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BBC News Online
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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:


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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.

Another 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.