Soviet Union One Man, One Vote, One Mess

The country's first contested elections bring confusion and conflict

On a drizzly Sunday morning, more than 1,400 people jammed into a run-down 660-seat auditorium in the Cinematographers Union building in Moscow. Elderly men with flowing beards, their chests covered with World War II decorations, pressed against the walls while young activists scurried up and down the aisles distributing pink cards to eligible voters. On the podium sat a frail man, his bald head glistening in the light. Andrei Sakharov, 67, cleared his throat and began reading. "My political program has been formed over the years," he said. "Unconditional release of all political prisoners . . ." The crowd erupted in...

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