editor rose to report that that morning's last edition had been 20 minutes late; corrective steps had been taken. The dis cussion turned to Sunday's edition. The editor said: "The lead story will cover the elections to the local soviets. Page one will have a big photograph of the harvest in Turkmenistan and coverage of important national and inter national news. On page two, an article about the Day of the Doctors and a report on party organization in Byelorussia. We will also cover the work competition between the coal miners and coal processors." So it went, until Pravda's six pages were accounted for. The chairman asked, "Does everybody agree?" All agreed. The meeting was over. gFTERWARD I talked with Deputy Editor-in-Chief Ivan Vorozheykin, "a heavyweight physically and politically," one colleague said. I asked if Pravda had reported the fire at Moscow's Rossiya Hotel, which killed scores of persons. "No. Really we pay very little attention to this kind of sensational information. We must husband the space in our newspaper. You see, we really need space for writing about our economic life, about the spiritual life. "Our most popular material is the front page editorial," he added, "a sort of beam in the sunshine of information; it directs atten tion to the most important information." The "beam" for Sunday was the election of members of the local soviets, or councils. And so on Sunday I arranged to visit Precinct No. 4 in the Sverdlov region, in the old part of the city. Again there were banners and music, and many voters wore their best clothes. The balloting was in a room in the Ministry of Health. There were flowers, a bust of Lenin, decorous and helpful officials. Vladi mir Kondratiev, an employee of the ministry, said the precinct has 1,400 registered voters. "We expect 100 percent turnout. It is now only midmorning, and 50 percent have voted." A voter entered, was welcomed, and made his way to a long table where registrars sat (pages 18-19). The voter showed his identity card and was given two ballots. Each ballot bore one name: for city council, Mr. Anatoly V. Treushnikov, sponsored by the Ministry of the River Fleet; for local council, Mrs. Yelena L. Ivanova, sponsored by the workers in the canteen trust of the Sverdlov region. The voter took his ballots, which were numbered, studied them for a moment, and then walked to the center of the room, where he carefully dropped them into the box. No marking was necessary. At one end of the room stood two cubicles of polished wood. Voters who chose to vote "no," or to mark in another name, could repair there. During my stay none did. How was it that only one name appeared on each ballot? Under the Soviet constitution every collective or trust has the right to pro pose a candidate, but in practice, Western observers say, the determination is made by the Communist Party, whose members pre dominate in the local organizations. The nomination of the party's choice-and no other-is thereby assured. The results of the day's voting, Mr. Kon dratiev said, would not be known until about 11 p.m., an hour after the polls closed, when all the ballots had been counted. cow. The leaves were turning, and the sky seemed heavy with the promise of winter snows. At Sheremetyevo Airport the bus pulled up to the plane, and, as always, pas sengers stepped out one by one to be counted and scrutinized as they boarded. Life had moved along since I had first ar rived in the city: Alla the ballerina had won her gold medal; Andrei the poet was packing for a brief fellowship in the United States; some new apartment buildings had been completed, others begun. The plane circled away from the city. Be low, forests, fields, and villages stretched to the horizon. Then we were above the clouds, and the Soviet Union passed from view. [ Tense beauty waits in the wings: Alla Mikhalchenko prepares for the Third Inter national Ballet Competition held last year in the famed Bolshoi Theater. A member of the Bolshoi's own corps de ballet, the 20-year-old ballerina captured a gold medal, one of three won by the Soviets, masters of the art. Perhaps she will join the ranks of Galina Ulanova and Maya Plisetskaya-touchstones of pride for Moscow and all the nation.