Soviet leadership in transition. Muscovites take change in stride

The radio station Mayak (Beacon) changed its programming shortly after 3:00 a.m. here on Monday. By the time most Muscovites awoke, all stations were playing somber music. ``We knew then,'' said a tall, brown-haired man, ``that someone important had died.''

Muscovites, questioned at random on a downtown street, seemed to accept Konstantin Chernenko's passing and the appointment of Mikhail Gorbachev as his successor matter-of-factly.

A woman escorting her gray-haired mother predicted that Gorbachev would be a good leader. ``He's young,'' she said with a sidelong glance, as if fearing disapproval from the older woman at her side. She just smiled, however, and added, ``We like him.''

Another woman asked, ``How could we possibly know about that? We are small people. We cannot know these sorts of things.''

A third woman was eager to show an inquiring reporter a picture of her teen-aged daughter. She was a good girl, her mother said.

``Tell them in America,'' she said, ``that we want trade, friendship, and peace.'' Then she observed, ``There's sun. It's spring.'' She concluded, ``We must live on.'' With that, she put the picture away, smiled, and walked away.

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