Sampling Taken on Moscow-Vladivostok Train : Soviet Travelers Wary of Reform Program, Poll Shows

Times Staff Writer

A sampling of opinion taken on a Moscow-Vladivostok train indicated strong skepticism about Soviet leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s programs to revitalize the economy.

The results of the poll, published this weekend in the weekly Moscow News, showed 71% of the travelers saying that they have a “watchful” attitude toward perestroika, or restructuring.

Only 16% described themselves as “enthusiastic,” while almost as many, 13%, acknowledged a “negative” attitude, the newspaper said.

Asked if they saw any tangible results of perestroika in their everyday life, 64% said they had not, while 36% said that Gorbachev’s move to revamp the economy had already produced results.


The author of the article reporting the poll results, Viktor Turshatov, said that 100 questionnaires were distributed to passengers on the long-distance train but that only 80 were returned. The article did not say if the recipients were chosen at random or otherwise indicate how they were selected.

Effect on Lives

The train passengers were asked to predict whether the move to put Soviet industries on a profit-or-loss basis, known here as self-financing, would have a positive or negative impact on their lives.

One-third--33%--forecast a negative outcome while 26% anticipated a positive result. The largest group, comprising 41% of the replies, said they did not know what might happen as a result of the major change in industrial operations.


Another set of answers indicated that the travelers did not feel themselves to be masters of their locality or workplace as Gorbachev wants them to be.

“Can you realistically influence the course of events in your region, town or enterprise?” the poll asked.

Sixty-one percent answered “no” and the other 39% replied that they could be influential.

Complaint About Corruption


Turshatov said that one elderly man invited him to a compartment and then locked the door to keep out any possible intruder before recounting a complaint about corruption at a dairy.

“For all of our glasnost (openness), he has not yet forgotten the times when after a heart-to-heart talk, two out of three people involved could be forced to change addresses for long years,” Turshatov wrote, alluding to informers who helped send people to prison camps in the past.

Moscow News said it chose a train to take its survey because people are more willing to talk on long, cross-country trips. It took six days for the trip from Moscow to Vladivostok on the coast in the Soviet Far East.

Several of the passengers were quoted at some length on their feelings toward Gorbachev’s program.


“I don’t know what will become of me,” a middle-aged woman was quoted as saying. She expected to lose her job as a bookkeeper because of staff reductions in a state agro-industrial department. “I am just a single mother with a teen-age daughter. Who will take care of me?” she asked.

Work Force Reduction

Another passenger, described as a deputy factory director, was quoted as welcoming the reduction in his work force on grounds that it has reduced absenteeism and improved job performance.

“They are aware that if one loses a job now, one might have problems finding another one,” the factory official said.


An army lieutenant colonel was quoted as saying that he was worried about cuts in military units, recalling that officers demobilized during the 1960’s often had a difficult time adjusting to civilian life.

“What is in store for us?” he asked. “I still have a few years to go before retirement.”