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March 15, 2004 by AK

Fire on the Election Day

Yes, I did vote yesterday. Against all candidates: it’s a valid option here. The best I could do to protest that farce misnamed election.

Why did Putin have to turn the election campaign into a joke when he had a tremendously fat chance of winning a really competitive race? That way, his democratic legitimacy would be out of question. Answer 1: his team prefer Putin to depend more on them than on popular opinion. Answer 2 (my choice): Putin is sending down a message: “Don’t mess with me. Don’t even try to challenge me at an election. Stay put.”

A terrible ending to the phony Sunday: in the evening, the Manege Hall caught fire and burned down to its walls within only a few hours. Designed by engineer Augustin Betancourt and architect Osip Bove, the man who oversaw Moscow’s post-1812 reconstruction, and also built the Bolshoy opera house, the Manege stands (or stood) within a few dozen yards from the Kremlin walls, between the old University and the Alexandrovsky garden. Originally used for indoor cavalry exercises, the building has long been an exhibition hall.

I saw the fire on TV: I don’t think anything Moscow had seen anything like that since its inhabitants set fire to their city on Napoleon’s entry. Perhaps it was the most spectacular fire in a European capital since Turner sketched the burning of the Houses of Parliament. But I don’t think anyone applauded when the roof fell, this time.


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