On International Women’s Day (3-8), a traditionally important national holiday in Russia, Russian politicians wooed women’s votes for the upcoming presidential election. President Boris Yeltsin attended a gala concert honoring women and recorded a speech praising women as the keeper of home and family traditions. Communist rival Gennady Ayuganov invited only women reporters to a news conference where he presented flowers and champagne. The festivities came at a time when Russian women are suffering economic hardships more than men, are discriminated against for employment, and are victimized by widespread domestic violence. Women account for 87 percent of the lowest income level in Russia, making $21 a month or less.
Women still lack significant political representation in Russia, and the four women presidential candidates (out of a pool of 78) have little hope in the election. In Moscow and St. Petersburg a few hundred women rallied holding posters with Lenin and Stalin’s portraits, carrying Soviet flags, and demanding a return to Communist leadership.