Holiday foods, not US election, concern average Soviet citizen By David K. willis, Staff correspondent of The Christian Science monitor
Moscow — Standing in long lines in badly lighted, unkempt stores trying to buy sausage , meat, butter, fruit, and potatoes for the big Nov. 7 anniversary holiday here, the average Soviet citizen is hardly aware that Americans are voting half a world away.
United States election razzle-dazzle hardly penetrated. The Soviet press has poured abuse onto both President Carter and Ronald Reagan, but the controlled media did not give the poll excessive mention.
Citizens are told that presidents don't make policy in the United States anyway: Monopolies do.
The big event here is the Nov. 7 holiday, to celebrate the 1917 Revolution. normally, shops are stocked with extra food supplies so families can eat their traditional big meal at home after watching the parade through Red Square in Moscow on television or attending local parades in their home towns.
But this year, after months of poor weather and mismanagement so bad that Communist Party leaders have criticized it in public, shoppers report it was hard to find sausage or chicken. Outside Moscow, butter and milk were far from plentiful. Potatoes often ran short, both in and out of Moscow.
Muscovites who know Western residents have been asking them for rice, cabbage , and onions from the special food shops for Westerners only. "I am embarrassed to ask," said one, "but this year we have been walking the streets, sometimes hungry because we can't find enough food."
In moscow, Leningrad, Liev, Novosibirsk, Odessa, and other major centers, educated Soviet citizens were interested in the election. Millions who listen to the Voice of America and the BBC followed the news as best they could, in spite of jamming designed to filter out news of worker defiance in Poland.
But across the country, out of the main cities, and in the countryside, little was known, little was heard.
Citizens are constantly told that the US has worsened detente by boosting defense spending. They are not told that the US blames the USSR for invading Afghanistan.
They are not and will not be told that the US and Canadian ambassadors and many NATO colleagues plan to stay away from the Nov. 7 parade in Moscow to show their displeasure at the Afghan invasion.
Sixteen ambassadors in all were absent from the parade on May Day (May 1) this year for the same reason.
However, US Ambassador Thomas J. Watson, and the new Canadian envor, Geoffrey Parson, will attend a Kremlin reception after the parade Nov. 7. The two governments draw a distinction between the parade, at which military equipment is reviewed, and a ceremonial occasion hosted by the Soviet chief of state, Leonid Brezhnev.
It might be argued that US disapproval would be underscored by Mr. Watson's absence from the reception as well. But the US is apparently loath to give up any chance to see Kremlin leaders face-to-face, given the extremely limited occasions to do so.