Feb. 28 - The 22 remaining residents of the dying Russian village of Sushi prepare to vote in a presidential election that will likely have no practical impact on their lives. Nick Rowlands reports.
This is the Russian village of Sushi some 1,000 kilometres east of Moscow. At the heyday of its 200-year history the village had 460 houses. But it is now a shadow of its former self, with only 22 residents remaining, occupying 10 houses. The story of Sushi is all too common across Russia - with agriculture and industry in a state of decay, villagers leave to find jobs in the city. The few that remain wait for help from the state. Seventy-three-year-old Zoya Dyomina says she is just waiting to die. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SUSHI RESIDENT ZOYA DYOMINA, 73, SAYING: "I don't have any strength even to go to a shop to have something to eat. Only if they bring it to me, there's nothing in the house. Just waiting till I die. (LAUGHING) In the evening children call me: grandma, are you alive, you didn't freeze to death? No, I say, I'm alive, didn't freeze to death." There used to be a shop, a school, a library and even a club in Sushi. Now there is only a part-time nurse, and groceries arrive twice a week in the back of an old Lada. At 59 years old, Ludmila Zhukova is the village's youngest inhabitant. She says they are fortunate that they have electricity and springs for fresh water, but that the only change they ever see is on television. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SUSHI RESIDENT LUDMILA ZHUKOVA, 59, SAYING: "What has changed is that people are dying. Nothing else has changed. There are certainly fewer people now. Many people died over the past 10 years. Apart from that, nothing has changed." With so few people left in the village, authorities saw no point in maintaining the polling station. In the March 4 presidential elections officials will drive along a snowy track through the forest with ballot boxes so that Sushi residents can vote. But even in such a small community, opinions on Prime Minister Vladimir Putin's presidential bid are divided. (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SUSHI RESIDENT ZOYA DYOMINA, 73, SAYING: "I think I should vote for Putin. I've already got used to him. (LAUGHING) When I turn on my TV, I just look at him all the time. I don't understand anything else there. They all say we should vote for Putin." (SOUNDBITE) (Russian) SUSHI RESIDENT LUDMILA ZHUKOVA, 59, SAYING: "Well, Putin certainly might be a not too bad of a leader. He did a few things here and there. But still, we need somebody new, I tell you". But no matter who next takes the helm of this vast country, it seems likely that Sushi will continue its slow decay, and that when the last remaining inhabitants die, so will the village. Nick Rowlands, Reuters.