TRYING TO CHANGE WITH THE TIMES
POSOLSK, RUSSIA — In the center of this fishing village stands a chart giving "The results of the Five-Year Plan 1981-85." And just down the road, nailed to a weather-beaten home, is a slogan "Comrades! Give all your energy to developing perestroika."
The propaganda billboards are a good indication that residents in Posolsk, located on the eastern shore of Lake Baikal in the Buryat Autonomous Republic, are having trouble keeping up with the times.
Indeed, while authorities in Moscow hope to prepare Russia for the 21st Century by implementing radical reforms, Posolsk's roughly 3,000 residents seem stuck in the mid-1980s, struggling to adapt to the changes introduced during Mikhail Gorbachev's days as Soviet leader.
Conditions have always been fairly Spartan in Posolsk, people say. At one of the few stores in town the selection of goods was minimal; fresh fish on one shelf, a few pairs of pants on another, and slabs of butter on a third.
Nevertheless, life-long residents show no thirst for consumer goods, or other perks of a market system. "It was better under the old system. We didn't have so many difficulties," said Nina Vasilievna, a cook at the village cafeteria.
Pensioner Nikolai Goryashin, meanwhile, expressed reservations about the Moscow government's rapid reform program, saying progress is always accompanied by problems.
"In the old days we had to do everything by hand," began Mr. Goryashin, a fisherman for 46 of his 70 years.
"It was difficult but good. We'd row our boats for 40 or 50 kilometers [about 30 miles] every day," he continued. "Now everything is mechanized, but there are problems with pollution, and the quality of fish catches has diminished."
Despite all the nostalgia for the past and the fears about the future, most don't yearn for the return of the Communists, says Alexander Chernigovsky, director of the Kabansky Fish Canning Plant in Posolsk. However, the reformist government currently in charge should give the people more time to adapt to the new conditions, he adds.
"When you're pushed faster than you want to go it doesn't lead to anything good," he says. "Things have to change slowly."