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:
The 'Red Belt'
The central part of European Russia contains the region referred to
as the "Red Belt" - a vast area dominated by the
Communist Party and die-hard conservatives.
This is a region with impoverished cities and derelict
collective farms which have seen little benefit from
Russia's market reforms. Many local
farmers support the Agrarian Party, which promises a
return to the "good old days" of the Soviet Union.
Many local governors are communists, and the most
notorious personality is the Tula governor, Vasily
Starodubtsev. He was a member of the short-lived
Emergency Committee that attempted a coup against the
reformist administration of Mikhail Gorbachev in August
1991. During the failed coup, Mr Gorbachev was put under
arrest and Boris Yeltsin was stranded inside the
headquarters of the Soviet parliament.
prominent local personality is the governor of Kursk,
Alexander Rutskoy, once a vice-president in Mr Yeltsin's
administration. He too supported a failed coup in 1993
and appointed himself President of Russia.
As expected, the Communist Party was the main vote-winner throughout most of the region in December's parliamentary election.