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BBC News Online
Russia's regions will shape the next parliament and its relationship with the Kremlin. Moscow can no longer afford to ignore the opinion of the local electorates or the views of the powerful regional governors, some of whom wield tremendous influence over voters. For a guide to the regional picture, click the key regions on the map:


Far East

In this large region the overwhelming majority of the local population of around five million people is Russian, with a small proportion of native minorities numbering under 100,000. Local Russians are mainly descendants of people exiled here under Stalin and in Tsarist times. There is also a substantial number of seamen serving with the Russian Pacific fleet. The region's native eskimo communities are under pressure as their traditional way of life becomes harder to maintain. The economy of the Far East is in deep crisis and is totally dependent on federal subsidies to support the traditional fishing industry, coal mines and military production.

Voting patterns in the region are always hard to predict. During the parliamentary elections of 1993 and 1995, the Liberal Democratic party of Vladimir Zhirinovsky did well here, gaining some 10% of the total votes. Mr Zhirinovsky's pledge to increase military spending and take an aggressive foreign policy stance was welcomed by the powerful local defence industry. In the December elections, the pro-government Unity party took first place throughout the region except on the island of Sakhalin, the Kurile Islands, and the autonomous region of Birobijan, where the Communist Party beat them.

The Communist Party is not as popular here as in neighbouring Siberia, although communists have traditionally won over 10% of the vote, since many voters see them as a safe alternative to a central government that has regularly delayed paying people's wages