Moscow Residents React To Gorbachev's Nobel Prize
Foes of president's domestic policy still applaud award
MIKHAIL GORBACHEV'S statesmanship has long won him the plaudits of the world, if not its adulation. So there are likely to be few dissenters to the Nobel committee's decision to award the Soviet leader its 1990 Peace Prize.
On the streets of Moscow, however, the citizens' feelings for their leader are far more complex. There is admiration, even pride in his achievements as a statesman. Peace and an end to East-West confrontation are matters close to any Soviet heart.
But conversations reveal the increasing loss of faith in his leadership, the feeling of drift, and the sense of crisis that agitates the public mind. It is not simply the empty stores, but the lack of clear direction which troubles the Soviet ``man on the street.''
Among the sweet smell of fresh cut roses and alongside rows of shiny fall apples in Moscow's Central Market, passersby stopped to comment on the award. Down Svetnoi Boulevard, past the bakery and the milk stores to the hardware shop where workmen gathered, more Muscovites added their thoughts.
Svetlana Kuznetsov, an 18-year-old seamstress: ``It's a fair choice. He has done quite a lot for our country. But we are in an economic and spiritual crisis and Gorbachev doesn't know which way to go.... He is decisive enough. But maybe he doesn't believe in us, ordinary Soviet people. He doesn't explain what he wants to do. So not many people remain who believe in him. The majority of people I know think the best thing is to emigrate. And I would too, if I had the chance.''
Anatoli, a leather-jacketed driver: ``The Nobel Prize is certainly a good thing. He earned it for his international work. As for his work at home, nobody would have given him any prize.''
Nur Mohammed Dush Mohammadov, a geometry teacher from Tashkent: ``He deserved it. All his ideas are correct.... Gorbachev has given freedom to everyone. He gave our remote republic greater freedom - of language, of religion. For 72 years, we have lived without God and thanks to Gorbachev, he has returned our religion to us.''
Inna Zhigalova, a woman doctor: ``We doctors lead a hard life. Our salaries are so low. Nothing has really changed much. Gorbachev hasn't shown himself as a strong leader in his domestic policy. The country is at a crossroads and no one knows what to do.''
Victoria, a teacher: ``Gorbachev was the first person who had the strength of will and courage to eliminate huge amounts of weapons, to clear away this nuclear disease. That is enough to award him this prize.''
Eduard Rakamimov, a young Jewish flower seller from Baku: ``It's a little early to give him the Nobel Prize. As far as his policies here are concerned, he hasn't finished what he began. He's too soft toward the Communist Party bosses. He begins reforms and then leaves them midway and doesn't have the strength to finish them.''
Volodya Sevastianov, electrician: ``Gorbachev and his new thinking are the beginning of a new era in international relations. Despite his drawbacks, his peacemaking is his strong point.... But we need quick progress to a market economy.... Gorbachev is compromising. He's trying to balance both radical and conservative forces.''
Marina, a clerk in a tourist bureau: ``As for his foreign policy, he deserves it. But not for what he does here. I don't like the word perestroika [restructuring] and everything connected with it. For the ordinary Soviet person, perestroika doesn't mean a healthy economy or better goods - it just means higher prices.
``No matter what other people say, I liked the Brezhnev era. At that time, we had real socialism, not what we have now. Then people lived better. Now the people are hungry and angry.
``We had a sort of freedom under Brezhnev. Now people have been given freedom and nothing else. I don't want to return to the Brezhnev era, but Gorbachev has made so many mistakes. He has practically ruined the country, torn it apart.
``We need a strong leader to take the country out of the abyss of crisis and Gorbachev is not it. [Russian Republic President Boris] Yeltsin is.''