Millions of Soviet citizens live on the bread line with totally inadequate wages or pensions, the Communist Party newspaper Pravda reported Friday.
“We write very rarely about poor people--pensioners, labor veterans and invalids living on low incomes, about young families living from hand to mouth--yet there are very many of them in our country,” the newspaper said.
Fifteen million people in the Soviet Union live on a pension of less than $97 a month, it added.
Pravda quoted a letter from a war veteran on a $92 monthly pension who complained she had seen little sign of Kremlin leader Mikhail S. Gorbachev’s reform plans.
“In recent times they talk a lot about perestroika, (restructuring) but for us pensioners, life has become many times worse,” she wrote. “In the evening, when no one is watching, I go to the garbage cans to see if someone has thrown away any old shoes.”
Officials have denied for decades that poverty existed in the Soviet Union but it has been a major theme in campaigning for Sunday’s elections for a new-style Soviet parliament.
Pravda said it received many letters about growing social injustice in the Soviet Union. As the number of entrepreneurs and millionaires rose, the standard of living fell--especially for low-income groups.
A pensioner from Leningrad wrote to complain that prices charged by new cooperative businesses are sky-high and state prices are going up steadily. “Sometimes, to tell the truth, I don’t even feel like living,” he said. “Yes, but in our times, even dying isn’t cheap.”
The price of coffins had risen to $213 from as little as $64, he said.
Pravda said price rises on essential food and consumer goods should be delayed, pensions should be index-linked and special shops should be created for low-income groups. The state should stop throwing billions of rubles away on grandiose construction projects and showy palaces, it added.