Boris Yeltsin and the Brazilian Soap Opera

Boris Yeltsin was determined that Russia should continue its path to democracy in the 1996 general elections.

The man with the fondness for a shot or two of vodka and a rousing speech, wanted to see Perestroika come through and he wanted another term as President.

In 1996, he was contesting against Gennady Zyuganov from the Communist Party and the two were neck and neck. The government decided that in order to get as many people as possible to the polling booths, election day was made a national holiday.

As the day of reckoning drew near, the weather turned very hot and most Russians, who did not really know much about democracy in the Iron Curtain hangover, were more inclined to take their cars out of the city and enjoy a day by the seaside or in the mountains. Given the political situation at the time, they would have rather spent the time having a leisurely gamble with a no deposit casino with some vodka to wing a few Rubles.

But Yeltsin was not to be outdone, he came up with the brainwave to keep his supporters in the city and get out and vote. He did that by contacting a television station to broadcast three brand new episodes on the trot of a bizarrely popular Brazilian soap opera.

He then planted news stories that confirmed the fact that the soap opera extravaganza was in fact really happening. All of a sudden, many city dwelling Russians decided to switch their plans because television reception outside of the city was lacking, to say the least.

In the end, many Russians opted to go and vote and watch the bonanza of Brazilian acting. Yeltsin’s strategy, unbelievably, worked and he went on to win 54 per cent of the vote and was returned to the post of President. Strange, but true!

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