MEANWHILE, IN THE DEEP, DARK RUSSIAN HEARTLAND...

Six years ago, the visit of the regional Communist Party chief--in those days a figure of almost unimaginable power and privilege--would have been a momentous occasion for Sogra, a village located 580 miles northeast of Moscow. Earlier this month, however, when former regional first secretary Yuri Guskov (now a member of the Russian parliament and a big man in the diamond business) came to campaign for Communist presidential candidate Gennadi Zyuganov, he drew a crowd generously estimated at 20.

Guskov's visit is something of a joke among village officials here, who say they voted for Boris Yeltsin. Nevertheless, it was the...

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